As you might have guessed, I’m home from Myrtle Beach. It was a good getaway and I got more revisions done.
I stopped in at Twitter to see what was going on after I checked email. Apparently, Jessica Faust at Bookends got really brave…again. She invited authors to spout off about what irks them about agents. I was prepared for the normal vitriol, but it seemed even more bitter this time.
Before I touch base on some of the comments there, I will post some things that irk me, though I don’t even know if it’s a true agent fail.
No response means no interest. Set up some kind of rejection form letter that you can just click and go. At least let me know you got it and either read it or are not interested for whatever reason. Personalized rejections are nice, but let’s get real, that isn’t even logistically possible. If I were a signed client of the agent who sent out lovely personalized rejection letters to each of the 300 queries that come in a week, it would irk me. An agent’s first responsibility is to their signed clients. Period.
Keep your guidelines current. I can’t submit correctly if I have the wrong instructions. It used to be excusable when the only thing we had to go on was the agent books that came out once a year. Now, a few minutes updating your site when guidelines change saves everyone a lot of time.
Political or religious rants on your professional blog. Yes, I’m being a hypocrite here. I sometimes post political and religious rants, but I’m a nobody, the agent is a professional. I’ve crossed three agents off my dream list for these things. I’m sure they won’t miss my queries, but it was very plain if they were that rabid about their beliefs, the subject would come up in our conversations. I, not being shy, would express my opinion and they would get their tail over the dashboard. Not a good thing in a working relationship.
The theme that seemed to keep popping up this year, was agents who twitter and blog. This kind of amazes me. It seems some writers want agents to be invisible robots chained to an assembly line, churning out contracts and personalized rejection letters.
Eavesdropping on twitter gave me a whole new perspective on publishing.
“I have 443 queries in inbox, hope to get that cut in half before I go to bed.” Around 3:00 a.m. the agent gives up after almost 100 new queries have appeared.
Agents get a lot more queries than I would have ever guessed. Anyone who follows twitter would quickly get educated about why personalized rejections just aren’t possible.
“Author I sent polite rejection letter to is demanding I explain why I rejected them. I owe it to them.”
A few hours later. “I tried to explain I don’t have time. They just cussed me out and said they hope I starve. Ah, they just sent another scathing response. Time to block them forever.”
“Something in the air. This is the fourth Nazi romance query I have read this week and it’s only Tuesday.”
Sometimes the muses play tricks on us and give us all the same idea rather than fresh, original ones. Sometimes a news story inspires several people at once. Knowing there is a preponderance of a subject matter might save months of writing. Not to say your writing won’t be vastly superior to what others have written, but it’s just verification that your writing isn’t always the reason you’re rejected. Sometimes they have something far too similar to take on another like it.
The innumerable queryfail tidbits are great. Usually, the agent will explain why something doesn’t work if you ask them.
It gives me an insight into their personality. Janet Reid linked to Rachelle Gardner and I fell in love with her. She doesn’t handle what I write, but she is absolutely perfect for my former editor, Diane Ciarloni. I can’t tell these things from the little form letter on agent lists.
I know what kind of personality I have and I know the kind of person I would work best with. I can’t tell anything about personalities from the books and sites with agent listings. Blogs and twitters not only drop some valuable publishing advice, but they help me figure out if our personalities will mesh or at least not clash violently. Some people need a tough, domineering agent who maintains no contact. I don’t. I don’t need someone to hold my hand, but they first time an agent screams at me or tries to intimidate me we are getting a divorce. Life’s too short to put up with that garbage.
I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the whole list of comments because it seems too negative. I’m sure not everyone who commented was purely negative, but I hate whining (unless it’s my own) and I suspect I’ll find a fair share of that. Sooner or later, I’ll read it. Or skim it.
I was really disappointed. If a person follows some of these agents on twitter, it gives you a very real glimpse at their world. I’m disappointed so many are just ranting with no clue.
get their tail over the dashboard
There you go again with the RodeoSpeak, which is what I assume it is. I feel like I’m learning a whole new language just by hiding in the bushes and eavesdropping on the mutterings of an angry native. 🙂
I didn’t follow the #queryfail project and, from the tone of Jessica’s #agentfail comments I’m glad I didn’t. I mean, it was wonderful that she ASKED but the overall tone of the comments was so… well, it was kind of embarrassing, I thought. If you ask thousands of really verbal people who’ve been repeatedly disappointed, “So, what disappoints you?” you’re bound to draw out gallons of vitriol, not all of it well or fairly thought-out.
I skimmed the comments there…. holy God in heaven. It was nice of her to open it up that way, but man it was just depressing to read.
I do hate it when they do the ‘no response means no’ – especially the ones who get snarky about it… so I’d love to see all the agents who don’t respond start to go with an automated response just so we know they got the query. Then again, if everyone did that, we’d just start obsessing over whether our own email was dropping their requests 🙂
I think any agent that requests an ms should respond. It doesn’t have to be long or detailed (wonderful though that is) but it’s really rude to not respond to requested material.
Some of those writers, though, like the one who wrote about how the agent said they wanted something new and different and that’s what he wrote, but they obviously just wanted the same old thing… umn, how does he know it wasn’t rejected because the writing sucked? Or new and different to him meant crazy and boring to other people?
I don’t know, I take these complaint things with a grain of salt. I do the same thing when I see writers talking anon. about agents and editors in boards – sometimes it’s just clashing personalities, and sometimes one or the other is difficult to begin with… I’m not crossing someone off my list because a username on some board said so…