Pub Rants

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Newsletter readers, have you been checking your spam folder once a month wondering if you’ve missed the Nelson Literary Agency newsletter since July? The good news is that you haven’t missed an issue. There simply hasn’t been a newsletter since June, and here’s why. Warning: This is truly a “pub rant,” so if you are only in the mood for something positive, you might want to skip this read.

The reason there has been no newsletter for the last four months is straightforward: I had a major life event in mid July into August during which I unexpectedly lost my remaining parent. As the Executor/Trustee, I suddenly had a second full-time job handling the estate. Although my siblings did an amazing amount of work, too, there are a lot of tasks delegated solely to the Trustee. Because my current clients are my priority, I immediately shut down to queries and back-burnered other non-critical tasks (i.e., the newsletter) just so I could manage. All my clients have been so hugely supportive, it makes me tear up. 

What I wasn’t ready for was the response from the outside world—and here is where the publishing rant comes in, so feel free to step out now. I have dedicated two decades of my life to educating aspiring writers by writing the Pub Rants blog and then by creating and distributing this newsletter. All I ask is when I step away for a bit of time, please respect that. Yet I was stunned by how many folks called the office to ask when I would be open to queries. Twitter messages demanding to know when I would be open to queries. Queries sent to email addresses that don’t accept queries. Queries sent to my colleague, Joanna, asking her to please forward their query to me. Emails where one writer was insistent that he “couldn’t wait any more for me to re-open,” as if I had deliberately set out to inconvenience writers, so he sent the query anyway. I even had several people hand deliver their projects to the agency doorstep (projects that, by the way, were promptly donated to the recycle bin). 

All because I had to close one aspect of my agenting life—my availability to writers looking for an agent. 

Agents are human beings first and agents second (or maybe even third in our life roles). If agents are closed to queries, there is a reason. No amount of trying to circumvent the closure is going to change our minds. An author could have sent me the next New York Times bestselling manuscript and the honest truth is, I DO NOT CARE. Not at this moment in my life. I will not be reading it. 

And to all the wonderful writers out there who only wish me well during what has been an incredibly tough time in my life, thank you for all those good wishes and positive thoughts. I know you are out there, which is why I will re-open to queries again (most likely in January 2023) and continue trying to educate aspiring writers.

Photo by Marina Shatskikh

65 Responses

  1. Cindy Orr said:

    I work for OverDrive now helping their librarian customers decide what to buy for their collections out of the millions of titles we have available, but I spent several years as a buyer for a couple of large public libraries, and I sadly have to tell you how familiar this sounds. Unagented, and often unsuccessful self-published authors are relentless in contacing libraries asking when they’re going to buy their titles. I feel for you. I’m not surprised, but I’m sorry this happened to you.

    1. DJ Shoepe said:

      I’m a HUGE OverDrive fan! Thank you for doing what you do! PS- You want my wish list? (Kidding!)

  2. Kimberly said:

    First, I’m sorry to hear about your parent’s passing. Second, I’m sorry you were harassed by writers who clearly have no professional etiquette for the world of querying or that of applying for a job.

  3. Rebecca said:

    My god, Kristin, I’m so sorry to hear this. I’ve been getting your newsletter for a decade now, and I absolutely noticed the lack of them lately–but it’s frustrating to hear that this is happening. You’ve always been so, so encouraging to new writers, and that kind of thing means something to most of us. I hope the people who query you come 2023 are kinder than those trying to shove into your doors the last few months. Yikes. :/

  4. Dina said:

    My sincere condolences, Kristin. I also lost a parent this year, and it’s so difficult to handle all the financial and estate stuff while also grieving. Wishing you comfort and peace.

  5. Joe said:

    Good on you for setting boundaries and life priorities. I’m sorry for the loss of your parent. I’d imagine it’s like sitting on a tree branch that suddenly lost connection to the trunk. Or something like that. Wishing peace over there.

  6. DJ Shoepe said:

    Please accept my condolences on the loss of your parent. I am so sorry for you and your loved ones. I know full well what it’s like to be executer and take care of an estate; we’ve done it twice so far. It IS a full-time job, although we were lucky with the houses and got to take a full year to go through everything. It was sad yet wonderful time; we “kids” even did a sleepover at one to “clean out the liquor cabinet”. (We take our duties seriously! 😉 )

    As for those who do not understand you are a human with your own life and trials, I just don’t get it. My vet recently had a family emergency and had to take a day off, so the office called to ask if I minded seeing a substitute. I said, “Sure, no problem! Vets are people, too, and life happens to us all.” I heard the girl sigh with relief, and I said, “Wait a second, have you had problems with other clients?” And she said, “I am so tired of being yelled at. I cannot thank you enough for being so understanding!”

  7. Elissa said:

    I am truly sorry you had to go through that. It’s horrible enough to lose a parent and deal with the estate (sadly been there, still dealing with that) but the reaction from those writers (hopefully a minority) is unconscionable. I hope your “rant” helped to alleviate some of the aggravation. You were much more reserved in your post than I fear I would have been.

  8. Judy DaPolito said:

    Kristin, I’m not easily shocked, but the rude behavior of that many people does shock me. I’ve read your newsletter for a long time, and I’ve gained a lot of knowledge from it. Thank you for honoring your human side as well as your excellent business side.

