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Undercover
10-03-2012, 03:16 AM
Simple question, you would think. A great book that they're in love with and want to make a lot of money on.

This is what I don't understand. I sent queries to agents that take my genre YA mystery/thrillers. Some just thrillers with some agents still showing an interest even though it's YA.

Here's my question. I sent my query to an agent that accepts all genres except exotica and she liked the query and requested the full. She got back to me saying she was very impressed with how I executed the story but unfortunately it isn't what she's looking for at the moment. I don't understand why she would ask for the full in the first place then. I mean, why would she?

And then they're are those agents that you think are the perfect fit, liking exactly what you write, and they come back with "It's not what I'm looking for."

I know there's a thread about this somewhere, but I haven't seen one lately. Can someone explain why agents do this?

A.P.M.
10-03-2012, 03:38 AM
I think the "it's not what I'm looking for" response might just be that the book didn't wow them enough or they didn't connect with it. I'm guessing they were really intrigued by the query but subjectively didn't like the execution once they read the MS. I've had the same experience when reading blurbs on a book, getting excited about the story, and then I opened it up and the tone was entirely different from what I expected.

buz
10-03-2012, 03:47 AM
There are any number of reasons.

Sometimes it's because the agent already has too many books of that type on their list.

Sometimes it's because they are unsure what will make the book stand out in the current market.

In other words, competition is a major factor.

Sometimes it's because they're unsure how to sell it/who to sell it to.

Sometimes it's because they love what's in the query but the manuscript doesn't deliver/needs more work than they're willing to deal with/doesn't turn out to be what they thought it was.

A query only gives you so much information. Not enough for you to tell what the manuscript is really like.

From agent Suzie Townsend's blog (http://confessionsofawanderingheart.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-08-13T09:30:00-04:00&max-results=15):


I can't take on everything I love and I can't take on everything that I think I can sell. I have to take on manuscripts that I love, that I think I can sell, that don't compete with books already on my list, that are unique enough to stand out in the marketplace, etc.

Undercover
10-03-2012, 03:48 AM
I think the "it's not what I'm looking for" response might just be that the book didn't wow them enough or they didn't connect with it. I'm guessing they were really intrigued by the query but subjectively didn't like the execution once they read the MS. I've had the same experience when reading blurbs on a book, getting excited about the story, and then I opened it up and the tone was entirely different from what I expected.

Thanks for the response A.P.M. I can understand that, but why say "I was impressed by the execution of the story" if that was the problem? Why not just say, "I didn't connect with it?" Cause I've gotten those type of responses too.

I don't understand why these agents can't just come out and say I didn't like it, sorry. Or something to that effect.

Undercover
10-03-2012, 03:53 AM
There are any number of reasons.

Sometimes it's because the agent already has too many books of that type on their list.

Sometimes it's because they are unsure what will make the book stand out in the current market.

In other words, competition is a major factor.

Sometimes it's because they're unsure how to sell it/who to sell it to.

Sometimes it's because they love what's in the query but the manuscript doesn't deliver/needs more work than they're willing to deal with/doesn't turn out to be what they thought it was.

A query only gives you so much information. Not enough for you to tell what the manuscript is really like.

From agent Suzie Townsend's blog (http://confessionsofawanderingheart.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-08-13T09:30:00-04:00&max-results=15):

Thanks, I suppose you're right. It really can be any number of reasons. I just hate the vague ones, which I'm referring to. If it was any of those reasons, why not just say that? I just hate it when the agent doesn't really tell you exactly why.

buz
10-03-2012, 03:58 AM
Thanks, I suppose you're right. It really can be any number of reasons. I just hate the vague ones, which I'm referring to. If it was any of those reasons, why not just say that? I just hate it when the agent doesn't really tell you exactly why.

Right. Well, that's understandable. But keep in mind that a) agents really don't have a lot of time to write personalized rejections--I think it's quite a nice vote of confidence that she bothered to tell you your execution was great, and really sweet of her to take the time to do that; and b) if it was for some businessy reason that has nothing to do with your ms, that's her business that doesn't need to be disclosed, particularly as it makes no real difference to you the author. :D Perhaps the reason she passed was for a (b)-like reason, or perhaps there was something in the ms (besides the execution) she didn't click with that would have taken too much time to elaborate upon. It's really very nice when they give you critiques and specifics, but they're not required to do that. :D

Karen Junker
10-03-2012, 04:03 AM
Agents rely on stock phrases when they're rejecting -- they simply do not have enough time to give a personalized rejection letter to everyone, even if they would like to. You are so lucky to get a full request -- that means that you are doing something right with your query. And the comment that the execution was good means that you're doing something right with your manuscript too. It just may not be enough to make the agent want to work with the project and once that decision is made, they really need to move on to the next possibility (or work for their current clients).

Keep submitting. You're almost there!

Undercover
10-03-2012, 04:15 AM
Thanks Buz, I appreciate the input.

And thank you too Karen. That's good advice. Think I'm going to just sweep this one under the carpet and move on.

Jennifer_Laughran
10-03-2012, 05:28 AM
I can think something is well-written or well-executed, and not love it. I can like something, but not love it. I can KNOW that something will sell, but still not want to represent it.

Think about it this way: You're out dancing. There are LOTS of fairly attractive, cool people at this club. Most of them are pretty good dancers. You dance with several that strike your fancy for some reason or another. This one is tall and goodlooking. This one has great style. That one is super graceful on the dancefloor.

But just because you've danced with a bunch of people, doesn't mean you want to MARRY AND START A SMALL BUSINESS with all of them. Chances are good you won't really fall for ANY of them, no matter how cool they seem at first glance. Because they can't just be goodlooking or stylish or graceful - they have to be a personality and taste match. You have to want to introduce them to your family and friends. You have to be potentially willing to link your name with this person, in some ways at least, including financially, possibly *forever* - and trust them to be sane and stable and whatever else you want in a partner.

Now I don't REALLY think the agent/author relationship is like a marriage except in the most superficial ways - it's a business relationship and there are ways to dissolve it easily (particularly if there are no books sold together). But it is an easy analogy because there is a grain of truth there.

Mr. Anonymous
10-03-2012, 06:38 AM
In my opinion, it almost always comes down to this: they don't love it enough (or at all).

It's as simple and as complicated as that.

Of course, it's confusing to get complimented and rejected all in the span of a few sentences. But no matter what words are being used, the meaning is almost always the same: I'm not taking this on, because I'm not in love with it.

Jamesaritchie
10-03-2012, 07:16 PM
A rejection, however it's phrased, always means, "I don't think I can sell this particular novel to a top publisher."

Reading anything else into it just causes frustration.

Susan Littlefield
10-04-2012, 12:03 AM
I love when I'm looking for a product that I get to try it first. I try on a certain dress because I think I might look good in it. Nah, it's a beautiful color (MY color in fact), but it does not flatter my figure at all. It makes me look shorter too! The clerk has no idea why I don't buy it, because it's her goal to sell it.

An agent asks for your full to "try on" your book. Said agent can see many good things in your book but return it because it does not fit her well. Her primary goal is to sell the book to a publisher.

The glass is half full. Keep trying.

Ctairo
10-04-2012, 12:34 AM
The more I see online, the more I realize the process is absolutely like dating. How many second dates didn't happen for reasons you'll never know? Even when all signs pointed toward wow, we really got along...

If you want to be published, if it matters to you, you'll keep putting the best work you can out there and hope the magic happens.

Undercover
10-04-2012, 01:58 AM
Thanks for all the analogies guys. I can understand it now. I actually emailed her back asking what it was she was looking for. Funny thing is, she told me that's a vague question! Ha! Then she went into the "spark" idea. She just didn't feel it I guess. That I can completely understand and wished she'd just have said that in the first place. Then she went into telling me to watch my passive voice (which I didn't get cause my novel is in the present tense) and also told me I had too many "had" words which became too distracting for her. I was a little miffed by that and even did a search, counted 80 "had" words in the 55K word novel. I really don't think that's much, I'm sorry. It just seemed like she was reaching for a reason.

I do appreciate all the feedback though!

buz
10-04-2012, 04:56 AM
Thanks for all the analogies guys. I can understand it now. I actually emailed her back asking what it was she was looking for. Funny thing is, she told me that's a vague question! Ha! Then she went into the "spark" idea. She just didn't feel it I guess. That I can completely understand and wished she'd just have said that in the first place. Then she went into telling me to watch my passive voice (which I didn't get cause my novel is in the present tense) and also told me I had too many "had" words which became too distracting for her. I was a little miffed by that and even did a search, counted 80 "had" words in the 55K word novel. I really don't think that's much, I'm sorry. It just seemed like she was reaching for a reason.

