QueryTracker Community

Queries and Agents => Literary Agents => Topic started by: AVA_writing on March 28, 2021, 10:13:12 PM

Title: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: AVA_writing on March 28, 2021, 10:13:12 PM
Disclaimer: I am new to this industry, untrained and unpublished.

Disclaimer said, I find it ironic that in an industry dedicated to the written word, they are the worst communicators in terms of feedback, i.e. queries that never get a response. Does anyone else find this ironic?

Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: raktinope on March 28, 2021, 10:33:42 PM
Publishing is notoriously slow. I'd even say creative ventures in general don't have the rigid punctuality that say, manufacturing or finance have. Deadlines in in publishing don't have as serious consequences as more corporate industries. Alas, s...l...o...w......r...e...s...p...e...n...s...e...s
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: AVA_writing on March 28, 2021, 10:37:25 PM
But, everyone in life is angry when the ATM machine is being slow. Why hasn't this industry truly been disrupted?
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: raktinope on March 28, 2021, 10:43:48 PM
There's no monetary incentive to speed up ATMs. You need to withdraw money. You'll wait in line to withdraw money no matter how long it takes.

You need an agent. You'll wait as long it takes to hear a positive response from one. An agent only moves you to the top of their slush pile when you get an offer, because now they risk losing money by not snatching you up before another agent does. They are the gatekeepers. They risk nothing by making an unpublished author wait.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: littlewritings on March 29, 2021, 10:46:45 AM
I see it this way: An agent gets so-and-so many queries a day, reading queries doesn't make them money, and they do need to take proper care of their clients, so client work always happens before queries. When I query, I simply have to wait my turn.

As for lack of responses, a lot of agents have stopped replying to authors not only due to a lack of time, but also because of all the rude responses they were receiving from querying authors when they sent them rejections. There are plenty of agents who do reply to queries, but even those get sh**-talked all over the place for a variety of reasons ("the response came too fast", "the response took months", "the response was only one sentence", "the response didn't include feedback", "the response is a form" etc).

Querying is an incredibly frustrating process, but I highly doubt that it can be changed in such a way that every querying author will be happy with the way it works.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: Tabris on March 29, 2021, 11:27:45 AM
I had an agent, and you would not believe the communication problems we had just having conversations and sending emails. Toward the end, I started saying, "Yes, and we're in the communications industry."

I think, however, when someone is strangely uncommunicative with only one individual or class of individuals, that's not an incapacity. That's a decision. Agents figure out how to communicate just fine when there's a seven-figure three-book deal on the line.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: Miss Plum on March 29, 2021, 05:32:11 PM
My pet peeve: agents who say they won't respond if they're not interested, but they want you to tell them if you get interest elsewhere. For all I know you trashed my query, or you may be one of those people who takes 9 months to respond -- there's no way of telling. And you want me to chase you down and apprise you of my project's status?
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: Tabris on March 29, 2021, 06:42:57 PM
My pet peeve: agents who say they won't respond if they're not interested, but they want you to tell them if you get interest elsewhere.

That's just for requested material, not for queries. You're not expected to notify everyone you've queried when you get an offer.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: hesterL on March 29, 2021, 08:04:05 PM
@Tabris--I thought you were supposed to notify agents you'd queried if you receive an offer (although I'd guess that might be dependent on the age of the query). I may be wrong, though!
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: Miss Plum on March 29, 2021, 08:36:54 PM
My pet peeve: agents who say they won't respond if they're not interested, but they want you to tell them if you get interest elsewhere.

That's just for requested material, not for queries. You're not expected to notify everyone you've queried when you get an offer.

Yet another point they fail to communicate.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: Viddiest on March 29, 2021, 09:05:54 PM
I think it's because it's a business and a pretty cut-throat one at that, so as far as I can tell, most agents only communicate when it serves their purpose. All but a few don't have the time of day to encourage the writers they feed off of. Sadly, I think they don't see any value in changing unless it brings a monetary value (despite their grandiose claims on twitter about how passionate they are about changing the world).

No, I am not cynical or bitter or anything  :no: ;D
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: littlewritings on March 30, 2021, 12:57:54 AM
To be honest, I just wouldn't even query agents who didn't state any sort of response time. (e.g. "If you don't hear from us, it's a pass." I at the very least wanted a point in time where I could close the query.)

Anyway, I feel like people put agents on this weird pedestal, but at the end of the day, being an agent is still a job. And... Do I love my own job? Yes. Would I work an extra three hours for free every day just because I love my job? Absolutely not. There's this expectation that agents should work and read queries 24/7 and never have any free time because they should be reading queries instead. And that's just not realistic.

