3.31.2007

Ok, I know you're going to hate me for this but...

It's the end of the month so I'm cleaning up my desk, emailing my clients with status reports, and generally hosing the place out.

I keep a file with all my email from Prospective Clients in it. If the PC and I have moved past reading the ms to more fruitful discussions, the PC has a named separate folder. I look through those too, mostly to make sure I'm caught up.

Two PCs are getting rejection letters tonight. Both had interesting projects that I probably would have moved ahead on considering but for one important detail: these guys didn't respond very quickly. (additional info after reading Vatman Brady Westwater's comments: it wasn't just one email that languished for more than a week -it was four as of today, with the last one still unanswered).

(pause now for your screams and howls of anguish and irony that notoriously slow ..nay..glacial..agents are penalizing YOU for being slow)

(pause for echo of screams)

(pause for KY to climb down from ceiling where he launched himself thinking the Apocalypse was upon him)


ok, back to my rant.


I value clients who understand this is a business (for the most part) not operating at breakneck speed but also not at a standstill either. When I ask for something, I expect to hear back in a day or two at the most. If it's a task, it might not get done in a day or two but I'd like to hear you got the email and you're working on it.

The people I prefer to work with do that.
I've learned to be pretty clear about that preference before moving to "wanna sign up at Snark Central" but we never get to that point if you lollygag about. If lollygag is your default mode, that bodes ill for whether I think we're a good match. Wooing time is when we're all on our best behaviour, and if this is your idea of best...yikesarooni.

Now before you get even more outraged, let's all remember this is when I'm pretty serious about you and your work. It's not at the query stage or even the partial or full stage. I've read all that and liked it.

We're at the stage now of figuring out if we're a good match, and people who think waiting a week to answer basic questions is ok, aren't.

Agents vary, but I bet if you asked 100 of them, all 100 prefer someone who's prompt rather than not.

This isn't some sort of rule. It's just a word to the wise.
Have your stuff ready: bio, synopsis, people who might write blurbs if you have them, those kinds of things.

When an agent emails asking for something, respond, even if only to say 'I got this, I'll be back to you in a day or two'.

I can't appreciate the irony of this advice as much as you all will since you're the ones on the receiving end of lazy ass agents who don't get back to you.

BUT there are some of us who don't work that way, and we look for people who don't work that way either.

55 comments:

Brady Westwater said...

Agreed, but there should be exceptions. For ecmaple after running seven events in four says - I ended up in the hospital - nothing serious - for three days and missed the entire last contest. So if I had received an e-mails from you on a query - I would have missed the getting back to you for three or four days.

I even missed the funeral of a friend of mine who died the day I was admitted into the hospital.

Miss Snark said...

Clarification: it's not just ONE email that was lying around unanswered for a week. For both these hosers it was four...one after the other.

I hope you're feeling better. If need be, the vat can be filled with chicken soup and we can toss you back in.

Anonymous said...

I was just about to settle into bed with a good book. Now I might sit awake all night, my eyes so huge, you'll be able to find me in the dark.

Blurbs? People who might write blurbs? I live in the middle of fucking nowhere. There are no blurb-writer people in these here parts. None. Not one.

Sorry KY; I know you just climbed down from the ceiling but I gotta let it rip.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!!

Anonymous said...

Damn, and I did not think you would mind.

I was getting around to it, I really was.

Elektra said...

A rant from the other side of the coin--

Remarkably simple question, sent by me on Jan. 16: "Do you prefer e-mail queries or hard copy?"

WTF-style answer, sent by them MARCH 21: "Send by snail mail to their P.O. Box, but mark it 'E-mail Query' on the envelope.'"

Brady Westwater said...

Totally understandable then. It just seem like you to drop someone after two days of no response to one e-mail. And I'm fine. Just my periodic dopamine drop when my stimulation levels drop..

Brandi. said...

I hope people don't come after you with Great Irony Pitchforks. You're not being unreasonable. Not only do you want to work with people whose stuff you can sell, you want to work with people who will act like professionals.

If they don't return your e-mails in the honeymoon stage, it's a fair projection that you may not be able to reach them after you have started a huge bidding war for their work (G-d willing) -- when your reputation is on the line.

Nobody wants to look like a nitwit, especially not our sweet smells-like-gin-at-9am Miss Snark.

Professionalism is expected in every other business, why would people not expect it in publishing?

Kimber An said...

