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bigstimpycat
04-02-2005, 10:07 PM
tired of waiting months & spending $ for u.s. postal rejections, i decided to go cyber. after researching theatres' wants/needs/previous productions/current seasons, i sent brief emails to the artistic directors of several professional companies that claim they are looking for new scripts. i mentioned my credits, (i have several published scripts),& gave a brief synopsis of my latest script with breakdown of cast needs, set requirements, etc. i figured it would be easier & quicker for the a.d. to look at & reply to emails than u.s. post. just hit "reply" & say "please send sample pages" or "no thanks."

only 1 theater out of 20 bothered to respond - with a rejection, of course. the a.d. was kind enough to say that he liked the script but it wasn't right for the audiences he tours to (i disagree or i wouldn't have offered it to him - if he'd read a few pages, i think he would've been interested). he said he prefers email queries but apparently, he's the only one who does.

how hard is it to hit reply & type a few words?! i suppose they might have mistaken the note for spam but i made sure the tag was "new script" & i sent it to the theater website & not a personal address.

fume fume.

Rose
04-02-2005, 10:56 PM
Hi bigstimpycat,

I know absolutely nothing about selling scripts to theaters, but I applaud your efforts! I send out a lot of queries to magazines and never get a response, so I feel for ya. Hang in there - we're all here suffering right along with you.

Arisa81
04-02-2005, 11:35 PM
I think most of us have had the no response thing happen.

If it really gets on your nerves, do what I do, and don't submit to them anymore hehe. I just search back in my submission records and see who I do get a response from. I do prefer to hear something so I make it a point to submit to those people.

It can be frusterating I know. We just want to hear something !
Good luck :)

Vomaxx
04-03-2005, 03:59 AM
On March 25 I sent e-mails to 8 agents who had failed to respond to two snail-mail queries sent 5 and 2 months ago. As of today, exactly 1 of these people has answered.

There are some agents who have reached amazing heights of arrogance and rudeness.

Sassenach
04-03-2005, 06:14 AM
Sadly, it just comes with the territory. I get it all the time--even from editors with whom I've worked.

pepperlandgirl
04-03-2005, 06:16 AM
Happens to me all the time as well. It sucks, especially as the hope dwindles after weeks of silence.

alaskamatt17
04-03-2005, 08:50 AM
I know what rejection feels like, but calling the agents arrogant and rude just because they don't answer your query seems harsh. There's a good chance they never received the letter, and just as good a chance that if you look on their website they will have a notice explicitly stating they do not answer to submissions they are not interested in.

So far I've had four queries that were never answered. Three of the agencies stated on their website that they would not answer unless they wanted to see sample chapters. The fourth stated that he would respond within two months to every query he received. To me that means that he must not have received my query, so I should send it again.

I've never called an agent to see if they got my submission. I've heard that's the surest way to make sure you get rejected. I figure I'll just keep querying until I get someone to look at my sample chapters; that's where I'll be able to make the sale.

And that's where you'll make the sale, too. Don't bother chasing after an agent who isn't interested--find someone who is willing to give you the chance you deserve. It'll take a lot of work to find that one other person, but you will if you just keep at it.

Lilybiz
04-03-2005, 09:22 AM
Hey, bigstimpycat:

I once served as dramaturge for an L.A.-area theater, and I can tell you from that experience that it sometimes took me months to respond to a writer, and I was trying my best. Many theaters have low or no budgets and a volunteer dramaturge who reads in his or her rare spare time. I don't know for sure, but it could be that a few more of those theaters will get back to you.

Greenwolf103
04-04-2005, 10:16 AM
aertep, that is really helpful to know! I know nothing about submitting to theaters but if that's a common scenario, then my best advice based on that would be to just keep working on other projects and getting more stuff written/submitted.

I know, the WAITING is frustrating and then not to get a reply is like salt on an open wound. It burns, it stings, it makes you want to pull your hair out. Unless they state they don't reply on rejections, I think you should follow up at some point. There's always a chance something didn't get through their spam blockers.

SRHowen
04-04-2005, 08:26 PM
I've had my agent two years now, back when I was looking for an agent I sent out a mess of query letters out, by e-mail and snail mail. The other day I out to my mail box and there was a letter, one of my SASE --it had taken this agency two years to respond to my query. I had long ago written them off my list as not responding. Didn't bother to let them know I had an agent since they never responded in a such a long time.

LOL

Two years and they ask me, we'd love to take a look at more of this. I admit I was a bit surprised. Did they think I was just waiting around for them--for two years? Yikes.

So it can take awhile--I just wonder why they never responded to any of my follow ups.

Lilybiz
04-04-2005, 09:02 PM
aertep, that is really helpful to know! I know nothing about submitting to theaters but if that's a common scenario, then my best advice based on that would be to just keep working on other projects and getting more stuff written/submitted.

I know, the WAITING is frustrating and then not to get a reply is like salt on an open wound. It burns, it stings, it makes you want to pull your hair out. Unless they state they don't reply on rejections, I think you should follow up at some point. There's always a chance something didn't get through their spam blockers.

Thanks, Greenwolf103. Looking back, I think it would have been good if I'd had a system of responding to each submitter, perhaps just a form note that said "I've received your script and I will get back to you within X months." But I had no funding for regular mailings, and I was a poor actor/writer myself!

And in response to SRHowen, you're right. Two years is way too long. I hope every playwright out there practices the art of multiple submissions wherever possible.

Roger J Carlson
04-04-2005, 10:50 PM
This behavior is becoming more and more common. Many agents' websites now say that they only respond if they are interested. If you don't hear from them in two months, you can safely assume they're not interested.

I understand how busy they are, but this very basic courtesy should be the cost of doing business. Especially with email queries, how difficult can it be to hit Reply and say "No thanks, not for us." Heck, you could automate this.

brinkett
04-04-2005, 11:03 PM
The other problem is that if you don't hear anything, you're never sure if it means "not interested" or "query was lost in the mail/cyberspace".

For both email and snail mail queries, it doesn't cost anything to reply except time. I understand they're deluged with queries, but I still think it's professional and courteous to reply. If we're expected to be professional and courteous, they should be too.

Jamesaritchie
04-05-2005, 12:06 AM
tired of waiting months & spending $ for u.s. postal rejections, i decided to go cyber. after researching theatres' wants/needs/previous productions/current seasons, i sent brief emails to the artistic directors of several professional companies that claim they are looking for new scripts. i mentioned my credits, (i have several published scripts),& gave a brief synopsis of my latest script with breakdown of cast needs, set requirements, etc. i figured it would be easier & quicker for the a.d. to look at & reply to emails than u.s. post. just hit "reply" & say "please send sample pages" or "no thanks."

only 1 theater out of 20 bothered to respond - with a rejection, of course. the a.d. was kind enough to say that he liked the script but it wasn't right for the audiences he tours to (i disagree or i wouldn't have offered it to him - if he'd read a few pages, i think he would've been interested). he said he prefers email queries but apparently, he's the only one who does.

how hard is it to hit reply & type a few words?! i suppose they might have mistaken the note for spam but i made sure the tag was "new script" & i sent it to the theater website & not a personal address.

fume fume.

