Pub Rants

Name Dropping—the Faux Pas (part two)

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STATUS: Ah, decided to get grubby on that contract and got some nice results. I think it will wrap up tomorrow. That will make it TGIF!

What song is playing on the iPod right now? THE BOY IN THE BUBBLE by Paul Simon

I am enjoying this name rant spree.

There are so many aspects to name dropping; this could take a couple of days.

This one I call the name dropping faux pas because really, if writers had taken just a minute to access their common sense, they would have realized that this wasn’t a brilliant idea.

I get a mighty chuckle out of writers who, in their query letters, list the names of agents (and in their words, “top-tiered agents”) who have read their partial and then passed with “high” praise.

Excellent. The novel was so good they had to pass. Thank you for sharing that with me.

Uh… I’m not impressed. They passed. They said NO. Obviously, the work wasn’t good enough, or right for the market, or whatever, and now you have just giving me a list of reasons why I shouldn’t even bother asking for the partial.

Why would a writer do that? And yet, I see it all the time.

Yep. Just a little common sense could have detoured that query disaster.

23 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Well, I read that a lot of agents will say something like, “It’s good stuff, it’s just not for me.” Wouldn’t that make a writer put something like that? I mean, the agent did say it was good. The writer probably wants the newly queried agent to know that another agent actually thought it was good. Or, would an agent lie about it being good? Say it ain’t so!

  2. Eliza said:

    Why would a writer do that?

    Because nice writers tell other writers to embrace their rejections! “You have a stack of 30+ rejections for your first ms? That’s great! 40 more for your second? You rock! You’re really out there, doing it! You’re producing work, and that’s what’s really important. Who cares if it’s not salable? You just haven’t found The Right Agent.”

    I hear this all the time as an unpublished fiction writer. We’re told we’re “real” writers when we have that stack of rejections. If that’s not a tasty morself for a prospective agent, what is?

  3. kis said:

    I think the last thing you want to do is give the impression your stuff’s passed through a lot of hands. The only thing you might be able to do gracefully is to say, “I received very positive feedback from Agent Whoever, and have revised substantially based on that feedback.” Even then, it’s iffy.

    yickje. What’s THAT supposed to mean?

  4. kis said:

    And I think if I had 30 or 40 rejections, I’d be close to giving up altogether. Today’s NO in my email brings it to four for this version of my manuscript. If I don’t get any nibbles on any more partials, I’ll have to consider a major overhaul.

    Or maybe that stand-alone I’ve been considering…

  5. Linda Adams said:

    I critted someone’s query where they indicated that two very well-known thriller writers had said they would be happy to do quotes for the book. My first comment was “How could they aren’t referring you to their agents?”

  6. December Quinn said:

    That’s pretty insulting, isn’t it? “Agents A and B, two really important agents, thought this wasn’t quite up to their standard, but I figure it should be good enough for the likes of you.”

    Like asking someone for a date by saying, “The pretty girls were taken, but I thought you might be free.”

  7. Rachel Vincent said:

    Linda said, …two very well-known thriller writers had said they would be happy to do quotes for the book. My first comment was “How could they aren’t referring you to their agents?”

    The thriller writers may have done just that. Just because you’re referred to another author’s agent doesn’t mean that agent will necessarily want to take you on. Even if the book is fantastic.

    I know, because that happened to me. Twice. But I’m really glad that both of those agents turned me down now, because if they hadn’t, I would never have had the chance to sign with my own, unbelievably fabulous agent.

    But for the record (and to get back to the point of the post), I would never have mentioned rejections from other agents in a query letter.

  8. James Goodman said:

    That’s just funny. Is it wrong that I actually enjoy hearing about such silliness? If enough people send out horrible queries, it stands to reason that writers who put the extra effort into their queries will have their work shine even brighter by comparison.

  9. Eileen said:

    Can you imagine going up to a guy and saying “I’ll have you know several top men have rejected me, but before they passed they let me know I was pretty good.”

  10. Anonymous said:

    You know, I almost did this once, way back in the day. My first ms, first submission, came very close at a nice, small house, then they changed the direction of their list (in this case, actually not a euphemism for ‘we realised you suck’)and dropped me. I was left with a glowing set of readers’ reports and a regretful letter from the editor saying that my ms was fabulous she was sure someone else would pick this up.

    Various people exhorted me to copy the reports/letter and send in my submission to other houses. Which I almost did, being new, and desperate, and bummed at coming so close, and wanting to accelerate the ms back to that closeness at another house. But something about it felt weird. And even in my newness and relative stupidity it became clear to me that there was no earthly reason why a rec from another publisher would matter to anyone I sent it to. It was all about the writing, and no matter what crazy ‘supporting materials’ I provided, my ms was always going to succeed or fail on the basis of what it was.

    I’m still trying to get that ms published; it’s still coming close and then falling over. I’m starting to think that maybe it actually does just suck.