I do appreciate all the feedback though!

Passive voice has nothing to do with past or present, though.

"The foreskin was cut off by the mohel" is as passive as "the foreskin is cut off by the mohel."

I doubt she had a problem with the sheer number of hads, so much as how they were used, or where they were used, or that they generally made the sentences weaker, or something. And I doubt that's the reason for rejection.

If the spark was there, if she really wanted it, she could have taken it on and told you to edit it. It's not the number of "had"s. It's that it didn't click with her. But you asked for concrete reasons, so she gave you some--hence the reaching. To her, it probably seemed like you weren't satisfied with "not for me" or "not what I'm looking for"--the truth--so she gave you something solid to sate you.

But she gave you decent critiques, so--I'd at least take that into account. :D You're lucky, believe it or not. ;)

Undercover
10-04-2012, 03:59 PM
Thanks Buz. And you're right, I was lucky enough to get a critique. Now I know what to fix for next time.

I thank you all for chiming in and helping me with this!

bearilou
10-04-2012, 06:33 PM
I don't understand why these agents can't just come out and say I didn't like it, sorry. Or something to that effect.

You're kidding, right? With all the stories around about how an author had an epic emotional meltdown at an agent for rejecting their ms?

I can completely understand why they would want to stick to stock phrases and hope the author will move on.

retlaw
10-04-2012, 08:34 PM
I just got done doing the "Agent meet Query Letter. Query Letter meet Agent." Speed Dating cycle myself. For me - I didn't mind it. I knew that my stuff was going to need to find the right person. I took the form rejections in stride and looked for any nuance that might indicate they actually typed it.

And I saved every one I got.

blacbird
10-08-2012, 07:59 AM
Pot of gold at end of rainbow. Just like the rest of us.

caw

Helen Zimmermann
10-09-2012, 06:19 PM
Honestly, that's one of the "pat" answers that get used when agents are too busy (or too lazy) to give at least one or two sentences why they REALLY didn't warm to the project. It stinks, but there you have it. If it makes you feel any better, agents get the same terse rejection one-liners from editors :)

WeaselFire
10-09-2012, 06:46 PM
Sort of a side topic, but you will want to make sure you send work that both matches the query as well as what the agent is looking for. I had a conversation a while back with a very nice lady who reps Christian fiction. She said something like 80% of queries were for other than Christian fiction, and of the queries that matched a Christian fiction genre, about half the manuscripts really weren't anything that she would consider as Christian fiction.

As she put it, a story doesn't become Christian fiction because the vampires are okay with crosses. :)

I did find out that writing Christian fiction, or probably any spiritual fiction, is a lot more detailed than I imagined.

Jeff

J.Reid
10-19-2012, 06:02 AM
Lazy. Yea. That's it.

Mr Flibble
10-19-2012, 11:42 AM
Lazy. Yea. That's it.
Oh come on, we all know you spend your days sipping them margaritas and stomping writer's dreams under the heel of your Jimmy Choos, laughing maniacally as you send another form that is carefully crafted to play with the minds of us poor, poor writers.



Just in case it's not totally clear: :sarcasm

Ken
10-19-2012, 03:11 PM
Here's my question. I sent my query to an agent that accepts all genres except exotica and she liked the query and requested the full. She got back to me saying she was very impressed with how I executed the story but unfortunately it isn't what she's looking for at the moment. I don't understand why she would ask for the full in the first place then. I mean, why would she?

_ _ _ maybe b/c they didn't want to take a chance of passing up something that was right for them. So they asked for the full, b/c there was that chance. I kinda think you should be glad of that, even though it ended in a pass. They gave yours a chance. They could've simply said "no dice," right from the get go. Would you really have wanted that?

G'luck to you.

Undercover
10-19-2012, 03:18 PM
I'd rather have an agent know what they want then guess at it. If they're guessing, maybe they're guessing at how they work too.

Ken
10-19-2012, 03:31 PM
_ _ _ I'm no agent so I couldn't say how things work for sure. I'm just going by how things run in general. With most things you really don't know if something is going to be right till you try it on for size. Take Windows 8. I've read some reviews about it that have been rather negative. But I really wouldn't know for sure if it would be worth the investment till I try it out and see for myself. So I may. And if it isn't good then I may go back to Windows 7. But it would have been worth the try. And that try wouldn't be to say that I or the company I work for didn't know how to go about things. Business is about taking chances. If you always play it safe and go with sure bets you run the risk of missing out on some good opportunities. My 2 cents.

bearilou
10-19-2012, 03:56 PM
I'd rather have an agent know what they want then guess at it. If they're guessing, maybe they're guessing at how they work too.

You're making an awful lot of assumptions about people, the process in general, and their process in specific.

Sometimes, no is no.

And here's the kicker.

Maybe, just maybe your ms didn't live up to the hype of your query letter. They didn't know that until they asked for the full.

In other words, it's not them, it's you.

They can't know that you are totally different and won't send threatening emails, or walk up to their car and slam their head into the steering wheel, or start stalking their children while they're at school or even decide to engage in a argument that clearly they don't know a good book when it lands on their head... by giving you a detailed rejection. Sometimes, just sometimes, the safest thing they can say is 'no thanks, not for us'.

Quite frankly, your biased assumptions and entitlement (and apparent bitterness) that they should tell you EXACTLY why they didn't go with it is really astounding me, here.

Stacia Kane
10-19-2012, 03:58 PM
I'd rather have an agent know what they want then guess at it. If they're guessing, maybe they're guessing at how they work too.


They're not guessing. They know what they want. Your book wasn't it.

An agent saying they like X genre doesn't mean they love every book in X genre, any more than you saying you like X genre means that you do. I've seen books on shelves that looked great and interesting, then read them and found I just wasn't crazy about them. Haven't you? If you read a book you like but don't love, how easy is it for you to put your finger on exactly why, and would you want to list those reasons for the author who may very well send you a nasty reply in return?

They list X genre, and they may request a book whose concept seems interesting in X genre in hopes it will be what they're looking for. That doesn't mean it absolutely will be. When you go to a bookstore and look on the X genre, shelves, do you just grab any three titles at random and know you'll love them? Do you think your not liking Book Y means you're "guessing" and "don't know what you want?"


It all comes down to voice, IMO. Yours didn't click with her. This is why she said she liked your execution but it just wasn't for her. Whatever your voice sounds like, it's not a voice she feels strongly drawn to. That's not a failing on her part any more than it is on yours. And it certainly doesn't mean that she doesn't know what she wants.

Undercover
10-19-2012, 04:10 PM
"They're not guessing. They know what they want. Your book wasn't it."

I got that part. I moved on from it. There really isn't more to be said about it.

Unimportant
10-20-2012, 12:11 AM
I'd rather have an agent know what they want then guess at it. If they're guessing, maybe they're guessing at how they work too.
I don't see how that follows.

If I know I need a red shirt to go with a particular pair of trousers, which I intend to wear at a particular conference, then I go from store to store looking for exactly the shirt I know I want. But that's rare. More often, I go into stores and just kind of wander through the racks until something grabs my eye. Yes, there are things I always avoid (mini skirts, lacy ruffly fru fru blouses, and anything that would scream 'mutton dressed as lamb'), and there are things I always take a second look at (purple!), but, in general, I'm just looking for clothes that for whatever reason appeal to me, might look okay on me, would be comfortable to wear, and vaguely match something in my existing wardrobe.

I reckon agents are the same way. If they know they just can't grok something, like erotica or steampunk, they put it on their 'do not send' list. If they know there's something they're dying to sell, they'll put it on their 'particularly seeking' list. But everything else falls into the 'well, I'll have a read and see if it grabs me' category, similar to the 'well, I'll try it on and see if it fits and is comfortable and matches my trousers'. It's probably fun for an agent to be surprised, to fall in love with something unexpectedly. But they have to love it, no matter what, and how can you predict what you're going to fall in love with?

kaitie
10-20-2012, 01:06 AM
I just wanted to hop in here to mention that responding to rejections probably isn't the best idea unless the response says "Thank you for taking the time to consider my manuscript."

I didn't see anyone else touch on this, and I just wanted to mention it so no newbies hop in here and see it and think that's considered acceptable. There are rarely good reasons to write back, and honestly there's no need to know what a person is looking for because you already know they said no. They aren't going to look at their answer and say, "Actually, that's exactly what you sent me. I take it back!"