If they don't want e-mail queries, then it's ridiculaous to expect a reply. It might not be too hard to reply, IF you are sending the only e-mail they receive, but if you're sending unwanted e-mail queries, you can bet many other writers are doing the same. There will also be many real e-mails they need to answer, and all sorts of spam they have to deal with.

And if you sent an e-mail query to someone who doesn't want e-mail queries, it IS spam, and spam of the worst sort, no matter how you labelled it.

Jamesaritchie
04-05-2005, 12:10 AM
The other problem is that if you don't hear anything, you're never sure if it means "not interested" or "query was lost in the mail/cyberspace".

For both email and snail mail queries, it doesn't cost anything to reply except time. I understand they're deluged with queries, but I still think it's professional and courteous to reply. If we're expected to be professional and courteous, they should be too.

Professional and courteous means never, ever sending an e-mail query to someone who wants only snail mail queries. Saying it doesn't cost anything except time means you don't understand how valuable time is, and how many other writers are also soaking up time by also sending unprofessional and discourteous e-mail queries.

brinkett
04-05-2005, 12:23 AM
I'm not talking about sending email queries to agents who don't accept them. I agree that emailing a query to someone who doesn't accept them and then expecting a reply is unreasonable.

I'm talking about agents who don't reply to a snail mail query when a SASE has been enclosed, or those who say they accept email queries and then don't bother replying to them.

I do understand the value of time. My time is just as valuable as theirs. If I've taken the time to write a professional and courteous query, provide exactly what they've asked for in their guidelines, and enclosed a SASE or emailed an agent who accepts email queries, then I deserve a reply. Anything else is just rude.

Jamesaritchie
04-05-2005, 11:43 AM
I'm not talking about sending email queries to agents who don't accept them. I agree that emailing a query to someone who doesn't accept them and then expecting a reply is unreasonable.

I'm talking about agents who don't reply to a snail mail query when a SASE has been enclosed, or those who say they accept email queries and then don't bother replying to them.

I do understand the value of time. My time is just as valuable as theirs. If I've taken the time to write a professional and courteous query, provide exactly what they've asked for in their guidelines, and enclosed a SASE or emailed an agent who accepts email queries, then I deserve a reply. Anything else is just rude.

Well, maybe. But having been on that end of the stick, I can tell you it isn't always that simple. It would be nice to reply to everyone, and most agents do their best, but there simply isn't always enough time. Many writers think an agent's job consists primarily of opening, reading, and replying to query letters in hopes of finding new writers, but for many agents there may be one or two hours a week to do this, and there may well be two or three hundred queries. And every week you can't get to them all puts you that much more behind.

In slow times, you try your best to respond to every query, whether it's a yes or a no, but sad to say, there sometimes comes a point where you either have to hire someone else to do the reading, which can defeat the whole purpose, or you just open and stuff rejection slips in without reading anything, which also takes times, or you weed through looking for any that stand out on the outside, and toss the rest. Neither of these is really fair, so you usually do what works best and is fairest for all concerned. . .you open each query, read through, and only respond to the ones you have an interest in.

Sometimes there are just too many wannabe writers, and too few hours in the day, or the month, to deal with them all.

I don't think rude has anything to do with it. Agents need writers, yes, but they don't need hundreds and thousands of queries from writers, most of which have no chance at all of getting a yes, and all of which take more time to deal with than you can possibly find.

Some agents are now doing what many magazines also now do, which is to only reply if the answer is positive. If the writer hasn't heard anyting within a certain time span, usually two or three months, he should assume the answer is no and move on to the next agent.

And I can also tell you this. I could always tell if a query was of the generic shotgun variety. . .which is a query that's exactly like a dozen or more similar queries the writer sent to other agents with only the name and the address of the agent changed. I didn't feel bad at all about not responding to those. Like all the other agents who received them, I figured someone else could speak for us all. I simply didn't have the time.

Your time may be just as valuable as that of an agent, but so what? I don't know why people think this changes anything, or matters at all. The agent is concerned with her time, not yours, and there's never, ever enough of it. How valuable your time is doesn't put one extra second in the week for her. When there isn't enough time to respond to everything, there isn't enough time, and even if your time is worth a million dollars a second, there still isn't enough time.

If you really want a reply, never send generic queries. Show the agent exactly why you decided to query her instead of someone else. Show her you know about her agency, about the books she's handled, etc.

If going snail mail, use good envelopes and good paper so your query will stand out from the two hundred others in that stack that are all typed on whatever was on special at Wal-Mart that week.

Most important of all, write something she'll say yes to. Agents always respond when something worthwhile comes in.

SRHowen
04-05-2005, 02:42 PM
If you really want a reply, never send generic queries. Show the agent exactly why you decided to query her instead of someone else. Show her you know about her agency, about the books she's handled, etc.

If going snail mail, use good envelopes and good paper so your query will stand out from the two hundred others in that stack that are all typed on whatever was on special at Wal-Mart that week.

Most important of all, write something she'll say yes to. Agents always respond when something worthwhile comes in.

Which is why in the example query letter I posted I do just that, it shows you took enough time to research their agency and didn't just fire off a hundred "I just changed the addy and name," or worse yet used mail merge.

It's posted under the rejection thread if anyone wants to see the sample query letter I posted.

As to paper, I have some good quality cream colored paper with a header. It has a nice embossed gold bar across the top and down one side. Yeah, it cost plenty for the box of 100 sheets. But I only use one per agency, and I use it for other things. My envelopes match, the ones I send the query in, my SASE envelopes are just generic white security ones that can be put inside the fancy one, which is slightly oversized so I don't have to fold the SASE.

I'm not sending agent queries these days, but I am shopping around some shorts.

A query is a job application. Sometimes you hear back on a job application sometimes you don't. If you are qualified for the job (written something outstanding) and presented yourself in a professional manner then you'll hear back. If their isn't a job opening then you can't expect to always hear back.

