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Old 10th November 2009, 09:25 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect some sort of form acknowledgement for a submission. As somebody said above, literary agency is a business, and it is good business practice to respond to business communications.

As somebody who works 9-5 in an office, I can say that in my experience people who don't bother to acknowledge e-mails often cause a good amount of uncertainty and inefficiency for the sender.

If it's tedious for the agent, what of it? There's plenty of tedium in everyone's working day.
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Old 10th November 2009, 09:27 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

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I've worked pretty high up in pretty big companies and it doesn't matter how good someone is, attitude is everything and will get you fired faster than diarrhea.
* Wonders who runs these companies. *


The lack of acceptance by one's peers (in particular, those who can put one's work in front of a wider audience) has not stopped some people developing their genius.

In fact I'd always thought that one aspect of artistic genius is a burning desire to create works of art in spite of what the world might throw - or at them; or not throw to them. (Not that this burning desire is the only thing required, otherwise the terminally deluded would all be geniuses.)
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Old 10th November 2009, 09:53 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

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I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect some sort of form acknowledgement for a submission. As somebody said above, literary agency is a business, and it is good business practice to respond to business communications.

As somebody who works 9-5 in an office, I can say that in my experience people who don't bother to acknowledge e-mails often cause a good amount of uncertainty and inefficiency for the sender.

If it's tedious for the agent, what of it? There's plenty of tedium in everyone's working day.

A very fair point,well done. We all hate aspects of our jobs, but we still turn up every day and do them.
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Old 10th November 2009, 10:43 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

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* Wonders who runs these companies. *

Why, exlaxatives of course.
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Old 10th November 2009, 10:55 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

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But we'll never know if he would have achieved a genius level because he wasn't given a chance to develop it. I know it's unlikely, but still - I hate to think of anyone not being given their fair chance. The phrase 'talent will out' is a pleasing one, but it seems more of a promise than a guarantee.

This business of offending people, and offending people enough to have them drop you... I have a cousin who writes poetry. He's had many poems published in literary journals and magazines but no publisher has wanted to put a collection together. A while back he was taken to dinner by a publisher and agent. During the course of the evening they asked him his likes and dislikes among his peers. He told them. That was that. He never had any word back directly but later heard through a third party that he'd listed too many of 'their' poets among his dislikes. He was bitterly disappointed but I told him he ought to be pleased as they'd made of him a dissident. God only knows what their requirements are on an editorial level.

But you see what I mean - what might be a normal, healthy cause for debate between you and I is something rather more sinister when conducted on a professional level. One might almost call it a form of censorship.

Apologies too if this is coming across as whining or abrasive in any way - we all have our life experiences, for better or for worse, and I suspect I might be perilously close to your dropped writer in character and temperament.
I sympathise with your cousin, blacknorth. But don't you think 'censorship' is putting it a little high? If he dislikes the poets that the agent and the publisher represent, does that not tend to indicate they have different ideas about poetry, how it should be handled, what it should say. Yes, you and I could approach these things from opposite ends of the spectrum, have an interesting debate on the merits of rhyme, and that would be it. The fact that you hate John Donne and adore TS Eliot is irrelevant to my financial future. But if I were publishing Donne-like works for which I had a ready and lucrative market, I would think twice about engaging someone who wanted to write something akin to 'The Wasteland' which would leave me cold and which I might not be able to sell because I would have no enthusiam for it. Granted, the agent and publisher must have liked your cousin's work to have taken matters as far as they did, but the same still holds true. There is also the question of publicity - what if your cousin was asked the self-same question by a journalist and started knocking the work of several poets who all had the same agent and publisher as he did - I know I'd be pretty p****d off if that happened. There is candour and there is tactlessness.

By the way, I don't think 'talent will out' is even a promise. Talent is nothing without dedication and perseverence. Even with them, not every talented person will have a chance, fair or otherwise. And as we see daily, the supremely untalented appear to be in the ascendant. Life isn't fair, unfortunately.

And no, you're not coming across as whining - perhaps just a little naive though. And apologies from me, if I appear a little abrasive in my replies. I've worked with too many whingers over the years.

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Old 10th November 2009, 11:09 PM   #36 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

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But we'll never know if he would have achieved a genius level because he wasn't given a chance to develop it.
But he was given his chance. Publishers only have so many slots to fill; they only have so many "chances" to hand out. He published one book, and it wasn't enormously promising. If they gave him another chance, it would have been at somebody else's expense -- either a brand new writer, or somebody else who was at the same point in their career. You know, somebody else who might have gone on to genius level, and might not get a chance to develop it otherwise. In these situations, a little good will can make a difference. He had nurtured ill will instead.