I'm not saying that's what you were trying to accomplish, and you might have asked in the most polite way possible, but I'm not sure I see what it accomplishes. There's no need to find out for future reference because all you'd have to do in the future is send in a different query and see what she said. It could easily be taken as snark or sour grapes whether you intend it that way or not (type and all).

I think everyone else already said what I'd have to say about the question in general, but this part stood out to me and I was surprised no one had mentioned that this just isn't done. Or at least shouldn't be.

Ctairo
10-20-2012, 05:02 AM
They can't know that you are totally different and won't send threatening emails, or walk up to their car and slam their head into the steering wheel

This actually happened, Undercover: http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-jc-literary-agent-assault-twitter-20120914,0,7168502.story

If you'd like to know more about agents and their process, I'd highly suggest following some on Twitter. Keep an eye out for the #askagent hashtag that signals an impromptu chat. You'll be amazed how much information is out there, utterly within reach.

blacbird
10-20-2012, 08:33 AM
Something they believe they can sell.

I've had numerous agents tell me they like my writing, but can't figure out how to sell the stuff. The latter is all that matters.

caw

ARoyce
10-20-2012, 05:36 PM
I just wanted to hop in here to mention that responding to rejections probably isn't the best idea unless the response says "Thank you for taking the time to consider my manuscript."

I didn't see anyone else touch on this, and I just wanted to mention it so no newbies hop in here and see it and think that's considered acceptable. There are rarely good reasons to write back, and honestly there's no need to know what a person is looking for because you already know they said no. They aren't going to look at their answer and say, "Actually, that's exactly what you sent me. I take it back!"

I'm not saying that's what you were trying to accomplish, and you might have asked in the most polite way possible, but I'm not sure I see what it accomplishes. There's no need to find out for future reference because all you'd have to do in the future is send in a different query and see what she said. It could easily be taken as snark or sour grapes whether you intend it that way or not (type and all).

I think everyone else already said what I'd have to say about the question in general, but this part stood out to me and I was surprised no one had mentioned that this just isn't done. Or at least shouldn't be.

This. I think the OP is quite lucky that the agent responded so kindly. It's not an agent's job to offer editorial feedback on queries or manuscripts they aren't interested in representing. From what I've read on agent blogs and Twitter, follow-up responses saying anything other than thank-you tend to be seen as unprofessional, at the very least.

And the comment about agents guessing seems off the mark. They aren't guessing. They may see potential in a query that isn't fulfilled by the actual manuscript. They see lots of writing that's good, but "good" isn't enough. They have to love it and believe they can champion it. So, for instance, good writing with a stale plot or with characters the agent doesn't think readers will connect with or with a voice that seems "off" or really anything that makes the manuscript less than a Must Read could be enough for them to reject, and it's not their job to "fix" even the manuscripts that might be close. They have plenty of work to do with/for their existing (revenue-generating or potentially so) clients.

If a submission is REALLY close and the agent believes in it, s/he may ask for a Revise & Resubmit. That's really the only time it's okay to ask for additional feedback.

I also think the OP was lucky that actual agents responded to this thread. (And, particularly since I'm one of agent Janet Reid's longtime fans, I gently suggest that an apology to agents--for things like the "lazy" comment--might be judicious.)

Believe me, I know how frustrating the query process can be...and I know how rough it can be to get close--to get a partial request and then a full request and then get a rejection--but publishing is a business. Not all manuscripts will get picked up, even if they're good.

Best of luck querying!

Undercover
10-20-2012, 07:08 PM
"I also think the OP was lucky that actual agents responded to this thread. (And, particularly since I'm one of agent Janet Reid's longtime fans, I gently suggest that an apology to agents--for things like the "lazy" comment--might be judicious.)"


ARoyce, I'm the OP so I feel the urge to chime in here. I did NOT make that "lazy" comment, someone else did. I have to apologize for what someone else said? I think you might be confusing what I said.

And as for not asking why the ms. was turned down, that's just silly. The agent took their time in reading it, they could say why, or simply say they can't further comment on it. They aren't gods. They're people too. I don't think that's unprofessional to at least ask why.

Now if you keep emailing and asking why, why, why or harassing them...yeah, obviously that's bad. really. really. bad. But jesus though, does the thread have to go that route? The topic is "What are Agents Really Looking For". A lot of what is said here is off topic.

Amadan
10-20-2012, 07:25 PM
And as for not asking why the ms. was turned down, that's just silly. The agent took their time in reading it, they could say why, or simply say they can't further comment on it. They aren't gods. They're people too. I don't think that's unprofessional to at least ask why.

You have an awful lot of posts here not to have learned the answer to this.

Undercover
10-20-2012, 07:39 PM
Well what it all boils down to is the author and the agent and everything with the ms. There's too many determining factors that come into play. I'm not going to sit here and discuss them all. Who ever wants to pick apart whatever I say, go ahead. I'm going to go back and do what's more important, write my ms.

ARoyce
10-20-2012, 07:58 PM
Undercover--you'll notice I didn't specify who should apologize...precisely because I couldn't remember who said what. It was a general observation for anyone who may have posted potentially insulting comments about agents and their work. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear.

As for a querier not going back to an agent to ask why they were rejected, you've gotten several reasonable and logical responses to that in this thread. I'll say it again--agents already work long and hard for their actual clients. I'll add--they may also have stacks of requested manuscripts as they look for potential new clients. It is NOT THEIR JOB to offer pro bono editorial feedback, which takes them a lot of time, to people who are not their clients. If, in your job, strangers asked you repeatedly to do something outside of your responsibilities--something that takes a lot of your time and mental energy and takes away fromthe resources you have for your actual work, you would likely consider those requests a nuisance...and repeated requests from multiple strangers would suggest they don't understand or respect your actual job. Will queries continue to ask agents for feedback? Probably. But that doesn't mean they should.

As for what agents are really looking for, there have been lots of responses to that in this thread as well. The bottom line is that they're looking for something they LOVE and believe they can SELL. Yes, that's vague. There's no formula or checklist. Agents like Donald Maass can offer tips for writing potential bestsellers, but trying to write to what you think agents want seems futile...what they are looking for is simultaneously eternal (excellent, compelling stories) and ever-changing (as frequently as trends and blockbusters change). And even if they say they want a specific type of story, that doesn't mean a manuscript in that genre will "work" for them.

buz
10-20-2012, 07:59 PM
And as for not asking why the ms. was turned down, that's just silly. The agent took their time in reading it, they could say why, or simply say they can't further comment on it. They aren't gods. They're people too. I don't think that's unprofessional to at least ask why.



But the answer had already been given. :D

Stacia Kane
10-20-2012, 08:10 PM
And as for not asking why the ms. was turned down, that's just silly. The agent took their time in reading it, they could say why, or simply say they can't further comment on it. They aren't gods. They're people too. I don't think that's unprofessional to at least ask why.


You don't think so. Everyone else--including the agents you're bothering--does. You are not the only writer they've rejected; would you like to get dozens of such emails per week? From people who should know better, since it's common knowledge that this is considered unprofessional?

I may not think it's unprofessional to wander into an agent's office, plunk myself down in the middle of the floor, and chant "REP ME REP ME REP ME" over and over again. I may think it's a cute way to get attention. That doesn't mean it is, or that it won't get me thrown out of their offices.

Regardless of your personal opinion, it's best to not behave in a way the people you're trying to impress will remember you unfavorably for.




But jesus though, does the thread have to go that route? The topic is "What are Agents Really Looking For". A lot of what is said here is off topic.

If this forum's moderator feels the discussion strays too far off topic, they'll say something. If you have a problem with someone's post, use the little red triangle button to report it. But discussions among human beings tend to be fluid, and being the OP doesn't mean you get to dictate everyone else's responses.

Old Hack
10-20-2012, 08:57 PM
This. I think the OP is quite lucky that the agent responded so kindly. It's not an agent's job to offer editorial feedback on queries or manuscripts they aren't interested in representing. From what I've read on agent blogs and Twitter, follow-up responses saying anything other than thank-you tend to be seen as unprofessional, at the very least.

Agreed.


And the comment about agents guessing seems off the mark.

Agreed. I thought it was rude. It was certainly ill-informed.


I also think the OP was lucky that actual agents responded to this thread.

Agreed again!


(And, particularly since I'm one of agent Janet Reid's longtime fans, I gently suggest that an apology to agents--for things like the "lazy" comment--might be judicious.)

And again. Are you sure you're not really me in disguise?


ARoyce, I'm the OP so I feel the urge to chime in here. I did NOT make that "lazy" comment, someone else did. I have to apologize for what someone else said? I think you might be confusing what I said.