Pencilone
04-05-2005, 03:55 PM
tired of waiting months & spending $ for u.s. postal rejections, i decided to go cyber. after researching theatres' wants/needs/previous productions/current seasons, i sent brief emails to the artistic directors of several professional companies that claim they are looking for new scripts. i mentioned my credits, (i have several published scripts),& gave a brief synopsis of my latest script with breakdown of cast needs, set requirements, etc. i figured it would be easier & quicker for the a.d. to look at & reply to emails than u.s. post. just hit "reply" & say "please send sample pages" or "no thanks."

only 1 theater out of 20 bothered to respond - with a rejection, of course. the a.d. was kind enough to say that he liked the script but it wasn't right for the audiences he tours to (i disagree or i wouldn't have offered it to him - if he'd read a few pages, i think he would've been interested). he said he prefers email queries but apparently, he's the only one who does.

how hard is it to hit reply & type a few words?! i suppose they might have mistaken the note for spam but i made sure the tag was "new script" & i sent it to the theater website & not a personal address.

fume fume.

I honestly feel for you and for everyone else with similar experiences.


By the look of it, they certainly do not act like they are interested at all in discovering new writers. Which makes me think: why waste quality paper for them? Instead of assessing the quality of the paper, they should be assessing the quality of the writing (if they actually get to read it and not just look at the paper).


If they really are short of time, they should accept emails, as email is the fastest way to read and reply (no time wasted with stocking/ordering/cutting the envelopes, printing a reply, etc). If it is crap anyway, why waste so many trees on it? In this computer age, a smart software program can easily clean up the garbage and sort some queries for them from Spam.


I don't quite understand why waste paragraphs talking about the agent in the query, when it is obvious that the simple fact that the writer has sent him a query implies that there were reasons why he was the chosen one. Why waste time with talking about the agent, instead of getting to the real point that is talking about the story that it is available to sell? If I were short of time, I would not like to receive mail telling me how wonderful I am, but I'd like concise writing about exciting stories (but hey! maybe this reveals something about the agent's character?). The story should stand by itself.

But the consolation is that if they act like this, they are not worth it.
Better move on to the next one on the list, as it is their loss, not yours!


Best of Luck,

Pencilone

Eussie
04-05-2005, 04:06 PM
Professional and courteous means never, ever sending an e-mail query to someone who wants only snail mail queries. Saying it doesn't cost anything except time means you don't understand how valuable time is, and how many other writers are also soaking up time by also sending unprofessional and discourteous e-mail queries.

My time is valuable too. I'm a full-time mom, full-time graduate mathematics student, novelist, and artist (to pay the bills...www.unendinglove.com (http://www.unendinglove.com/)).


I spent a lot of time researching my targetted agents, at bookstores and online. I wrote individual queries. And then I get form responses from most of them.

My favorites are ones like Ethan Ellenberg, who request a "self-sealing' SASE so they can reject you faster. I even found one agent who wants you to write their return address on the envelope so they don't have to when they reject you.

I'm sorry for spouting off but I am sooooo tired of hearing their time is valuable and mine isn't.

Eussie
04-05-2005, 04:40 PM
I don't quite understand why waste paragraphs talking about the agent in the query...

I am 100% certain that the reason the agents say this, is if one hundred per cent of the queries they receive had that paragraph, the agent wouldn't have to waste their valuable time in rejecting unsuitable queries (for example, the wrong genre). All this bull about doing your homework is to cut down on the work an agent has to do, and it has nothing to do with impressing them with your research skills.

brinkett
04-05-2005, 06:29 PM
Many writers think an agent's job consists primarily of opening, reading, and replying to query letters in hopes of finding new writers, but for many agents there may be one or two hours a week to do this, and there may well be two or three hundred queries. And every week you can't get to them all puts you that much more behind.

Sorry, but it takes two seconds to stuff a form letter into a SASE or to hit the "Reply" button and type "no". There really is no excuse. If they've taken a few seconds to scan a query, tacking another few seconds onto that won't kill them. I'm not expecting detailed feedback. I am expecting a response when I've provided everything they've asked for, in the manner they've requested. Most agents DO manage to do this. So there's no excuse for those who don't.



I don't think rude has anything to do with it. Agents need writers, yes, but they don't need hundreds and thousands of queries from writers, most of which have no chance at all of getting a yes, and all of which take more time to deal with than you can possibly find.

Well, today, the only way to approach an agent is through a query. If that system isn't working for them, they should come up with something else.



Your time may be just as valuable as that of an agent, but so what? I don't know why people think this changes anything, or matters at all. The agent is concerned with her time, not yours, and there's never, ever enough of it. How valuable your time is doesn't put one extra second in the week for her. When there isn't enough time to respond to everything, there isn't enough time, and even if your time is worth a million dollars a second, there still isn't enough time.

It's a matter of treating people with a modicum of respect. That's what it's all about.



If going snail mail, use good envelopes and good paper so your query will stand out from the two hundred others in that stack that are all typed on whatever was on special at Wal-Mart that week.

It's this sort of attitude that kills me. That if the writer isn't getting a response, it's the writer's fault because s/he's used poor quality paper, or placed a stamp on the envelope that doesn't appeal to the agent, or not stroked the agent's ego enough. Please! You'd think the part of the letter that actually describes the novel would count for something, but apparently it's somewhere near the bottom of the list when considering whether to reply.



Most important of all, write something she'll say yes to. Agents always respond when something worthwhile comes in.
And what's worthwhile is subjective. So they should respond to anything that comes in that's decently written. Some don't.



A query is a job application

No it isn't. When you submit a job application, you're asking that someone agree to pay you in exchange for your time/skills. That's not what you're doing when you approach an agent. You're presenting an opportunity to make THEM money.

As a newbie who has recently started to query and learn about the publishing biz, what's amazed me is the disdain that some people already 'in' the biz have for new writers. It's been a real eye-opener.

Roger J Carlson
04-05-2005, 06:40 PM
In slow times, you try your best to respond to every query, whether it's a yes or a no, but sad to say, there sometimes comes a point where you either have to hire someone else to do the reading, which can defeat the whole purpose, or you just open and stuff rejection slips in without reading anything, which also takes times, or you weed through looking for any that stand out on the outside, and toss the rest. Neither of these is really fair, so you usually do what works best and is fairest for all concerned. . .you open each query, read through, and only respond to the ones you have an interest in.
I'm sorry, but I just don't buy it. If the agency says that they are not accepting querys, then fine, throw them all out. But if they are asking for queries, then they owe the courtesy of a response. Every one of us has parts of our jobs that are time consuming and "wasteful", but we do them because it's the cost of doing business. I have to attend meetings, answer phone calls and email even though this drains time away from my job of programming databases.

I would even argue that this practice of nonresponse is counter productive for the following reasons:

1) If the agent simply throws queries away unopened (unless she doesn't need new clients or projects), will never find the occasional gem. Why ask for queries in the first place?

