Thursday, September 03, 2020

New ways to torment yourselves, you clever things

An author I’m in touch with got a nice reject from you that she felt good about, then someone pointed out it was likely a form letter, and the author thought that meant her query “wasn’t considered” as if she thought form letter meant an agent didn’t read it ?!? So I’m letting her know that we all get lots of form letters but it’s a time saver, not that the agent didn’t actually read the query. Poor thing! But it made me wonder if anyone else believes that.
Writers find such new and mind boggling ways to torment themselves that I should keep a list.
This would be on the list.

A form response does NOT mean the agent didn't read or consider the query.

My task is to find work I can sell.
Why would I reject something without reading it?
It literally doesn't make sense for me to do that.

Now, did I read ALL of it?
Maybe not.

Did I read enough to know it was a request or a pass?

Do I send form letters so I don't have to type the same thing over and over?

Do I send form letters because I don't want to encourage writers to respond with "but but but" if I point out something that needs work (word count is the big one here.)

Do I send form letters because I don't want to tell someone they are delusional and ask when they last stepped in a bookstore?

Do I send form letters so I avoid the vitriol I want to send when writers make assumptions about publishing, or worse, assumptions about ME?
Yes, yes indeed.

I read your queries.
All of them.
Most agents I know do too.

Most of us depend on incoming queries to keep the pipeline moving.
We're not going to be shortsighted enough to stop reading them.


Kitty said...

Do I send form letters because I don't want to tell someone they are delusional and ask when they last stepped in a bookstore?

I need an explanation here.

AJ Blythe said...

Kitty, I think what Janet is referring to here are writers who have no idea about their genre, or what books are like these days... Correct me if I'm way off the mark, Janet.

There will always be a reason for the hamster wheel to spin. I have to say, this wasn't one I had considered before. But I do have a whole list of my own that keeps my wheel spinning.

Kitty said...

AJ Blythe, thanks for the answer.

nightsmusic said...

An agent's livelihood depends on their reading. It does not depend on typing upwards of 30 rejection emails a day (or more.) A form letter seems like just the ticket. If you want to be an author, thin skin is the worst thing you can have.

Timothy Lowe said...

From someone currently in the query trenches:

I cherish any rejections, form or (especially) personalized. It shows the agent gave the time to consider and give a response. Do I assume the agent read every word? Certainly not (especially the agents that request 50 page partials with their standard submission -- I can't imagine too many of those partials get read in entirety).

The CNRs (closed, no response) are trickier. If you use a basic querytracker search, you can tell what the average rate of response is for the agent in question. Many of these agents, considered active by the site, have a 0.0% response rate, and not necessarily because they're new. That tells you immediately that many of these queries are headed into the void. That's a time waster for sure, and it drags on your confidence if you don't do the research to understand why.

If you upgrade to querytracker's premium (inexpensive at around 20 dollars a year), you can use the datatracker feature to confirm this. Some of those listed agents haven't requested anything since 2013. Kind of hard to feel bad about not grabbing those agents' attention.

The point? As you're strategizing, honing your query based on the requests you get, be sure to consider these factors.

Just a few tips from someone who's done this a few times.

S.P. Bowers said...

Kitty, I would say it's someone who hasn't read a book, or maybe understood a book, in so long they don't understand plotting, dialogue, or what people are interested in reading. Maybe it's cliched and they think they have a never seen before original.

Kregger said...

You mean it's not about me?
It was my micro-thiller, The Zombie Kale Apocalypse!
I feel better.
Maybe better comps will help, or title?
When Kale Attacks!
Yeah, that's the ticket.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Wait a minute, ya mean we are supposed to read?
What's a query?
What's a form letter?
I can't even spell delusional so I must be one.

Hey guys, may you all exceed your word counts and find success in doing so !!!!

Um, I used up my year's supply of little lines with dots. If I were texting I would have used CAPS. I only say that to prove how up to date I am with trends.

Emma said...

Then there was the time I sent a query, clicked back to my inbox, and saw an automatic rejection. In that order, within about 5 seconds. I'm fairly sure the bot on the other end simply saw the genre (paranormal romance, don't judge me, I've moved on) and punted that query right back. I thought it was funny and didn't take offense.

Good luck to everyone in the query trenches! I'm finding out that every step in this journey comes with surprises and mysteries.

nightsmusic said...

Emma, I write paranormal romance...

smoketree said...

As someone who has been on submissions duty in the past, I can attest that a form letter is useful for a whole plethora of situations, including:
-we don't publish your genre
-we don't publish "novels" under 20K words
-we don't publish "picture books" over 20K words
-we don't publish hateful manifestos
-we don't publish books co-authored by God
-we don't publish terrifying revenge fantasies but we don't want to tell you that
-your query letter is not enticing us with its description of how the publishing industry is morally bankrupt but you are the lone light in the darkness to redeem us all
-your (hard copy) query letter contains biohazards

Emma said...

nightmusic I think my problem was that I was writing it at the height of Twilight and no agent wanted it at all. I also realized I wasn't very good at it. But that query rejection was no doubt because of the genre. It happened too fast for any human to have read it.

Katja said...

But of course we find all sorts of things to self-torment. LOL.

When I received a form rejection from the wonderful Jessica Faust, a long time ago, and it read "I strongly recommend you take a second look at the other agents at Agency again" (or something like that), I tormented myself for weeks, thinking about how strong her 'strongly' was.
I would go 'round' and ask people about this word and try to look at every letter from all 360 degrees...

And I would only stop analysing that line once I found out there were several authors who'd received the same letter. ;)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I love a response, any response, even a form letter rejection. It is far superior than the dead silence one sometimes gets which is a far greater torment. Did the spam filter eat my query? Did I actually press send? So, yeah, form letters are not a torment for me.

Silence, however. I am still stewing over 3 queries to which I never got a response from agencies that do not specifically state a NORMAN policy. One of which says they always respond. I literally don't know what to do. Move on? It seems wrong to nudge on a query. So I have chosen internal torment. And to not query those agents again on my next project.

Which will be the biggest best seller ever. Ever I tell you. Bigger than Harry Potter. (So there's the delusional thing coming out). Ok, work meeting. They are about to send students back to us face to face. Need to find out how that is going to happen and when.

Katja said...

P.S. Someone asked me today, "And how many copies have you sold?"

I didn't know how to wiggle myself out of it. So I said the semi-embarrasing truth, "Just a hundred."

What was the 'correct' answer again? I know it's been discussed here before...

Brenda said...

Write the next one, Katja, if you haven’t already. I’m hoping to be able to respond to a positive reply by asking which manuscript they are referring to. I believe Mary Higgins Clark had seven in circulation before one was accepted.

Katja said...

Good idea, Brenda, thank you. :)

At the moment I'm only in my first draft of the next one, though. The one that you once called the most torturous one, and I agree with that! It's going to be a while...

That woman had asked me SO many questions... also how many books I had written. Yikes!

She was a new tennis match encounter, so I couldn't quite run away from 'her'. She wanted to know sooo many things about me.
Funny, really, because she knew I was a writer. "How's your writing going" was the first question. I'd never even met her before.
(She checked me out somehow. Either through my email sig line or through other people.)

AJ Blythe said...

Katja, you never say "just"... that says you don't think much of the sales. You say...
- it's doing really well
- sales are better than I could imagine
- in the hundreds

And you say it with tone of voice, posture, a smile that all tell the person asking you ARE a successful writer.

Be proud of every sale and don't let anyone knock you.