I think you're the one confusing things, Undercover: Royce didn't suggest you should apologise, Royce suggested that the person who suggested agents are lazy should.


And as for not asking why the ms. was turned down, that's just silly. The agent took their time in reading it, they could say why, or simply say they can't further comment on it. They aren't gods. They're people too. I don't think that's unprofessional to at least ask why.

If you really understood how agents work, and how many submissions they receive, and how many authors accept personalised rejections with hostility, you would realise why it's a bad idea.

To help you with that, here are a few links for you. Here's an article I wrote about why agents and editors rarely send out personalised rejections (http://howpublishingreallyworks.com/?p=1559); and here's another article I wrote for my blog about an author who reacted badly to my editorial comments (http://howpublishingreallyworks.com/?p=1577).


Now if you keep emailing and asking why, why, why or harassing them...yeah, obviously that's bad. really. really. bad. But jesus though, does the thread have to go that route? The topic is "What are Agents Really Looking For". A lot of what is said here is off topic.

If you don't like the way a thread is going, your best bet is to PM a mod or report a post. That way mods can come along and see if anything needs to be done. So far, I don't see anything wrong with this thread except for the aforementioned rudeness and your dissatisfaction with the perfectly good answers you've been given.


If this forum's moderator feels the discussion strays too far off topic, they'll say something. If you have a problem with someone's post, use the little red triangle button to report it. But discussions among human beings tend to be fluid, and being the OP doesn't mean you get to dictate everyone else's responses.

Ah! I see a moderator has already stepped in to explain how things work round here. Thank you, Stacia. I couldn't have put it better myself.

Susan Littlefield
10-20-2012, 09:40 PM
And as for not asking why the ms. was turned down, that's just silly. The agent took their time in reading it, they could say why, or simply say they can't further comment on it. They aren't gods. They're people too. I don't think that's unprofessional to at least ask why.

Nobody has even implied that agents are gods. They are busy and don't have time to coddle readers who are disappointed in rejected work. Besides, many agents have had some horrible emails and had scary things happen when giving explanations of why work was rejected. No wonder they don't comment.

The bottom line is that it does not matter why an agent rejected your work. What matters is that is was rejected. One door closes, another opens. Send the book out to another agent. Keep your work moving in a forward direction. If an agent want to comment on your work, they will at their own will.

melanieconklin
10-20-2012, 10:46 PM
Here's my take:

An R for query does not require personalization.

An R for partial is borderline.

An R for full requires some measure of feedback. Two sentences are acceptable. In a professional exchange, the writer is accommodating the agent as well. The most professional agents do tend to acknowledge that a response is warranted. It does not take significantly longer to type two sentences of feedback than to copy and paste a form R.

Regarding the content of an R: I would prefer one short sentence of pure reality to a vague no thanks. I would prefer that all other writers could handle this kind of feedback, so that agents aren't scared to say what they really think for fear of a freak-out. However, I think most writers CAN handle it. But only certain agents can handle it--if you want honesty, focus on the people who give it to you. I tend towards straight, honest communication, and those are the agents I am attracted to. If an agent gives me a form R after a full, I know that is how they will handle a professional relationship with me--so they're off my list. Which is fine. We all have our preferences. Know that whatever happens in your experience, your choices are up to you. Conduct yourself with professionalism, and good luck finding the right agent match.

Polenth
10-20-2012, 11:41 PM
An R for full requires some measure of feedback. Two sentences are acceptable. In a professional exchange, the writer is accommodating the agent as well. The most professional agents do tend to acknowledge that a response is warranted. It does not take significantly longer to type two sentences of feedback than to copy and paste a form R.

I've had a form rejection on a full and it was a very good agent in that genre. It's nice to get personal feedback, but it doesn't always happen, even at the full level.

kaitie
10-21-2012, 12:20 AM
Regarding the content of an R: I would prefer one short sentence of pure reality to a vague no thanks. I would prefer that all other writers could handle this kind of feedback, so that agents aren't scared to say what they really think for fear of a freak-out. However, I think most writers CAN handle it. But only certain agents can handle it--if you want honesty, focus on the people who give it to you. I tend towards straight, honest communication, and those are the agents I am attracted to. If an agent gives me a form R after a full, I know that is how they will handle a professional relationship with me--so they're off my list. Which is fine. We all have our preferences. Know that whatever happens in your experience, your choices are up to you. Conduct yourself with professionalism, and good luck finding the right agent match.

Two thoughts. One, most writers sending in stuff aren't professionals. They're people who have written a work, done a minimal amount of research, and have no idea how the process (and often writing) works. They submit to agents who don't rep the genre, submit first drafts, and so on. It's fine and good to say professional writers should be able to handle a little truthful rejection, but the fact is most people aren't professionals.

Every single person who is submitting their work thinks it's good enough to be on a bookshelf. If they didn't, they wouldn't be submitting. A lot of people can't handle criticism, especially when they think their work is awesome. It's easier (much easier) to say "It's those damned agents and their idiotic rules" than to accept that maybe the problem is their skill level. As such, even a lot of writers who do research will have a hard time just accepting direct criticism.

I've heard some agents say that as many as one in ten people currently respond to query rejections in a negative way. If you're getting 200 queries a week, that's 20 people sending in messages. And these are form rejections.

I agree that we should be able to be professional about it, but the fact is, sadly, that the people who need to be told aren't the ones you often reach because they're often the ones who don't do research in the first place.

The second thing to consider is a lot of agents don't read an entire full manuscript, especially if they don't request from a partial, but from a query. I've had a few that I know didn't read the manuscript, probably no more than a handful of pages, and that's okay. Is an agent required to give feedback if they only read five pages? Or even thirty? It's nice to know the answer to "why I stopped reading," but just because they request a full doesn't mean the entire full is read with every agent. At what point does it still seem like it should be an obligation to give detailed feedback?

ARoyce
10-21-2012, 12:34 AM
No, even a full doesn't deserve or require a personalized response. I do think a full deserves a response, but that can certainly be a form rejection--just as a job interview response may end up being "We've selected someone else for the job."

Here are some observations from actual agents on responding to material:

Suzie Townsend (http://confessionsofawanderingheart.blogspot.com/2012/09/requested-material-update-form.html)

Kristin Nelson (http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2011/09/actual-no-means-no-for-us-anyway.html)

BookEnds, LLC (http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2007/07/agent-feedback.html) (full disclosure: this is the agency that represents me)

Janet Reid (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2004/07/no-feedback-no-critique.html) and another from her on a day-in-the-life (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2012/10/god-willing-and-creek-dont-rise.html)

Rachelle Gardner (http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/01/its-just-not-for-me/)

I'm pretty sure former agent Nathan Bransford has blogged about his similar perspective too, but that's not at my fingertips.

Unimportant
10-21-2012, 12:47 AM
Thanks for those links, ARoyce! Interesting reading.

Barbara R.
10-21-2012, 12:57 AM
This is what I don't understand. .. I sent my query to an agent that accepts all genres except exotica and she liked the query and requested the full. She got back to me saying she was very impressed with how I executed the story but unfortunately it isn't what she's looking for at the moment. I don't understand why she would ask for the full in the first place then. I mean, why would she?

And then they're are those agents that you think are the perfect fit, liking exactly what you write, and they come back with "It's not what I'm looking for."

I know there's a thread about this somewhere, but I haven't seen one lately. Can someone explain why agents do this?

I think it has a lot less to do with genre than execution. I did an interview (http://barbararogan.com/blog/?p=94) recently with literary agent Gail Hochman, who represents Scott Turow, Michael Cunningham, and a host of excellent writers. I asked her, given the writers already on her list, what madea first novel stand out enough for her to offer representation.Her answer was, "Incredible voice, fresh idea, something that tugs at my heartstrings. If it is well written and makes me cry, that is the perfect formula!"

I also asked her what made her stop reading. She said, "If a book drags or gets redundant; if the pacing is so slow that nothing new happens chapter after chapter; if I lose sight of what I am reading to find out—then I have to stop."

It's not enough to like a book. They have to love it and have a pretty good idea how to go about selling it. There are other considerations, too, that have nothing at all to do with the quality of your work, like whether your book is similar to another she's trying (or failed) to sell; what her editor clients are looking for at the moment; how much time she has to take on a new client.

You came close. Now keep going.

Cyia
10-21-2012, 03:08 AM
Here's my take:

An R for query does not require personalization.

An R for partial is borderline.

An R for full requires some measure of feedback.

At no point does the query chain "require" feedback.


Two sentences are acceptable. Two sentences multiplied by an agent's inbox adds up to hours of unpaid time where they were doing something other than the job they get paid for. Or time they took from their daily lives while off the clock.