I live near the Arctic Circle and I have several potential blurb-writers I've met through my blog. With the advent of the Internet, we're limited only by our imaginations now.

Kate said...

I think that's perfectly reasonable. Me, short of a full-scale disaster (which I'm not discounting, my life tends to do awful things when I least need it), I'd be checking my email every twenty minutes to see if you'd sent me an email. And if you sent me an email saying "send me this"...I'd probably reply about fifteen minutes later saying "just put it in the mail". I'm just obsessive that way...

Petrea Burchard said...

You're not being unreasonable, Miss Snark. Fair or not, the truth is (as you've said), there are more of us than there are of you. With such fierce competition, why give an agent any reason--ANY reason--to reject you? Sure, good writing trumps all, but even so, once you've got that down, you're still not the only good writer on the planet. You still have to step up and be a pro.

Anonymous said...

People who don't get back clearly wish to be elsewhere. Damned if I'm going to kill myself trying to get in their way.

Shawn C. Speakman said...

I wonder how many people out there needed this post... obviously two. I bet many, many more.

For those of you who are thinking, "An agent takes her/his sweet time getting back to me and then they demand response time from me? The nerve!" Well, here's the deal:

You control how you respond, how professional you are. That is all that matters, to start with; that is all we have as querying writers or writers submitting full manuscripts or writers nearing contractual agreement. To start with. But once established and if an agent is unprofessional when it comes to time, there are other agents out there after the contract expires. So although there can be a double standard to begin with, sometimes that standard can come back to hurt the agent.

In short, patience is a writer's best friend—not only at the beginning while waiting for representation or a book deal but throughout the entire process.

ORION said...

This is another reason for attending conferences. Several authors I have met through conferences have been willing to blurb my book. Keep in mind this was AFTER I became agented.
Anyone who has read my blog can see the flurry of activity that happens after signing with an agent. A writer needs to be prepared for this. Yes you might be ill but when a publisher needs you to edit your work in a timely manner being ill is not an option. I can totally understand an agent being unwilling to take a chance on a client who can't be prompt with the easy stuff like bios and synopses.
This is a business after all.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like anyone with an overzealous spam filter or problems with their internet connection is pretty screwed, then.

I'd be willing to bet a lot of money that these authors never saw your emails.

snarkfodder said...

Your commenters are so understanding, Miss Snark!

Not me, though. A pox on thee in the form of squirrelly infestation. (For all the reasons you supplied.)

Will you at least cite the real reason in your rejection, or warn them, "If you don't get with the program, it's into the snarkerator with you!" I know they SHOULD be professional from the start, but maybe a kick in the ass is all they need. Agents are supposed to provide some degree of guidance, and sometimes that means tough love.

I feel so bad for these poor idiots.

amy said...

It seems a little harsh to cut people loose on April Fool's day. What if they think it's a joke?

Anonymous said...

You don't know if this person had a family emergency that is taking up all their attention or if they're on holiday far away from computers making them unable to respond.

Are you required to send your vacation schedule in your query to avoid this type of thing?

kitty said...

This will age me, but RSVP-ing is just good manners.

quietly writing said...

Seems like common courtesy is sorely lacking on both sides, then.

Whenever I've received an email from an agent requesting more material to be sent via snail mail, I always pop a quick email to let them know it's on its way.

One of the agents who currently has some requested material has had it for way too long (seriously -- it's just a partial). I status queried and was told that it's still under consideration. Okay, good. But if this potential relationship would begin to move forward, I would be constantly comparing the reponse time to the other agents who have my material. People with good communication skills tend to exhibit them no matter what the situation, no matter how busy.

And on this side of the contract, promptness and courtesy are huge factors, too.

Talia, Centre for Emotional Well-Being said...

My inclination would be to respond immediately (like Kate hehe) but if I had been dealing with an agent that took time to respond then I would presume that set the tone and that it was okay for me to also take a bit of time to think things over. Clearly I would be mistaken LOL

KingM said...

I think this is perfectly reasonable. The biz is tough enough without knowingly taking on flakes.

And I'm sure Miss Snark has different standards for long-established clients. Going back to the dating metaphor, if you find out on the second date that the other person has a drinking problem, that's pretty much the end. If said person develops drinking problem after several years of marriage, you're going to try to work through it.

Anonymous said...

Quietly writing makes me wonder what the etiquette is when the agent emails a request to forward a partial via snail mail. Just happened to me (my other partial requests have been to submit via email). It was also my first form request for a partial (I almost didn't read past "Dear Author" but was glad when I did).

