It’s Just Business Tuesday

July 15, 2008 | Karin's Blog | 18 comments

Albeit a wee bit late…

And as promised I’m going to chat about the query process, but before I do, please bear with me. I should be careful what I ask for. I received my revisions a day early and they are significant, and I have until tomorrow to turn them in. My bad for turning a book in a wee bit late. But it’s all good. I nailed half of them yesterday and last night and will be working like a slave today and tonight to get them completed, so I apologize if the post is a little bare.

So, you send a query letter to your dream agent. You wait with baited breath for a request for a full. If it was an equery, in a perfect world you will receive the request for a full in a matter of minutes. If you snail mailed it, the prefect scenario would be a phone call (yeah, I know, hardly happens but we’re talking perfect world here).

In reality, you may get an email request for a partial or a full, but most likely an thanks, yanno, the standard: this doesn’t fit with our current list at this time, or just a simple no thanks, or just as likely, you may get no response at all.

Same with a snail mail query. So? What’s a writer to do? Send a follow up query? Hey, Missy Agent, I sent you an equery six weeks ago, are you interested? Or Dear, Missy Agent, I mailed you a query letter seven months ago, did you get it? I sent one of those postcard things that says someone there received it. What’s up?

I’m going to tell you what’s up, and you’re not going to like it: They aren’t interested. There. Now what are you going to do? Get angry because the agent didn’t respond? I mean how dare they? How rude is that????? Hurmph! I wouldn’t do business with them now if they asked me too! Riiiight. Get over it, and move on. Yep, put your hurt feelings away and shrug it off.

Yanno why? Because it’s just business. And here’s another thing. If you ever wonder why agents generally don’t give small little snippets of why they don’t care for your work enough to request it instead of the form no thanks, it’s because people get pissed off if they don’t agree with the agent’s opinion (in a very subjective business!) and tell the agent so. Yes, it’s true. Happens all of the time, so the agent generally doesn’t bother. Why should they? To catch grief from a disgruntled writer? Who needs it?

Now some of you are still shaking your heads and insisting the agent respond. Okay, let’s do some math. Many agents are just them. No assistant or maybe a part time one. But let’s take a step back. An average agent gets 500 queries a week. It takes them less then 30 seconds to decide to read on. So 500 x 30 seconds at the very least equals 250 min of read time a week. Of those maybe there are 5 to 10 requests; those letters take time to write plus postage. Now, the agent has 495 query letters she has to say, no thanks, too, plus postage if there is no SASE. How do you think she’ll do that? A standard no thanks plus the postage or a detailed read on why not plus postage? I think if she gets around to sending out rejections she’ll do it when she isn’t reading her current author’s material and making suggestions, negotiating current author’s contracts, putting out fires for current clients, dealing with contracts that come in wrong, chasing advance and release checks, meticulously going over royalty statements, pouncing on the foreign rights sales bandwagon, following up on submissions she already has out there, putting out emotional writer fires, holding another author’s hand because she has just had a melt down, reading requested material and let’s not forget to mention the editor lunches, conferences and judging contests along with all of the other stuff I missed that an agent does. I am so sure she will have lots of time and energy to send rejection letters. Not.

Look, most of them try, some of them just don’t get it done in the sending-the-rejection-letter department. So what?

Frankly if I were an agent, I’d just state: “If I’m interested, you’ll hear from me.”

So, here it is in a nutshell. If you don’t hear from them, they’re not interested. Move on. It’s time to go to round two agent list. And do not query one agent at a time. Cast the net wide but cast it only on those agents you have researched. Doing your homework when an agent offers is not the time to start asking questions. Also, if you haven’t heard in say 4-6 weeks from the agent, cross them off as not interested. Hey, it happens. Now move on.

It’s really counter-productive to get all highfy over it. 🙂 Highfy (high-fee) new word. So what, you don’t hear from them this time, maybe your next project will get a different response. It’s really not a good idea to cut your nose off to spite yourself in this business.

Okay, so unleash the fury, convince me why it is so important for an agent to send a rejection letter.



