Author Topic: Okay, how would YOU do it??  (Read 11273 times)

Offline Aiala

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Okay, how would YOU do it??
« on: July 03, 2009, 09:49:52 AM »
Consequent to the “Quirky Rejection” thread, let me pose the following hypothetical question:

Assuming you were a literary agent (Heaven forbid!) how would your rejections be worded? Would you be straightforward, dismissive, or terse? Try to soft-pedal it with a bunch of insincere form mush? Or, as so many do, would you take the spineless route and not even bother to answer queries that didn’t interest you?

I think I’d go with something along these lines: “In my view –and others may well dispute it– your work still needs substantial editing, which I’m not in a position to provide. I wish you much success.”

Succinct rather than brusque, and almost universally true. (If by some miracle I received a manuscript that didn’t need editing, I sure as heck wouldn’t reject it!)  :)

~A~
"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" ~ Dante Alighieri, Inferno
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Offline bodwen

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2009, 10:12:59 AM »
Harsh!  I'm glad you aren't an agent.   :eek:

Besides, agents aren't just evaluating the manuscripts on technical merit.  Their job is not to decide if the book is good or bad.  Their job is to convince someone else to pay 6 figures to get the book out into the market.

***

Standard query:  A standard "Thank you, but it is not for me.  Best of luck."  I would write this as a formal business letter, careful not to include false flattery or ambiguous phrasing.

Fatal flawed query:  Same as standard, but I may point out the fatal flaw if it is easily corrected and I don't think that it will cause a blitzkrieg of retaliation from a crazy writer.

Partial rejection
The standard.

Full rejection  
The standard, if there is no hope.
The standard, if I detect plagiarism.
The standard, if I suspect that the author might be a dangerous psychopath.
A personalized letter, with referrals, if it's great but I don't think I can sell it.
A personalized letter, with suggestions and an invitation to resubmit, if I think it's close but not quite there yet, and I'm not sure the author can or will edit.


Offline Aiala

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2009, 10:30:19 AM »
Harsh!  I'm glad you aren't an agent.   :eek:

So am I, LOL!

As for the rest, I believe it IS an agent's job to decide what's good or bad; and if the latter, to refrain from further polluting the current state of literature by pushing infantile leaden rubbish into the marketplace.

As you can see, it wouldn't take me long to go broke as an agent.  ;D

~A~
"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" ~ Dante Alighieri, Inferno
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Offline violet

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2009, 12:54:07 PM »
Harsh!  I'm glad you aren't an agent.   :eek:

Agreed!  ;D

Query and partial, standard.

If I'm going to take someone's full, I will take the time for honest feedback. Some agents request a full but I wouldn't unless the idea was intriguing.

While easier said than done, I believe that this should be a process w/ a learning curve. So if you continue to get the same note repeatedly, it may hold some merit. I used to read scripts for a production company. While my comments should've been taken with some semblance of a grain of salt as I was only one opinion, I always tried to let the writer know what was working, and what wasn't.

Offline Aiala

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2009, 01:55:33 PM »
If I'm going to take someone's full, I will take the time for honest feedback. Some agents request a full but I wouldn't unless the idea was intriguing.

Yes, and the writing was indicative of something more than a passing acquaintance with correct spelling and grammar usage. In light of which, I rather suspect that I'd ask to see one full out of every two thousand queries.

Like I said, I'd be broke in a fortnight.  :)

~A~
"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" ~ Dante Alighieri, Inferno
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Offline luctari

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2009, 06:07:20 PM »
How would I do it?  Hmmmmmmmm . . .

OK, first of all, everybody gets a reply.  I've got a day job where I routinely put in 50-70 hours a week, especially now, after staff cuts, but I'm still expected to return all my phone calls and answer all my e-mails, so I just don't buy this "the poor agents are so oppressed they can't answer all queries" crap.  How long does a "Sorry, not for me" e-mail take?

Second, my web site would indicate that ALL queries should include at least 10 and no more than 20 sample pages.  My web site would also state that I would only read as many of those pages as I felt compelled to, based on their quality.  If I was not compelled to finish, then I wouldn't be asking for anything.

Third, I would not ask for partials -- I'd ask for "fartials."  I would always ask for the whole thing, but again with the stipulation that I was only going to read as long as the writer made it worth my while.  If I was compelled to finish, but still did not want to represent, then i would provide at least a page or so of comments on the draft -- what worked, what didn't, etc.  If I was not compelled to finish, I would at a minimum tell the author where and why they lost me.

