No, you can't do this

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm a literary agent. I recently moved offices and googled myself to find places that listed my name and address so I could email them to update the listings.

I was really shocked and hurt to find bloggers writing nasty (and un-true!) things about essentially form rejection letters. Bloggers who actually had their names on their blogs.

I'd really like to create a website like P&E but for potential clients from hell.

What do you think?

Suck it up.
It's part of the biz. You know it too or you wouldn't have asked.
People deal with feeling powerless in a variety of ways. Some channel their energy into writing so well they get published. Other blog about rejection.


Bill said...

If the literary agent is worried about his reputation over this, the simple answer is: don't.

Speaking as a writer who's going to be researching agents when my book is finished, the opinion of a blogger whose proposal was rejected will mean absolutely zilch to me. They don't know you, they have no reputation, and the fact they're whining about a form rejection says more about them than it does about you.

Now, if I see authors you're representing bitching about you, that's a different kettle of spam.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Rejection is part of business. ... If you are too thin-skinned to take it, change professions.

Now that I've said that, let me observe that some form rejections are pretty thoughtless. I've been a bit spoiled by nice personal notes, but I've had my share of "form rejections." Some are neutral, not-for-us kinds of things. Some are just clueless and rude. Do what we writers must do: Have someone review your form letter.

Ask Miss Snark to post it here. We'll review it for you. We're experts. We see more types of rejetion letters than you do!

I'm not joking. Some people just don't understand that a form rejection can be as rude as a nasty personal letter. It's all in the tone and appearance.

I'd be happy to rate your form letter. ... So would dozens of others experts who haunt Miss Snark's blog. Even Bill E. Goat would review your form letter!


Sha'el of the Pixies,
Suzarian of Fairie,
Queen of Goats

Anonymous said...

While I've perused the Rejection Collection now and again, it gets dull after a while when you read several authors' long-winded rant and realize they're all ranting about form letters. Author responses to seriously unprofessional rejections are funny. Author responses to standard form letters that we've all seen many, many times before just aren't.

So if there are authors out there ranting about agents who sent form letters, those authors need a few lessons in how this industry works.

Not to mention thicker hides.

Authors who already know how the system works won't be the least bit affected by the rants of authors who don't. In fact, most experienced authors, published or not, will look at those rants and think, "Geez, get a clue."

Don said...

To follow on bill, I'm thinking that if I see an agent whining about someone with no reputation whining about a form rejection, that does reflect badly on the agent.

Maprilynne said...

Someone who is unprofessional enough to post things like that with their name attatched is probably too unprofessional to produce a truly professional piece of work that you would be likely to accept. I think it's a self-contained problem.

Elektra said...

sha'el, I just got a couple of forms that fall into the category of thoughtlessly rude (one of them said something like "Agent So-and-So is currently looking for new clients, but only on work she feels is well-written and engaging").

Anonymous said...

Interesting, Elektra. Writers beg agents to give some indication of the writing. I've seen suggestions that agents have two or three different form letters for perceived quality of the submission: close, nice but not exceptional enough to catch my attention, wake up and smell the coffee - your writing stinks.

Now, in your case, the letters probably WERE rude (I know you're a professional writer). But what if they were the type of form feedback being clamored for? If this agent was really trying to be helpful. How would the recipient know?

Dave Kuzminski said...

P&E has nothing against form letters. In fact, we view those as necessary in an industry where agents and publishers alike sometimes have hundreds of query letters and submissions arrive weekly. In fact, we view personal letters as being more cruel. Some are much too vague in trying to convey a sympathetic no. Others mixed up information in sending a rejection so that it appeared the agent or publisher hadn't actually read anything. In fact, the best ones have been brief and conveyed only that the submission wouldn't be a good match for the agent.

It's better to let the writer join some critique groups if the writer wants feedback. Then the writer will be among other writers who are also readers. If other readers don't like what a writer has to offer, then maybe it's just not ready.

Anonymous said...

Um...I have trouble believing this person is really an agent. They sound more like a writer fishing to find out if agents have a hidden "blacklist" website out there.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Anon. of the last sort:

I have no trouble seeing her as professional. We seldom realize what the true weight or effect of our written word is.

Elektra's naughty agent is of the rude sort, and probably intentionally so. But ... one never knows. They may be clueless and rude. Or just rude. Or just clueless. see?

I'm working my cute little pixie fingers to the bone trying to finish a (yes they WANT TO SEE IT! Yipee) journal article that summarizes a longer bit of research. So there's this sticky, puzzling aspect to Mr. I Am Almost God's life. I email a historian from MY-church-has-a-really-long-name for information. She, kind soul that she is, refers me to Wickedpedia. Umm this is on the far edge of clueless ... but nice. See?