  1. Holly D

    As always, thanks for the tips. Also before you send out the letters to an agent you should check them out on Preditors & Editors at:

    And, Karin, happy revisions.

  2. J. Carson Black

    No fury, Karin. You speak the absolute truth.

    Authors have to do a lot of things at various times in their careers, and they’d better learn to move on when it’s time. This isn’t rocket science.

    And never, ever piss off an agent by asking why they didn’t reply. You might have a different project (and be a better writer by then) and you can send to the same list you sent to before, because I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts they won’t remember anything about you. You can start over fresh, as long as you were just one of 500 names on a query letter.

    Only ninnies slam the door shut, especially when they have no power in the situation.

  3. Karin

    Holly, thanks for the link. And I cannot expound on the doing your research first hard enough.

    Jake, the problem for many writers as you know, is they take this business personally. They take no response just as personally, and well, that and a few bucks will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

  4. Kath Calarco

    I’ll make this a quickie ’cause you have stuff to do.

    I’m not excited to see a rejection, so if none come, I’m ex-ing them off as a reject, simple as that. No skin off my nose. Six weeks is long enough to figure it out. But, with the paltry few agents I’ve queried, they’ve gotten back to me within four, and one actually called. Love her to death! Even though she rejected me, she called to tell me she liked my voice, the main character, not so much. Now that’s a classy broad.

    Cool blog, K. Now go kick butt.

  5. J. Carson Black

    Kath, that’s an extremely good sign!

  6. Edie

    Kath, getting a call from an agent is great! Karin, you said everything I’ve been thinking on this subject. I appreciate an agent replying, even with a form rejection. It’s good manners. But if they don’t reply, I don’t obsess about it. I’m moving forward, onto my next book.

  7. Marcia

    Given the choice, I’d rather have a rejection letter on a full even if it’s a form letter. At least that way I know they got my manuscript. However, I don’t hold my breath on that. After 4 to 6 weeks, I take it as a sign to cross them off my list for “that” particular project anyway.

    My biggest problem is I’m never sure when to send dream agent my next manuscript. Usually, I have at least two manuscripts on submission at the same time. This came about because I had an agent who said, “This one didn’t do it for me. You got anything else?” I wanted to kick myself because I had nothing to offer. Since then, I always have a second manuscript on tap.

  8. J. Carson Black

    There was a time when I had some fulls out there, and I got so many rejections that I actually HOPED I wouldn’t get any more rejection letters. I just figured, after a month or two, I’d never hear from them. Fine with me.

    The saddest thing? Over a year after submitting a requested full manuscript, I got the stamped envelope I’d included with the ms back—rejection letter enclosed. It was miraculous— the postage had gone up in the meantime, and yet it STILL found it’s way to me!

  9. Elisabeth Naughton

    Great blog, Karin.

    I would only add one thing…people move around in this industry. You ticked off an agent at one agency becaue you didn’t get the response you wanted?? Guess what? Now he/she may be a part of your dream agency. And agents talk. They don’t live in bubbles. Same for editors. How many editors have you seen jump ship and become agents?

    My motto is simple: don’t trash talk anyone in the industry, stay positive, don’t take it personally, and be professional. At the end of the day, those are the things you can control. That and writing a damn good book. 🙂

  10. B.E. Sanderson

    Excellent post, Karin. Especially since I’m in the middle of the query pond right now. I think getting a firm response every time would be great, but I know it’s unrealistic. I like the agents who say ‘if you don’t hear from me in x-amount of time, consider it a rejection’. Saves me the trouble of having a bunch of ‘Pending’ files in my database. After reading your advice, I’ll just go through and mark all the older ones ‘Rejected’. If any of them do come back otherwise, I can always change it back. =o)

    Onward to the next book!

  11. Kath Calarco

    Ditto what B.E. Sanderson said, sort of. I like to see an agency suggest that if you don’t hear from them in x amount of weeks, try again. I’m guessing that with e-submissions there is the possibility of crashes, or your submission getting sucked into the giant cyber Black Hole. It happens.

