No, no, but this is one that was yes

Dear Miss Snark,

An agent I queried responded to say he'd passed my email on to an assistant who was interested in that sort of work, which I take to be a good sign! It was just a little strange, though, to read on and see that he'd included advertisements for published books by the agency's other clients. Is this a normal sales strategy?

I've come down hard on my colleagues who use rejection letters, or rejection emails as a venue to announce or sell their own books on writing/how to get published etc. I find it not only insensitive, but bad bad manners. It's like your boss selling Amway at work, or state sponsored religion: there's an element of unspoken coercion based on an imbalance in power that just does not sit will with my egalitarian self.

Announcements about client books are different.

First, it's a good idea to see what the agent took on and sold. That's pretty helpful info. Second, you can get the books out of the library. And third, yes, as an agent, part of my job is to talk about the books my clients write. If I take you on, I'll be talking about yours as well.

One of the biggest parts of my job is making connections for my authors. I do this by keeping my ear to the ground for publishers who are starting up new lines, editors who are moving to different houses, and anthologies that are looking for submissions. One of the ways I also do it is by putting my clients' names out in to the world in a variety of ways. You never know who's reading.

I agree it can seem a trifle pushy, but good agents ARE pushy and aggressive. The best of us do it without being obnoxious...or we try to.


Anonymous said...

Some people, especially those in large agencies, may also use corporate-type email programs that automatically include "footer material", which, in this case, would logically consist of clients' books. It's entirely possible that those advertisements appear at the end of every email that person sends, whether it's your rejection notice, an okey-dokey to lunch with an editor, or a please-stop-sending-me-those-stupid-jokes email to his brother-in-law.

TwistableSim said...

Thank you! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one annoyed by agents sending ads for their own books in their rejections. I find it rude and rather insulting. Now, sending info on clients' books is fine by me; I like learning of new books that might interest me.

Anonymous said...

After mumbling and stumbling my way through my very first "pitch" meeting at a writer's conference, the agent (from a big agency--not as big as his ego, but big nevertheless) locked eyes with me. Then, slowly, he pushed a small stack of books across the desk toward me. "Would you care to buy my book on how to get published?"

I'll never forget his cheesy grin.

Maria said...

I don't like the advertising in a rejection letter, whether it is for clients or not. It's still self-serving. The agency makes money if the client makes money.

If I do my homework, I've already read at least one book the agency represents. Their website is the place to advertise the books of clients. I probably already spent time out there and found what I needed/wanted. Hopefully I am sending my manuscript because I believe the agency represents works similar to mine.

Putting such a list in a rejection letter is without class IMO. If you reject my work (which is why I wrote--to ask whether you would be interested in looking at it), just answer that question as politely as possible. Don't then try to sell me something--for yourself or your client.

I'm not likely to go and buy or read books recommended as part of a rejection letter. If I didn't do my homework and read the books I should have, pushing them my way isn't likely to help. In fact, sad to say, it's quite likely to have the opposite affect.

Janny said...

While a list of books and/or client news and/or a pitch might be an "automatic" tail on part of some corporate e-mails an agency sends out, that "automatic" tail should not be put on the ends of rejection e-mails. Two different templates solves the problem. Click, point, shoot.

Once upon a time when I auditioned for a pretty prestigious choral job in my town, I got a "thanks, no thanks" letter back...with a sales pitch at the end along the lines of "but the good news is, you get to buy tickets to our concerts at this really nifty price!" (No, it wasn't even a discounted price.) It reeked of classlessness from stem to stern, as far as I was concerned, and that kind of thing still does. This organization also continues to send me flyers, concert announcements, and requests for contributions as well, even though I had never at any time said to them, "Oh, sure, put me on your mailing list for eternity."

I'll also never forget a contest entry I got back, years ago, judged by a published writer in which she circled every single use of the word "was" in my manuscript, calling all of them "passive" (of course, some of them weren't!) and included a brochure and a letter about her writing instruction course. This woman totally missed information that was clearly IN the synopsis, calling me to task for not including it--so I came the conclusion she was a) reading for certain things, and not really paying attention, and b) an idiot. Funny, her books never made it to my TBR pile, either. (And I didn't sign up for her writing course.):-)

Class tells. Rejection's hard enough to take without being then "pitched" to BUY something from the person who just declined to buy anything from you. Yes, we're all under time crunches. Yes, you market where you can. But the best names in any business never forget they're dealing with human beings, not just "prospects" for the various things THEY have to push. It's a hokey saying, but it's true, that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. In this case, it could be said, "I don't care what you've got to sell until I know you're worth buying from."
Putting a sales pitch at the end of a rejection note to me will land you squarely in the category of "not worth it, thanks."

...and that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.