Monday, September 27, 2010

You Will Get An Answer - No Form Letters For Me

This business has changed a lot since I first opened Greyhaus in 2003. There were more publishers out there that took unsolicited submissions and unagented submissions. Unfortunately, there was a huge rise in writers attempting to become the next Great American Author and the end result is the publishers closed their doors. Unless you had an agent, they wouldn't talk. The problem with this was the "trickle down theory."

While the publishers weren't dealing with this huge influx of writers, the agents were now being bombarded by them. Our submissions went through the roof. As an agent, what is most frustrating is that many of these submissions were for stories that would never work. Some were not marketable, some were simply not finished, some were very poor in quality and some were simply not stories that we were looking for. Here at Greyhaus, I only look for romance and women's fiction, and yet, I am constantly getting submissions for biographies, economic textbooks, histories, political tell-all books and yes, even a few of haiku. All of these require the time to write back and say no.

As an agent though, I will respond. Sure the answer may be a response I give to a lot of other people, but you will get a response from Greyhaus Literary Agency. Along the same lines, I will tell you why you were rejected. It may be one sentence, it may be a full letter, but you will get a reason.

Dear Author,

Thank you so much for sending me the proposal of My Silliest Book. I appreciate being given the chance to read this. While it sounds like an interesting project, I am simply not an agency that represents biographies. I am therefore going to pass on this.

All the best with your writing.


O.K. That took me 1 minute to write. Due to a lack of coffee at this moment, I had to catch a few spelling errors, but the point is, it didn't take long. This time is even shorter when I keep that standard answer on my clipboard in the computer and can respond to the 25% of the submissions that all fall into that category. I change the title, I change the genre and we are done.

For those that require more time, I am still able to provide a nugget of information in roughly 1 minute.

Why do I do this? The answer is simple. This is a business and with that business, there is an element of professionalism that goes along with it. Someone took the time to contact me, I need to take the time to respond. I simply do not agree with the use of a form letter that simply says you passed on the project without a reason and I certainly don't agree with the premise that if you don't hear from us, it means we didn't want it. I have seen editors do this too. Whether it is an agent or an editor, it just doesn't work for me.

I honestly wish there was a way to provide a full critique of what didn't work in your manuscript. That is simply something that will not happen. What I can promise you though is that you will hear something. And please, take that piece of information, although it might be small, adapt those comments to a future project and send it along. That second or third manuscript might just be the one I am looking for.



  1. Thank you Scott. I agree 100%. This is a business and every single one of us who sends a query is filling out an application. If we were in the real business world and I applied for a job, I'd expect some kind of an answer.

    "We feel you don't have enough experience at this time."

    "I'm sorry but we need someone who can type at least 80wpm."

    "The economy crashed since you've applied and now we can't hire you."

    Something, anything is better than, "We're sorry your book is just not right for us at this time. Good luck with your career."

  2. I always wondered what approach Greyhaus took to responding to submissions. I submitted twice... once through regular email / query letter and after getting no response I submitted through the site's submission form and again got no response. I assumed it was as you said in your post, no response means we pass. Which seemed odd since your site is such a great source of information, you seem very open to responding to questions on your blog and are very helpful when it comes to critiques etc.

    Sometimes it seems like a fine line... too persistent and you come off as annoying and obnoxious, but if you give up too easily then you run the chance of having just fallen between the cracks of a very busy submission time, or a failed email delivery.

  3. Scott, thank you for this. When it comes time to query my current wip (southern women's fiction) you'll be the first on my list. I would love to work with someone who has your compassion and caring.

    ~that rebel, Olivia

  4. I've never liked that "if you get no response it means no." that is just so wrong. What if the email didn't go through? What if something was overlooked in the mass of submissions? A simple response as you suggested is common courtesy, and I'm glad to know this is your practice. There's too little of common courtesy in our world, and it seems like business should be at least one place where it exists.

  5. **applause** Nice to know professionalism still exists in a world of mediocrity. I agree with Piedmont Writer--I've taken the time to query, I deserve a reason so I can improve. And no response? I'm certain I don't want to work with someone without some semblance of courtesy. The worst rejection I ever got? A form letter listing several 'possible' reasons for a pass. This is worse than giving no reason at all.

    Continue to be a good example for others in the industry. We writers appreciate it!

  6. This is nice to know.
    I don't really oppose form rejections - it does bother me to get no response at all, though. If you don't have the time to respond one by one and know you'll end up not responding, then, by all means, have a rejected folder on outlook and have it send out form rejections every night. Better than nothing.
    But if you do think you can commit to respond with something personalized, that is definitely a plus. It does set you appart as an agent, that's for sure.

  7. Kelly,

    I am not sure what happened on the submissions. If you did submit a project to me and never received a response, please let me know. It could be email, it could be the regular mail system.


  8. I think it's awesome that you take the time to do this. I know it's impossible to expect that from every agent, but it does help from a writer's perspective.