Fourth, I have to suspect that the vast majority of the material agents read demonstrates that the author has no real chance not only of getting the queried work published, but of getting anything published, ever.  In such cases, I would be honest and say something along the lines of:

"As a literary agent, I read dozens of manuscripts a weekand have a very good handle not only on what can be published, but on which writers evdience the talents and skills necessary to hope one day to be published.  I am sorry to have to tell you that you evidence neither in your submission.  This is not meant to be cruel, but simply to be an honest evaluation of your material.  I would strongly advise that you take some writing classes, join an writing group and otherwise significantly polish your skills before submitting work to the agent community again.  If you already have taken those steps, then it is quite possible that you simply do not possess the requiste talents to be a published author."

I mean geeze, kids get cut from sports teams and school plays and stuff all the time.  I still remember the high school baseball coach telling me, "Kid, I hear your a good football player.  You'd be better off spending your spring in the weight room, cause you suck at baseball, and even if you make the team, all you're gonna do is ride the bench."  Didn't kill me.  In fact, the extra time in the weight room probably helped me with swimming in the winter and football in the fall.  Why tell somebody who's invested god-knows-how-much time writing a novel that clearly demonstrates that they have no chance of getting published that it's "Not for me" when you know damn well it's not for anybody.  At least do them the courtesy of telling the truth.

Of course, I'd probably get gunned down by some obsessed wanna be writer for crushing his or her unrealistic dream, so it's a good thing I'm not gonna take up agenting any time soon.

Luctari
Daniel B. O'Shea
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munley

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2009, 06:24:39 PM »
Here's a link to a page where a writer has posted the many rejection letters he received:

http://www.spywriter.com/rejection.html

Offline MarvaD

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2009, 06:33:14 PM »
luctari: Excellent. I think what you say should be the norm on responses.

I have heard that if you don't get personalized responses to partials or fulls, then you should consider a different career.  I guess I'm near that point.  I don't get the positive responses in the numbers indicated by the QT stats.  I can only assume my books suck in some way, shape, or form.  I know it's not the technical aspects of writing.  Thirty+ years as a technical writer and numerous awards for same tell me I can put words together into a coherent sentence.  My writing must lack something, but if an agent won't tell me what it is, then what do I do?  I examine my plot, story arc, characters development, etc.  All good.  It would be good to know just how I'm a zero in the query/publishing wars.  If I knew, maybe I could change my ways, improve my style, or whatever.  If I only get generic feedback, then I will continue to annoy agents with my lack of ... ?  I have no idea.  Why do my critters and beta readers love my books, but agents do not?  Without an agent flat out saying "this is what you're doing wrong," then how can I change or improve?

Lots of questions in my mind, but I can only come to the conclusion that I'll never get an agent because agents don't want what I write.  Why is totally open to speculation.

Okay.  My writing sucks.  But why have I published more than thirty-five shorts and have two books out from a micro-publisher?  I guess I only semi-suck.


The whole "keep querying forever" thing is ridiculous. I have to call the line somewhere, and I'm freakin' close to doing just that.  Good luck to everyone who continues to hold out hope.  You all must be better than me.

Offline Aiala

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2009, 07:42:32 PM »
I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Luctari, especially:

"OK, first of all, everybody gets a reply... I just don't buy this 'the poor agents are so oppressed they can't answer all queries' crap."

"I have to suspect that the vast majority of the material agents read demonstrates that the author has no real chance not only of getting the queried work published, but of getting anything published, ever." 

And above all else:

"Why tell somebody who's invested god-knows-how-much time writing a novel that clearly demonstrates that they have no chance of getting published that it's "Not for me" when you know damn well it's not for anybody.  At least do them the courtesy of telling the truth."

Well-expressed, Mr. L. Kudos. Too bad you're not an agent.

~A~


"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" ~ Dante Alighieri, Inferno
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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7286455-she-s-my-dad
http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewpoetry_all.

Offline JeanneT

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2009, 08:10:11 PM »
While I can agree with Mr. Luctari, I also frequently see novels PUBLISHED that I think should have been flushed the writing is so bad, so I'm not sure I'd go that route. Who am I to know that no one is going to buy what I consider crap? People eat at McDonalds. Nuff said?

Ok, my own answer. First I'd have an auto-responder.  Takes no time to do and the author knows it's been received. I appreciate them and DARN few agents bother.

I don't care how many emails you receive it really doesn't take that long to go through and respond. I would be a bit less harsh than Mr. Luctari while trying to be honest on the 95% (low estimate) that is crap. I'd do a standard: I don't see any market for this work, but that is one agent's opinion. Best of luck.

Partials I think deserve at least a sentence or two of honest reaction, although not a detailed crit. Critting isn't an agent's job. I suspect after a few hundred, I'd end up with templates (and people complain about these but as long as they're honest, I don't see the problem) saying something like: The plot/narrative/dialogue/characters (one or combination) didn't work for me, but that's one agent's opinion. Best of luck.