Does a request like that need to be acknowledged by email, or does just sending the material suffice? Guess I don't want to annoy an agent by taking up her time to read a personal acknowledgement to a form request for material that will be arriving in a couple of days anyway ...

I am at heart a very polite person, but I'm just not sure how much communication is invited by any kind of form response.

Anonymous said...

Sounds reasonable to me. *shrugging*

Anonymous said...

Now, here's the type of client that Miss Snark is looking for:

A writer comes home to a burned down house. His sobbing and slightly-singed wife is standing outside. "What happened, honey?" the man asks.

"Oh, John, it was terrible," she weeps. "I was cooking, the phone rang. It was your agent. Because I was on the phone, I didn't notice the stove was on fire. It went up in second. Everything is gone. I nearly didn't make it out of the house. Poor Fluffy is--"

"Wait, wait. Back up a minute," The man says. "My agent called?"

Anonymous said...

You called this a rant but i found your post to be very honest and rational... I like that you let us in on your thinking at this deeper level...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else remember Miss Snark just a couple of days ago recommending a client who was uncomfortable in the situation to stay with an agent going through a divorce? To call the agent and have a heart-to-heart? And didn't she mention to give the guy a break because it wasn't like the client's book was in a 5-way auction at the time?

Maybe Miss Snark should try a phone call to these clients first (unless THEY are in 5-way auction deals) just to make sure it isn't a spam filter problem. Give them a chance to explain and, if the explanations don't hold water, THEN cut the cord -- and cut it FAST. After all, it's a business deal. One chance is all my business partners ever get. But they do get the one chance at least to make things right.

Petrea Burchard said...

quietly writing has a good point. For writers who can pick and choose, those agents with the best response time might seem the most attractive.

Miss Snark said...

Let's all remember it's not a spam filter problem cause they DO respond..it just takes a week at least to hear back on really minor details.

I'm not eager to shove prospects overboard...my entire livelihood depends on having clients and selling their work.

What I need though are clients who are on the ball so that when we ARE in a five way auction, and I need prompt responses, I'm confident (based on past behaviour, NOT promises of reform!) that will happen.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Miss Snark. We still don't hate you. If I get an email request, I usually get it back to them within an hour; and a hard copy request I hand-deliver the same day or the next (I pretend I'm a messenger!). Don't some of these agents that take longer than 5 months to get back to us realize that we're going to reject them? I want to work with someone as fast as me.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I don't know how any of the writers commenting and complaining have a leg to stand on. We already had several math lessons. Repeat?

Agent: 100 queries on desk at any given moment. Takes 1 week - 3 months to respond.

Writer: 1 or 2 agents on desk at any given moment if you're golden. Damn well better respond right away. I guarantee you that when Miss Snark finds someone she wants to represent, she emails/ calls/ contacts them right away - the delay was in getting to your material, not in the response time.

I'm a professional artist and if I ran my business like these authors did, my clients wouldn't appreciate it either. You email on the same day if you can, and if you're out of the house for any length of time on business, etc., set up an auto-response on your email so people know why you're gone.

Seems to me that clueguns should be sounding all over the free world right now.

Anonymous said...

Hell, I even drop my friends if they don't respond to email a few times in a row. I mean, am I really going to keep talking to myself? Shouting into the electronic void waiting for some paltry validation of my existence? Fuck that. Every episode of South Park is available on You Tube.

Judy said...

It amazes me that writers would not answer emails right away. Heck I sit at my desk all day WAITING for emails to arrive. Maybe other people have lives or jobs or they leave the house, I don't know. But still, you'd think that after all the waiting you do in this business that a person would answer email so fast that Miss Snark's head would spin.

Serenity Now! said...

Oh my GOSH. I cannot believe people don't get back to their agent.

People. I had my BlackBerry in the hospital with me when I GAVE BIRTH. I emailed my agent within hours of having my daughter to let her know she needed to run interference for me with the publisher.

We happened to sell my book the same week I had my daughter.

If I am going to be incredibly busy or away from the computer, I have a plan in place. This is a business, not a hobby.

I have an emergency plan in place, just like any other business!

I can almost understand agents taking their time responding to queries(not MY agent, mind you, she rocks)... they don't know us, we aren't in a relationship.

But once you are in even the barest of relationships with someone (doctor, teacher, neighbour, garbage man), to not respond is RUDE.