(She followed that up with an apology and an invitation to speak at a conference later this year. She's a nice person. She isn't mean. We all do clueless things. see?)

I was serious when I said our mystery agent should post her form letter. What better way to see how people are reacting to it?

It is important for her to know that. Why? Well, I've gotten "write something else for us" letters. They fall into two piles: 1. your letter is so nasty, the only thing I'd ever write for you is a funeral notice; 2. Humm, how nice. When I'm finished with my nutzoid 19th Century prophet, I just might....

My reaction is to what's printed in an email or form letter or personal not, not to a voice from which one can measure tone and intent.

She should post it. We're meanies, but we will tell her. Well, some of us are meanies. I'm ALWAYS nice. ALWAYS.

Miss Snark said...

Last anon, the writer is a lit agent or at least someone with an email address from an agency I know.

Anonymous said...

So do agents have some sort of hidden blacklist site? I'm curious.

anon_of_the_last_sort said...

Miss Snark: Thank you for the clarification. I suppose the agent must be relatively new, then, and thus hasn't yet developed the alligator-hide-in-lieu-of-skin s/he needs. (That will come, I'm sure; prolonged exposure to nitwits speeds the growth of such.)

H.R.H. Sha'el: You're quite right that the diversity of reactions people have to a given piece of writing can shock the person who wrote it. Probably that's all that was happening in the case of this agent. :-)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

A hidden black list site? How interesting. ... I don't think so, but they do gossip.

Be nice to agents, even if you think they're lily-livered (what is that anyway?) pusillanimous, frog-eating, Absinthe imbibing, goat-haters. ... Because they gossip.

Don't you? Booksellers and historians do. Goat-herds do. Agents do too. They sit around tables in dimly-lit bistros and tell stories about slush piles, query letters and rude authors.

And NEVER spill a latte' on an agent. That's very bad form.

Anonymous said...

It's odd that a literary agent would ask Miss Snark what she should do rather than ask, I don't know, someone at her/his own agency, but I suppose that is another matter.

I don't at all condone spouting off publicly about how horible rejection is and how it absolutely can hurt you at times. But I can see why others would.

For fun, I think the agent in question should write a quick query letter, for any type of project, and send it out to twenty-five agents/editors and see the responses she/he gets.

Only then will this agent understand the frustration level: a seven month wait for a photocopied, coffee-spilled on, form rejection letter from someone who has scribbled your name at the top, and mispelled it at that.

It simply breeds frustration. To want to make a website listing all these writers as "clients from hell" might not be helpful.

Instead, possibly the agent could remember that for HER agency, she can get things done quicker/better/nicer, even for rejection, and take satisfaction that she is honorable and respectful of writers, when, sorry, a lot of people in this business are not.

BTW, I'm not a bitter, unpublished writer, either. I have a great agent and a YA novel coming out this summer. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that at times, this business has broken my heart.

jeb said...

I think this agent is divinely sneaky. And efficient.

She's getting the message out to a whole lot of would-be writers at once (and who else reads Miss Snark's blog?) that people who take form rejections to mean anything other than 'no thanks' are way WAY too tied up with themselves.

Sneaky, and snarky.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I hope that next time I say something really ummm ummm not as bright and scintillating as it should be, that I'm thought of as brilliant too.

I think she was hurt by what she read about herself. I think she didn't intend to upset anyone beyond saying, "no." And I think she felt put upon and abused by the unintended responses to her form letter.

We can't control the reactions of others, and neither do we need to slap back.

She has my profoundest Pixie sympathies. I still want to see the form letter.

Zornhau said...

Sorry to weigh in late here, but the whole wananbes ranting foolishly about rejection letters thing has been rather famously covered by a well known Tor editor: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html

Anonymous said...


Don't sweat it. Writers make themselves look like morons, not you.

Smart writers vent to one another and our friends (who care) when we get a rejection. All it really means is our feelings were hurt. Those of us who can get over it and keep writing might eventually succeed.

Those of us who give up after multiple rejections... just leave more room for the persistent (and, of course, talented) to get accepted.

In any case, YOU don't look bad unless you snipe back. But sure, put those writers on your own little List of Horrors. Share it with friends or fellow agents, if you want. If those horrors wrote a great novel, though, wouldn't you change your mind?

Quillers said...

The absolute best response to a rejection letter is here


Anonymous said...

If the agent can't take rejection, then get out of the business. She can hand it out, but can't take it herself. That's pretty funny! So I guess writers have to take it because they are the ones who slaved over their books for years--they are the ones with the talent and the creativity--but agents who spend ten minutes on the book are allowed to comment on it but writers can't comment back. Huh!!! Did she even think twice about asking such a rediculous question.