Pub Rants

Response Speak

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STATUS: Heading out to dinner with an agent friend who is in town.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO by Frou Frou

Form response:
Don’t interpret anything. It could mean just about anything under the sun.

Form response with personal comment
Submission was interesting enough for the agent to make a comment. Don’t interpret too much. It’s the nature of the comment that is important here. If it’s “I just didn’t fall in love” that could mean anything from concept isn’t right or writing isn’t quite there yet.

If comment is something along the lines of “see talent here but not right for me”, well that’s encouraging.

Letter with feedback
On to something here. Time is tight. If agents take the time to actually include feedback, they see potential.

Revision letter with request to submit again
Agents are interested. Now they want to see if you can take a potentially flawed work or something that’s not quite ready into something they can get serious about, offer representation, create a revision letter to make the work publishing ready.

Revision letter with offer
You’ve got talent and a great concept. We’re willing to take a risk by getting you on board and then working with you.

An offer
Nothing ever goes out unedited but when an agent just offers, we know that whatever revision might be necessary will only amount to small tweaks.

22 Responses

  1. hannah said:

    “Nothing ever goes out unedited”–got to disagree with that one. Both my books that sold went from me to the agent to the editor completely untouched. After that, a different story…(and yes, legitimate agent, big publishing house)

  2. Anonymous said:

    Wow, what a helpful post! Kristin, Is it too much to request one additional translation?

    “Not right for me, but I am sure that someone else will feel differently.”

    I got that response twice (for a partial and full) requested after my first ten queries. Since there were no other specific comments, I took it as the writing was not quite there yet and went back to revising.

    I definitely did my research on these agents, so it was not a case of a bad match or an inappropriate submission. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Marshall Buckley said:


    I read Kristen’s comment to mean:
    “Nothing *gets published* uneditted”

    I would guess that there is a reasonable amount of work that gets sent out from the agetn unedited, but certainly my agent told me that “There will be some edits. We have to give the editors *something* to do!”
    …and I’m not so full of myself to believe my MS is 100% perfect. Nearly, but not quite 🙂

  4. Gordon Jerome said:

    I’m not naive: I know most people can’t write well enough to justify the wear and tear on their keyboard. Maybe I’m one of them; I don’t know yet. But there’s a real disconnect between the agents blogs I read, all of which make it sound like if only the quality of the writing was good enough publication would follow with open arms, and the fact that I can’t find a book to read in Barnes and Noble because of the horrendous writing and storytelling abilities of modern authors.

    Why don’t agents just answer honestly? Why don’t they just say it like it is: “Your writing is too poor to warrant a read, and even if it wasn’t, I’d look like a fool and a loser going to an editor with an unknown, untested writer.”

    I think with my second novel I’m going to query newer agents; it seems they might be more willing to take a chance on a newer writer. If not, at least they might tell me why without me having to decipher the symbolic reasons hidden within their cryptic form rejections.

  5. Anonymous said:

    Timely blog entry — especially as it dovetails into Rachelle Gardner’s blog yesterday.

    How often do you take on a client who’s not quite ready for primetime? One that might require two or three (or more) revisions before you send it out?

  6. Jael said:

    I see a lot of writers get wrapped around the axle on whether or not their rejection is a form rejection — for example, if they get an Email on a partial from an agent saying “You’re a talented writer but it didn’t intrigue me enough to ask for more.” Even if they’ve written those words to someone else (a lot of someone elses!), they generally still mean them. There is absolutely no upside for an agent to say something positive about your writing unless they mean it.

  7. David Kearns said:

    Okay, yeah, and lots of good stuff here, but how-about this scenario and maybe it brings up the topic of first readers you could explain to us!
    Dear Writer;
    I would like to go ahead and request a full manuscript, then I would like to ignore the project for a while, say three months. When you email me I will curtly inform you I have given your novel to a “first reader” months ago. Be advised this person may, or may not, be my employee. In all likelihood this person may in fact be a freelancer paid per project.
    Now, with your excellent, marketable project in hand, this person just might walk away with the idea, concept, and the marketing plan you so assiduously laid out. Or they may not.
    Either way, I will remain wholly incommunicative, neither rejecting nor accepting your manuscript, until the moment you can’t take it anymore, and you say you have an offer for it elsewhere. I will immediately get back to you after that, all but demanding you tell me who that other agent, or publisher may be.
    Sound good?
    Hot shot NYC lit agent with a Park Ave. address

  8. Ryan said:

    my teacher told me that to give people a reson why it sucks also can help the author to fix the work he or she has made so it is better for another agent

  9. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for the informative post, Kristin.

    @ David Kearns: Whether or not a first reader is getting back to an agent quickly enough to suit you, implying that they’re off stealing your idea is nearly as absurd as implying that the agent would do it. Yeesh.