9.06.2005

My sweet enFUNGIBLE you!

A snarkling writes:
Question for your blog. My agent doesn't send/email me rejections unless I ask for them. That is my agent's "policy". I find it annoying. My agent said if I ask in an email then she'll let me know, but rather than emailing her once a month (and worrying about the nag factor and all that), I'd rather just find out after it happens. Is this a common thing? And how often can I email her asking who we've heard from before I become a nag?
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You can write every day if you tell her you love her to pieces and you'd be lost without her. Or if you include a downloadable twenty dollar bill. But enough about my clients list of minimum daily requirements.

Your agent has told you how she operates, and how to accommodate your needs and hers. If she tells you to email once a month, she is saying "you won't be a nag if you do this."

If you email her every day ... then that's nagging.

I don't email or send rejections either. Look, I hate getting them and they aren't even for MY work. If they said something constructive like "you know Snark, you've got a client here who can't write compound sentences to save his life" or "I found the heroine to be too much like you Miss Snark for my comfort level with a YA book unaccompanied by Tipper Gore warning label" well then sure.

But mostly I get, and I'm quoting VERBATIM from the top of MY rejection stack here:

"Dear Miss Snark, Thank you for sending me Felix Buttonweazer's intriguing novel. With a modern cross culture love story and strong characters I was happy to consider it. But I'm afraid I just didn't LOVE it in a way that I need to in order to be its advocate. Alas, I must pass, but I'm sure you will find this novel the right home."


Now you tell me what purpose sending THIS drivel serves. It absolutely doesn't reference the two hour lunch wherein we talked about this novel, the characters, what makes it a "modern western" etc. It doesn't give the author any constructive help in what to change/fix/delete/burn. The editor just didn't love it enough. Great. That's helpful. It's also a damn fact of life and there's nothing I can do or say that's gonna change it.

But hey, if you want to see them, go for it. I'll run them through the copy machine till my little fingers are black with soot. But you have to remind me cause this isn't on the list of things I do every day.

In every relationship there are things that annoy you. If this is the least of it, you're home free. Think of my poor clients who must deal with a daily Snark Factor.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. And helpful, the world's most Miss Snarkalicious! How many editors do you send a proposal to the first time around? Do you have a conversation with them first?

Miss Snark said...

I usually figure I'll send to ten before I do much of anything else. And yes I call them first, although, after reading Agent 007's posts on the subject, Im less convinced that's as efficient a way to weed out the obvious nos as I thought.

Jan said...

My agent passed on the rejection letters and I always appreciated it. Sometimes, they were a helpful insight into that editor's mind. Sometimes they were an interesting insight into how that editor treated my agent (since they were often more about the editor and agent being buds than they were about my wee manuscript). Sometimes they were just so much crap -- but, at least, they gave me a continuing sense of being "part of the process."

jan

Miss Snark said...

welllllllllllllllllll....Miss Snark might have to ask her clients if they'd prefer this. God knows they are terrified of her anyway, poor lambies. I'll survey them this month and get back to you.

Now, where the hell is my gin pail? I bet Kitty has it and is decoupaging some sort of photoshop picture of moi onto it.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, I'm sure this varies from agent to agent, but what percentage of clients get contracts? I'm working on the assumption that agents don't take on clients they don't think they can sell. I think there must be different strategies though. Some agents, I'd guess, take on lots of clients, throw it all against the wall and hope that something sticks. Others, Lobster Newberg, for example, as the I-Man calls his agent, have the luxury of taking on only sure things. I'd like to think that my agency, which states on writersmarket.com that only 2 percent of its clients are new/unpublished, picked a winner when they picked me. But somewhere I read that only 5 percent of agented clients get deals. That seems low to me too. What's the story here?

Anonymous said...

After reading rejection letters sent to me by my agent for my last non-fiction proposal, I have come to agree with Miss Snark's thinking. These two or three sentence letters gave absolutely no useful information whatsoever. In fact, all they did was upset me, especially when I got two in a batch where the feedback was the exact oppposite from one to the other. I thought it would make me more a part of the process but all it did was make me hate the goddamn who couldn't appreciate what we were offering.

carper said...