In a professional exchange, the writer is accommodating the agent as well. No, (s)he's not. Queries are unsolicited communication (with the exception of referrals and requests from in-person meetings). Just like a phone call from someone you don't know interrupts your day, so does a query. It requires time and effort an agent doesn't get paid for. The querier is asking the agent - a stranger - for something based on the belief that they have something to offer the agent in return. Most often, they don't. Even if a book is well written, it doesn't mean it's something an agent can offer to represent.


The most professional agents do tend to acknowledge that a response is warranted.Based on what? J. Reid is an outlier of sorts in that camp. Most of the high-volume agents (those who receive the most queries based on their track record and client list) are "no response means no" agents. They field too many queries to do any more. Some have assistants to handle such things, but most don't.


It does not take significantly longer to type two sentences of feedback than to copy and paste a form R.You don't know how forms work. It's not a copy/paste. You send the email to a folder that's set up to send the same message automatically in response to every email inside it.


Regarding the content of an R: I would prefer one short sentence of pure reality to a vague no thanks. I would prefer that all other writers could handle this kind of feedback, so that agents aren't scared to say what they really think for fear of a freak-out. However, I think most writers CAN handle it.Everyone would prefer that, but it only takes one hot head with a sharp tongue or lack of boundaries to ruin it for everyone. One. Not a significant percentage - one. One guy can freak a person out the extent that it's no longer safe to wager that there's a "most" out there.


But only certain agents can handle it--if you want honesty, focus on the people who give it to you. I tend towards straight, honest communication, and those are the agents I am attracted to. If an agent gives me a form R after a full, I know that is how they will handle a professional relationship with me--so they're off my list. Again, you're working from mistaken assumptions. How an agent responds to a query or pages from someone who is not a client is in no way indicative of how they interact with their clients. Not at all. And taking someone "off your list" who has rejected you doesn't actually impact them.


Which is fine. We all have our preferences. Know that whatever happens in your experience, your choices are up to you. Conduct yourself with professionalism, and good luck finding the right agent match.
Very true.

There are a ton of agents out there, so it's highly likely that you won't click with at least a few of them - or vice versa.

Stacia Kane
10-21-2012, 05:17 AM
Dittoing the others re "No feedback required." And how an agent responds to non-clients has no bearing on how they respond to clients; in fact, if I were to speculate (which I am not) I'd almost guess it goes the other way: agents who make the most time for their clients may have the least time for responding to non-clients. (But again, that's just a thought I'm throwing out there, and I have no strong belief in its veracity.)

My own agent is a no reply = no agent. I have never sent him a business-related email that didn't get a response within a day or two. I've gotten replies from him while he's been on vacation, in fact, out of the country or in the process of moving.


Besides, in this case the OP did get feedback. She just wasn't satisfied with it, and demanded further explanation.

The thing is, all other considerations aside, if the book just didn't work for the agent in question, she at least is aware that she is just one person and another agent may well feel differently. She knows she's not the only agent in the world. Why would she give revision suggestions when she knows another agent may like it just fine as it is? Why would she want a writer to revise to her specifications when she knows she's just not interested in the book? Why would she take the chance of the writer editing away what might appeal to another agent? What would be the point of that?

Especially if--as I suspect in this case from the comments given, and is in quite a few cases anyway--it's a voice issue, which really isn't something one can give detailed critique on. You either connect with a voice or you don't, and trying to get a writer to change their voice can be kind of like trying to get a person to be a different person.

Agent feedback outside of an R&R is really not as helpful as some people seem to think. Isn't the OP a good example of that? She got further feedback, does it seem that she found it helpful? Because I got the impression it simply confused and upset her. Again, agents are not a hivemind. What bothers one may appeal to another. Editing your mss to further appeal to someone who isn't interested in seeing it again is like wearing purple leather because your now-married ex said once that he likes women in purple leather: pointless.

Wisteria Vine
10-21-2012, 06:26 PM
Querying CAN be frustrating, but writers also have to manage their expectations a bit, too. You're not the agent's only client - and if you're still in the query stage, you'll be lucky to get them to spend much more than 10 minutes of reading time before they make the decision to keep reading or stop. They don't owe you anything.

The most frustrating comment I've heard: "This is a great story but it wasn't what I was expecting, so I'm going to have to pass."

So that leads me to wonder why, if it's STILL a great story, they don't want it. A great story is a great story, right? Even if it's not what they expected or hoped for? I used to let that question eat me up, but in the end, it doesn't even matter. If they didn't like it enough to want it, that's okay. They're allowed to say no, and they can say no without regard for my feelings. We're both adults.

The simple answer is that editors and agents wade through hundreds of manuscripts each week. They're busy. Don't take each rejection personally, don't worry if they don't give you feedback on why they didn't like it, just move on.

You'll never change their mind, and besides, if they did give you feedback that said something like, "I hated your MC," would you change your MC? Probably not. If it wasn't a good fit, it wasn't a good fit.

There are a lot of fish in the sea. Keep looking until you find one that wants to be caught. Don't chase the ones that are swimming away. It will just tire you out.

Ctairo
10-21-2012, 07:31 PM
Querying CAN be frustrating, but writers also have to manage their expectations a bit, too. You're not the agent's only client - and if you're still in the query stage, you'll be lucky to get them to spend much more than 10 minutes of reading time before they make the decision to keep reading or stop. They don't owe you anything.

Agree with managing expectations, Wisteria. But at the query phase, writers seeking representation aren't clients. They're potential clients. Key word is "potential." Others have mentioned it in the thread - agents have an obligation to actual clients first given the limitations of time as we know it (i.e., 24 hours per day).

Hopefully, Undercover has gone back to writing. It's about best efforts, then next effort. No one who hopes to be published can afford to get stuck on the what/why/how come of a single project.

If the OP is really interested in feedback, specific, useful feedback, seminars and/or conferences seem designed for it. The query process in 2012 is not.

Undercover
10-21-2012, 10:09 PM
Stacia, I didn't "demand" an explanation, I simply asked her. And she did get back to me eventually. It wasn't for her, so I moved on. This thread was started weeks ago and it still comes up.

Ctairo, I have in fact gone back to writing. I haven't said much more in this thread, because for me there really isn't much more to say on my end. I've been lucky enough to get full requests. So far they've been either declines or requests for revision. Still waiting on those revision requests. Everything I've gotten up to this point has been informative feedback on my work and I'm grateful. The ones that don't further explain, after thanking them and asking why the decline, I move on from. Someone else mentioned they take those ones off the list. Maybe even not query them for next time. I do the same.

I don't mind that this thread keeps coming up, but I'd appreciate it if people can stop using me as example. Some of you here make me sound like I was so wrong for asking why the decline. I don't think I'm the only author in the world to want to know why they got a rejection. That's how you learn and grow as a writer. When one door closes, another one opens. And to make it as a writer, you have to keep going.

Amadan
10-21-2012, 10:17 PM
I don't mind that this thread keeps coming up, but I'd appreciate it if people can stop using me as example. Some of you here make me sound like I was so wrong for asking why the decline. I don't think I'm the only author in the world to want to know why they got a rejection.

Every author wants to know why they got a rejection. You're wrong to believe that it's reasonable to expect an explanation.

Undercover
10-21-2012, 10:21 PM
Every author wants to know why they got a rejection. You're wrong to believe that it's reasonable to expect an explanation.

Okay, maybe I'm wrong. But I don't see anything in any one of the agent's guidelines that say don't ask why you get a decline.

Wisteria Vine
10-21-2012, 10:22 PM
The ones that don't further explain, after thanking them and asking why the decline, I move on from.

Are you saying that you ask for a reason why you were declined from every agent that declines you?

Undercover
10-21-2012, 10:31 PM
Are you saying that you ask for a reason why you were declined from every agent that declines you?

No, of course not. Just the ones that are vague to me. If they say something like, "Not for me"..."Didn't connect"..."Didn't fall in love with it." etc. things like that, I just thank them for taking the time to read and to take care. Sometimes when I do that they get into it further and say thank you back and invite me to query them with something else. But I do think responding regardless of the decline, and giving thanks is the professional way to go. I wouldn't want to burn any bridges for being rude.

Amadan
10-21-2012, 10:33 PM
Okay, maybe I'm wrong. But I don't see anything in any one of the agent's guidelines that say don't ask why you get a decline.


They probably don't have anything in their guidelines that say don't mail them dead pigeons, either, but if you know it's considered inappropriate to do something, you shouldn't need a formal bullet point telling you not to do it.

