11.09.2006

This agent IS a disgrace

O Great and All-Powerful Snark,

I know that agents don't reply to e-queries. How about requested e-partials? An agent responded to my e-query with a phone call and asked that I send the first 50 pages as a Word attachment.

Seven months ago.

I've heard nothing since since.

Obviously, he had no SASE for his rejection. Is it standard not to respond to a requested e-partial that doesn't "fit our list"? Do I write and ask if that's a "no," or can I assume it's a dead deal and tell other agents I have no partials out?


Well, first of all, I loathe the concept that agents don't have to respond to e-queries if that is their chosen way to get queries. I don't respond to them anymore, even with a form letter, cause trying to be pleasent didn't work ('"tree killer" was one of the kinder backatchas to me); trying to steer people in the correct direction didn't work ("yea I saw those stupid directions, and ignored them"), and it generally indicated nitwittery.

However. It is incumbent upon an agent to answer queries. "We'll get back to you if we deign to want you" is not acceptable. Not now. Not ever. Not even if you're so busy you've forgotten what it's like to want something so much you can barely contain your desire.

It's doubly rude to not respond to material that was requested. Oh hell, triple rude on the Scrabble Board of Snark.

You might want to make sure this guy actually got it. More than once I've received tetchy emails from people (edited down from flamethrowing earlier drafts I'm sure) asking about material I don't have. Stuff happens.

When you determine he did receive it, and won't respond to a polite email, you don't want to work with him anyway. Cross him off your list; he's dead to you. If an agent asks, you can say you sent a partial but have had no response in seven months. You can leave unsaid "Miss Snark called him a disgrace" but it's true.

If by some chance you are an agent or editor with a different opinion on this, I'll be glad to hear from you and post your response.

Is it ever acceptable to not respond to a requested partial?

39 comments:

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

Miss Snark continues to surprise.

Her advice appears to be wisdom and kindness with an edge.

Not evil at all.

I think I have figured her out.

It is the search for art that expresses truth and beauty that drives her. She seeks to deliver the multitudes from their own nitwittery.

ORION said...

When I was querying and had a request for a full or partial via email - I sent it and requested that they email me when they received and were able to open the attachment.
Every agent (assistant actually) did so promptly and usually within hours - a day at the most unless it was over a weekend.
Stuff happens.
Recently my agent had difficulty opening some of my attachments. Until we resolved the problem it was quite disturbing- I thought back to went I was querying and was glad that I had always asked for a response.
Interestingly enough I am still getting my SASE back on snail mailed projects from two years ago.
I am a huge fan of electronic queries.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a very simple issue. It is like those companies that say "unsuccessful applicants will not be contacted". I always advise people not to apply in such cases.

Given how much work and excitement and tension a job application or a manuscript submission involves, the least the recipiect can do is provide rapid closure in the event of a rejection.

Part of doing business as an agent is attracting enough submissions to yield the tiny percentage of great ones - but for that tiny percentage to happen, hundreds or thousands of people have to work for years on books, then research and submit query letters, then partials.

For any agent to treat any of those people with disdain is an insult to the whole enterprise of writing and publishing.

Wilfred the Author said...

It seems the proliferation of agents taking e-queries, state that they will only respond to them if interested. This always seemed like a cop-out to me. "Yes we are on board with the electronic age," all the while thinking that they really prefer hard copy and will do whatever it takes to stay that way. It seems just as easy to hit repond and type "No thanks." or paste in the form rejection as it is to stuff a piece of paper in a SASE, lick it and toss it in the out box.

Anonymous said...

The really savvy email-the-query type agents know how to send automatic replies. When they get incoming queries the author gets an instant confirmation with no effort being expended on the agent's part. When you see that you can take it as an indication that you are querying a brilliant and considerate person. When you don't see it, you can't tell if they never got your query or can't figure their email utility or what.

It's possible you sent your file to the wrong inbox. The initial query-me inbox might be set to automatically delete incoming with attachments. Most people have a secret other inbox for requested attachments. If you sent the pages with a "new" file your automatic address completing utility might have [probably] used the wrong address without you noticing.

Dave said...

