This post is inspired by a question posed by Cindy (Thank you!) on a recent entry regarding rejection. (Click here to find the original entry)
Despite following all the guidelines, this author never received a response from an agent and wondered why. The reasons may be quite simple:
My office tries not to ignore emails, although we certainly aren’t mistake-proof. If we ignored you, there is an almost 100% chance the email system glitched, because we try to respond to everyone – even if only with a few words.
Since I’ve been an author in the past, I realize the value of rejections. A form letter says one thing, whereas a message with helpful advice says another, and an invitation to submit a different project in the future says something else yet again. Of course, being ignored is its own declaration, but the problem is, an overlooked author doesn’t know if she’s been unnoticed on purpose or if the submission hit a snag. Or maybe it never arrived.
When Blankets Don’t Work
In my office, the only emails consistently deleted are those whose address fields reveal that the same letter went out to a lot of other agents at the same time. A blanket submission makes me feel more like I got an ad for free breadsticks with a large pizza order, as did everyone else in town, than a submission from a thoughtful, hardworking author. If you are thoughtful and hardworking, don’t throw all that effort with this major mistake.
I don’t know how common this idea is industry-wide, but I heard at least one agent from another agency publicly say (this is my paraphrase) that unsolicited submissions can fall by the wayside because there’s no way to monetize responding to them. The agent is too busy with solicited work and clients. As an active agent myself, I understand. But I’ve ended up working with clients after we’ve gone back and forth over time, even though I didn’t offer representation on the first submissions they sent. Not responding cuts off the chance to develop a relationship with the writer.
Stick with It!
How to approach mail is a matter of philosophy. Perhaps this process lets the writer see a little about each agent’s philosophy, benefitting the author in the long run. Since it’s a two-way street, consider the submissions process your way of evaluating agents.
Next week I’ll talk about substantive issues that could be keeping you from getting a response.
Has an agent’s response changed your mind about him?
How often do you prod an unresponsive agent?
Can an agent respond too quickly, especially with a rejection letter?