Geek In The Shadows said...

I think I would actually take a week off of work just so I could monitor my email for a contract. It wouldn't take me 4 minutes, let alone 4 days to get back to you. Some people are just either: too self important or too stupid to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Eek! Now I am totally paranoid. I have a 3 week trip planned, no internet, does that mean I might come back to civilization to find I missed my window of opportunity. Closed. Slammed shut. Sign in the window reading--if you wanted an agent, you should have stayed home.

Before vacation, should we notify agents who MIGHT want to contact us amd give them our itinerary and name of next of kin?

Miss Snark said...

No!
I reiterate: this was a multiple event occurance and a pattern of behaviour. NOT a one time deal.

Look, even I go on vacation and leave you all to stew without me. I leave the phone and email to stew too.

(I tell people I'm going, but there's always something that pops up but hey, that's life).

When I come back if someone was waiting I say "hey, I was on vacation, sorry to be delayed getting back to you".

The key piece of information is that delay is NOT the normal practice here.

I've had LOTS of people get back to me after a week or ten days. Most say something like "I was on a moon flight, sorry I missed your call" etc.

It's NOT a problem.

But, when you wait a week, respond with no reason for the delay; respond a week later to a second email; ten days later to another---THAT is when I start to get ...suspicious.

If you're reading this blog and getting paranoid, you don't have to worry.


And remember, again, NONE of this is at the query stage, the partial stage or even the full stage. It's AFTER that when I'm actually considering if you're a good match for how I work.

The very fact you understand it's a problem means it won't be a problem.

Chris Mansell said...

What, you expect every writer to be panting at their desk, every minute absorbed in waiting for an answer from some person who's had their work for a millennia?!

I work away from email - readings, workshops, (writing) trips. I might be in the boondocks earning a living. If a writer is busy that's a good thing, surely.

Angela said...

You call it a rant, I call it helpful insight.

Seriously though, if a person has gone through all the effort and followed the procedures to get an agent, and has a one intrested, why blow it by not promptly answering email.

That seems crazy but its not as though they did not deserve it. Agents , I assume, need people who are organised and business like . If you can not be bothered to check and answer emails then its your own hard luck surely.

Undercover said...

For both these hosers it was four...one after the other.

These two guys are Canadian, eh?

Anonymous said...

You know what I think? The authors are stalling Miss Snark because they're waiting for decisions from other agents. That's the only reason (barring death, dismemberment and divorce) for not responding to an email right away. I'm betting Miss Snark's Dear Author letters came as no surprise to these guys.

John B said...

Miss Snark after finding herself being habitually ignored by a potential cliant, in a fit of rage, quotes Ben Affleck as Chuckie in Good Will Hunting:

"Let me tell ya something. You're suspect! Yeah you. I don't know what your reputation is in this town, but after the sh*t you tried to pull today you can bet I'll be looking into you."

jnr said...

mmm...okay. so the scenario is, four emails dispatched over four weeks ignored. after you've been through the query/partial/full review and discussion process with these writers, and they know you're trying to decide whether to take them on as clients--for realio trulio--or not?

my guess is, they've got other irons in other fires, representationwise.

but writers and artists can be flaky--especially early in their careers, before the importance of professionalism has been painfully hammered into them. i speak from experience.

am kind of surprised (reading between the lines a little) that y'all have gotten that far in the process without phone conversation, though. for sanity/chemistry testing, if nothing else.

Anonymous said...

You know what I think? The authors are stalling Miss Snark because they're waiting for decisions from other agents. That's the only reason (barring death, dismemberment and divorce) for not responding to an email right away. I'm betting Miss Snark's Dear Author letters came as no surprise to these guys.

Then here's a bit of advice for anyone considering doing this: DON'T. You can let the agent know you're looking at all the offers before you make a decision, but you have to let the agents actually know something. Don't leave them hanging.

Rei said...

People. I had my BlackBerry in the hospital with me when I GAVE BIRTH. I emailed my agent within hours of having my daughter to let her know she needed to run interference for me with the publisher.

We happened to sell my book the same week I had my daughter.

If I am going to be incredibly busy or away from the computer, I have a plan in place. This is a business, not a hobby.


But that's part of the problem. If you're not published, it *is* a hobby. One that you'd like to turn into a business, yes, but until then, we have day jobs. If I sold something, sure, I'd buy a blackberry -- having people able to reach me more easily would be worth it. Until then, however, it's just a potential career, and not one that I can afford to be sinking large amounts of cash into.