If an agent accepts E-mail queries, then the agent better have an e-mail rejection letter. That is called doing business. To say "we don't reject so after 6 months, forget it" is unprofessional and impolite.
I will not send short stories to magazines with that policy. Why should I? It takes the story out of circulation for 6 months to 12 months. Those editors ought to have their business brains examined.

RyanBruner said...

I've faced a similar situation. Beginning of the year, I sent my query to an otherwise reputable and well-known agent. Agent requested the partial the next day. (e-partial, that is.) I sent it and waited impatiently (as all new queriers are) for several months. Nothing. So, I politely e-mailed her asking the status. She apologized saying she would get to it in the next couple weeks. Two months later, nothing. I e-mailed again...still politely...and she apologized again, and said give her a week. A month later, nothing. I checked her website, and she said she was now closed to submissions. I e-mailed and asked her if that means she wasn't going to read my partial (which was fine if it was the case...I just wanted to know). She said she was still gonna read it, and would get back to me shortly.

It has now been several more months, and I've pretty much given up on her. It just surprises me because she is supposed to be a decent agent. But this makes me not want to work with her even if she DID want to offer representation.

The Unpretentious Writer said...

Is it polite to send a nudge? I've had a partial hanging out with a promising agent and in a few weeks, the time-frame they give for reviewing partials will expire.

Should I send a friendly, 'Happy Holidays to you and yours' email, hoping the agent will think, "Aw, that was nice of her! Wait, how do I know this person?" *search of records* "Ah-ha, she sent a partial!"

verif = wevxizwx (new ED pill, side-effects may include death)

Anonymous said...

all in response to a query letter-

kimberly whalen at trident media group requested my FULL last May,via email, no word since. Not even a followup response to her assistant.

laura gross requested 3 chaps 9/21 via email. no response.

jacqueline hackett at watkins loomis requested partial via email. no response.

pam strickler requested 50 pages via email 10/03. nothing yet, i know, i know, it's just been over a month, but the track record here isn't looking good for e-communication. i'd take a no over being ignored.

monkeygirl said...

I really hope other agents frequent this blog. Thank you for pointing out that not replying to a query is simply rude. A query is just that--a question, a polite one (nitwits aside): "Will you...?" A simple no (or preferably yes) does not seem like a lot to expect.

If someone walks up to you and asks you a polite question and you turn away without answering, that is rude. Not to mention a bad business practice.

How would these agents would feel if they submitted clients' work to editors for consideration, and the editors ignored them if they weren't interested.

green ray said...

With the overwhelming amount of e-queries that agents must receive, I somewhat understand responding only in the affirmative. But to not respond on requested material is inexcusable, I agree. Just yesterday I did a follow-up on people who have had my material more than four months, both paper and electronic. No replies as of yet. Let me check my other email address...No, still no replies as of yet.

Don said...

My preference when I start querying will be to NOT send e-queries. And anyone whose guidelines indicate that they only send positive responses will not be queried. I get enough communication black holes from applying for jobs. I want my damn rejection letters.

Christa M. Miller said...

I'm so glad this post is here, because I had a similar experience. An agent requested a partial last spring; when life interfered with the revision I had ongoing at the time, she was great about waiting for it. I sent it in July, haven't heard since - despite a note that told her I'd be going on maternity leave and may access email only intermittently.

I'm leaning toward giving up on her, and seeing the post and comments herein have helped. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I just started the query process at the beginning of September, but I've still got open paper queries out there (about 50%). I assume that if there was interest, I would have heard something, but is it unusual to wait for months for rejection letters? How often do agents simply fail to make use of the SASE?

Kimber An said...

Besides the ones with personal notes, my favorite rejection was a simple 'No, thanks.' It said all I needed to know and it came within two hours of submitting an eQuery.

Anonymous said...

Surely this is one of the many problems with equeries. Such an enormous proportion of emails never arrive at their destination, and there must be a very good chance that either the query itself or the response got eaten by a spam filter or deleted by a server failure somewhere along the way.

