Category Archives: logging submissions
The debate over the “No Response Means No” policy many literary agencies have adopted has been buzzing over the literary blogosphere for days now and—I just can’t help it—I have to add my two-cents worth.
Some agents are defending their right to simply not respond to queries that don’t interest them (you can catch two of their blog posts here and here.) And, if we’re going to keep objective about it, it is, after all, their right. You, as the author, are not their client. They don’t actually owe you anything. There’s no law or decree binding them to even read your email.
I can appreciate their reasons for deciding not to respond. 1.) It takes time out of the day, time that is better spent with clients or, as one agent wrote, kids 2.) It opens the agent up to receive angry responses 3.) It creates a very negative frame of mind to deliver all that bad news.
I respect these agents. I read their blogs and think almost everything they say is super-awesome. I do have a mind of my own in here somewhere, though, and I have to respectfully disagree with them. Here’s why:
It’s not that hard to write rejection letters. This is a process that could be long and drawn-out, if I didn’t do it so often that I’ve streamlined it into a mindless, automatic, quick process. Mine’s a bit longer than others’ because I have a compulsion to obsessively track everything that crosses my desk. Here’s how I do:
- I ask authors to place the word “query” somewhere in the subject line of their e-query. This prompts my email program to automatically place the email in my “queries” folder and send the author an automatic response to let them know I’ve received their query and what to expect from me as far as response time, etc. Time: 0 seconds.
- When I get around to reading queries (every day, at some point), I log each query in my giant Excel spreadsheet of every query I receive and my response. I do this so that Excel’s autofill feature will tip me off if I’ve received a query from an author more than once and so that when authors say, “Hey, I queried you and…” I’ll know what they’re talking about at a glance. It also helps me compile statistics so that I can have fun making blog posts about them. Time: 5 seconds
- When rejecting, I simply hit “reply,” select a pre-written and preformatted signature from the drop-down menu, remove the word “query” from the subject line so if they respond it doesn’t go in my query folder and hit send. Time: 5 seconds.
- Update my spreadsheet with my response: 2 seconds.
So the total time I spend on each author to reject a query is 12 seconds. The total time I would really need to spend on rejection letters is probably closer to 7 seconds, without my obsessive logging.
I don’t mind angry attacks from rejectees. And besides, I’d get angry responses from those I ignored if I never responded, anyway. I get it. I totally do. Their whole family told them they’re a brilliant writer, their high school guidance counselor sent them off to college with a request for a signed copy of their future first novel, they’ve sent their query and their high hopes to a bzillion agents only to have them dashed. And now I’ve broken the camel’s back by saying I wasn’t hooked. I’m sorry, angry rejectee. I’m not being sarcastic; I really am sorry that things didn’t turn out the way you expected. I hate when that happens too.
I would not want to be the author who gets no response. I would imagine that sending your brain-child out into the world and receiving no response would be agonizing. After putting myself in the author’s shoes, I cringe at what I know my mind would do to me. I’d jump and squeal at the response and then I’d feel really stupid when I figured out it was an auto-confirmation. Doh. Then, I’d obsessively check my email all day long for six weeks, just waiting to hear that response. I’d peruse the agent’s blog and twitter account, hoping to catch a glimmer of something or imagining how great it would be to be the client of this agent. I’d re-read my submission until I had no perspective at all. Then, when no response came, I’d drive myself nuts wondering if the agent got it at all. Maybe it was in her spam folder. Maybe she accidentally deleted it. Should I follow up? Is that in poor taste? Will I be blacklisted for being annoying? Maybe she…well, maybe… This would be my own personal version of a long, drawn-out hell.
If I can spend 12 seconds and rescue authors from that, I will.
A caveat: I sometimes delete queries without ever reading them. Yup. I do that. If the author sends me an email with just a link that I have to then click on, or a Word document attachment as their query, I’ll just delete it because it will take longer than those 12 seconds, taking time away from all the authors who did follow the guidelines.
Finally, what do you think? Would you rather get no response at all or a form response? Would you rather wait something like six months and get a rejection letter that had lots of feedback or only two weeks and get an email that just read: “no?”
My job here at Touchstone/Fireside is incredibly boring – to the normal, social, book hating college student. To me, it is so stimulating and so satisfying that I smile when I wake up on an interning day. Sure, I basically read all day long, but to a person like me, who would do that anyway if I didn’t need to make money or go to school, that’s a dream come true. A prayer for the impossible, answered! But I’ll assume that many people reading this, perhaps most, are the normal sort of people. You know, those who have lives and interests that don’t involve paper, those who come to work in order to make money, in other words, instead of showing up anyway, knowing full well there will be no check.