That's no excuse for not checking your email; however, it's fair to say that all people are not created with equal access to the net.

Anonymous said...

The other irons thing sounds about right.
Not professional to tell that they're waiting on response.

jamiehall said...

If I ever get to that stage with an agent, I'll have to make it clear that they should call me instead of email. Either that, or I should create a separate email address only for corresponding with an agent. Or I should give out special instructions as to the subject line.

My email comes in volumes too large for me to be sure of a response time of less than a week (I'm not talking about spam, I'm mostly talking about weirdos who think I will go to Canada and personally investigate their giant beaver sighting). And scanning down the column of entries doesn't always make the important stuff jump out right away, either.

Anonymous said...

Did you'all notice how emotional Miss Snark was about this? She was pissed. Really pissed. How dare someone blow her off for a week? When one gets emotional, one has hit a weak/sore spot. Something to think about.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I'm not sure "emotion" is something I normally associate with "Miss Snark."

Rather, did you notice how SNARKY Miss Snark got over this? I'm guessing this has happened before, and they weren't all Canadian.

Anonymous said...

It seems to be straight-forward. For the author/agent relationship to work, it needs to be of equal importance on both sides. An habitual lack of responsiveness on either side suggests the sense of import is not there. That should be sufficient to give the other party pause for thought.

Petrea Burchard said...

If Miss Snark seemed extra snarky about this, it may be because she's gone through a lot already with these unprofessional losers (or hosers). She's read partials. She's read fulls. She's read those fulls (entire novels, we're talkin') more than once. She's considered offering representation. That means she loved their projects enough to put her neck on the block for them. She spent time on them that she could have spent on other projects, and she may feel that a lot of her time was wasted.

And these guys couldn't bother to sit their sorry butts in the chair and answer her e-mails promptly. So yeah, I'd be pissed, too.

There's a lot of talent out here. Whether we like it or not, agents can choose to work with pros and skip the slackers.

And if anonymous is right and said slackers/hosers had other irons in the fire, they still erred because publishing is a small world and word gets around. This is business. You gotta step up and be a grown-up.

SAND STORM said...

OK a couple of points.
One I'm Canadian and no one used Hosers other than Bob & Doug.

Not to respond is unprofessional and they deserve to be dumped.

Now a question for KY's Momma.
What if you as an agent are told or find out an author is weighing the choices of one or more agents as well as yourself? Do you wait for their selection or do you cut them from your list?

wonderer said...

sand storm - Miss Snark has blogged about this before. If she finds out that a writer has offers from multiple agents, it just means that if she wants to sign that writer, she will have to convince them that she's the best one to represent them. It's far from an auto-reject; on the contrary, it may spur her to read the ms faster. She still has to love the material, though.

theblankline said...

Just a couple of for instances. I spent 2 months in New Zealand visiting my sister. I din't discover for 2 weeks that my family was not getting my emails. Outlook 03 sent them (supposedly) but where, I don't know. I had to use my online email to send messages that actually got through.
I have just returned from a week in Colorado and discovered email sent from Outlook did not go through. I can find no explanation for this anywhere, but have decided when I want something to go and I am on a different ISP, I had better go online to send email.
I have also had email from my sister blocked by my ISP for no reason that the ISP could give.
Frustrating, yes, but unintentional regardless. Sometimes, s**t happens.

MWT said...

I think there is a key point everyone has missed so far. The problem isn't the slow response time per se.

It's the fact that the slow responder does not provide a reason for their slow responses. They can have all the legit excuses in the world - death, dismemberment, divorce, whatever - but they aren't keeping Miss Snark in the loop. If she were properly informed as to why the response is so slow, she would be much more patient. Even supposing that someone fails to respond for three weeks, due to being involuntarily offline for whatever reason. The proper thing to do is to apologize for it immediately after Internet access is restored. "I'm sorry for taking so long to respond, but..."

But instead, these two losers are behaving as if their slow responses are normal and acceptable behavior. It's not, and the fact that they don't understand that (yet?) is what makes them losers.

This is something that applies to a lot of situations in life, not just agent courting.

editor said...

Its not like the average writer has a stack of requests for their writing from agents they have to sift through before getting back to their agent, or a prospective agent. If they did, what are they sending out query letters for. Either you're writing to be published and make money, or you aren't.