There are moments in many writers' careers where they need a strong advocate, an agent or an editor who is really willing to make a special effort on their behalf. If you've already alienated too many people, there won't be anyone who wants to do that for you. When you want people to do favors for you, it helps if they know that you appreciate everything else they've already done on your behalf.



As for those who say that it's perfectly fair to expect some sort of acknowledgement, I agree ... if some sort of acknowledgement is promised. If the agency guidelines say, "We won't respond unless we are interested," then by sending them your work you accept their conditions. Is it fair to do that and then complain? Send your work elsewhere.

And for those who keep comparing sending out acknowledgements to the boring things they have to do as part of their jobs: Those boring things are, presumably, part of your job description. They are things you are getting paid to do. No one pays agents to say, "No thank you." It is not part of their job description. If they decide to do it, well and good, but unlike you, who are paid to do tedious and possibly unproductive things, they only get paid for results.
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Old 11th November 2009, 02:45 AM   #37 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

Hi Teresa - fair enough, though one book seems a little harsh but I take your point.

Hi Judge, censorship probably is too strong a word. And you are spot on about the difference candour and tactlessness. And my own naivety.

I should probably indulge in a little self-censorship and move from negative to a more constructive form of criticism - but then I had this vision of a bunch of published writers in a room lined with their own books, agreeing that all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds - a variation on Sartre's Huis Clos.
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Old 11th November 2009, 04:08 AM   #38 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

blacknorth, these days you usually only have one book to make your mark. If it doesn't sell really well, you are gone. One of the joys of the information age: Bookstores can look up the overall numbers on your last book, and if it didn't do well, they want no part of you. Other publishers can look up the numbers on your last book, too.

In those days, which were gentler days, publishers sometimes stuck with you a while longer even with mediocre sales, in order to give you time to build a career. But the editors who made the decision to stick with you were taking a risk, because if too many of the writers they were nurturing that way didn't do well, then their careers suffered. Who would you take that risk for, all other things being equal? The person you liked, or the person you were learning to heartily dislike?

How hard is it to be pleasant and when something that you can't change comes up just remain silent? New authors should pick their battles. There is no use going into the business with the attitude that you know more than the people who are already in it. Respect them, assume that they know what they are doing (until proven otherwise), and they will respect you. Good agents are the people that writers depend on to believe in them, fight for them, look after their best interests always. And they may never see a single penny for their efforts. It's a lot to ask. Is it too much for them to expect to decide exactly how and when they want to enter into these relationships?

Now once you have signed with an agent, you should expect certain things of them -- and if they don't deliver, you fire them.

Last edited by Teresa Edgerton; 11th November 2009 at 04:24 AM.
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Old 11th November 2009, 04:21 AM   #39 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

I think it's important to keep the art and the business end of things separate.

The art - or craft - is the writing itself. The business angle is negotiating the world of agents, editors, publishers and so forth. As a writer you are more or less forced into being a sort of entrepreneur, and you need to be businesslike about it. This means being unemotional in a lot of ways and making sure never to close off any avenues that may lead to publication.

The agent system isn't prevalent in India. Instead I deal regularly with an editor who would never touch any of my horror stories with a bargepole but who has published two of my short stories for children and is currently discussing the possibility of including a third in an upcoming anthology. If I stood on my pride and shut off contact with her after she failed to respond to the proposal I sent her regarding my more horrific or adult-oriented work I'd be the loser. I don't make big money off these short stories, but the publishing credits count for something. It lets me get something out there into print at any rate, and from reasonably major publishers. Building a business takes time and patience. I may never have that universe-shattering collection of cosmic horror published, but it won't be because I over-reacted to someone else's behaviour (or lack of it, which seems to be the topic of this thread).
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Old 11th November 2009, 10:22 AM   #40 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ursa major
* Wonders who runs these companies. *



Quote:
By Dustinzgirl
Why, exlaxatives of course


Dusty, you've been spending too much time in the company of Ursa!! Good one.

One thing that does cheer me up in regard to Agents/Publishers is to think of all those who rejected JK Rowling, GRR Martin, Pat Rothfuss, The Beatles - the list goes on and on.... and all those who (so far) have rejected me, of course.
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Old 11th November 2009, 10:50 AM   #41 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

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And for those who keep comparing sending out acknowledgements to the boring things they have to do as part of their jobs: Those boring things are, presumably, part of your job description. They are things you are getting paid to do. No one pays agents to say, "No thank you." It is not part of their job description. If they decide to do it, well and good, but unlike you, who are paid to do tedious and possibly unproductive things, they only get paid for results.
Responding to e-mails to do with my work is not part of my job description either, but I still do it. A sender needs to know that their message has been received at the very least. It's just good practice, and also basic courtesy.