2) If she opens, reads, then tosses those she's not interested in, she invites a re-query letter from the author asking if she received the original query. I contend that sticking a form rejection into a SASE or replying to an email is more efficient.

3) A serious writer who does not receive a response will not try that agent again (at least I won't). This means that over time, the agent will only receive first-time queries from first-time writers. The chances of finding a publishable story then drops to near zero. This is self-defeating.

Professional courtesy is not something you do because it is in some rulebook somewhere. You do it because it works.

SRHowen
04-05-2005, 07:09 PM
As a newbie who has recently started to query and learn about the publishing biz, what's amazed me is the disdain that some people already 'in' the biz have for new writers. It's been a real eye-opener.


No one here has shown you disdain. In fact those of us "in the biz already" are trying to help you. You might not agree, but then why should I care? Sheesh.

Those of us with books out there, or with good agents know how we got there, we know how others got there. So we are offering you the advice based on our experiances.

Take it or leave it--but if you don't "get in" don't say that no one tried to help you.

brinkett
04-05-2005, 07:20 PM
No one here has shown you disdain. In fact those of us "in the biz already" are trying to help you.
Relax. I wasn't referring to anyone here.

DeadlyAccurate
04-05-2005, 07:34 PM
Several years ago, the response rate on my queries was at least 90%. Now, it seems the response rate is significantly lower, especially for email queries. If they aren't taking on new clients, then say so on their website.

I do think it's incredibly rude to ask for SASEs and then not bother to respond if they're not interested; you're just throwing away a stamp. Better that they either go to email queries, require an email address for a response, or pay for the return postage. An agency that gets 1,000 queries a week and is interested in .5% of them would be paying less than $100 a year for stamps, plus a bit more for postcards.

I'm thinking something that would be good for writers would be a list of agents who respond. Some sort of poll where you select the agent, what form your query took (email, snail mail, oatmeal cookie), whether they responded, and how long it took them.

dragonjax
04-05-2005, 07:42 PM
As a writer, I definitely understand the frustration of not receiving a response, either via e-mail or snail mail, on a query, a partial or even a full manuscript out on request. Definitely been there, still doing that.

But as for the whole "My time is valuable and agents are rude" thing, it's pretty simple to me. Heck, we have a stellar example of it right here on AW. Look at what happened with the AW Idol auditions. A simple contest has opened the floodgates, with some contestents asking for criticism, others asking how the judges came to their decisions. In other words, making demands on the judges' time. Now, I'm not saying this is bad; in fact, I'd say the purpose of this forum is to help one another in our efforts to be successfully published, so such followup posts should be expected and applauded. But the three judges, I would guess, didn't go into the auditions expecting to have to provide feedback to those contestants who are not advancing to the next stage.

Same thing with agents. If they're taking a pass, that's all that matters. If you send out 50 queries, and 50 either come back with a "no" or don't come back at all, chances are your query wasn't strong enough to spark interest. No amount of yelling about how rude the agents are will change that: the query wasn't strong enough. Period.

"But," I can hear some people wail, "it's not professional of them! If we send agents an SASE for their response, they owe us a response!"

No, they don't. They're not invested in you. They don't want to read your work. Period. They owe you nothing. If any of them respond with something other than a form letter rejection, that's a huge bonus.

Here's a better example: Junk mail, complete with SASEs. Do you send polite "no thank you's" to those vendors in those SASEs?

"Stop," I hear some people shouting. "That's not the same thing at all!"

And yes, I counter, it is. Unless an agent is interested in your query, he or she does not have to respond. Period. End of story. Rude? Perhaps. Unprofessional? Depends. To be expected? Yes.

So I very politely suggest that if you don't hear from agencies, and you sent an e-mail, and that agency accepts queries via e-mail, go ahead and follow up via e-mail. If you sent a snail mail query and you haven't heard, go ahead and follow up via snail mail. But if your follow-up messages are also met with a no response, take a breath, take a drink, scracth that agent off your list, and move on.

And, of course, grab some virtual chocolate and eat up. No calories. And God knows, riding on the query go round is hard, frustrating work.

Best of luck.

Lilybiz
04-05-2005, 07:47 PM
I think a lot of good points have been made here, but the fact remains that many of us are in need of an agent, and the agents seem to have their pick of writers. Supply and demand.

If you can do so, I recommend sitting on the other side of the desk for a week. One little week. Intern in an agent's office. Read scripts for a producer who has a pile of 300 or so to get to. See what it's like.

I have done these things (worked as a dramaturge and read for an LA literary agent) and from that experience I can tell you that about 95% of what is submitted is awful! Really! Of the other 5%, most of it is good but needs work. Of the 1% that's usable, it might not be right for the agency.

(It's my guess that much of the stuff these agents receive is from people who never read sites like AbsoluteWrite, and who are completely ignorant of how the business works. Everyone thinks they can write a book. You'd be amazed at the typos, spelling errors, lack of format, etc. etc. Don't forget there are a lot of those people out there, and the agents have to go through their stuff to get to ours.)

Frankly, they DO have an overwhelming amount of stuff to read. They are looking for ways to eliminate you. If you don't follow their guidelines, right off the bat they have an excuse to reject your material. With the competition so stiff, why give them the slightest excuse? If you follow the guidelines, play like a pro, and write something great, you have a better chance of rising to the top of the pile. But they still have to dig through all the crap to find you.

brinkett
04-05-2005, 08:01 PM
Same thing with agents. If they're taking a pass, that's all that matters. If you send out 50 queries, and 50 either come back with a "no" or don't come back at all, chances are your query wasn't strong enough to spark interest. No amount of yelling about how rude the agents are will change that: the query wasn't strong enough. Period.


Of course agents might reject the query. That's par for the course, and I'm certainly not going to yell that they're rude when they do so. I'm saying it's rude/unprofessional to not stuff a form letter into a SASE, or to hit the reply button and type "no" when they receive an email query as per their guidelines. I'm not expecting detailed feedback. Just a simple "no" will do.



Frankly, they DO have an overwhelming amount of stuff to read. They are looking for ways to eliminate you.

Of course they are. And when they do, a form letter will suffice. We're not complaining because we're being rejected. We're complaining because though we've followed the guidelines to the letter, spent money on stamps or emailed only to agents who accept email queries, and written a professional letter, we don't receive a reply.

We're just asking for professional courtesy.

