Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On Personalized Responses From Agents

Yes, I have heard writers complain time and time again about receiving "form letter rejections" from agents. This is a big issue and one that has always bugged me, not just simply with the publishing industry, but also with business in general.

As a consumer, I always respect companies that answer the phone. No answering machines, no form letters - just real people. In fact, that is why I stick with certain airlines and my insurance company. Now, I know I am looking through rose colored glasses here. I know these people have scripted responses and standard answers for all that they do. I know that there are procedures and they follow those procedures perfectly; but the fact that they are personal about it makes the world of difference for me.

When it comes to my work here at Greyhaus, I try to provide a bit of that personal touch. Sure I may be a bit harsh about things. Yes, you may get a rejection from me at a conference, but it is personal and I want you to know that 99% of the time, it is strictly about the writing.

For me, I have heard comments from other agents as to why they use form letters and with all of these ideas, I have tried to take a different approach.

Some agents worry about too many submissions coming in. I have tried to remedy that on my end by being a bit more specific with what I want with my guidelines on the website. I honestly believe if I can be clearer up front, you won't end up having to waste your time and money submitting something. Along the same lines, I know going in what I want. I am not someone that says, "I'll look at everything." I know the criteria in my head of what makes a good story, I try to be clear about it here on the blogs and then make it open knowledge to everyone out there. Hopefully that works.

I also hear people say that they don't give personal rejections because they expect someone to argue with them. Again, this is an area that I have tried to fix. Sure, there are times that I get some people out there that want to argue, but for the most part, that doesn't happen here? Is it because of a curse that one of my Scoutmaster's told me when I was young, "Scott, you are an exception."? No, I don't think so. One of the things we do when writing persuasive and argumentative manuscripts is to consider potential responses and word answers and descriptions in such a way to prevent that arguement. By giving a clearer response to writers, I try to give them the knowledge to improve their future projects.

As for the time issue, I have found that, while it can be a bit too much at times, that issue has been dealt with by first of all, making it clear on what I want; secondly, limiting what I want for in projects; and finally, not accepting everything.

Look, what other agents do is fine and yes, there are times for form responses. I have a form letter I use for writers that submit to me projects that are not what I even represent. I figure, if they didn't take the time to review what I have on the website, then they deserve that letter. I have a form letter when I am closed to submissions. Many of you have received that letter either ignoring, or missing the statement that I am closed to submissions until June 1.

Now, I know my letters might not be full critiques and please be aware, I am never going to go to that level. Still, I do try to give you something to work with in your letter. I guess, in the end, I want to not only help you, but maybe guide a few of you into finding that right project to send to me. I want to find the best!



  1. I publish with a small press and when they started out, the idea was to give a personal rejection letter, with even a bit of advice to help the aspiring author along the way. That lasted about a month, as too many nasty emails came back!! Also, writers wanted more & more feedback and editing advice. There were a few gracious thankful emails in return but overall the submissions editor decided to go with the form rejections and save everyone (including her) a lot of grief.

  2. That is why I always ask you questions and send you some of the things I have written. I am hoping one day to find the happy medium between you and the other agents I have submitted too, so I can find my manuscripts homes. Thanks for the time you take. By the way, I really enjoy your blog.

  3. What Bethanie said!

    **yes, you are exceptional!**

  4. KarenG - I hear what you are saying. I do have to say that I try to do two different things with my letters that seem to help.

    First of all, I make it very clear in the letter what the problem was. I also, depending on the issue, provide a small (and sometimes it is really small) nugget of informtion to help out. But the second, and I think stronger point, is that I make it very clear in blog posts and public conferences that once you get that rejection, you can move on to something new but for now, that dialogue with the current book is over.


  5. Scott,

    I'll bet you are one of the few who have mastered the art of the helpful, personalized rejection note. Not an easy thing to do!


  6. Scott, liked the message here. I read your blog daily and you have a resounding theme to it- to give 150%, give the best, expect the best. You mention quite a bit that you want the best. Thank you for that, it does hit home as it makes me aim to give my best.