    Ditto, too, to what Elisabeth Naughton said. It’s always bad form to trash talk those who control our destiny, even if they don’t at the time. It’s a small world.

  12. Karin

    Well, TORMENT is gone! And I miss my characters! I’ll see them in copy edits though.

    Kath that’s great an agent called you. Are you actively querying right now?

    Edie, I know just from talking to a few very busy agents they get so many queries they can’t keep up. I think, and this is a guess on my part, that when that pile gets so tall they just toss them all away, and start over.

    Marcia, it is a really good idea to have something else to send, especially if you are at the point where you have nailed everything writing and storywise and it’s just a matter of the right project. Of course there in lies the rub. Having the right project. 🙂

    Jake, only to you could that happen!

    Hey, Eli girl, how is the writing coming along?? And your motto is perfecto! and boy oh boy have I seen some angry authors burn bridges in public. no bueno.

    Beth, onward is really the only way to go. never backward. too much time gets wasted.

    Kath, true on the esubs. Those publishers should have an auto reply that they received it. What they do afterwards…?

  13. Margaret

    Late again replying…
    And long…
    Most of the people replying on this loop seemed to have been in the biz for awhile, thus their fairly laid-back POV, BUT newbies don’t see things in the same light as this group and tend to be more vocal about it. It took me 4 years and 3 manuscripts to get to the point of not caring if an agent responded and to move on the next book.
    New writers are not patient. Oh, they may be aware of the query statistics, but they feel an agent should be beating their door down to represent their tome.
    I’m going to address e-queries because any agent who requires paper and the cost associated with it is so freakin’ behind the times that I don’t want them to represent me–even if they LOVED my stories.
    Agents who accept equeries, but also claim they will are respond only if interested are cutting themselves off at the foot. One) How hard is it to set up an auto no? Not that difficult. Heck, if I can write up a generic no, copy and paste into an email, I would hope they could manage it. (And if they actually had some computer savvy, I bet it could be managed with even fewer key strokes.) If all the queries are bunched together they could crank them out. End of Story. Two) the poor writer slups think oh, no, agent XYZ NEVER got my query–I’ll just resend. And proceeds to cram agent XYZ’s inbox with queries, because agent XYZ was too freakin’ lazy to auto respond. Then agent XYZ complains about all the equeries they are getting! 🙂
    I think agents who want equeries and a page or two pasted in the email are the smartest of the group. Queries, by the very virtue of what they are, can’t quite capture the writer’s voice and style. I think some authors manage this feat, but I know I haven’t managed to succeed, so if a page or two is included in the query then the agent can get a flavor of the author’s voice.
    Okay, that was my 4th soapbox rant in 7 days. I’m done. It must be the ‘dog days of summer’ for me. 🙂

  14. Kath Calarco

    Margaret, great points!

    And why there are agents who only accept snail mail is beyond my GREEN comprehension. When I search agents I only go with the paperless kind. Sure, crap shoot with cyber-space, but their rejections have found me via email, so guess I’m picking the ones with sturdy servers. 😉

    Karin, nope, not actively querying. I’m actively writing. My plan is to have something ready to query by Spring.

  15. Karin

    Margaret, green is the way to go. Frankly, I think they should all have an auto response that says, “Your query has been received, we will notify you if we are interested in more obtaining more information.”

    So that takes the wondering if they received the query out of the equation. If you don’t hear for them then they aren’t interested.

    Kath, write on 🙂

  16. Margaret

    Ah! That is the perfect solution, Karin!
    Then there is no question whether or not the query was received. I’ve equeried numerous agents this last go around and I think only a couple have an auto response, though a few agents have an online form, which cuts the crap and gets to the heart of the query.

  17. Edie

    Karin, I think that’s the perfect solution too. Although there will still be people emailing if they have a computer problem, wondering if the request was lost. But the majority will accept it.

  18. LaDonna

    Great advice Karin! Will be doing the agent query salsa in the Fall, and totally focused on positive results. We’ll see where the boat takes me this time. 😎

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