As far as not sending a polite "no thank you" to junk mail, I don't know about you, but I don't ask companies to send me junk mail, nor do I have a web site describing how they may do so and indicating how long I will take to respond to it. Apples and oranges.

dragonjax
04-05-2005, 08:19 PM
As far as not sending a polite "no thank you" to junk mail, I don't know about you, but I don't ask companies to send me junk mail, nor do I have a web site describing how they may do so and indicating how long I will take to respond to it. Apples and oranges.
I do see your point. Actually, we do ask for junk mail every time we subscribe to a magazine, or make a certain purchase, or click on a link for more information, or allow cookies when we surf the Internet. But I won't argue with you about this, because like I said, I do see your point. (I used to make the exact argument you did, down to "apples and oranges." But more than a year later, I simply feel differently about it.)

Like I said previously, perhaps it is rude for agents not to respond with a form letter when we provide an SASE (and, by the way, why wouldn't we provide the return address in the upper left corner of the envelope? Seems like a no brainer that we should do that, along with the SAS part on the E), let alone simply hitting "reply" and typing "No thank you." But I ask you, would you let a "No thank you" go at that? Or would you write back to the agent (that little "reply" button is so easy to press) and ask for more feedback?

Anyway, yes, it's a shame many agents don't get back to us. But you know what? Many other agents do. If you come across agents you feel are unprofessional, cross them off your short list and move on to those with whom you'd prefer to do business.

Lilybiz
04-05-2005, 08:20 PM
Of course they are. And when they do, a form letter will suffice. We're not complaining because we're being rejected. We're complaining because though we've followed the guidelines to the letter, spent money on stamps or emailed only to agents who accept email queries, and written a professional letter, we don't receive a reply.

We're just asking for professional courtesy.

As far as not sending a polite "no thank you" to junk mail, I don't know about you, but I don't ask companies to send me junk mail, nor do I have a web site describing how they may do so and indicating how long I will take to respond to it. Apples and oranges.

You make a good point about not soliciting junk mail.

Yes, it would be more courteous of them to send a nice "no thank you," but all our complaining isn't going to make them do it. And I don't think that just because they don't reply it means they're not a good agent.

I guess what I'm saying is, whether or not we like it, that's the reality.

Maybe I've been in LA too long.

DeadlyAccurate
04-05-2005, 08:32 PM
But I ask you, would you let a "No thank you" go at that? Or would you write back to the agent (that little "reply" button is so easy to press) and ask for more feedback?

Will and have. In fact, I'm 99% sure those were one agent's exact words in the email.

ETA: Behler, by the way, is prompt. Lynn responded in about three weeks with a quite lovely rejection letter.

brinkett
04-05-2005, 08:44 PM
(I used to make the exact argument you did, down to "apples and oranges." But more than a year later, I simply feel differently about it.)
Yeah, don't get me wrong. I'll accept not getting reponses from some agents as par for the course. Doesn't mean I won't complain about it, though. :)



But I ask you, would you let a "No thank you" go at that? Or would you write back to the agent (that little "reply" button is so easy to press) and ask for more feedback?

I always let it go at that. I've had a few that boil down to "no thank you". All form letters do. I'd never write back and ask for feedback because I do understand how busy they are. I also appreciate their response, and would query them again.



Anyway, yes, it's a shame many agents don't get back to us. But you know what? Many other agents do. If you come across agents you feel are unprofessional, cross them off your short list and move on to those with whom you'd prefer to do business.
Agreed. Most agents do respond. Those that don't are crossed off my list and as Roger said, I wouldn't query them again with other projects.

BTW, saw your post in the Talcott Notch thread. Congrats, and please keep us posted. The agency is on my list and I'm curious to see how it goes, given the controversy surrounding it.

dragonjax
04-05-2005, 08:58 PM
Deadly Accurate and brinkett: Huge kudos to you for resisting the temptation to ask for more feedback! God knows, it's...so...tempting just hit that li'l key and ask, "But why???" Heh. I'm sure plenty of agents get messages just like that, prompting them to:

:Hammer:

Which then leads to weeks of not checking their e-mails as they have to get a whole new computer set up, which leads to writers wondering why the agents aren't getting back to them. I have just concluded that any time a writer pushes back with an agent, asking why his or her letter was rejected, that brings about a butterfly effect of non responses. :)

And brinkett, thanks for your good luck wishes with Talcott Notch. Gina's feedback was spot-on. I gotta tell you, she's one sharp reader. No offer (yet), but I'll be tweaking the manuscript based on her suggestions and getting it back out to her. I'll definitely post more in the TN thread when the time comes.

SRHowen
04-05-2005, 09:48 PM
I'm going to toss this out here, some of you may have read it before, but here goes. The main point many people make is that their writing is great, their letter is great so why don't the agents want to see more? The writing should sell the work.

Let me say, the writing does sell the work. You write a query letter don't you?

Anyone else know about the query letter Murphy--a cousin to Murphy's Law. When you send a query everything will go wrong, you run out of stamps, no ink, run out of paper, have the wrong size envelopes on and on until you want to scream. You have that letter all ready to go and off you go drop it in the mail box and happy as can be you return home.

On your computer screen there is your query letter--with the agentís name spelled wrong. Query Letter Murphy strikes again.

There is a lot of talk about how agents must not read the query, if they did then they wouldn't just fire off rejections so it must be something else--they don't read has to be.

Case in point. Yes, I am going to list an exception--fall over dead now--but it is to prove that agents do read what you send them.

Step one:

Spell the agent's name wrong. I did this---

Step two:

Use the agents full proper name, find out later said agent counts it as a strike against you because it smacks of mail merge. I did this---

Step three:

Send a first person POV novel to an agent who thinks first person is a crutch of first time novelists and doesn't like first person books. I did this---

Within 4 months of first contact with said agent I signed a contract for representation with them.

Why? Why when the query was a mess, really--that glaring name misspell. The writing itself and:

Ok, I spelled his name wrong. But the rest of the query was professional, my one paragraph synop flawless, and I gave him the courtesy of knowing I had researched his firm--I followed the rules despite my spelling error.

If agents didn't read what was sent to them, then he would have seen that name error and tossed in a rejection without reading further.

So, you do need to consider that maybe your query needs work or that you are querying the wrong agency.

brinkett
04-05-2005, 10:00 PM
I'm going to toss this out here, some of you may have read it before, but here goes. The main point many people make is that their writing is great, their letter is great so why don't the agents want to see more?

People do make that point, but that's not the point being made in this thread. The point being made in this thread is that agents should respond to queries if the writer has queried them in a professional manner and according to their guidelines. Why a query is constantly being rejected is another matter. I think everyone would agree that if a query isn't getting any hits, it needs to be reworked.

I'm glad you shared your story, though, because it gives me hope that agents do actually read what's sent to them and don't reject queries for silly reasons like the paper looks like it was bought at Wal-mart. I'm of the opinion that any agent worth their salt will look past details like that to see if there's an interesting story idea.