(Also re: notifying agents with an offer: You don't "have to" notify anyone. It's just pretty rude not to at the very least notify the other agents who have your material. My advice would be to notify everyone who hasn't said no, because there's a chance that you'll get even more requests and through that more chances of another or several other offers. Can't hurt to know all your options, because maybe it'll turn out that Agent X who hasn't even read your query yet will be the exact right agent for you.)
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: AVA_writing on March 30, 2021, 09:55:57 PM
Thanks for all the perspectives. The friction point makes me want to redesign it. I just might.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: richardclin on March 31, 2021, 04:52:04 AM
Dear AVA_writing,


I too am new to this bewildering, beautiful literary realm and have often wondered as you have why we have to compose highly-customized, grammar-perfect, engaging, even enthralling query letters only to receive the occasional request for a partial/full or, more frequently, a form rejection or, much more frequently, no response at all.


Then I looked back on my past life when I was once a powerful executive search consultant leading two regional practices for Korn Ferry, which is essentially the Penguin Random House of the executive search industry. I was the gatekeeper for senior executives seeking their next C-suite role with the likes of Starbucks, Google, or GE. I received 5-10 emails a day from these powerful people and I responded to...a few of them. When I had the time. And when I had the inclination to do so from home after a long day at the office.


When I saw something I liked after taking a cursory 3-second look at their email or CV that they had put hours into crafting highlighting careers that had taken decades to establish, I responded with...a form letter that I would do my best to somewhat customize so I wouldn't sound like a jerk (after all, these candidates might one day become a client). Or I would ask my assistant to send a reply on my behalf. I tried my best and didn't think twice about the ones to whom I never even had the decency to reply, because I lived a crazy busy life.


On the other hand, when my clients emailed or called me, I wrote them right back within the day or even hour.


Once I recalled this, I realized two things:


1) Karma exists in this world. I am now on the other side of the table, wearing the other shoe (actually slippers since I now work from home as an exalted author), and I am now the supplicant banging on the gates.


2) Most agents are people like you and me, trying to make it through long days and perhaps even longer nights, while they read and edit client manuscripts, build and maintain relationships with myriad publishing houses, undergo the same challenging, at times, dispiriting submissions process with the publishers that we experience with them. And juggle a family. And perhaps maintain a personal life.


With this in mind, I have come to especially appreciate the positive replies, the rejections with helpful feedback, and even the form rejections that try to make me feel better even as they decline my query. Because someone took the time to send one of these despite their crazy busy lives.


Not sure whether any of this helps, but it helped me to put things in perspective.


Sincerely,
RCL
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: Munley on March 31, 2021, 07:30:43 AM
The link below is for an article that discusses 3 agents/agencies who have either let clients down or committed outright crimes.

The article says that Danielle Smith (the second one discussed) was never charged with a federal crime, but asserts that the typical lax and unprofessional communications, and lack of transparency-- practices that the publishing industry regularly gets away with -- laid the groundwork for the deceptive ways this agent screwed her clients over.

Authors are reluctant to complain about these communication practices for fear of losing publishing opportunities or becoming known in the small world of publishing as a pain to deal with. A ruined reputation is no minor problem for an author to contend with.

There is a really sad quote from what one of Smith's clients submitted anonymously to Publishers Weekly, regarding the harm this agent inflicted.
https://writingcooperative.com/3-literary-agent-horror-stories-3345ef27a38d
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: AVA_writing on March 31, 2021, 08:12:18 AM
@RichardClin

I appreciate the perspective they are busy and people, but I also come from the corporate world. I have spent the last 22 years thinking about process, design and customer experience. There are so many opportunities here...



Ava (Primary Coaching, Secondary Pace Setting Leadership styles  ;D according to Korn Ferry)
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: richardclin on March 31, 2021, 11:10:43 AM

Agreed and excellent point. Ava. Certainly, I believe the industry as a whole has come to accept and propagate a norm that appears extremely inefficient. People probably felt that way about my industry as well. I just didn't feel it as I "sat on the other side."


What I have found amazing is sometimes submitting my short stories to literary journals, having them accepted, and then never hearing from editor again until one day someone tells me they saw my story online. Or else the editor tells me five months later that my story has just been published this morning in their journal. Now, that would have been like an executive submitting her resume to me and I then inform her several months later that I have placed her at Pepsico and she needs to show up HQ in about fifteen minutes ready for her first board meeting... :bash:

@RichardClin

I appreciate the perspective they are busy and people, but I also come from the corporate world. I have spent the last 22 years thinking about process, design and customer experience. There are so many opportunities here...