One part of my job that I do all day long would be particularly mind-numbing to someone who isn’t me. I get emails from the editorial assistants (who have gotten the emails from the editors they work for) to log submissions. This function can be performed by a well-trained chimpanzee, I am sure. I enter the information – name of potential book, name of author, name of literary agent and agency, date and editor’s initials. You might be thinking, “But you have to go digging up that information, right? You have to dig through piles and piles of archived submissions, right?” No. I wasn’t being sarcastic about the chimp. All the information is right in the email. The editor could have done it herself if she didn’t have a bzillion things to do. The editorial assistant could have done it herself, if she didn’t have a bzillion of the editor’s things to do. The task has been relegated to lowly little me, because the universe is always trying to depress and cut-down her poor, human inhabitants. Interns are no one, so why should they have interesting tasks to complete? But, alas! The universe has overlooked one tiny little factor: I like logging the submissions. Yup, I said it. I even look forward to it.
You see, lodged in the bland covering of sugarless and flavorless chocolate that is the log-submissions task, is a little nugget of yummy, yummy caramel: attached to each of the emails of information from the editorial assistants is the actual submission. Just one click, and I get to read proposals of very exciting new projects, first chapters of books written by famous people’s ghostwriters and I get to hear about, in depth, idea after interesting and intriguing idea. So what, I have to eat the bland stuff to get to the gold? Big deal. I get to be mentally and intellectually stimulated – all day long. Who says I don’t get paid?
Today, I read a proposal for a book about all of the disasters and mishaps in the past that have the potential to or have almost caused the apocalypse. It’s a humorous book, but under the humor are all well-researched, actual facts. The sample chapters included the megatsunami that is scientifically proven to happen to New York City in the near future, killing everyone, the little nanorobots that are designed to do nothing more than self-replicate all over the place, ripping apart everything (including us) to make more of themselves, man-made tornadoes that run out of control and so on. The book would be hilarious except for the Colbert-report type realism underlying the humor. I’m laughing out loud at the jokes and the Halloween-haunted-house tone, but I’m actually a terrified, screaming little girl inside ready to run for my life. I mean, this is like, actual-factual.
Another great proposal (I thought) was one for a book about the menopausal mom, which sounds like such a drag just from the title but is actually a great idea. There are so many more babies born today to moms over thirty-five, and there have been books written on early parenting, infertility and other support topics for just this set, but nothing of real substance has been written for women who are going through menopause while trying to bring up teenagers. No one has given much thought to the mom who has a sarcastic teenager with an attitude, parents she might be parenting and all of the tiring, depressing symptoms associated with menopause. Doesn’t this woman need a book much like What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Absolutely. Everyone does, in this day and age. Unfortunately, the tone of the book’s writing is reminiscent of a mom wagging her finger in your face during a lecture. The tone here, in my own ridiculously inexperienced opinion, needs to be light-hearted, candid and funny. It should remind the poor menopausal mom of a snappy, funny, somewhat bitchy dialogue between girlfriends, not her grandmother come to rearrange her life. There are millions of parenting books out there. What these moms truly need is a book that teaches them a thing or two while providing support in a you’re-not-alone way. Not easily accomplished, I know, but what venture of value is?
Also, the writers of this book went into great detail about how to speak to your children. They had sample dialogues which read like an episode of Full House: way, way too sweet to be real, boring and just impossible. That was contradictory to me. The authors claimed to provide a book for moms who were going through menopause, bringing up kids and parenting their own parents, yet didn’t allow for the chaos factor in the lives of these same women. They need real approaches to modern-day parenting, not June Cleaver come to make them feel inferior.
These proposals were agented by real agencies with clientele exceeding one. But, as I’ve learned, that does not mean that they are perfect and all-set for publication, let’s go design the cover. They’re flawed. Sometimes, badly. Sometimes they are not even written yet. Amazingly, sometimes these proposals have spelling errors and errors of syntax and glaring, howling errors that would have been caught had the proposal been proofread before it was emailed. It appears that the editors here don’t care. That actually makes sense because those kinds of errors can be weeded out by a copy editor, who is, by the way, sometimes someone who works from home and is not even on Simon and Schuster’s payroll. But it grates on me. I want to rip the proposal from my computer screen and mark it all up with my pen. I want to chastise the agent for allowing this. I mean, any editor will notice these mistakes and any editor will be at least a little annoyed. Wouldn’t the agent want the editor to be completely enthralled by the proposal? But, again, the editors care more about the bigger picture which I’m absolutely sure is the best way. They know what they are doing and I am just a little intern who thinks she can spell better than anyone else.