Undercover
10-21-2012, 10:37 PM
They probably don't have anything in their guidelines that say don't mail them dead pigeons, either, but if you know it's considered inappropriate to do something, you shouldn't need a formal bullet point telling you not to do it.

That's where you're wrong. I don't consider it inappropiate to ask. The dead pigeon thing, sure, but not asking a simple question.

Old Hack
10-21-2012, 10:43 PM
I don't mind that this thread keeps coming up, but I'd appreciate it if people can stop using me as example. Some of you here make me sound like I was so wrong for asking why the decline. I don't think I'm the only author in the world to want to know why they got a rejection. That's how you learn and grow as a writer. When one door closes, another one opens. And to make it as a writer, you have to keep going.

I agree that writers want to know why their work was rejected: but that doesn't mean that it's ok to ask why. I do think you were wrong in asking why the agent concerned rejected your work. In my opinion, it shows a lack of understanding of how publishing works. Others might disagree with me, though, and that's why AW exists: for us to discuss these things.

When threads are started here the person who starts the thread can't control how or where the conversations go. If they head in directions that the original poster doesn't like then so long as no one is rude that's tough: it's just how it is. What you can't reasonably complain about is if people keep referring to you in this thread: you began it, it centres around your questions, so of course we're going to keep using you as an example. That's just how it is.

Old Hack
10-21-2012, 10:48 PM
That's where you're wrong. I don't consider it inappropiate to ask. The dead pigeon thing, sure, but not asking a simple question.

It is inappropriate. Just so you know. You put the rejecting agent into a very difficult situation by asking for such information, and demand an unreasonable amount of their already-stretched time. That some have responded with dignity and grace says a lot about them.

Undercover
10-21-2012, 10:50 PM
I agree that writers want to know why their work was rejected: but that doesn't mean that it's ok to ask why. I do think you were wrong in asking why the agent concerned rejected your work. In my opinion, it shows a lack of understanding of how publishing works. Others might disagree with me, though, and that's why AW exists: for us to discuss these things.

When threads are started here the person who starts the thread can't control how or where the conversations go. If they head in directions that the original poster doesn't like then so long as no one is rude that's tough: it's just how it is. What you can't reasonably complain about is if people keep referring to you in this thread: you began it, it centres around your questions, so of course we're going to keep using you as an example. That's just how it is.

Fine, use me as an example. But I don't think I'm the only one out there that feels this way. And you're right, it's your opinion and only your opinion, like all the other opinions here. That doesn't mean it's all correct, or the right way to do things. All it means is it's just an opinion.

blueobsidian
10-21-2012, 11:00 PM
Fine, use me as an example. But I don't think I'm the only one out there that feels this way. And you're right, it's your opinion and only your opinion, like all the other opinions here. That doesn't mean it's all correct, or the right way to do things. All it means is it's just an opinion.

But when every person tells you that it is inappropriate, you need to start looking at it. There have been a lot of people with solid backgrounds in the publishing industry that have told you that it is unprofessional and inappropriate to ask for this type of clarification on a rejection. These are "opinions" that you need to listen to.

Sure, it may not be the only way to do things, but if there is a standard of conduct in a particular industry and you break it, you could be burning your bridges.

I've seen agents who can get upwards of 200 queries a day. Do you realize how much of a burden on their time it would be to have everyone they reject try to contact them for more information?

Susan Littlefield
10-21-2012, 11:01 PM
Fine, use me as an example. But I don't think I'm the only one out there that feels this way. And you're right, it's your opinion and only your opinion, like all the other opinions here. That doesn't mean it's all correct, or the right way to do things. All it means is it's just an opinion.

Lisa,

It's a thread you started so it's natural the conversation centers around your question. The reason it keeps coming up is because it's interesting.

Of course we all want to know why our work is rejected, but that does not mean we are entitled to know why. If an agent gives a comment, fine. If not, then that's their choice. I also think it's unprofessional to ask an agent why we were rejected. In the entire scheme of querying, it really does not matter. What matters is that we have confidence in our work and that we keep querying.

Amadan
10-21-2012, 11:03 PM
Fine, use me as an example. But I don't think I'm the only one out there that feels this way. And you're right, it's your opinion and only your opinion, like all the other opinions here. That doesn't mean it's all correct, or the right way to do things. All it means is it's just an opinion.


You're right, no one can make you stop doing it. Good luck with that.

Alexandra Little
10-21-2012, 11:06 PM
It's the equivalent of asking a company why they didn't hire you. The simple answer is that they probably get hundreds of applications and you just weren't what they were looking for. If all those hundreds of applicants started asking why they weren't hired, the inbox is going to get awfully crowded.

It is a cause, as far as I can see, of why agents and employers alike say that "no response means no". They don't have the time for anything more.

kaitie
10-21-2012, 11:12 PM
Fine, use me as an example. But I don't think I'm the only one out there that feels this way. And you're right, it's your opinion and only your opinion, like all the other opinions here. That doesn't mean it's all correct, or the right way to do things. All it means is it's just an opinion.

You were wrong. And you know what else? This isn't the first time we've had this conversation, so I don't really expect you to change your mind now.

Here's the thing. This isn't all "opinions." This is people who know more about the process than you, some of whom have been working in publishing for years, who are telling you the facts of the way things work. It's not their opinion that it's inappropriate. It's the truth. It's the way things are. It's well-known among people who do the research because the agents out there tell us so. They often say it's not appropriate to respond. They say it's a waste of time. They say it makes you look bad as a writer. If for no other reason, that should be enough to listen.

Fact: responding to rejections asking for feedback is in poor taste. Opinion: your disagreement.

Honestly, I've noticed a trend in that you ask a question or for advice, and when others disagree, you just say "that's your opinion" and don't listen. You're receiving advice from people who know what they're talking about. Now maybe you don't want to listen and don't agree and decide to do things your own way, but IMO it's disrespectful to the people who are taking time out to offer advice to just say "anything I disagree with is just a difference of opinion and so I'm right and will continue to do things the way I want."

There are a hell of a lot of facts about publishing. You have to send in a query letter. You should never call an agent. Agents are busy, etc. Disliking those facts doesn't mean they aren't facts.

And yes, writers do want feedback, but it's not an agent's job to provide that feedback to anyone but their clients. Anything else is a kindness. Obviously you can't expect an agent to give feedback to everyone (agents receive thousands of emails a year), so what makes you entitled to receive something others don't get?

This is also why we always recommend the same thing to authors looking for feedback: get a beta reader. Put your work in SYW. Find a critique group.

You don't need an agent to tell you what's wrong or what isn't because you can get that information from other writers. Would it be nice to have an industry professional provide feedback, too? Of course. Would it we all like to know what we did wrong? Well, I'd argue most wouldn't, but yes, some of us would like the feedback so we'd know what to fix. But we can get that from other sources.

Breaking the rules because you don't like them is in poor taste, IMO.

blacbird
10-21-2012, 11:21 PM
They probably don't have anything in their guidelines that say don't mail them dead pigeons, either,

Dammit! Maybe that explains it.

caw

Old Hack
10-21-2012, 11:29 PM
I just asked a few of my agent friends on Twitter how they feel about writers asking them why they rejected their work.

I'm not going to quote them here, because I asked them via PM, and so it's not appropriate. But I will give an overview.

Not one of them said that they were comfortable with it. Their usual reason for rejecting work is that it's just not good enough, and if they were asked they'd fudge round saying so because in their experience, the sort of person who asks why is the sort of person who would go off on one if they told them that and they really don't want to get into that situation.

kaitie
10-21-2012, 11:42 PM
Links:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/07/what-does-prospective-agent-owe-you.html

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2008/02/why-you-get-form-letters.html

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2006/05/does-david-letterman-get-letters-like.html

Stacia Kane
10-21-2012, 11:45 PM
Stacia, I didn't "demand" an explanation, I simply asked her. And she did get back to me eventually. It wasn't for her, so I moved on. This thread was started weeks ago and it still comes up.

You see it as a request. Given your attitude about it, I see it as a demand. I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one.

And if you'd "moved on," why have you started two threads so far about this one rejection?



The ones that don't further explain, after thanking them and asking why the decline, I move on from. Someone else mentioned they take those ones off the list. Maybe even not query them for next time. I do the same.

You refuse to query them again for another project? Because they rejected one book, or because they failed to provide you with the information to which you feel entitled?




I don't mind that this thread keeps coming up, but I'd appreciate it if people can stop using me as example. Some of you here make me sound like I was so wrong for asking why the decline. I don't think I'm the only author in the world to want to know why they got a rejection. That's how you learn and grow as a writer. When one door closes, another one opens. And to make it as a writer, you have to keep going.


