Dear Miss Snark,
Thanks for running the blog and for your occasional crapometers. They are very educational for us. Hopefully the quality of queries you receive has improved some since you started this.
After reading 1000? of your crits of hooks, queries, synopses, and first pages, I think I'm clear on what generates an automatic form: bad writing, no organization, not following directions, querying a genre/topic you just don't represent. But lately I've known a lot of people who've been getting forms on requested fulls. Since the agent has already seen the writing and a synopsis, what does a form mean on this level? I'm not saying that an agent should sign all fulls s/he requests. I just don't understand what the form response means.
Let's start the New Year right by reminding everyone what my job is: selling. I only make money when I sell something. SELL. Every minute I spend writing non-form letters to you on a query, partial, or a full is one minute I'm not doing what generates income.
My job is NOT to edit, coach, be nice, or be helpful.
Form letters mean No.
One of the things I learned from running the HHCom this time around was I am very much ok with saying "you get a form letter from me". We did 650+ hooks here. I read EVERY ONE and thought about what to say. I could do 50 in a day, and at the end of it my brain was fried. I get 100 query letters a week; I read 5 partials a week, and 5 fulls a month. Do the math. That would be an EXTRORDINARY amount of time spent on feed back...NONE of which earns me any money at all.
A form letter means no. It doesn't mean you stink, your writing sux, or should fling yourself on an ice floe and give up writing.
It just means, for whatever reason, I am not taking this project.