The Saga of Greene Newbie -- pt. 5

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

But what does it all mean????

Sure enough, Greene got a couple of quick turn around replies from his querying. Within 24 hours, he'd received three "not for me" responses and one request for a partial read. He sent off the requested number of pages, and then sat down to agonize over what - exactly - wasn't for those other three agents. He thought he did his homework, so all of them were perfect for his book.

Unable to determine the answer on his own, he decided to just ask the agents what it was about his work that didn't hook them. That way he could fix it next time.

He sent another email to each agent asking them to elaborate on what he needed to improve, then waited for a reply. And waited... and waited... and waited... Another 24 hours passed and he didn't get an answer.

This led him to the conclusion that the agents hadn't actually read his query. They got something with "query" in the subject line and automatically sent a rejection. Greene decided he didn't want to work with agents like that anyway. If they were so busy they couldn't be bothered to read a short, simple, letter that he'd sweated over, then they should just say so on their websites.

It was in this haze of righteous indignation that Friendly Writerman found him when he came by to check on Greene's progress. And it was in that righteous haze that Greene couldn't understand why Friendly was laughing at him.

"Not for me means just that," he said. "It didn't click for them. They don't have to have a reason any more than you do when you don't like something but aren't sure why."

Greene complained that agents should be better than that. They should at least help new authors out. After all, how long does it take to send a short note?

Friendly asked him how many queries he though an agent got a week. Greene wasn't sure, but he took a guess - and it was so low the Friendly started laughing again.

"If agents responded with feedback to every query, they'd never be able to do the main part of their job, which is to represent their existing clients."

Greene hadn't thought about that. Once he got an agent, he sure expected that agent to help him along with getting his book to publication, and he wouldn't like hearing that the agent spent all their time with people he or she didn't represent. And query-reading didn't make either of them any money.

"Plus," Friendly said. "Most writers aren't near where they need to be to get published. 99%. And a good percent of those don't believe it when someone tells them so. Pointing out their shortcomings isn't a chance for improvement to most of them, it's a reason to blast the agent from the safety of their keyboard."

No one likes to be insulted or belittled, agents included, so there's no reason for them to invite such treatment if all they get out of it is an extra work load.

Friendly told him to be happy with his quick partial request and to keep waiting.

By the next week, Greene had two more partials out and one request for a full. He was practically light headed from the excitement - though he'd still rather the process go faster. His friends and family were still asking why his wonderful book wasn't on shelves yet. They wanted to take his picture next to the display, and they'd love a free copy.

In that time, he also got:

* a detailed rejection that showed him another weakness he'd missed in the first chapter.
* a rejection based on the fact that the agent was already representing a similar book
* a form letter from a huge agency's legal department saying his query had been deleted unread and that they didn't accept new clients except by referral.
* something that evidently didn't survive the trip from the agent's email to his, but looked like it might have originally said "no thanks".

Then Greene got another cryptic rejection. This one said that the agent's list was far too full and she couldn't handle one more client, so she was sorry.

This time when Friendly asked how things were going, Greene told him about the successes, left out the "passes" and said he was "wait listed".

By this point, he was beginning to think that Friendly wasn't so friendly and only came over for a good laugh.

"What now?" Greene asked.

"It's a form rejection," Friendly said. "Agencies don't wait list people. She was being nice -- like that girl that says "it's not you, it's me". Let it go."

Poor Greene was left wondering how something so small as a query could be so complicated and what would become of the others out there in inboxes and (the horror!) possibly spam filters.

3 Chiming In:

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I've been enjoying your account of Greene. It's a lot of fun to read. I gave you an award on my blog, if you are interested.

dolorah said...

This is so cool. Really shows you've been following agent blogs and getting some useful info. I'm glad you're sharing your insights with us.


Natasha Bennett said...

Hi Josin,

Ouch, yes, most agents get hundreds if not thousands of queries per week. If the opening paragraph doesn't catch their eye, most of them will toss a query into the reject pile. It is very rare-and wonderful-when an agent writes a personal rejection outlining the reasons why a story doesn't work for them.

Best of luck,

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