Ava (Primary Coaching, Secondary Pace Setting Leadership styles  ;D according to Korn Ferry)
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: kciswriting on March 31, 2021, 11:22:05 AM
The link below is for an article that discusses 3 agents/agencies who have either let clients down or committed outright crimes.

The article says that Danielle Smith (the second one discussed) was never charged with a federal crime, but asserts that the typical lax and unprofessional communications, and lack of transparency-- practices that the publishing industry regularly gets away -- with laid the groundwork for the deceptive ways this agent screwed her clients over.

Authors are reluctant to complain about these communication practices for fear of losing publishing opportunities or becoming known in the small world of publishing as a pain to deal with. A ruined reputation is no minor problem for an author to contend with.

There is a really sad quote from what one of Smith's clients submitted anonymously to Publishers Weekly, regarding the harm this agent inflicted.
https://writingcooperative.com/3-literary-agent-horror-stories-3345ef27a38d

They need to also add Mark Gottlieb to the Bad Agent List.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: richardclin on March 31, 2021, 11:38:18 AM

Wow, this article is quite the eye-opener. Makes me wonder why we all just don't self-publish with the aid of some top freelance editors, book cover designers, marketers, etc...


Thank you for sharing this with us, Munley. It's good to know the dangers that lurk beneath the surface.

The link below is for an article that discusses 3 agents/agencies who have either let clients down or committed outright crimes.

The article says that Danielle Smith (the second one discussed) was never charged with a federal crime, but asserts that the typical lax and unprofessional communications, and lack of transparency-- practices that the publishing industry regularly gets away -- with laid the groundwork for the deceptive ways this agent screwed her clients over.

Authors are reluctant to complain about these communication practices for fear of losing publishing opportunities or becoming known in the small world of publishing as a pain to deal with. A ruined reputation is no minor problem for an author to contend with.

There is a really sad quote from what one of Smith's clients submitted anonymously to Publishers Weekly, regarding the harm this agent inflicted.
https://writingcooperative.com/3-literary-agent-horror-stories-3345ef27a38d (https://writingcooperative.com/3-literary-agent-horror-stories-3345ef27a38d)
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: Tabris on March 31, 2021, 11:42:49 AM

Wow, this article is quite the eye-opener. Makes me wonder why we all just don't self-publish with the aid of some top freelance editors, book cover designers, marketers, etc...


That's the route I've taken, and it's marvelous fun.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: richardclin on March 31, 2021, 12:03:49 PM

Thank you for sharing, Tabris. Supposedly I am making good traction in my querying, but I still think it still such a longshot of securing a book offer in the end. I've looked at the stats on QT and it appears most agents offer rep to about 1-6% of the authors from whom they have requested partials or fulls. So even if one has, say, ten or so fulls and partials with agents, the chances are still not high of securing an offer.


And then I've read that agents only place about 10-70% of the books they try to sell. Lastly, once you sell the book, only the top 1-5% receive meaningful marketing muscle from the publisher, so one has to still invest a lot of time, energy, and resources into marketing the book. In spite of all this, we all query and supplicate because there must be few truly extraordinary things to experience in life than a Big 4 publishing your book. Perhaps only your first kiss, wedding day, and first childbirth may surpass this emotion. I can only imagine for now...


Nonetheless, while I continue to query like a madman, I am preparing myself emotionally and intellectually for the possibility of launching an imprint to self-publish my current and future books. It does look like a lot of hard work but also much fun and learning to be had as well.


Tabris, I will hit you up via PM with some questions if you don't mind. I don't want to steer this chat down an entirely different path unless others here are eager as well to hear about your self-publishing journey.


Wow, this article is quite the eye-opener. Makes me wonder why we all just don't self-publish with the aid of some top freelance editors, book cover designers, marketers, etc...


That's the route I've taken, and it's marvelous fun.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: Tabris on March 31, 2021, 12:12:09 PM
No problem! There are so many resources out there for indie publishing right now that you don't have to go it alone. Read a couple of books about it and then join an indie forum or two, ask people for recommendations on their cover artists etc. The indie publishing community is really supportive and willing to share information.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: richardclin on April 02, 2021, 03:40:00 AM

Fantastic experiment and perspective, Jonny. Thank you for sharing it.