What's REALLY annoying is when you send snail mail, with an SSAE, and they still don't bother to reply, which is what happened with more than half the agents I queried with my first novel (I see now that the novel was unpublishable, but that's no excuse!). And, of course, that's precisely why people stop wasting their money on SSAEs, thus invoking the Wrath of Snark.

Anonymous said...

LOL... I remember the days when you could submit directly to an editor. And it was generally known that if after two months with no reply -- you were invited to CALL the publisher and request the status of your submission.

Believe me, there was a time when this was a polite respectful business. (Seems all that ended with the mergers and acquisitions, (M&A), activity of the 90's when the "bottom line" became the holy grail. Money screws things up, and "big money" absolutely fucks everything up!

Ryan Field said...

The exhaulted Adam Chromy, of Artists and Artisans Inc., clearly states on his embarrassingly self-indulgent web site he will respond to snail mail with a SASE, but he WON'T respond to e-queries unless interested.

Sometimes it is what it is.

Elektra said...

Now I see why you and Kristin Nelson are friends. You both have such courtesy in a non-courteous time.

Jenny Bent said...

I have requested material from e-mail queries and taken an embarrassingly long time to respond. But I do in fact try to respond to everything, and agree with Miss Snark that there's no excuse for not responding for material you ask to see. Having said that, sometimes I just get really overwhelmed and overworked, and it definitely takes me too long. So using this forum to send out a very sincere apology to all those whose material I have held onto for far too long. I'm trying, always, to do better with that. And I always do try to provide some constructive feedback if I have in fact asked to see the material.

Unworthy Minion said...

Thanks, Miss S, Ms. Bent et al. for your responses to my question on e-partials. I did receive an auto-response when I sent my requested pages last April, so I know they were received.

So the question now is-- assuming the agent is just overworked--will I look like a nitwit if I send a polite follow-up, asking if my work is still under consideration? I understand that annoying an agent who has requested your work generally a no-no in Snarkville.

Ryan Field said...

What a great comment from Jenny Bent! From what I remember she also has a wonderful assistant who helps keep things organized. I don't think anyone would mind waiting a little longer to hear from this agent. It's well worth the wait.

Kimberly said...

I've dealt with long waits when trying to find an agent who is interested in my work but in the case of Pam Strickler, who is now my agent, I thought she had received my partial, when in fact, she never did. A simple follow up email rectified that issue and happily, everything worked out. But, there have been plenty of agents who simply did not see fit to answer my polite query and it was just rude. I have heard that recently there has been a rash of AAB (Agents Acting Badly) with their own clients and it is a cause for concern. I mean, we rely on these people to help further our careers otherwise why are we paying them?
Good luck to everyone out there still looking for a good agent. It's a long, hard haul to find one.

Anonymous said...

wow, anon, i've got a full with Ms. Whalen, too! since may! no word for the last three months!alas, i have started submitting elsewhere (and just got another request for a full for the same manuscript).

nice to know i'm not alone.

thank you, ms. Bent, for your post. with a client load like yours, no wonder you're swamped.

Anonymous said...

Jenny:

Thanks for popping in here! Question for you directly: does that mean if I haven't heard back from an e-query sent to you in July, I should re-send? I figured you were probably slammed and only responding if interested.

Thanks!

Pixel Faerie said...

Sending an email reply of any kind would be a time saver on the agent's part. If you get 100 queries every day, that's 100 emails to ignore and pile up. If you reject it and don't reply, that could be 100 emails to again read seven months later asking if you got the first query. Imagine having to track down and find those queries when after seven months someone emails and asks, "I sent. You get? Whadda think?"

It is becoming more natural for authors to email agents who hold on to equeries too long. It'd be easier to send the rejection letter as soon as it is read and make sure everyone not considered gets it. Copy and paste makes it easier than printing, stuffing envelopes and mailing out. Even a polite, "No Thank You" on a replied email works great.

Anonymous said...

I take issue with "Such an enormous proportion of emails never arrive at their destination, and there must be a very good chance that either the query itself or the response got eaten by a spam filter or deleted by a server failure somewhere along the way."

Right. Between my husband and I, we likely process over 100 emails per day, to and from all over the world. The emails are getting there, agents are just blowing off responding. And yeah, it is what it is, but it don't make it right.

