Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Agent for a Day

In a surprise for most of the people involved, but not a surprise to me or likely other agents, only two people successfully guessed all three published books in Nathan Bransford's Agent for a Day Contest, and none of the books were among the top five most requested queries. 

On a different note, I am thinking of changing my query policy based on some of the discussion I've seen on the Web. As of now I'm still trying to respond to every query sent to me via my agency submission form and filled out properly (e.g. with an email address for response). However, I've fallen severely behind and since I continue to receive over 75 queries a day, I'm not sure when I can ever fully catch up. I also continue to get frustrating responses from writers after rejections asking for more details or simply just insulting me for deciding to pass. I'm also getting more and more emails from writers reasonably wondering when they might hear from me.

So here's what I'm thinking. I'm going to set up a mailbox that sends an auto response confirming receipt of a query, and a note will be included saying that if the form was filled out properly AND I'm interested in the project that you'll hear back from me within three weeks. If you don't have a response within three weeks, it's a pass. Thoughts?
 

20 comments:

Nadia said...

Sounds fair to me.

Bradley Robb said...

That sounds fair, as long as you can keep to the three week time limit.

I think, as far as author's asking for further explanations go, perhaps a notice on your submissions policy page stating that "due to a high volume of submissions, explanations regarding rejections beyond what was given in a rejection is not possible."

I saw this, of course, as a writer.

D. Robert Pease said...

I might leave the "if the form is filled out properly" part off the auto responder. I think this may cause you more grief than it is worth. I can already see people sending you emails, "I'm not sure if I filled it out right." "I'm worried I may have missed something." etc... Writers are already worried about following every rule to the letter, and this may just add fuel to fire their worry.

Just a thought.

Rae Bateman said...

Every time I hear of an author sending rude remarks to an agent after a rejection, it just blows my mind! Sure, we all want to be published, but lashing out at someone who is not interested in our work is definitely not the way to get there. Seems like a lot of angry energy could be better channeled into editing, revising, and querying other agents!

That being said, I think your auto-responder idea is a great one. It will let every querier know that their query has been received and it gives a nice window of time for them to wait. After three weeks, you can be crossed off the list (or, hopefully sent more material) and authors won't have to be wondering where their letter is.

Belynda said...

I'd even say 30 days... it's a psychologically satisfying number *and* it gives you and extra week :) Just in case you take a two-week vacation? You still have two to catch up!

ryan field said...

I actually think it's an excellent idea. When I was querying agents, I was always more concerned about whether or not they received the query. And an auto response confirming receipt of the query would have calmed my worries.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I second taking off the "if you've filled out the form properly" part. I don't think it'd ease the minds of the types of writers who email to make sure their query is received now, but just give them something new to fret over.

That said, the auto-response seems fair to me. If you get busier than expected and find your response times are taking a little longer, though, you may want to put up a disclaimer on your website and/or blog, though.

WindyA said...

Reiterating above, I think that is perfectly fair so long as you keep to the 3 week timing. With the rise in submissions, I have read that a lot of agents are changing their submissions guidelines and responses to a "if you don't hear from us within XX weeks, please consider it a pass."

I know a lot of writers don't like this "no response means no" to their queries, but agents have things to do other than sloshing through the slush pile. Writers just have to be realistic about that.

David said...

I think that would be a fair way to handle future queries, but I would hope you would respond to all queries you received before the implementation of your new policy.

I say this with no self-interest whatsoever.

Look! A butterfly!

Fawn Neun said...

Seventy-five queries a day sounds exhausting. An autoresponder sounds great - that should settle the nervous ones. Can you keep to 3 weeks? Might want to make it six just to cover yourself.

Kelley said...

Seriously. You're my hero. I love that you're going with an auto-response. I had no problem w/agents who had a stated no response policy (note how I said stated. grrr...)My beef was always the uncertainty of it going through. So, while I think the rest is unnecessary, I adore that you're setting one up.

Patrick Gabridge said...

That sounds very reasonable. As a writer, I know that rejections are part of the game. They don't really bother me. But a lack of response messes up everything (in terms of record-keeping), if there's no time frame attached. If I know to write it off after three weeks, that helps a lot.

Shannon Dauphin said...

I agree with losing the "if the form was filled out properly" part...but otherwise, it's a great idea.

I really appreciate when anyone sets up an auto-responder, because there is never any question that my email was received. Listing a time period gives authors the option of writing it down on a calendar and marking you off the list when the date passes.

Good idea all around.

Jonathan Lyons said...

I guess if someone doesn't get a response automatically then they'll realize they didn't fill out the form correctly...

Craven said...

On "Agent for a Day": Nathan admitted during the contest that even he didn't get all three. He passed on one of the queries that went on to be published.

Mystery Robin said...

Sounds good to me. As much as I like the committment from agents to respond, I just got a pass from a query I sent in August. And it was really unnecessary - by that time, I've dismissed it and it's just one additional sting I didn't need that day. ;)

I do think that partials and fulls should be responded to - b/c I know that fulls can take a while, and I'm not sure after a few months if it's a no go for an agent, or they're just still reading.

beth said...

Personally, I think it's fine--especially since you're sending in the email that the query got there.

Roland said...

I honestly can't remember if I ever received a response from your agency or not. I know that you didn't request a partial or full manuscript in the following week, and that's all I need to know.

If an agent passes on my work then obviously they're not the agent for me. I'm looking for someone that, oh, has interest in my writing. Crazy, I know.

I'm utterly confused by stories of writers challenging rejections or demanding explanations. Assuming they can bully you into looking at their manuscript, do they really want an agent that initially passed on them to then turn around and be their representative?

As a writer, I just need to know that the agency received my query. I can figure out the verdict in under 3 weeks.

Venus Vaughn said...

auto response to query = happy happy joy joy

Just tell people upfront on the query page that there will be an automatic response from your e-mail program when their message is received (to prevent that false high I've heard authors get).

And then move on to your 'no response (within x weeks) means no' life.

Ulysses said...

I think it's fine. You've got a firm deadline in there (three weeks) which is fairly short and very clear.

Of course, we all WANT detailed feedback and encouragement and references, but all we NEED is a "no," or a "more please." This is not an ideal solution, but it's sensible and fair.