I honestly think that a full deserves at least a paragraph or two of non-template opinion, but that's assuming that the agent doesn't request a full on everything that comes down the pike, which you can bet I wouldn't.  :naughty:
« Last Edit: July 03, 2009, 08:15:01 PM by JeanneT »
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Offline bodwen

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2009, 08:55:12 PM »
I don't see any market for this work, but that is one agent's opinion. Best of luck.

Trouble is, that how I feel about 7 out of 10 of the published novels I've read lately.  Most of the fare that has churned out of the big-name presses lately I've found so cringeworthy that I've been previewing my purchases at the library to save time and money.

The book I'm reading right now is decent, but it could have been great had it been flogged without mercy by a ruthless editor.

Offline cipherqueen

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2009, 08:57:38 PM »
"First I'd have an auto-responder.  Takes no time to do and the author knows it's been received. I appreciate them and DARN few agents bother."

I'd use this.
"Why tell somebody who's invested god-knows-how-much time writing a novel that clearly demonstrates that they have no chance of getting published that it's "Not for me" when you know damn well it's not for anybody.  At least do them the courtesy of telling the truth."
-and that.
Still, I would try to reply personally to each query, even if the email only contains one or two notes on why I decided to pass, and is a fill in the blank rejection form.
If the writing is clearly wonderfully, but I can't market it at the time, I would explain why.
That's my take on it.
...

Offline JeanneT

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2009, 11:57:41 PM »
I didn't say to use the auto-responder as your only response. An auto-responder is only to let the sender know that the email has indeed been received. I find it a courtesy that I appreciate.

A response to the query would be separate.

I think personal responses to 200 queries a week isn't practical, but, hey, that's one NON-agents opinion. ;)
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Offline DHE

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2009, 03:19:50 PM »
I'd love to say I'd be honest and give personal critiques, but I feel that's like the brand new teacher all bright-eyed and busy-tailed, thinking they're going to change the world, only to be a wreck by the end of the year barely able to refrain from murdering their students, then eventually settling into a tone/routine/etc. that just keeps everything running (at least, this seems to be the path most of my high school teachers followed).  I feel like you'd start out with your honest critiques, then start getting the follow-ups, the ranting emails about how you don't "understand" and how you didn't need to be so mean, you get the tons and tons of queries you just don't really feel anything about in particular so you don't have much to say, etc.  At some point, I think I'd say screw it, send out the standard "It's not for me, best of luck" emails (though definitely no non-response for rejections!) and take out my frustrations on a blog or something...basically, I'd become the Query Shark.  :) 

Offline MaryL

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2009, 08:27:31 AM »
What would I do were I an agent?  I've thought a lot about this over the last year. I would do what my agency does.  I wouldn't take unsolicited submissions.  I would accept submissions based on referral and word of mouth. 

Many agents have two jobs.  I can name a dozen off the top of my head who are successful writers too. Some work for bookstores, law firms or other industries in addition to the agenting, which doesn't pay as well as you think. Many answer their own queries and don't have the luxury of interns to take the load off. 

Their primary job is not to answer queries.  Their primary job is to represent their clients. 

It is irritating to all of us to receive a form letter or no response at all, but I totally understand it. In my opinion, it is an honor to send a query.  I'm glad they are open to seeing my work at all.  They consider my work through a letter and owe me nothing. 

I love some of the suggestions below.  I would have appreciated responses like the ones suggested, but I don't expect agents to respond to an initial query.  After they have requested material, my expectations change, and I've never been disappointed. 

In addition to possibly spending hours a day at another job, like writing their own books, agents must (in addition to other aspects of the job I'm not mentioning): 

Put together submission packets (this makes query letters look like a picnic.  Remember how much time you spent on your query?  They have to do something harder for every book each client produces that they choose to represent.)

Review and negotiate contracts on behalf of clients.

Handle phone calls/emails from clients, editors, marketing departments, foreign rights departments, lawyers publicists, etc.

Receive, confirm and distribute royalty checks. 

Read clients' new works, revised works, editors' revision notes.

Handle all hard-copy author fan mail and sometimes emails from fans to writers.

Sometimes handle solicitations for writers to attend events.

Read potential clients' submissions.

Read incoming queries.  Really, this would be last.  It wouldn't be more important than the existing clients' needs.  If an agent can't handle the client needs listed above, why would she take on more clients?

I hate non-response or unthinking form rejections as much as the next writer.  What I'd hate worse is an agent who is so swamped by incoming query responses and the search for the next client, she can't do a good job representing me (which is one of the reasons I parted ways with my first agent).



« Last Edit: July 05, 2009, 08:34:12 AM by MaryL »
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