Turnaround Woes

I've been reading your comments about all the ways agents make you crazy about not returning your queries, or letting your manuscripts sit for too long, or general crapola that annoys the snot out of you.

Let's all pause to reflect on the numbers.

You: send 100 query letters in the course of your submission process at the most. Most of you send fewer than 20.

Me: I get 100 letters a WEEK. 52 weeks a year.

You: If you get two or even 15 out of twenty screw ups you're convinced the world is going to hell in a handbasket and agents are the reason why.

Me: 15 screw ups out of 5200 is still a pretty good batting average. If I only mess up one a week, that's 52, and I know the average is probably at least 5. That's 250 mistakes, and that's just me.

Try to remember the volume of stuff that physically comes through the door, and that's not even counting any of the electronic stuff.


Anonymous said...

Mistakes don't bother me. Arrogance bothers me. Screwing up doesn't get under my skin. Disrespect does. When an agent inadvertantly deletes an electronic submission or loses some of the slush, that's one thing. When an agent establishes a policy that says, in effect, "You're not worth six or seven clicks on my keyboard," well, sorry. I'm not buying.

The agent who replied to the previous post about eliciting unwanted follow-ups from rejected writers only needs to dump that first unwarranted reply into her email system's JUNK folder and she will never hear from her angry, pleading, annoying correspondent again. Including the query for his next novel.

You'd think that alone would be worth a few clicks.

Anonymous said...

That's just 'cause when we send our work off, we imagine it will be received in a scene something like that in "A Christmas Story" -- the one where Ralphie turns in his essay on "What I want for Christmas," where he's carefully described his Red Ryder BB rifle with a compass in the stock, and he imagines his teacher viciously tearing into the stack of essays, wailing about their poor quality, wishing she could find just one that shines, and then she finds Ralphie's and goes into raptures while the violins play and everyone cheers.

And then what we get back is a C- and "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."


We have to remember there's a person on the other side of the desk, and it's not that person's job to be an ego-stroker.

Chris Eldin said...

Which is exactly why I've secretly started a business with Killer Yapp.

It's called You, Agent, Publisher, Profits. YAPP for short.

KY and I will are pre-agents. We find the right agent who will in turn find the right publisher.

"If you send us crap, we'll send it back" is our motto. KY will send some specially formulated crap via SASE if you've been rejected.

If we agree to take you, we'll really take you. Else how could we make any money?

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Good post here Miss Snark! As a person who sent out more than 150 queries before landing my agent, I'd say you've got it a lot harder than we do! ; )

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the dose of perspective, Miss Snark! Even though I secretly still believe it's all about me.

Diana Peterfreund said...

5200 makes me think you're getting off easy, Miss Snark. Wasn't Kristin Nelson saying she got four times that last year?

I admire agents that don't burn out just looking and can still request after all that.

Michael Carr - Veritas Literary said...

Of course there are mistakes, and if you hit the 5% mistake mark you mentioned, Miss Snark, you'd expect to see it reflected in the returns.

But some people have on 50% or lower response. That means that some agents are just chucking manuscripts, unread, in the garbage. That's wrong.

John B said...

writerious said "...And then what we get back is a C- and 'You'll shoot your eye out, kid.'"

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've gotten rejection slips that said just that. I still think theres a market for my 'for dummies' book about performing self eye exams with a sniper rifle, though.

Anonymous said...

I sent a requested full ms electronically to an agent, then never heard back.

Turned out they had a computer glitch and my manuscript went into the void. As there was no longer any contact info, I was into the void as well.

I found this out when I sent a follow-up e-mail.

The agent then asked me to send hard copy. She didn't take me on, but gave feedback and I have a open invitation to send the revised manuscript, or a future work.

I don't know what sort of systems are in place for electronic submissions, but I can see it getting a little hairy with the numbers you describe. I hope this is it for me, as this agent was one of my top choices. However, if not, I'm sending via snail mail next time from the start.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark says that most send fewer than 20 ....

Hmmm, let's see here, I'm at query #18 and we're looking at 6 nothankyous, I'm waiting to hear on 8 queries (3 weeks and counting), waiting on 1 partial (3 months and counting),
1 partial was recommended to another agent (3 weeks and counting), 1 full came back (no thanks, not my kind of story), 1 full (waiting on now).

Should I be worried?
Should I be worried?

Anonymous said...

Actually, that's 260 mistakes. We get the point. ;-)

Anonymous said...

in re: the agent whose rejected authors argue with her: I totally hear you and I totally sympathize. It's easy enough for Snarklings to say, "Get over it! Delete!" But A LOT of authors pick fights and honestly, it can be exhausting just to read these argumentative emails and letters, even if you end up trashing them instead of replying. What's more annoying is that this seems to be a common response from really bad writers, of which there are MANY out there.

Everyone thinks their books are worthy of publication. Everyone. 99% of them are not.

Argumentative authors and terrible submissions comprise the vast majority of any given slush pile. Now imagine if most of what you read on any given day is a) a letter telling you how stupid you are for not seeing the genius in a submission or b)just plain awful writing.

It may sound like a lot of fun, but agenting and editing can be demoralizing at times. Like any job, it can really suck. Just like trying to get your book published.

Please realize that though you are a kind, talented and thoughtful communicator, many, many (most?) people aren't.

-Ex Editor

Anonymous said...

catherine d. wrote: "Should I be worried?"

I think Miss Snark means that we tend to give up after 20 or so rejections. Which is probably true in a lot of cases. As she says, query widely. Not every agent wants/can sell the same things.

Keep writing.