Well, I'm glad we have your approval to continue the discussion. Some of us here make it sound like you were so wrong to ask why the decline because it WAS wrong to ask. Period. It was wrong. It is inappropriate and unprofessional. The fact that you disagree does not make your actions less inappropriate and unprofessional, it simply means you refuse to accept it. No, you're not the only author in the world who wants to know why, it's just that wanting to know doesn't make it okay to ask. I'm not sure why you can get so annoyed that we're continuing this discussion but not see that your behavior is making the agents you're pestering feel the exact same way.

And by the way? The discussion has actually moved on to encompass the opinions and thoughts of other people. The reason it keeps returning to you, is that YOU keep returning to IT.

Undercover
10-22-2012, 12:27 AM
Of course I'm returning to the thread, Stacia. I'm listening to everyone's thoughts and OPINIONS and what everyone has to say. So what, is that wrong too?

I appreciate anyone who takes the time to comment. The appropriate thing to do is at least read their comment.

kaitie
10-22-2012, 12:44 AM
I'm listening to everyone's thoughts and OPINIONS and what everyone has to say.

Yeah, this is the attitude I was talking about before. If you don't see that you're being dismissive, and to be honest, IMO rude, then I don't see much point in continuing this further.

Ken
10-22-2012, 01:08 AM
No, of course not. Just the ones that are vague to me. If they say something like, "Not for me"..."Didn't connect"..."Didn't fall in love with it." etc. things like that, I just thank them for taking the time to read and to take care.

_ _ _ if I'm understanding you correctly, this doesn't sound like such a horrible thing to do. If an agent says something specific about your ms and you'd like them to elaborate they might be okay with that and not mind so long as you're not insistent about it. "I want feedback and I want it now!" :rant:

And if they do get back to you you're going to be getting some really valuable feedback.

It's still iffy if you should make the request to begin with, but I really don't think it's altogether such a bad way to go at times to ask for clarification on specific feedback. Of course some agents aren't going to be pleased and may find that annoying. But I'm sure others won't, and may even welcome the opportunity to help out a writer that shows some promise and eagerness to learn.

It's a business first and foremost. But like all of us, agents love books and if they can help get good ones out there, indirectly, they may not mind the extra hassle from time to time.

My 2 cents. And in a way, an effort to make this thread a bit less lopsided.

Maryn
10-22-2012, 01:08 AM
Back when I was single, I sometimes went out with a guy who didn't ask me out again. It seemed wrong to call him to get the details on why.

When I applied to colleges, not all of them accepted me. Again, it was apparent that asking the reason was not the thing to do.

If people in the neighborhood had a party and didn't invite me, I didn't ring the bell to ask why not.

Same thing when I applied for jobs, car loans and mortgages, entered contests, ran for office within an organization, taught a class which was not required, or did anything else of a competitive nature where not all who ask end up receiving. When I wasn't chosen, didn't get the vote, had too few students sign up, or whatever the rejection was, those who didn't select me owed me nothing.

I don't understand why you find it so difficult to comprehend that those who reject you do not owe you the reason behind their decision. If it's offered, great; maybe it will help you develop in some way. If it's not offered, it's inappropriate (and in publishing matters, unprofessional) to ask.

That's not an opinion. It's interacting normally within the social contract. What would you think of the candidate who went door to door after loosing the election, wanting to know why you voted for the other person? That's what people in publishing are going to think of the writer who wants to know why the rejection.

Maryn, shaking her head

Old Hack
10-22-2012, 01:13 AM
Earlier, I tweeted this in public:


Am being told elsewhere it's RIGHT to ask lit agents for detailed feedback on why they rejected yr work. Anyone want to comment on that?

Two highly reputable UK literary agents responded in public, and this is what they said:


That's not good advice. ;-)

And this;


Yes. And NO.

That's quite a clear response, I think.

And now, shall we move on?

Unimportant
10-22-2012, 01:31 AM
It's still iffy if you should make the request to begin with, but I really don't think it's altogether such a bad way to go at times to ask for clarification on specific feedback. Of course some agents aren't going to be pleased and may find that annoying. But I'm sure others won't, and may even welcome the opportunity to help out a writer that shows some promise and eagerness to learn.
I reckon it comes down to doing your homework.

If an agent likes your query (+ first 5 pp, or whatever) to request the full ms, you're naturally all Yay Agent Liked My Query! I Can Writez Me Some Gud Query Stuff! and you're madly checking up on the agent. And of course you keel over from that stabbing shit-dagger in the heart when you receive a rejection. If nothing else, it'd be awesome to know if it's the story or the prose that they found lacking.

And presumably, if you've been madly checking up on the agent, you'll have some clue as to how they'd feel about you asking that question. Because surely not all agents are the same. If their guidelines say "If I have to pass on a ms, feel free to ask me for more details" then yes, by all means take them up on the offer. If you read their blog and stuff and they're all "no means no, don't ask why" or "I don't give feedback because of Teh Crazies" or "I don't give feedback because that gives me more time to read more full mss" or whatever (my thanks to ARoyce for those excellent links!), then you respect that and don't respond with anything but, perhaps, a "thanks so much for taking the time to read my ms".

If you can't find anything anywhere to guide you one way or the other, then, well, I guess it comes down to personality type. Some people will take the punt, knowing that they might get info, they might get nothing, or they might land themselves in the agent's black books. Some people will go with the conventional wisdom that's been presented in this thread: err on the side of politeness and don't bug the person; if they'd wanted to give you specific feedback, they'd have done it already.

This thread has, I think, been terrific: an informed discussion, lots of lovely links to agent blogs, and some insider info (thanks, Old Hack!) about expectations of professional behaviour and the consequences of breaching protocol.

ETA:


And now, shall we move on?
Oops, sorry, I hadn't seen that when I posted!

Meems
10-22-2012, 01:59 AM
My own humble opinion is that when an agent says no, it's because He/She Is Just Not That Into You(r Manuscript).

That's the short and long of it.

I also think that if they wanted to expand on why, they would have done it in the original rejection.

James D. Macdonald
10-22-2012, 02:22 AM
When you go to the store to buy a shirt, and you select one, and take it to the cashier, the cashier doesn't quiz you on why you rejected every other shirt in the shop.

Sage
10-22-2012, 02:34 AM
When you go to the store to buy a shirt, and you select one, and take it to the cashier, the cashier doesn't quiz you on why you rejected every other shirt in the shop.
And if he did, you probably wouldn't want to shop there anymore.

Stacia Kane
10-22-2012, 03:01 AM
Of course I'm returning to the thread, Stacia. I'm listening to everyone's thoughts and OPINIONS and what everyone has to say. So what, is that wrong too?

I appreciate anyone who takes the time to comment. The appropriate thing to do is at least read their comment.


No, Lisa, it's not wrong of you to return. But then I'm not the one complaining that the discussion is continuing and that people are responding to what I say. My point was that if you're going to keep coming back and replying, you can't get upset that others are doing the same.

I have read everything you've said, by the way, and I don't appreciate the snarky insinuation that I haven't.

Perhaps, since you believe so strongly that it's inappropriate not to read and reply to everything written, you could answer the questions I asked you?


And again, as we've all said--to return to generalities, as it were--regardless of whether or not it's appropriate or professional to reply to rejections asking for more information, the fact remains that an agent is one person. Their feedback is one person's opinion. What they dislike another might like. The voice that doesn't appeal to them may appeal to someone else. ETA: And, most importantly, the fact that they didn't want to represent you/your work, or that they don't offer feedback, does not mean they don't know what they're looking for or that they're "guessing."

Also, if you do request and get feedback, regardless of who it's from, it's pointless if you either A) don't take the time to really think about it and what it means, and whether or not it's actually solid; or B) just ignore it even though you asked for it. You need to really consider feedback, not just exactly what it says but what it means. Look at published books and see if you can spot the issues that were pointed out to you.

Publishing takes time. Writing takes time--that is, they take time if you want to do them well.

Susan Littlefield
10-22-2012, 04:01 AM
You see it as a request. Given your attitude about it, I see it as a demand. I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one.

You are not the only one at all.


Back when I was single, I sometimes went out with a guy who didn't ask me out again. It seemed wrong to call him to get the details on why.

When I was younger, I would bug a guy if he said he didn't want to go out with me. I cringe when I think of how inappropriate that was.


Of course I'm returning to the thread, Stacia. I'm listening to everyone's thoughts and OPINIONS and what everyone has to say. So what, is that wrong too?

I appreciate anyone who takes the time to comment. The appropriate thing to do is at least read their comment.

