Those of you who regularly follow the blog know that I try to be an affable individual and aspire to help out the up-and-coming authors in need. However, there comes a time when, as someone trying to appear cool on a reality TV show might say, it’s time to keep it real. So brace yourself, because I’m going to keep it real today. Quite real. So real reality will look like a CARTOON.
Last week the always-astute Jessica Faust at BookEnds posted about how much feedback you should expect from an agent when you’ve sent them a query or even a full. I’ll give you a hint in case you are link-averse: the answer is less than 1 and more than negative 1.
Here’s my two pennies on the matter. Authors who have spent months years or years on a manuscript and who are going through the ordeal of trying to find an agent and who are emotionally invested in their work tend to feel like they are OWED a personalized, detailed response from a prospective agent, even if it’s just a query. I get lots of angry e-mails because authors feel like I OWED them more than what I gave them in response. But since this is keeping-it-real day, I have to tell you — unless you’re a client, a prospective agent doesn’t owe you anything. Our responsibility is to our clients.
Now, politeness and good-faith dictates that agents will usually respond to your submissions, will usually personalize a response to a partial, and will usually try and offer some sort of feedback on a full. This is because most agents want people to continue to submit to them, and thus will try to be as polite as possible. But not always. And not because they owe it to the prospective clients. Rejecting manuscripts is not how we make our living. We make our living selling books. And keep in mind — the time we spend rejecting manuscripts is actually time when we are not selling books.
Here’s the good news – if you submit to me, I have different rules! If you send me a personalized query and/or mention the blog I’ll try and give you a personalized response (emphasis on try). I also try and give some feedback on partials and fulls, and I blog and answer questions over at Absolute Write. This is because (1) I am a young agent actively building my list and want to receive as many queries as possible and want to be the first person people think of when they are sending their first query (queries welcome!) and (2) because I have an acute sense of guilt about rejecting 10,000 people’s life’s work every year (the nightmares!). But ultimately my responsibility is to my clients.
So please keep this in mind — if you’re going to keep up a smidgen of sanity during the submissions process, in my humble opinion the first thing you should do is drop the notion that you’re owed something from prospective agents. You’re not. If you receive a personalized response it’s because an agent took time away from their busy schedule to try and help you out. If you receive a form rejection or even no rejection at all it’s not because the agent is a horrible person and who broke some inviolable rule. It’s because they’re busy and a “no” is a “no” whether it comes with feedback or without feedback.
And that’s keeping it real.