Absence of a positive reply is not the equivalent of a rejection, and should not be considered so. There's any number of reasons why a reply might have gone astray. If the sender never receives a response, they can never be completely sure what's actually happened.

I think it's a bit ironic that I've only ever failed to receive a response to one or two postal submissions I've sent out, but agency practices over e-mail seem to be much more haphazard.
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Old 11th November 2009, 12:40 PM   #42 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

Okay, if an Agent reads your book and after 10 pages (John Jarrold says he can make his mind up after that number) he decides its not for him.

How difficult would it be to put it in the decline pile and for one off his staff to email/post a reply.

Or in Johns case, as he only accepts email submissions, to fire of a "No Thankyou"

I'm sure that the agents are aware that if someone actually finishes a book and submits it. They are in the minority because most people don't.

By finishing their novel they are proving they are dedicated even if their writing is rubbish. That deserves some sort of response I would say.

Success breeds arrogance in some people, which makes them dismissive of the efforts of someone who isn't going to make them millions. Whereas, a humble agent who cant wait to read the next offering as it could be the next blockbuster is more likely to be more respectful.

After all everyone who submits, is a potential customer to the Agencies, and who in the retail sector would ignore a customer who spoke to them in the middle of their premises.

The answer is - no one would be that stupid.

They should reply, that's my opinion.
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Old 11th November 2009, 01:26 PM   #43 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

A fine post, Gary, but I'm afraid that I disagree.

This is really about business reality. Like it or not, there are more wannabe writers than there are agents or publishers willing to take them on. A new writer needs an agent or publisher much more than an agent or publisher needs them. So there is no real driver - beyond a nod to common courtesy - for agents or publishers to reply to people they aren't taking any further.

Once you are a published author with zillions of sales, you can pretty much call the shots. I'll be first in the queue demanding brandy glasses full of brown smarties when or if I get there, but until then I'm going to have to be a Good Boy and keep my enormous ego under firm control, which is no easy task.

Another harsh reality is that many (if not most) aspiring writers are not actually very good at writing. There is a dangerous tendency to believe that writing (however execrable) is a bold expression of creative genius and that somehow everyone who writes a book is an "artist" who is entitled to be treated with hushed respect and kid gloves. This is tommy rot. Many published books (let alone unpublished ones) have no spark of individual creativity in them whatsoever and are all to frequently pale, derivative shadows of the genuinely Great Works which they ape. For most successful or jobbing authors (and jolly good luck to them) professional writing is a job, or perhaps a career. As in any other job, you have to put in the hours and play the game. As in any other job, things will happen which seem unfair. Too bad.

I personally do get annoyed if agents actively state that they are seeking submissions and then do not reply at all. I have only ever had one agent do that (no names, no pack drill), but so what? I'd worked out that he wasn't interested and moved on anyway. It might be rude or discourteous, but if that's the worst thing that is going to happen to me in any given day, I think I can live with it. We all witness rudeness and discourtesy on a daily basis, so let us just accept that the agents/publishers hold the cards and play the game accordingly.

Aspiring writers should concentrate on making their work as good as it can be, doing their homework before submitting and making sure that they follow submission guidelines. if the blighters don't reply, damn their eyes and move on.

Anything else is out of our control and therefore isn't worth getting het up about.

Regards,

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Old 11th November 2009, 05:38 PM   #44 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

I keep reading that agents receive about 10 submissions a day. That's 10 rejection responses a day. Hardly an onerous task.

I don't lose sleep over this matter, but it is irksome.
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Old 11th November 2009, 06:30 PM   #45 (permalink)
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Re: Agents that don't respond to your submissions

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I keep reading that agents receive about 10 submissions a day. That's 10 rejection responses a day. Hardly an onerous task.

I don't lose sleep over this matter, but it is irksome.
And if that was all an agent had to do I'm sure they'd be more than happy to send out rejections without fail, but it's one more thing they have to do, along with actually reading these 10 submissions a day, keeping on top of the work due from their existing list of authors who are approaching deadlines, chasing up publishers who are considering manuscripts from one, two or more of their clients, discussing new proposals with publishers on behalf of their various clients, explaining to authors why a given manuscript hasn't been accepted by a given publisher, negotiating on advances and contracts for work the publishers are interested in, keeping their existing 20 or 30 or 40 clients individually updated on specific developments and possibilities, etc etc etc...

You'd be amazed how quickly a day can get eaten up.
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