It doesn't surprise me that you managed to obtain an agent despite your boo-boos. Your entry in AW Idol was one of the better ones. :)

Jamesaritchie
04-05-2005, 11:44 PM
Several years ago, the response rate on my queries was at least 90%. Now, it seems the response rate is significantly lower, especially for email queries. If they aren't taking on new clients, then say so on their website.

I do think it's incredibly rude to ask for SASEs and then not bother to respond if they're not interested; you're just throwing away a stamp. Better that they either go to email queries, require an email address for a response, or pay for the return postage. An agency that gets 1,000 queries a week and is interested in .5% of them would be paying less than $100 a year for stamps, plus a bit more for postcards.

I'm thinking something that would be good for writers would be a list of agents who respond. Some sort of poll where you select the agent, what form your query took (email, snail mail, oatmeal cookie), whether they responded, and how long it took them.

The trouble with a list is that it's often the agents you don't want, the inexperienced agents, the dishonest agents, the agents who haven't a clue what makes for good writing, who have the highest response rates, positive or negative. And it's often the best, and busiest, agents in the business who simply do not have time to respond to everything.

DeadlyAccurate
04-06-2005, 01:05 AM
The trouble with a list is that it's often the agents you don't want, the inexperienced agents, the dishonest agents, the agents who haven't a clue what makes for good writing, who have the highest response rates, positive or negative. And it's often the best, and busiest, agents in the business who simply do not have time to respond to everything.

Good point. I guess the only way to make it effective would be to include some sort of Preditors & Editors check. Sounds like work.

dragonjax
04-06-2005, 01:23 AM
Good point. I guess the only way to make it effective would be to include some sort of Preditors & Editors check. Sounds like work.
P&E, Writer Beware, the Beware and Background check on this forum, Publishers Marketplace...the list goes on, but those four should be in the "must check" list before an author even considers querying an agent. Humble opinion, of course.

aboyd
04-06-2005, 02:42 AM
God knows, it's...so...tempting just hit that li'l key and ask, "But why???"
Back when I was the editor of a small poetry magazine, I made the mistake of (once and once only) answering that question. Out of courtesy, I took it upon myself to provide reasonably detailed information (half page) on the major problem areas in the poems submitted. I did not actually mark up the poems (which had already been returned), so there was no clear-cut guide such as "remove this line." I made it clear that one of the problems was simply that the style of writing wasn't suitable for my magazine (hint, hint: no quick fix, Miss Poet).

In any case, days after I wrote it, I got nearly the exact same submission, but the poems had been tweaked. It was weird -- although my comments were not line-by-line precise, the writer apparently tried to interpret my comments that way, making the changes appear rather ham-fisted. I rejected it. Then came the followup letter, "WTF?!? YOU SAID THIS WOULD WORK!!! WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?!?!" I declined to say what else and simply said it wasn't right for my market. Follow-up letter arrives days later: "If you just tell me what to change, I will make it right for you! Why? Why won't you tell me?!?"

Ugh. I felt like I had my own personal stalker. After that, every time a "BUT WHY" message came in (and they did, often), it went straight to the trash. I didn't want to be mean, but some people out there are really creepy.

DeadlyAccurate
04-06-2005, 03:50 AM
P&E, Writer Beware, the Beware and Background check on this forum, Publishers Marketplace...the list goes on, but those four should be in the "must check" list before an author even considers querying an agent. Humble opinion, of course.

I didn't say I didn't do that; I just said making up a website with all that plus information on whether the agents responded was work.

I happen to be a thorough checker. I usually start by finding an agent on P&E (that way I can weed out the "not recommended" agents right away), then searching for them to see what they represent and if anything shows up on the watchdog sites. If they have a website, I do a search for books they've sold and clients they represent. If I'm still unsure, I may post in the Bewares and Backgrounds.

The only time I actually hit up a scammer was one of my first queries on my first book. I was suspicious when he sent a form acceptance letter and tested him with a query, Atlanta Nights style. He was "enthusiastic" about that terribly-written query, so I never got caught in his web. I wish I still had that badly-written query. It was stupid.

Jamesaritchie
04-06-2005, 04:06 AM
I'm sorry, but I just don't buy it. If the agency says that they are not accepting querys, then fine, throw them all out. But if they are asking for queries, then they owe the courtesy of a response. Every one of us has parts of our jobs that are time consuming and "wasteful", but we do them because it's the cost of doing business. I have to attend meetings, answer phone calls and email even though this drains time away from my job of programming databases.

I would even argue that this practice of nonresponse is counter productive for the following reasons:

1) If the agent simply throws queries away unopened (unless she doesn't need new clients or projects), will never find the occasional gem. Why ask for queries in the first place?

2) If she opens, reads, then tosses those she's not interested in, she invites a re-query letter from the author asking if she received the original query. I contend that sticking a form rejection into a SASE or replying to an email is more efficient.

3) A serious writer who does not receive a response will not try that agent again (at least I won't). This means that over time, the agent will only receive first-time queries from first-time writers. The chances of finding a publishable story then drops to near zero. This is self-defeating.

Professional courtesy is not something you do because it is in some rulebook somewhere. You do it because it works.

First, don't assume that because you don't receive a response, no one else does. No matter who the agent is, she will respond to most of what comes in. Even in the hard times, she will still usually respond to at least 60-70% of what comes in, unless no response is the policy, and writers should know this.

If you didn't receive a response, and it was intentional, that agent probably doesn't care to hear from you again. And she'll probaly be right. And I can ignore a follow-up query as easily as I ignored the query itself. If it wasn't intentional, I want you to send a follow-up.

"Serious writer" really doesn't mean much. Serious is whose opinion?

Some facts.

1. About 70% of the queries I receive as an editor or an agent come from writers who stand very little chance of selling anything, at any time, to anyone. If they never come back, I've lost nothing. I may make an occasional mistake on a writer, but not anywhere near often enough to harm me in any way. True slush piles are even worse. There I can count on 90% coming from writers who simply stand no chance, at least the way they're writing at the time, and probably ever.

2. As I said above, even in really bad times, I'll still respond to something over half of what comes in. I'll usually respond to more than 90%. But I guarantee all the good writers I'll ever need are going to be in that top half. Far more good writers than I'll ever need will be in that top half.

3. In fact, let me give you some numbers. Agents, good agents, at least, can usually take on very few writers each year. I know two very good agents who can take on no more than 3-5 new writers each year. Some years they can take on none, some years only one or two, but usually it's 3-5. This is not at all uncommon. No worthwhile agent can take on many new writers in a given year. And some years these two agents can't find five they want.

These agents both receive close to 1,000 queries per year. Sometimes more.

