Monday, May 5, 2008

My Job Description

My duty as a literary agent is to represent my clients to the best of my ability, and by and large this entails selling the rights to their works.

I do not believe that reading queries and providing feedback is part of my job description (and since I'm my own boss, I'm the final arbitrator of this). I've provided query guidance in the past on this blog, but only as a means so that I get better queries, and I read queries for a single purpose- to get clients in order to sell the rights to their works.

But no matter how irritated I might get over the really, really bad ones (see my post from last Tuesday), I will still respond to every query sent to me through my website, and if rejecting will continue to convey my "this is not for me" response. I do this for three reasons: 1) so that writers will continue to be encouraged to query me in the future; 2) in the hope that writers will treat me with the same professionalism that I treat them; and 3) good karma.

I hope this reassures any aspiring writer out there who thought I might release a tirade of abuse upon them when receiving their query.


Aimless Writer said...

Good reminder. I really don't fault an agent if they don't answer my query. I don't see an obligation to answer every unsolicited email I get, so the agent should have the same option. I think its great we get an answer at all. I had one agent respond almost a year later. Quite honestly I just thought they didn't respond to queries unless they wanted you. Or my query fell under their desk and got lost.
I think agents who answer at all are just nice (even if it is a rejection). One thing I learned from all these agent blogs is not to send a thank you. It just clogs up their mail box. (but its kind of hard not to say thanks!)
Of course, I'll just keep sending queries until someone sends a request.
Cause it's what writers do.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me there are two implied covenants that should be honored between agent and querier: that the agent answer the query in a timely manner, and that the author graciously accept the agent's pro or con response to the query. Conversely,the two unprofessional and, in my mind, unacceptable responses to queries is an agent's failure to respond to a query, and authors who 'go off' on an agent when they receive a pass.
One caveat: perhaps I don't understand the volume of queries some agents receive and due to that volume, time constraints simply make it impossible for certain agencies to respond. I may not like it, but those agencies who make it clear that they will respond only to those queries that interest them at least make that clear.
My issue is with those agents who do not indicate a 'no response' is a 'no' and leave the author dangling.

Ryan Field said...

You're right. Providing feedback is not part of your job.

Julie Weathers said...

It's been a while since I did my last bout of queries, but it always surprised me when agents called to visit with me. Nice rejection letters with comments were coveted. Any kind of rejection was appreciated so I didn't have to wonder if they got the submission or not.

Even though I have had good experiences with agents, I think expecting anything other than a polite form letter, if anything, is unrealistic. There are plenty of writer's forums and agents with query help. It shouldn't be expected of agents beyond those who put out a public call for query workshops.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me that anyone might actually be frightened of the possibility of an agent unleashing a "tirade of abuse" on them for sending a query! Those who think that must believe that literary agents have absolutely nothing to do with their time...