This does feel dismissive. It's strange how 99% of the opinions here carry the same opinion.

quicklime
10-22-2012, 05:09 AM
This does feel dismissive. It's strange how 99% of the opinions here carry the same opinion.


and yet the 99% are, apparently, wrong...

lisa, if you want to ask them, by all means--competition is fierce, you could be a huge help to the guy next in line behind you.....

that said, you have a pattern of asking questions, arguing when you get the answers, getting in trouble for it, and apparently repeating the same thing later....how are you anticipating things turning out this time, because I'm a bit confused.....

Parkinsonsd
10-22-2012, 08:00 AM
They probably don't have anything in their guidelines that say don't mail them dead pigeons, either, but if you know it's considered inappropriate to do something, you shouldn't need a formal bullet point telling you not to do it.
I quite like the dead pigeon idea. I may expand on it for my personal use, hope you don't mind.

Amadan
10-22-2012, 03:16 PM
I quite like the dead pigeon idea. I may expand on it for my personal use, hope you don't mind.

Just don't tell anyone where you got the idea. :P

Phaeal
10-22-2012, 09:30 PM
It all comes down to voice, IMO. Yours didn't click with her. This is why she said she liked your execution but it just wasn't for her. Whatever your voice sounds like, it's not a voice she feels strongly drawn to. That's not a failing on her part any more than it is on yours. And it certainly doesn't mean that she doesn't know what she wants.

Abso-frakking-lutely. That mysterious and complex thing called voice, comprising not only the actual use of language but the implied attitudes, is what determines my choice of books to read. How much more so it must determine the agent's choice of script, where the relationship with the author will be much more intense and long-lasting.

Phaeal
10-22-2012, 10:01 PM
I quite like the dead pigeon idea. I may expand on it for my personal use, hope you don't mind.

Dead pigeons, meh, dime a dozen.

You really want to get an agent's attention, send him a dead meerkat or maybe (if you can afford the postage) a nice deceased dugong.

He'll appreciate the extra trouble you took.

eqb
10-22-2012, 10:58 PM
What about a live Komodo dragon?

lauralam
10-22-2012, 11:30 PM
Even when I queried agents I'd become friendly with on Twitter for MONTHS, when they turned me down I didn't ask why. I did respond though, saying something like "disappointed of course but thank you so much for reading!" I've subsequently met two of them in person now, and it wasn't awkward at all. The publishing world is too small.

At the end of the day, maybe they liked my book, maybe even really liked it, but they weren't the right agent for me. They said no, I said thanks, and we moved on. I found an agent who loved it, and all is hunky dory. I can't imagine quizzing them about why they rejected. It can be so many factors and at the end of the day, what's the point? They're not going to change their mind.

Query more agents. Some will give more feedback than others. Keep on keeping on.

Phaeal
10-23-2012, 01:21 AM
What about a live Komodo dragon?

Well, fine, as long as you don't ever hope to sub to that agent again. Dead agents take a reeeeeeeeeeeally long time to respond. Unless they become zombies, but then they just send form rejections:

Dear Author:

Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains.....

Which will, of course, have you trying to figure out what they really meant by that.

bearilou
10-23-2012, 01:51 AM
Well, fine, as long as you don't ever hope to sub to that agent again. Dead agents take a reeeeeeeeeeeally long time to respond. Unless they become zombies, but then they just send form rejections:

Dear Author:

Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains.....

Which will, of course, have you trying to figure out what they really meant by that.

Do you think it would be okay to email them back and ask?

:chair

Wisteria Vine
10-23-2012, 02:07 AM
:ROFL:

ArachnePhobia
10-23-2012, 02:42 AM
Do you think it would be okay to email them back and ask?

:chair

"Send more."

Corinne Duyvis
10-23-2012, 01:29 PM
I wouldn't mind a zombie agent. It'd be good research.

Ctairo
10-23-2012, 06:03 PM
Though we've moved on to zombie agents, I'd like to say I've appreciated the discussion in this thread. It's been informative, illuminating, and entertaining.

Phaeal
10-23-2012, 06:23 PM
Do you think it would be okay to email them back and ask?

:chair

They'll just write back the same thing, with more "A's" in it.

Phaeal
10-23-2012, 06:25 PM
Though we've moved on to zombie agents, I'd like to say I've appreciated the discussion in this thread. It's been informative, illuminating, and entertaining.

Yes, it does seem that all discussions lead to zombie agents. Which is too bad, since I actually much prefer vampire agents. What's 15% of your blood volume in return for a great publishing deal?

Ctairo
10-23-2012, 07:55 PM
Yes, it does seem that all discussions lead to zombie agents. Which is too bad, since I actually much prefer vampire agents. What's 15% of your blood volume in return for a great publishing deal?
What? No love of ninja agents? Everything's better with ninjas! (I'm sure I read that around here somewhere.)

Phaeal
10-23-2012, 10:07 PM
Vampire ninja agents for teh win.

Barbara R.
10-24-2012, 03:37 PM
A
Hopefully, Undercover has gone back to writing. It's about best efforts, then next effort. No one who hopes to be published can afford to get stuck on the what/why/how come of a single project.

If the OP is really interested in feedback, specific, useful feedback, seminars and/or conferences seem designed for it. The query process in 2012 is not.

I'm lagging a bit in this thread but wanted to say amen to this, both paragraphs. Most published writers have an unpublished early novel or two in their drawers. It takes a lot of writing to get good enough to publish, and it's rare that a "first novel" really is a first.

And querying is unlikely to provide any useful critique until and unless the agent is actually interested in taking the writer on. That's the catch 22 of this business. It's hard to get published without the benefit of informed, specific feedback; but it's hard to get that feedback until you're published. Writers who are getting nothing but rejection--no requests to read, no feedback--- are well advised, IMO, to take a step back from submitting and reexamine both the query letter and the novel itself. I actually have a blog post (http://barbararogan.com/blog/?p=256) up about this now, if anyone's interested in hearing me pontificate. There are ways of getting editorial input. Writers can take a workshop and get critical feedback from instructor and fellow students; they can (carefully) hire an editor/evaluator; they can find or form a critique group for peer review.

Ctairo
10-24-2012, 07:46 PM
Vampire ninja agents for teh win.

*hands you sparkly crown*

*throws confetti*

*bows down before you*

Barbara R.
10-24-2012, 11:02 PM
What's 15% of your blood volume in return for a great publishing deal?

I'd've paid it. Lucky no one asked.

Portia
11-13-2012, 04:28 AM
"I also think the OP was lucky that actual agents responded to this thread. (And, particularly since I'm one of agent Janet Reid's longtime fans, I gently suggest that an apology to agents--for things like the "lazy" comment--might be judicious.)"


ARoyce, I'm the OP so I feel the urge to chime in here. I did NOT make that "lazy" comment, someone else did. I have to apologize for what someone else said? I think you might be confusing what I said.

And as for not asking why the ms. was turned down, that's just silly. The agent took their time in reading it, they could say why, or simply say they can't further comment on it. They aren't gods. They're people too. I don't think that's unprofessional to at least ask why.

Now if you keep emailing and asking why, why, why or harassing them...yeah, obviously that's bad. really. really. bad. But jesus though, does the thread have to go that route? The topic is "What are Agents Really Looking For". A lot of what is said here is off topic.


As to the original question (though this thread is a little old): Agents don't know exactly what they are looking for any more than publishers do. The market is in flux, many bestsellers come out of left field, and many books that should have been successful simply fade into oblivion. The whole publishing industry is a game of chance fueled totally by subjectivity. What an agent or editor wants today will not be the same tomorrow.

Writers can only hope that they will eventually find the agent, and then the editor, who gets their book. The only answer, imo, is to keep looking for agents, and in the meantime, keep revising based on feedback from fellow writers. Don't expect an agent, who may read 20 ms a week, to take the time to offer critiques. They don't have the time.

Old Hack
11-13-2012, 10:36 AM
The whole publishing industry is a game of chance fueled totally by subjectivity.

I disagree with this point.

Publishing is fuelled by readers--the people who buy the books.

And one can improve one's chances considerably by writing a really good, commercial book and sending it to the right places.

James D. Macdonald
11-14-2012, 09:33 AM
What's 15% of your blood volume in return for a great publishing deal?

15% of your blood volume is 675 mL.

Glad I could clear that up for you.

blacbird
11-14-2012, 11:54 AM
And one can improve one's chances considerably by writing a really good, commercial book and sending it to the right places.

And the only way you can know you've written a really good, commercial book and sent it to the right place is if it gets accepted for publication.

caw