Each agent will receive from fifty to one hundred queries each year from writers who have already proven, in one way or another, that they can write. They will have sold short stories to good magazines, they will have won a contest, etc. This pool alone gives an agent from ten to twenty times more good writers than she can take on.

Another 100 or so queries will come from writers who can show they've been through a good writing program, maybe Clarion, maybe Iowa, but somewhere. Maybe they have an MFA.

That's already as many as 200 writers when you can only take 3-5 tops.

And just about all this 200 will have sent query letters that are well-written, professionally presented, and on target. And just about every last one of these writers will receive a reasonably prompt and (probably) encouraging response.

The next 100 queries won't have the things going for them that the first two hundred had, but a reasonable percentage come from writers who did their research, who spell correctly, who use proper grammar, and who at least know what kind of novel I want at the time, and might even have read some of the novels I've sold in the past.

100% of the writers asked to send more will come from these three groups. At least 90% of the writers they actually take on will be from group one, and another 8-9% will come from group two. Group three gives them a writer about once every second or third or fourth or fifth year.

In truth, if the agent simply responded to this 30%, there would still never, ever be a shortage of good writers sending queries. The agent would still receive far more queries than are needed or wanted.

If you're actually selling novels to mainstream publishers, the queries are never going to stop coming, and a great many of them will always be from the type of writers found in the first three groups, and these writers will always receive a response, unless something is lost, etc. Unfortunately, no matter what you do, even more queries will always come from the bottom 70%.

And people really don't seem to understand the time factor. You can talk productive or counterprodctive all you want. Neither matters in the least. When I say there is no time for an agent to respond to all queries, I don't mean time is short, I mean there is no time. And when there is no time, there is NO time. There isn't a little bit of time which means I could do a rush job, there's NO time. None. Not a spare second. It means I've already worked sixty or more hours that week, including taking a boatload of work home on the weekend, and it would take another twenty hours or more to get everything else done. Ain't gonna happen.

It's no different with magazine editors. Sometimes manuscripts simply come in faster than anyone can possibly read them, and they keep coming in day after day, week after week, month after month. And when they come in faster than you can read them, options are limited.

Many editors hold slush parties where a group of editors, writers, and sometimes anyone and everyone who can be hauled into the room, spend an entire day or weekend trying to lower the level of the slush pile to a manageable level. This is not a pretty sight. It's a miracle if two pages of anything gets read.

This does not, however, work well with queries. Queries are a more personal thing, and while anyone can discard ones with grammar errors, etc., a query letter usually requires the attention of an actual agent or editor, or one trusted assistant who really knows the agent or editor's taste.

Writers don't seem to understand where and how an agent spends her time, or how many writers there are out there. The internet has caused massive growth in the number of people who want to be writers, and worse, it's greatly incresaed the percentage of wannabe writers who actually submit things. The number of wannabe writers is now approaching 15,000,000. Stats are usually behind reality, so the true number may be two or three million higher than this. The number grows each day.

Now, I'm primarily a writer, but I've been an editor, and I've worked the slush pile for a couple of agents. As an editor or an agent, I do my best. I try to respond to everything. It simply is not always possible.

And sometimes it isn't required in any sense of the word. If I don't handle mysteries, and you send a query for a mystery novel, forget about it. If you send a query full of grammar or spelling errors, I owe you nothing.

And in truth, I don't think I OWE you a response in any sense of the word, no matter what you send or how you send it. I respond because that's just the way it works best for all concerned, when it's possible. But I do not OWE you anything.

I put out guidelines because I do need writers. I'll respond whenever it's possible, and if things work out, this will be far more often than not. But it doesn't always work out. Sometimes there are far too many queries, partials, full manuscripts, too many meetings, too many deals being negotiated, too many writers I'm already working with who need attention, and far too much travelling I have to do. Time runs out completely.

And because editors and agents are human, they have human problems. Even a bad cold can put you a week behind, which really means a week plus whatever you were already behind. Relationship problems, child problems, accidents, even minor ones, can also put you miles behind. Even a jammed right index finger can slow you down more than most would believe.

Never mind more serious accidents or health problems.

And even though I have an accountant, you have no idea what kind of time-consuming hell tax season can be. If one relatively minor error is made, the headache can be major.

There are times you get discouraged, times you get depressed, times you have to have a break, even if it means some work gets pushed away.

A vacation usually just means a week or two or doing your work from another location. It almost never means lying on the beach with your eyes closed for two weeks.

And like it or not, when time runs out, you have to cut, and what you cut is whatever time-consuming task is least important. Responding to queries I wish I'd never seen is the least important thing I have to do, and it's what gets cut first.

Most editors and agents do try to respond to pretty much everything that comes in, and believe me, if you're sending out a lot of queries and receiving no responses at all, you're doing something horribly wrong. Instead of worrying about an editor or agent being rude, you need to back up and look long and hard at your querying procedures, and at the queries themselves. That's where the problem is.

It's also wise to consider that a positive response from the wrong agent is far worse than no response from a good agent.

As for your SASE, well, I'm sorry about that. I ask for SASE because without it, I can't begin to respond to all the writers I do respond to. Without SASE, no one receives a response. But let's get real, for a query, SASE just isn't very much money, and if you're spending a hundred dollars or more a year querying agents, I can almost guarantee you aren't doing the kind of agent research a good query requires. Yes, I demand you send SASE, but in no way do I guarantee it will be used or returned. When I put that in the guidelines, you can complain. Until then, get over it, or keep your SASE and your query.

There's no disdain in not responding. There's nothing personal about it in any way. Usually. If I receive a query that's full of grammar errors, or that is trying to sell me a spoon when my guidelines clearly state I want forks, you don't deserve a response. Even then I'll usually try to send a simple "No thanks," but not because I owe it to you. A firm "No Thanks" is more likely to mean you won't come back, so if tehre's time, that's what I'll do. Though teh response may well ne just "No!" written on your query.

As an editor or agent, I don't owe you anything at all up until the time we start working together. Nothing. I try to be courteous, I try to respond to everything, but I do NOT owe you a response. I respond because it helps calm the water, and because I see that many who query are doing their level best to do the required research, and to give me a professional presentation of a professionally written novel.

Every editor and agent I know tries to respond to everything, unless the policy is that no response within a certain time span automatically means no, and most of us do a pretty good job of responding.

And like it or not, if you're sending out fifty or sixty or a hundred queries without receiving responses, you're doing something truly, horribly wrong.
Odds are extremly high you're doing at least one of the following two things horribly wrong. Perhaps both. 1. The query is written in a way that simply is not going to catch the interest of any good agent at all, in any possible way. It's just written poorly. 2. The query is clearly generic, and is one any decent agent will know is going to be sent to a bunch of other agents without anything except the name and address of the agent being changed.

