Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sara: I won't be sorry, but neither will you.

Dear query persons who respond to my rejections with a "you will be sorry" and sometimes with a "you will always regret this":

The thing is, neither you nor I shall be sorry. I promise. You want an agent who adores your writing, who is passionate about your book and who feels confident that they know how to sell it. No matter how good your book is, an agent who feels lukewarm about it will not be an asset to you. We say this often, but it is true- agents turn down saleable projects because we don't have the right experience or enthusiasm for the material. All agents might turn down a project that goes on to be published and performs well, and think maybe we should have rethought taking on that project, but this business is so subjective, we have to go with our gut. We did not love it, so we did not take it on, and someone who loved it sold it and another person who loved it bought it, and that is probably why it is doing so well.

There is a preoccupation with the idea that agents are often proven wrong and are sitting at our desks ruing the day we tossed that manuscript aside, and I can see why it is an appealing vision to someone in the midst of the frustrating, lengthy process of looking for the right agent. At every conference I have attended I am asked if I passed on something that I regret. I do see why you want to know, because we agents deal with rejections, too. We sometimes lose a new client that we want to another agent, and we have editors rejecting our submissions. We understand. But we have to focus on clients that want us as much as we want them, and on finding the editor who loves the project as much as we do, not on the editors who don't.

So please, don't call me to plead your case, or keep sending me the query I passed on. I am not going to change my mind on that particular query (however, if the agent said she would be willing to read again if you revise down the line, you should). And you can always query with a different project.

Instead of resending the same query over and over to the same agent, spend your time looking for the right agent, not trying to convince the wrong agent that she is right. Spend time on perfecting your query letter and on perfecting your manuscript, to give your project the best chance of success with the next agent who reads it.

Here is the hopeful side of this-- many successful books were once rejected by lots of agents, which means that even if one agent doesn't love it, another will. And that one or more rejections is not the end of the road.

But my no, on that particular query, is still a no.

23 comments:

  1. Great advice! I swear, I get more great advice from agents who blog. I hope it shows in my writing, and in my submissions when I start querying. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I completely agree with this - finding an agent who LOVED my book was the next best thing to ice cream and brownies. Of course, finding a publisher just as passionate about my book was the next best thing to ice cream, brownies, a good book, and curling up in front of a fire.

    When we as authors get the person who LOVES our stuff, we're happy. But on the other hand, having an agent who doesn't like the story would make for a very insecure author.

    Sigh. Here's to hoping your submitters listen to what you've said. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry, typing fast before and I included a nonsensical sentence. Here's my comment, fixed:

    Love this. I'm a former in-house editor who read submissions, and I dealt with authors who just wouldn't move on from trying to sell us on a ms we weren't excited about or that didn't fit our focus. I think sometimes new authors get stuck on pursuing the one avenue (agent or editor that actually responded) they've connected with, thinking that's their only possible "in" and getting emotionally invested in fighting that battle, without thinking about the bigger picture. I wouldn't want someone who feels so-so about my skills to hire me, someone who doesn't really like me to marry me, or someone who doesn't love my ms to represent me. An agent hunt shouldn't begin and end with one shot!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post.

    I can't believe people reply and say things like that. I read my rejections, sniffle about it for a few minutes, and then move on.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Is it inappropriate to respond to a rejection with a quick thank you?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post, Sara! I'm sure lots of writers have that initial knee-jerk reaction, but you're totally right--you NEED someone who loves your work. Why would anyone settle for less? I can only imagine that a lack of enthusiasm would show through in the long run.

    Thanks again for posting.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Years ago I used to send out poetry submissions that said, "I am a heretofore undiscovered Northwest poet. But you can change that." Um...yeah. I thought it was cute. It never worked, though.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi bqdell- I don't think any agents mind a thank you that does not also include a follow up question.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is a really salient point.

    In the past, I queried an agent whose web site professed that she would not respond to a query unless she was passionate about it. At first glance I found that insulting--was my effort not worth the time it takes to send a simple form rejection email?

    Then i reconsidered and it occured to me that I would not want to work with someone who did not see sparkly potential in my ms and in me! I have brainstormed, fretted over, revised, and loved my story. I want to work with someone who finds it interesting.

    So you are exactly right, obviously.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love this because you are gracious. Regardless of which side of the desk one occupies, it's a lovely trait.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I don't think my writing has had such improvement until I began participating in blogs, both of Agents and other writers. Some writers will never improve until they open their eyes and remove the heart from their sleeve.

    Thanks for your ongoing input. Many of us appreciate what you share.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm so sorry some writers out there respond that way! Thank you for your gracious, kind attitude, and for not letting the weird ones get you down.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Amen, amen and amen. Thanks for sharing this! :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks, Sara. Great post. I once heard an agent read a rejection he’d got from someone he rejected. The letter began with something like, “ Thank you so much for your rejection but I’m afraid I’m unable to use it at this time. For that reason I will have to reject your rejection. Please don’t take this personally. I receive many fine rejections every month, so I have be quite selective in the rejections I accept.” It went on for a full page like that. It was hilarious. The agent was obviously amused. Did it help the writer get a second look from the agent? Uh…no. In fact, this agent said that while he’d got a good laugh from the letter, he not only had no urge to look at the manuscript again but he would probably be wary of dealing with the writer as a client. He was worried he might be a problem. You're very gracious in the face of very rude behavior. Writers just need to accept the no and move on and try to find that one person they can make a connection with. That's best for everyone involved.

    ReplyDelete
  16. It still amazes me that this isn't common sense. You poor agents, I can't imagine being in your shoes. You all deserve a medal. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great post. I'm amazed that people do this. To me, it's common sense not to jump down an agent's throat about a rejection. Being persistant is one thing, being unprofessional is quite another.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I cannot BELIEVE that writers would respond in such a manner!! Everyone has their own taste. They should be saying thank you for your consideration...
    Lindsey Petersen

    ReplyDelete
  19. This is such a fantastic post. It made my Top Reads of the week. Thanks so much for the great advice!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I queried widely before finding my wonderful agent, and I'm so glad I did. You learn a lot along the querying process about what kind of agent you really want. It's easy to think "any" agent will do, but that's not true. Like you said, you need someone who is 100% in your corner. I'm polishing up my ms for submission, and am hoping to find an editor who is excited about the project as my agent and I are.

    Writing is an art, but the publishing business is a business. If you are querying, it will serve you well to keep this in mind.

    Great post! I will Tweet it. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  21. great, insightful info, and i love the use of "hopeful" not "hopefully" -- there's the good old winsor school and the six pages of diction errors in the skills class...

    ReplyDelete
  22. Well said, Sara. Great post. I found this link on the fabulous Casey McCormick's blog.:)

    ReplyDelete