Incidently, my email exchanges with editors and authors always have been polite and prompt. Some of these agents could learn a thing or two.

Rei said...

Nitwit: "Tree killer."

Snarky response: "Strip-mined coal burner."

After all, that's where most of the electricity that runs their computer is coming from . . .

Anonymous said...

I had the same thing happen on a query to an agent. I had sent her the query via e-mail, which she responded to several weeks later with a "send me a partial. I'll get back to you on it in a few weeks. If I don't, you can e-mail me and ask for status."

So, that's what I did. When I hadn't heard from her in eight weeks, I e-mailed politely inquiring to the status. Nothing. I waited three months, then tried again. Nothing. In the meantime, a publishing house asked for the full on that manuscript, so I sent a follow up snail mail letter with the partial attached again on the off chance that the e-mails had been lost. I just received a form rejection letter on that, nine months after our original communication. And, oh, by the way...the publisher bought my book. So, at least I don't have to share it with the non-communicative agent, right? I figure that's a good thing.

Toddie said...

In my case, I attended a conference this summer where a partial was requested by a bunch of agents. Of those agents, I've had two non-responses for the partial (1 sent electronically at the agent's request, and 1 sent snail-mail.) I have sent a brief follow-up letter in each case asking about the status and offering to re-send if it got lost in the abyss. I have yet to hear from either (reputable) agent.

I have NO problem waiting until hell freezes over for an agent to read my stuff. People DO get overworked and overwhelmed. It's the nature of the beast. But I wish in those cases, that the agent would at least drop an email (on my ever-present contact info) that says "Received your follow-up letter. We're still in a holding pattern. Many apologies." Something -- ANYTHING -- to let me know my work is being treated with some common courtesy.

Anonymous said...

Just as an FYI -

There is a cataloging of agent turnaround times on Community Live Journal (http://community.livejournal.com/agentturnaround/)

There is no critique of agents on the site -- it truly is only turnaround times.

It would be great if some of these writers who have had agents blow off partials would post their results on this database for future writers' agent research.

Agent Frog said...

As an agent who receives e-queries exclusively, I try my best to respond to all queries in a timely fashion yet admittedly I do get overwhelmed by the volume that floods my inbox every day.

It's very difficult to review each query carefully AND manage to get through a whole day's email submission pile in one or two sittings. I go blind after about ten or twenty e-queries; at that point I start to realize my ability to judge has started to wane and I have to walk away before I reject something that upon further inspection isn't so bad after all. Still, walking away isn't easy to do when I receive anywhere from 50 to 100 queries each day.

One way I've cut down on the number of e-queries I respond to is by refusing to respond to the ones that don't follow my submission guidelines. I'll overlook a mistake here or there, but if you're blanketing the agent universe with your "Dear Agent" letter and not bothering to appeal to me and my individual interests directly, then I'm going to guess you haven't taken me seriously enough - so why should I return the favor? And if you haven't bothered to include a sample of your writing as instructed, then how am I to decipher whether you have the writing chops I'm looking for? You could have the best story idea, but if I'm not drawn to the writing then I'm not going to be able to sell it. But I need to be able to experience your writing in order to make that judgment call. (And no - the writing in your query letter does not count.)

Furthermore, if you've attached your sample chapters when my web site explicitly insists in big bold letters NO ATTACHMENTS PLEASE, then the response you get is my mouse cursor pouncing on the DELETE button while I'm cursing you for wasting my time and threatening my computer system with a potential virus.

As for requested material, I always respond though not always in a timely manner even though I try very hard to do so. It takes a lot of time and energy to carefully review a full-length submission all the while catering to the authors I already have in my stable. Agents are like day care workers trying to keep up with twenty-five children at once. Some need to be fed while others need their diapers to be changed. Some, thankfully, self-sufficiently go outside to play all day and you rarely hear a peep out of them unless it's truly urgent.

With all the many things that an agent has to do, the submission pile unfortunately doesn't always make it to the top of the priorities list. That might explain why you might get a response from me at 3:47 on a Sunday morning - or better yet 2 minutes after your e-query lands in my inbox. We agents usually know instantly whether something is not right for us, and also when there's an instant attraction to something. (Imagine George Clooney passing by Miss Snark's table at Michael's unexpectedly. How long do you think it would take for her to get him into her...um..."submission" pile?)