  11. Sherri said:

    Let me guess, most of these people don’t have clips to mention. The little people (aspiring novelists, of which I am one) are desperate for your attention. When the clips paragraph is light, it is tempting to fill it up with something, anything, to get you noticed.

  12. Anonymous said:

    So sure you don’t mention the rejects, but many agents want to know if other agents are reading the ms. Should a writer name the agents who are reading the ms, or simply say, yes two other agents are reading this? Couldn’t anybody just–gasp–lie and say that others are reading it in the same way I’ve heard people write requested material on the envelope when it just isn’t so.

  13. Shah of Blah said:

    If an agent likes a work, the writer would’nt likely be sending it to someone else again…if he does its cause he was rejected, …if he mentions it he’ll be rejected again….if he doesnt then it would be concluded that either
    1) this is his first query and likely to be immature work (or)
    2) That he has been rejected and is trying to hide it

    I dont see anything going for the writer here….

    To mention or not to..?

  14. Ric said:

    How about something along the lines of “Miss Snark, in a glowing commentary, says this isn’t a genre she works with, but thought you and I might be a nice fit.”?

    Would that pique your interest?

  15. Shelli Stevens said:

    Yeah that kinda just seems like commone sense. Why would I point out to you who else didn’t want to become my agent? No, I have to convince you I’m utterly fabulous. And if I give you a list of top agents who said ‘close, but no cigar’ then I’m just a moron.

  16. Ryan said:

    Well here’s a rant from a writer. While I’ve never dropped the name of someone who has rejected my work (it really doesn’t make sense and it’s a waste of words), I’ve always been under the impression that publishing is “subjective” and it has to be a “good fit” for the agency. So, my dears, if this is all so subjective and agents are all looking for the “right fit” why should it matter if ten agents rejected a writer? I would think if an agent were viewing ALL submissions with a subjective eye it wouldn’t matter at all who rejected the writer in the past. Sorry for my little rant, but I’m in a bad mood today. I just rejected an editor who revised a short story I sold last month. His revision read more like a first draft than a final, and he actually used a cliche in the revision (chivalry is not dead). I’m all about editing, word economy and tightening a story, but this guy actually revised with grammatical errors! So, while I wouldn’t advise dropping the names of agents who rejected you, it shouldn’t really make much of a difference to an agent. A good friend of mine (an agent) actually rejected John Grishom because Grishom mentioned another agent “liked” his work but decided to pass on it. Thanks.

  17. Anonymous said:

    I did make this mistake, recently. But the editor who passed wanted to buy it so badly that she even complained to one of her authors (a friend of mine) for having to let it go because the senior editor passed on it. Thought that was a fairly good recommendation.

    Oops. Sorry Kristin. I’ll know better next time.

  18. Joseph said:

    The main reason my students gave for doing it was that it was *PRAISE* given by “someone in the industry” for their work. For virtually all of them, it was the only praise that they had ever heard regarding their writing, and so they quoted it. Not one of them realized that they were pretty much dooming their efforts by way of pointing out how many people had rejected it.

  19. Ryan said:

    I’m in a good mood now, and agree no one should drop names that are associated with rejection….I made up with the editor, stuck to my original story and all is well. Usually I’m so hungry to be published I back down so whatever they say. This is much better.

  20. Deb said:

    Doesn’t this whole exercise fall into the category of rejection-decoding? Writer wringing hands over latest “no-thanks” letter and wailing, “What does this MEAN?”

    For some MSs, it means only that they don’t like the 1) theme 2) voice 3) craft…it could be something basic like this that the agent doesn’t care for. For my first agent, the first thing I sent her was sent back with “uh-uh, divorced hero.”

    How was I to know this was a hot button of hers? I sent her three more books before she found something she could work with. I’d never have known an agent would reject handling a project due to a factor such as this.

    What if the agent loves your voice and feels they can sell for you, but not THIS BOOK? Wouldn’t an author peddle that book elsewhere with the idea that some other agent might love both the voice AND the book?

    No decoding necessary most times, but not all the time. It unfortunately isn’t quite that easy.

    And that’s why they say it’s easier to get a publisher than an agent.

    Termagant 2

  21. Annie Dean said:

    Should a writer name the agents who are reading the ms, or simply say, yes two other agents are reading this?

    I would say don’t name names initially; there’s no need, and it can be interpreted as pretentious. As your professional relationship with the agents develops (and you’re going to have more chemistry with one than another), you might want to provide more info. This is particularly relevant if any of the agents prefer exclusives, which is not-so-good for the writer but it’s always best to be candid and ethical in your dealings, so yes, tell them that x-number of other agents have partials. I wound up in the enviable position of having a couple offers come in simultaneously and then I got to write my nice (ha ha!) “My work is no longer available, as I have signed with another agent, but thank you for your time and interest” letters. That was wonderful fun.