"These two or three sentence letters gave absolutely no useful information whatsoever. In fact, all they did was upset me, especially when I got two in a batch where the feedback was the exact oppposite from one to the other."

How can two instances of feedback contain "absolutely no useful information" and yet be contrary?
And if rejection slips fill you with hatred, you'd best work on growing a thicker skin, or get out of the game.

Anonymous said...

How can two instances of feedback contain "absolutely no useful information" and yet be contrary?

Very easily. Use your imagination! (If you don't have one, consider getting out of the game)

carper said...

Rather than some wispy, politician's non-answer, wouldn't the better response have been to simply quote the examples of feedback, thus proving inarguably that your rejection slips were devoid of useful information and contrary?

Anonymous said...

Here's an example of rejections that contradict each other:

1. "...the subject matter is too broad to appeal to a large audience."

2. "...the topic seems too specific to attract a wide readership."

It happens all the time, which is how you know that most of these rejections are just "not for me"s.

carper said...

Touche. Can I ask what the subject matter is?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, sometimes crit is just, well, one person's opinion. I had three readers on my first novel. One hated a character, called him "too cliche", and another praised him "thank goodness for characters like this!" The third liked the character so he stayed as is.

When all the rejection letters start to say the same thing (if you get feedback at all) then you know it's time to change something.

Anonymous said...

Sending rejections to the writer is extremely important. While many may be boilerplate, others can contain useful criticism, plenty of real praise, or perhaps even requests to see the next book. When my first novel was sent around by my agent, I got lots of rejections, but almost all said specific things about the characters and plot---much of it was praise, but I used the criticism in the letters to make my next novel better. More important, as a previous post said, if the rejections start giving similar criticisms, it's time to stop sending the book out and make some revisions. Obviously the writer must be involved with this decision. And obviously the writer can't do that without seeing the rejections. A rejection is not just a "No sale," it's a potential tool for improving the product (to use that awful term).

As it happened, my first novel wasn't picked up, so I'm making sure to let my agent for the second book know about the editors who asked to see my second book. But even the apparent boilerplate rejections are useful; they at least give you a peek into the publishing world. Otherwise it remains a mysterious black box.

So, yes, *of course* the agent should send rejections to the writer, as a normal business practice. It's just laziness not to do it, and detrimental to the success of the book and the writer's career.

Miss Snark said...

Leaving aside the fact that you just called Miss Snark lazy and unprofessional, at least realize that this is YOUR opinion, and as you can see from the comments above, not shared by all.

Anonymous said...

I ask for my rejections. They're a good thing to have for the IRS to prove you're "actively pursuing" the one-in-a-million shot of becoming a published author. My understanding is it helps tilt you out of the hobbyist category.

Anonymous said...

Rather than some wispy, politician's non-answer, wouldn't the better response have been to simply quote the examples of feedback, thus proving inarguably that your rejection slips were devoid of useful information and contrary?

If I were the SAME anonymous, then possibly. As I'm not, that's outside my capabilities!

Anonymous said...

I would definitely want to see my rejection letters. I'd also like to know where my book is at all times. Who has it, who has already rejected it. I naively assumed agents did keep their clients up to date on all that. I guess not. How hard is it to email the author and say, "Berkeley rejected it, I'm sending it out to Avon now."

Miss Snark said...

Where your book is at all times? oh boy.
Anon, dear heart, if you need that kind of up to the moment interaction, you'd best make sure you know an agent will do that before you sign on the dotted line.

If you said you wanted that, you'd be a bad fit for me. I DO let my clients know where there work is, but it's once a month. So far, no complaints, but that's because they know that going in.

And they haven't complained about not getting rejection letters either...but again, they knew that going in.

Bottom line: know what kind of interaction you want and ask first.

Miss Snark is fabulous beyond all reasonable doubt but she's a very very bad match for you.