I’m a writer. After months and occasionally years of work (depending on the project) I send my novels/short stories/scripts out to contests, fellowships, and of course agents.
When you discover that you’re a writer of any sort you eventually realize that you’re going to have a long spell of getting rejected. That you have to put on your Big Girl Pants and send out the manuscript/article/script/short story/poem that you slaved over for however long it took and face rejection. Unless you’re exceptionally lucky, you’re going to face rejection several times at a minimum.
Being that I went into this writing thing with my eyes wide open, it came as a surprise that rejection isn’t the worst thing to happen. Silence. Silence is the worst thing to happen. These days, most agents only take email queries (if they’re accepting queries at all, which a lot aren’t without a personal referral, but that’s a different blog post). You get your letter together, copy the first however many pages into the bottom of the email, hit send and wait.
And wait some more.
When I first got into the game, I got rejections on a fairly regular basis. Mail/Email query, wait 6-12 weeks depending on their requirements, get rejection. Rinse/repeat with a new agent. Painful, but expected. And I’ve had some published novels and shorts while trying to snag an agent, so I wasn’t ready to throw myself off the nearest cliff too often. I got some validation that yes, I know how to write and people actually like reading what I put out.
And then, about three years ago I noticed a trend… I didn’t get any response whatsoever. Forget an acceptance, I no longer got rejections. The first few times it happened, I sent follow up emails and never got a response to those either, but there was no sign from my email provider that anything untoward was going on technically with my email. And that’s when the language ‘if you don’t hear back from us within 4-6-8-12 weeks, assume your work was not right for us and move on’ started appearing on agent websites. Not in those exact words, but along those lines.
I totally get that agents, assistant agents, and assistants are all horrifically busy. They have a slush pile a foot high of material they’ve promised someone they already know that they’ll read and get back to them on. I understand I’m a faceless writer with no connections and am basically throwing spaghetti at the wall until hopefully something sticks, just like thousands of other writers. Despite that, I’ve gotten one rejection email out of the last seven agents that I’ve queried. None of the others even sent me that much.
Here’s the thing… I’ve done reading for contests and for production companies so I know that within the first couple of pages (sometimes the first couple of paragraphs) the reader forms an instant opinion of, “Ugh. This sucks,” or, “WooHOO! Buy it!” Sometimes the reader is unsure and continues to read, and reads the whole thing only to decide, legitimately, that it’s not for them or their agency, and that’s absolutely fine. But it only takes about 2-5 minutes tops to open a form rejection email, copy/paste the author’s email in the ‘To’ field, and hit send. I suppose, if you have to do a search for the writer’s name to find the email address, we can add a few more minutes to that.
The other issue is that if the novel/script/whatever is read and discounted the same day or within a week or two, the writer still has to wait the allotted amount of time listed on the website without the formal rejection. No Simultaneous Submissions is a real bitch. If I query agents that say ‘wait 12 weeks before submitting elsewhere/again’ then I only send my novel/script/whatever out three times in an entire year. Granted, most agents say 6-8 weeks, but that’s still a long time to wait and start all over again. But if the reader replies to the writer once they’re done, it chisels the writer out of their frozen wasteland of waiting and lets them query a different agent right away. No wasted time.
I guess I’m bitching about respect. The courtesy of remembering that someone spent a chunk of their life, soul, and heart working on their novel/script/whatever and should at least get a form letter acknowledging their existence, if not their hard work. I’m not lobbying for anything customized to show the reader actually read all the way through, or advice on how to make it better, or recommendations to an agent who actually might love the book because it’s well written and up their alley. I know that takes too much time from people who have hundreds of other hopeful authors to read, connections or not, and it’s not their job anyhow when dealing with a rejection.
I’m asking that agents remember that writers are people too. We know you’re insanely busy and most of us respect that. Please respect us in return and actually reject us instead of casting us into the abyss of silence.
(Then again, maybe it’s just me. heh. I try not to be paranoid about things like that, though, so I’ll assume it’s not just me. Feel free to chime in.)