What I hate is when I get a complaint from a writer because I've responded too quickly...as if I didn't really give that writer's work the time of day it deserved. This happens more often than you might think, and unfortunately makes me wish it was proper etiquette not to have to respond unless I really am interested. So, in that regard, I don't fault other agents who actively dismiss e-queries without bothering to send a rejection. Time is money. Spend it wisely.

Anonymous said...

Authors, in regards to finding out what is going on with your material that an agent has requested, let me offer this age-old wisdom: "the squeaky wheel gets the representation."

I know there is a fear that if you dare piss off an agent even one iota, then your name will be black balled for all eternity, and while that may be the case with some, it's not true with the majority as long as you are not a dick about it.

As an agent, if I ask for something off a query or what have you, I feel as though I've made a committment to that author to at the very least get back to them and say a simple "no" if I don't like it. However, I get caught up in stuff, things get buried, etc, and I get behind. So, I really appreciate a phone call after about a month if I've been silent. That probably means I haven't read it, but you've reminded me, which I will find a little annoying, to be sure, but it's more annoyed at me and my workload.

I guess my main point here is, I think it's insane to hear these stories of authors waiting two months, three months, 6 months, 9 months! before they hear anything at all. If it's been one month since you sent in your requested material, then check in, then call again after 2, and at 3 scratch 'em off your list unless you are absolutely dying to have them rep you. Which you probably will do before they do. Die that is.

Anonymous said...

Hello Miss Snark,
I have a question for you regarding the non-response issue...I think we all know how much of the author's life goes into their work. A literary agent not responding to REQUESTED material is equivalent to the agent giving the author the finger. Would you agree? The silence is that strong.
Thank you for bringing this issue to light.

Unworthy Minion said...

update: I sent off a "reminder" to the agent that inspired this thread, and got a form rejection within the hour.

That leads me to suspect I would have been left hanging if I hadn't "squeaked." I'd be interested to hear how many other writers are running into this.

Thanks to the agents who have replied to this thread. Helps me keep going, knowing polite agents are out there. Wish you handled my genre.

Anonymous said...

This has been a fascinating thread. It's something I've been wondering about because I've been querying via snailmail, and have so far received *no* response(in over 18 months) to my queries from several different reputable agents. These were personalized queries, composed with strict attention to their published guidelines and referencing similarities to other work they have represented. I did my homework!

Several months later, I followed the query letter with a polite email (appending in the body of email the text of the original query letter for reference) thanking them for their time and asking for the status of my query. Still no response. I found it quite discouraging. I've had far better luck with publishing houses, who have not only responded, but given personal feedback.

Jenny Bent said...

If you don't hear from me within a month, always feel free to check in with a follow-up e-mail. I then forward it to my assistant, and she generally gives me your material to take home for evening or weekend reading.

Terry said...

I had nothing but positive (ok, not counting the rejection)responses from Jenny Bent. Her assistant (I dealt with two over the course of the process) was quick to respond, and even sent a follow up, "we're really busy, but we still have your manuscript" email when I hadn't nudged. Her final email (the dreaded rejection of the full) was professional and even explained why it didn't work for her, and encouraged me with kind words about the quality of the writing. From query to partial was same day. After about a month, I got an email from a new assistant asking if the manuscript was still available for review, and if so, to send a full. It took about 2 1/2 months for the rejection of the full manuscript, which did not seem the least bit out of line considering some of the other agents I've dealt with.

And, when I queried her on my next project, I got a 'no thanks' email almost immediately.

Anonymous said...

I twice did not receive responses to requested e-partials. I followed up politely to see if they were received after two months and got a "got it" reply. After still not receiving a response in six more months, I assumed rejection. These were also both agents I spoke to personally at a conference. I have to tell you, the whole experience turned me off the whole agent search thing. I started going direct to small publishers instead, and I did get published. I hope this is rare, but of 14 agents I submitted to (and I don't think I engaged in niwittery), 4 did not reply at all.