Monday, October 28, 2013

Question from a writer - On Responses From Editors and Agents

I've got a topic for your blog. Address why some (most) agents don't have the simple courtesy of an auto-reply in their query boxes. I sent our five agent queries yesterday, all reputable, and I've no idea if any of them received it or if the query is in a spam file or cyberspace.

I spent considerable time researching and meeting their different requirements, so why can't they minimally have an auto-reply so I can start counting the weeks or months they state to get back to you? Or, again, minimally, so I can count the time and know if I don't hear from them to consider it a rejection or lack of interest. It just seems rude. I've never sent a MS to a publisher's slush pile who didn't have this auto-reply working, so it seems to be an agent problem.
First of all, I do have to say that every agency out there does have a different approach to things and they all have reasons for what they do. But with that said, let me address a couple of things here.
I want to start first with the comment you made, "so I can start counting the weeks or months they state to get back to you." This is not so much a responsibility of the agent or editor, but something you need to keep track of. With every submission I send out to editors, I have a record of A) who I sent it to; and B) when I sent it. I know how long it normally takes to get to that submission, and, if after some time has passed, I do send a quick reminder. You have to remember that editors and agents are not immediately sitting down and reading your material the moment it comes in. They are getting to this work in their free time, between working with their current clients and other professional obligations.
I would also add here that if the agent says "3 months for a response" don't start getting on their case on the exact 90 day point. This is a rough estimate.
Let's move on.
Technically, the auto response option does have drawbacks. This is mostly for those of you writers with an "auto-response" option on your end. If you send me a manuscript, for example, you get an auto response. But because you have one it gets sent to me and then we are in a closed loop. Not cool! Now I have an email box full of the darn replies, and yes, at that point, the computer algorithms (or what ever controls the email) will see this as a SPAM message and then you are gone forever.
But there is also another issue, and this deals more with the lack of response in general instead of the auto-response. There are many authors out there who just mass mail their manuscripts to to every agent on the planet without doing their research. You would be shocked at some of the submissions we get. When this happens, frankly I just delete their email. Why? It really wasn't worth a response. If this person didn't take the time to find out what we want, then why respond.
There is a solution, however. Use the DELIVERY CONFIRMATION button on your email. Most of the programs have one. You don't need a command that says if it was read. To be honest, I never click the button on my end that tells you I did read it. Also, it won't work if I have a "Reading Pane" up in the email program. I am just "previewing" the document. Still, try the confirmation button.
Please remember that there are a lot of you writing and a small number of us reading your projects. I would simply have to say to just relax about it. And besides, if the person doesn't ever get back to you, is this really someone you would want to work with?


  1. Dear always, thank you for an informative post. I personally keep an Excel sheet of what I send, when, the time frame the agent may or may not get back to me, and probably way more info than necessary. Once an executive secretary, old habits of tracking things is necessary for my sanity. You should see my character and plot spreadsheets!!

    That said, I can only imagine the amount of mail an agent receives, but I'm not the type who sends oodles of queries, so for me, its frustrating to only have a spreadsheet with data I watch. Your suggestion to turn on "delivery confirmation" is a good one that I intend to use in the future.

    The spam issue on the agent's side is a problem I'd not considered. I guess it is what it is with frustrations on both sides.

  2. I use your last comment in almost all my business dealings, not just writing. If someone (in business) doesn't get back to me within 48 to 72 hours, they're probably not someone I want to do business with if I can avoid it. That, of course, excludes government monopolies!