I have found some agents to be quite willing to provide feedback even after turning down my query. While I won't ask for most form query rejections, for all customized query rejections and all rejections after reviewing my partial or full, I always ask for more advice while acknowledging that I am extremely appreciative of them taking time out of their very busy schedule for me. It seems to work, resulting in one agent changing a decline into an R&R for me and some meaningful, actionable advice from several others.

Of course, I've only been in query hell for about six weeks, so perhaps I'm still quite Pollyana-ish at this point. Perhaps before too long I will be cursing agents more than anyone else here... :ninja:

Good luck to everyone! It can be an extremely bewildering, frustrating, dispiriting process, but I think as Jonny mentioned, if we were in their shoes we might not fare much better.

@AVA_writing, yes I share the feeling and frustration as most of the others here.

Last night I went to the samples section here on QT and decided to read some of the shares from the QT community to see how the others write etc. and to try my literary agent hat on. I got through about 5 of them before I felt exhausted and could not do any more. It was odd as I can usually plow through a good book in a day or two. But it was juggling the totally different stories and perspectives, voices and characters, from sample to sample that was tough. My mind was drifting. Not because any of it is was bad, but rather it was writing that came to me rather than me seeking it out despite me going through a pile (if that makes any sense). It was also evening and my day was long. I then started scrolling through them, trying to spot interesting things, instead of reading them. This too soon became tough. This was my first hour as a literary agent, fresh and intrigued, and I was already done.

I understood the effort each writer put in, I personally wish each writer will succeed in their aspirations. But it was the storm of numbers that overwhelmed me.

I pictured having to get through 100's, maybe 1000's of these a week. Like Richard said, on top of running other affairs, having a personal life, and my own dreams which may pull me away from the day job. I would not be excited at all. Nor a perfect communicator.

Having to respond to each and every one of those queries as well?  :flag:

These guys and gals really have a lot of go through and having to communicate with 100's of people on an individual basis every day is just not possible. Current clients and books will be present in their minds, Twitter rants second, and queries somewhere at the bottom.

But they do want to sell more books. They need more authors and books (especially junior agents) so they will seek these out. Each of us has a chance at getting an agent! This is neither lie nor fairy tale delusion. Look at it this way: why sell one for $100 when you can sell two for $200. Especially if you earn money from those sales. Literary agents need them books.

Agents just have too many things to juggle to be able to communicate well.

Some of you come from corporate jobs I see, same here :) I am still doing my thing it the ICT world. And even here, clients and colleagues seldom respond to e-mails. People often say, "Oh, I missed that, sorry," when followed up on. But when they need something, they're pretty good at replying!

Google "Day in the life of a literary agent" and you will read some interesting stories. Top agents pretty much have nothing to do with queries (which makes me wonder why they say they're open . . . hmmm communication!). Junior agents, it varies. The UK agents seem to dedicate more time to queries than the US ones, just my experience from research. One UK agent spends about 4 business hours each day just going through query letters which sounds promising.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: MKWrites_318 on April 03, 2021, 08:01:42 PM
I watched this video last night. This put the whole agenting thing into perspective for me in a way that nothing else has, so I thought I'd share it, since it addresses this topic.  :)

https://youtu.be/Xvzv6314bg8 (https://youtu.be/Xvzv6314bg8)
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: raktinope on April 03, 2021, 09:25:27 PM
The video was helpful but now I'm wondering if I've been pronouncing "query" wrong. Is it "queer-y" or "k-wear-y"?
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: richardclin on April 04, 2021, 01:01:36 AM

Thank you, MKWrites, this video was immensely helpful in putting things in perspective from the agent side.

I watched this video last night. This put the whole agenting thing into perspective for me in a way that nothing else has, so I thought I'd share it, since it addresses this topic.  :)

https://youtu.be/Xvzv6314bg8 (https://youtu.be/Xvzv6314bg8)
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: Johnny 5 on April 04, 2021, 04:16:12 AM
Thanks for sharing. Her video on why she quit agenting is also pretty interesting and a very sobering insight to the life of a literary agent. It made me love my "dreadful" day job.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2g6fwukFfU
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: MKWrites_318 on April 04, 2021, 12:26:57 PM
Oh wow. Thank you for sharing that, jonny_555. I'd read more than once from older agents that there is a huge burnout rate in the industry, and this added info makes it pretty easy to see why that would be.
Title: Re: Why is this industry the worst communicators?
Post by: AVA_writing on April 05, 2021, 10:17:00 AM
Thank you for sharing the video links. The more I learn the more I am fascinated by the intricacies of it all.