A query letter that's even halfway well-written, halfway professionally presented, and that shows evidence of any research at all, should receive a 70-80% response rate, minimum.

And I'll tell you something no new writer out there is going to like. A best-selling pro writer told me this some twenty years ago. Editors and agents have confirmed it since, and as an editor and agent I can tell you it's true.

He said, "By and large, a query letter from a new writer is NOT a tool editors and agents use to find new writers. Just the opposite. By and large, a query letter from an unpubllished writer is a tool agents and editors use to weed out a tremendous number of writers without ever needing to actually read a word of their fiction."

He was dead-on right. Reading the fiction of new writers simply takes far too much time and manpower, especially when we know at least 90% of it is going to be hopeless. Rejecting a query, or not responding to it at all, on the other hand, is much faster and considerably less painful.

As an editor or agent, I am not looking for reasons to take your novel when I read a query letter. I'm looking for ways to reject the bottom 70% of query writers, and the bottom 90% of all writers, in the quickest, most painless way possible.

The writers I want and need are not concerned with such things as feeling insulted because they didn't receive a response. They don't shotgun queries. They do the needed research. They gve me some reason to believe they can actually write fiction that the reading public will buy. There's always, always, always more to the query letter than a brief synopsis of their novel, though the synopsis itself will probably read very well. Not that it matters much how well it reads.

It will almost certainly NOT be the synopsis of your novel that makes me ask to see more. It's just the final piece of the puzzle, and there's no way on earth I can tell whether or not you can actually write fiction based on the synopsis part of your query letter.

As an editor or agent, I WANT to reject most of you as quickly and as painlessly as possible (Painless for me), and to be bluntly honest, I'd just as soon the bottom half of you did not send me anything else.

But I DO want to find enough new, good writers to fill out my list. I find these in the top thirty percent, and mostly in the top ten percent, and even more usually in the top three or four percent of writers who are far more concerned with being good writers than with being insulted, or who aren't worried about losing their SASE money. To be honest, be it with an agent or editor, the top four percent or writers accounts for close to 100% of what I take on or buy.

And if your SASE is that important, for heaven's sake don't send it to me. I don't want the responsibility. Put it in a bank where it will be safe, and where it can earn some interest.

I try to respond to everyone, but it simply is not always possible, and sometimes it isn't called for, and I do NOT owe it to you.

And it's up to you to put yourself somewhere in the top thirty percent of submissions, and preferably in the top ten percent, and please, God, in the top three or four percent. My job in no way, shape, or form has anything to do with helping you get there. If you are in the top thirty percent, I'll try to offer a bit of encouragement. If you're in the top ten percent, I'll try to help in any way possible to get you get into the top few percent where it really matters. I'll probably even suggest another agent, if I can't take you on. But that's it.

dragonjax
04-06-2005, 05:16 AM
James, thank you so much for your detailed post. And aboyd thank you for your post as well.

Do not meddle in the affairs of editors, for their ways are subtle, and quick to anger...

SRHowen
04-06-2005, 05:23 AM
I did average about a 90% response rate to snail mailed queries. Many had that simple NO scrawled across the top of my query letter. Most had a sentence or two, a few suggested another agent--some invited mne to re-query them in a few months to a year.

Many who took e-mail queries didn't respond.

Shrug. I moved on. No use crying over it.

My query letter is not the norm, but it's all there, the word candy to the agent about their books, their web site and so on. All the details they need and it only takes one page--it shows I understand that they have limited time.

Yes, you are going to make that agent money--but who makes the most off the deal? You do.

Agents don't work for you, it is a partnership.

My query sample is here: http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9780

Shawn

brinkett
04-06-2005, 06:09 AM
James, informative post. The only thing I don't buy is that if you don't get a response, it means the query was terrible, only because the same query (same plot synopsis) can get different results, anywhere from no response to a rejection to a request for partial. It is a subjective evaluation, that's why the agent or trusted assistant handles queries.

And hey folks, this is the Rejection and Dejection forum, is it not? I may be here complaining about something, but that doesn't mean I'm unduly concerned about it or don't move on when it happens. I'm just blowing off steam... :cool:

DeadlyAccurate
04-06-2005, 06:47 AM
And if your SASE is that important, for heaven's sake don't send it to me. I don't want the responsibility. Put it in a bank where it will be safe, and where it can earn some interest.

Was the sarcasm necessary to make your point?

Pencilone
04-06-2005, 12:52 PM
And I'll tell you something no new writer out there is going to like. A best-selling pro writer told me this some twenty years ago. Editors and agents have confirmed it since, and as an editor and agent I can tell you it's true.

He said, "By and large, a query letter from a new writer is NOT a tool editors and agents use to find new writers. Just the opposite. By and large, a query letter from an unpubllished writer is a tool agents and editors use to weed out a tremendous number of writers without ever needing to actually read a word of their fiction."

I guess being at the top one forgets the roots.

ALL writers (best-selling or not) have been NEW writers at the beginning of their careers.

If the query just weeds us out of the game, what is left to do?

So what is the advice for the humble rest of us?

Is it better to send the query together with a one page synopsis? But that would mean in some cases NOT following the strict guidelines that ask for only a query first...

It will almost certainly NOT be the synopsis of your novel that makes me ask to see more. It's just the final piece of the puzzle, and there's no way on earth I can tell whether or not you can actually write fiction based on the synopsis part of your query letter.
:Shrug: And I thought that an exciting story makes an agent say "Yes! I want to see more of it, I want to see the writing!". That seemed logical to me, as that IS what they are supposed to sell. The reader in a bookstore cares about the story, that is what sells the book to him.
GEE! I can only think: I really hate those agents! :guns: :guns: :guns: :whip:

SRHowen
04-06-2005, 02:33 PM
He said, "By and large, a query letter from a new writer is NOT a tool editors and agents use to find new writers. Just the opposite. By and large, a query letter from an unpubllished writer is a tool agents and editors use to weed out a tremendous number of writers without ever needing to actually read a word of their fiction."

I am going to have to agree with jamesR here. BUT, that's why you need to make your query stand out in some way over others without weird stuff---like cookies or some such.

Make it as pro as you can, show them you did research, show them you know what they publish, show them you know the ropes, show them you know what they might need from you. and write a synop that shows your work is pro and that you understand comercial ficiton.

It's all you can do, that and don't give up.

Shawn

dragonjax
04-06-2005, 03:23 PM
Guys, it's all a crap shoot. Really. All we can do is write the best damn query we can, research the market, and keep sending out the queries. I haven't tried Shawn's approach to queries, and if my latest batch of queries all strike out, I'll give that a shot.

Never be daunted.