Pub Rants

The Drawback of Being Prompt?

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STATUS: Doing well. Had a productive day despite the fact that I found two omissions of okay’d changes in what was supposed to be the final contract. That will probably get cleaned up tomorrow.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? THE ONE THING by INXS

It never occurred to me that there might be a drawback to actually being caught up on queries, sample pages, and being almost caught up on reading fulls.

We are literally responding to queries within 1-5 days and sample pages within 2 weeks. We are so on top of things that we have been accused today of sending auto-responses. In fact, one writer was so irate, he emailed back to say I should de-list myself as an agent looking for new clients because obviously, since I sent such a quick NO response to his query, I must not be taking on new clients.

Snort. Wasn’t I just talking about writer responsibility on Monday?

But seriously, Sara and I had a conversation today on whether she should read and respond to queries that literally came in today—even though she was open to tackling them.

We decided not to. It seemed harsh or cruel to respond with a NO to a query we received only 10 minutes ago.

We are softies.

But it really shouldn’t matter. We read every query we receive. Give it careful consideration but it’s usually pretty darn clear what is right for us and what’s not.

Now, there are 20 queries Sara has set aside for me to review and I’m actually going to read and respond to them right now—it will take me about 15 or 20 minutes and that will close out the day.

Trust me. It’s not an auto-response.

32 Responses

  1. Maprilynne said:

    I LOVE getting immediate response. No obsessive e-mail checking, no wondering if they’ve read it yet and if you should take no response as a NO, just a quick and, in my opinion, much less painful rejection . . . or acceptance, either way.:)

  2. kis said:

    Given how many agents are behind weeks–even months–on responding to queries, I can understand the suspicion of the writer. But anyone who has spent any time here on this blog would know you’re so caught up as to be able to give a same-day (even same-hour) response.

    Don’t go getting purposely behind just to please writers like this guy. We writers are obsessive. A swift and (relatively) painless no is better than a long and breathless wait any day.

  3. 2readornot said:

    wow — 2 weeks for sample pages? I’m excited, because now I won’t have time to eat as much chocolate as i wait…you should have gotten them Monday…I’ll try not to hold my breath (though you know I will be). I’m obviously one who loves it when agents are this on top of things!

  4. lizzie26 said:

    Oh geez, you answer too soon, they’re annoyed. You take a few weeks or months, they’re annoyed. You can’t please everyone. I guess if it was a “yes” they wouldn’t care if it took ten minutes or ten weeks.

  5. rachel said:

    I, too, would prefer the quick no, if the answer’s going to be no either way.

    Maybe a long wait makes it seem like the agent agonized over it more. Thanks for telling us that’s not necessarily the case.

  6. Jen said:

    The quick “no,” while still disappointing, is easier to take than one that is weeks or months in the making. You don’t try to justify it to yourself. You don’t try to build yourself up with “They probably want it or it wouldn’t be taking this long” and other such similar things.

  7. Barbara K said:

    I’d rather have an immediate and painless response than wait one to two years for one. It enables me to move on without obsessing.

  8. Tori Scott said:

    Dear God, I’d much rather get a fast response than, say, the going-on-15 months I’ve been waiting to hear back on a partial from another agent. And she was excited about getting them! I have several friends who’ve also been waiting that long.

    Give me the bad news quick and get it over with. Works for me. 🙂

  9. Anonymous said:

    Writers House gives email rejections in minutes!

    It’s somehow kind of humerous to get it so fast, and not as painful as you’re thinking

  10. Anonymous said:

    Cynthia writes:

    I agree: snatch it off quick like a Band-Aid … much less agony.

    I say that as I wait upon the replies of three other agents (haven’t got the nerve up yet to query you again, although you did ask for sample pages the last time).

    Two of those agents have had fulls for three months; one has had a partial for over three months.

    I know from one of the agents with the full that they can take upwards to six months on a query (they take a partial right off the bat), and on the blogosphere, I’ve heard the agency can take two years to finally get you a no to a full.

    The other two … hmh. I’ve e-mailed a follow-up on the partial, and when I tried to e-mail a follow-up on the other full, my e-mail got bounced; the lady only takes digital queries, like you … and right after she asked for my full, she shut down her agency to queries for the time being.

    So I scratched my head in confusion at the bounced e-mail and popped a snail mail follow-up in the post.

    Haven’t heard a peep out of either of them.

    I’m definitely one of those, “give-it-to-me-straight-and-quick” gals. Keep up the good work! Hopefully you’ll find gold in that slush pile — and hopefully I’ll get nerve enough up to e-mail you a query of one of my other two completed novels.

  11. Vivienne King said:

    I’m so thankful I don’t have to worry about the agent thing anymore, but when I was going through it, the fast no was so much more preferable to the long drawn out, inevitable no. either way it’s a no, so who cares when it comes?

    and like someone else already mentioned, we writers are so bloody obsessive, constantly checking our email, mail box, etc…a fast no is so much easier to just move on and look to the next person.

    and hooray for you for getting caught up so fast!

  12. Cindy Procter-King said:

    Oh, pshaw. Respond when it best suits you and Sara. If you’re on the top of your game, that’s bad?

    But then I’m in a good mood. I sold an erotic novella to Red Sage today!


  13. Anonymous said:

    *scratches head*

    If it’s not an auto-response, why does it start “Dear Author”?

    With all that free time, wouldn’t it be possible to take just a couple of extra minutes to include the actual writer’s name?

    I’ve cut and pasted many a letter, and including the name takes very little effort. But that’s just me…

  14. Anonymous said:

    On the flip side, your prompt response was a hell of a thrill for me. I sent out my first ever query and got a positive response three days later. Even if you end up hating my sample chapters, you will still have given me a great boost at the beginning of my agent-hunting process. Thanks.

  15. DanStrohschein said:

    That’s awesome! Keep up the good work. Most of us writers are impatient, and I think most of us would rather have a quick response, even same day, rather than waiting for weeks, months, or years.

    Way to go Sara! Now if we could clone her and send the clones to the other agents and editors out there….

  16. eleora said:

    Immediate responses are appreciated, at least for my part, even “No’s.”

    The sort of writers that complain that they received an autoresponse are not the sort who deserve being accomodated.

    Good for you and Sara at being so caught up.

  17. Anonymous said:

    kis makes a very good point about reading this blog and expectations.

    I also agree with others here who say do not intentionally slow down and punish other writers because of this bozo. -JTC

  18. Janny said:

    I agree with the third “anonymous” (note–there are too darn many of you!) comment…if you’re that much ahead of and on top of the game, then find a way to mail-merge a name into the letter rather than starting it “Dear Author.”

    And then, go visit some other agencies and instruct them in how to get back to people in a civilized period of time, because if you can do it…they all ought to be able and willing to do what it takes to do likewise.

    Obviously, you have learned the secret handshake, and you need to share it!



  19. alau said:

    Copying and pasting a name to a letter takes very little effort, but when you have hundreds of letters to send? That takes alot of effort. I should know. The whole reason I have a job is to copy and paste names to letters (thank you letters for a large non-profit org)

  20. praiseanonymity said:

    Business wise it would be better if the response were delayed by 1 day (when, of course, that is an option). First, as the little poll in the comments indicated a quick response is more than welcome. 1 day would definitely be considered quick, if not very quick by the industry standards. So nothing would really change for the ones who want a quick response, and the agency would be more effective as a business for mainly two reasons: a. that small delay may prevent some of the e-mails that come back with accusations, e-mails that are time consuming, b. better marketing, e.g. those who would have felled ‘cheated’ by a same day response would probably not to, and would still consider the agency of ‘good’ reputation. (Lots of maybes here, but still…)

    Bottom line: Delay or not delay of the query response wouldn’t really hurt the agency, but such a small delay could definitely help.

    As for the cutting and pasting the names in the replies (when that’s an option) it probably wouldn’t help. 1. It is time consuming and 2. Doubt it makes much a difference

    One suggestion could be to reduce the six weeks time response stated in the agency’s website FAQ. People that e-query may not read Pub Rants; 10 minutes versus the possibility of six weeks of waiting may be intensifying the accusations phenomenon. Plus, of anything changes regarding time response then it can simply be changed back.

  21. Manic Mom said:

    I truly appreciate a fast response, even if it comes within ten minutes of sending a query. It gets the ball rolling so we can continue our search.

    And I can totally understand how if you read the first two or three sentences, and if it’s not something you go WOW over, then why waste the time trying to convince yourself to like it. This book agent search thing is so subjective, and I completely understand when I get a rejection and am learning not to take it personally. I think it’s like watching movie trailers — I know within the first scene whether it’s a movie I would go see or not.

    Stephanie (who was rejected by Kristin last year but didn’t take it personally and visits Pub Rants daily!)

  22. Mel Francis said:

    It amazes me that anyone would email a response to a rejection. If I were the agent or editor reading an angry or accusatory response–then I would know I made the right decision rejecting the manuscript. That would not be a person I would want to work with. Period.

    Frankly, I appreciate the quick turn around. There’s nothing worse than waiting and waiting and waiting….

    -Mel (thankful she has an agent now to do the waiting for her) *grin*

  23. kis said:

    Oh, Douglas, I feel so guilty!

    I’m the one who suggested that guy start a blog. I thought he’d maybe do a daily rant about line-ups at the grocery store, or the inherent perils of smoking used butts found in public ashhtrays.

    I never thought he would use it as a medium for bad-mouthing agents! I can only hope its his recent break-up that’s made him go off to freaking pluto, and that eventually he’ll find his way back here to us earthlings. Otherwise, I can only see more and more rejection in his future.


  24. Elizabeth Byler Younts said:

    Didn’t our mamas always tell us to pull off the band-aid quickly so it would only hurt for a second. Quick responses are better than waiting and waiting…quick and a little less painful. 🙂

    A quick “yes” is even better. 🙂

  25. M. G. Tarquini said:

    My quickest rejection was two minutes. Seriously. It came back so fast that I had no doubt whatsoever but that the agent did not want my work.

    C’est la vie. I queried other people.

  26. Anonymous said:

    If it only takes a few minutes to say yes or no to someone’s short query letter, then that is fine in my book (no pun intended). If it takes longer then that is fine, as well (same goes with partials and full manuscripts). I agree with the other people here: If an agent says no, it can get the writer on to another agent since it is commonly known that you only should send a handful of letters out…and if a no comes, send out another letter.

    Not only can it save the agent’s precious time by sending a prompt and convenient response, it also saves the writer’s time. 🙂

  27. Annie Dean said:

    It amazes me that anyone would email a response to a rejection.

    I disagree, most notably with the word ‘response’. Rant, yes. Response, no. When I was querying agents, I always sent a “Thank you for your time” e-mail after a reaction, even if it was disappointing. And if they had personality or amusing commentary as a couple did, not naming names, I added that as well: “It’s been a pleasure corresponding with you; you have a great sense of humor.” Burning bridges is never a good idea.