  9. Jon said:

    You don’t know me, Kristin, but I wanted to reach out. I’m so sorry for your loss. My father just turned 87 and is not doing well so I can only imagine you losing your remaining parent. My heart goes out to you and your family. I, too, am the trustee for my parents, and I know from friends how difficult the job will be.

    Kristin, life comes first. Family comes first. You are a great success and an inspiration to people you don’t even know, so I wanted to write you.

    God bless,

    Jon Hjartberg

  10. Marcia Strykowski said:

    Kristin, I’m so very sorry to hear what you’ve been going through. When I first started reading your words it was as though I’d written them myself. I, too, lost my remaining parent in August and became executor of their estate. So much work while grieving, BUT, unlike you I’m not an agent with many clients and other responsibilities. Take one day at a time with plenty of breaks. The majority of us who follow you, appreciate all you share with writers, and understand completely.

  11. Simon Hargreaves said:

    For about a decade, I’ve been trying to put my finger on the root source of the type of behavior you’re describing here. the best I can come up with is “the interwebs.” There seems to be an increasingly insidious undercurrent flowing through our collective unconscious with the advent of every piece of technology that caters to the demand of our need for instant gratification. A huge component of that undercurrent and the search for instant gratification is this notion that we must all work harder and longer than we ever had and that none of us are allowed personal lives. I’m sorry you experienced that, but I’m glad you have been able to put proper boundaries in place to protect your private life. I hope that those who intended to circumvent those boundaries are a vocal few and that the rest of humanity isn’t intent on treating others that way. I’m skeptical, but hopeful. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Eudora said:

    I’m so sorry for your loss – I was hoping there were happier reasons for your closing to queries.

    I’m also sorry that there are people who have learned nothing about kindness and empathy in these last two years. What you deserve is boatloads of kindness and empathy- here’s my tiny contribution to that flotilla.

  13. J.D. Frost said:

    I’ve been much too modest. It’s no wonder I’ve never had representation, considering I’ve never called an agent. Hire extra help. I’ll be dialing in earnest.
    Forgive my crass humor. You have my sincere sympathy. I’ve always admired you and your agency. Take care of yourself and those you love first. I enjoy your newsletters, and though I am dense beyond measure, sometimes you teach me. I wish you the very best. Sincerely, J.D. Frost

  14. Joy said:

    Thank you for taking care of your family, Kristin. Like many people, I have been through this myself, and I support your decisions, while also hoping you have also taken the time to process, grieve, and care for yourself. Light and nest wishes to you.

  15. Elizabeth Wrenn said:

    Kristin: I, too, send you my sincere condolences on the death of your parent. I have been through the known and lingering passing of one parent, and the sudden and unexpected death of the other, and both are traumatic and life-altering. And, you’re right, there is a MOUNTAIN of work to do, especially for the trustee. You don’t have time or space to grieve for all that must be done in a timely manner. I’m glad you wrote your rant; unpublished writers are often an unthinking and disconnected lot, blinded by their own ambition and the very real challenges of the publishing industry. They are trying desperately to “crack the code” of publishing, however their desperate minds perceive that, and blind to anyone else in that pursuit, and it’s ugly. I hope you can get some time and space to just take care of yourself. Grieving is a long, solitary swim home. It’s okay to just float some days. Sending warm wishes and a big hug to you.

  16. Lesa said:

    People can be so disappointing. (Although books rarely let us down!) I’m very sorry for your loss, and sorry for querying jerks and grateful for your generosity in educating through your newsletter.

  17. Michelle Caffrey said:

    My condolences. I have always considered you an excellent agent, one of the best, and sorry you had the extra burden of unprofessional writers harassing you and others.

  18. Stacy N. Elliott said:

    I am at a loss… Seriously?! Guidelines are guidelines for a reason! I don’t understand how ignoring the rules will benefit anyone. I’m sorry for your loss, and equally disturbed by others insensitivity. Take care of you, and let the rest manage those queries for now.

    On a more devious note, find joy in the most creative way to destroy an unsolicited query. Host a burning party, make a witches brew over a cauldron and add the tears of an insensitive writer, or use it to pick up your dog’s poo when you’re out for a walk.

    Sending warm hugs to you and your family.

    1. Dodie said:

      I SO LOVE THIS! Not that I would do it (but maybe would!), but the visualization gave me such joy.

  19. Debra Daugherty said:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I know firsthand the anguish of losing a loved one and then having to serve as the executer of their estate. The insensitive manner people treated you during that time is inexcusable. Prayers to you for your loss. Blessings.

  20. Rebecca Talley said:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Having been in your shoes, it is such an excruciating task to take care of these things. It’s hard enough to lose a loved one, but going through all the legalities makes it even harder. I hope you will find some comfort and be able to take care of yourself.

  21. John Thompson said:

    Kristen — So sorry for your loss and what you are going through with the estate. I have done the executor task and know that all the legal requirements make it difficult. Looking foward to your wanting to be be back

  22. Marcia said:

    My heartfelt condolences on the loss of your parent–and some hugs, too. Expected or unexpected, loss of a parent is traumatic. Serving as executor–as I also did–is time-consuming and stressful. I am so very, very sorry you were bothered and badgered by self-focused, insensitive people. I hope you will be kind to yourself and take the time you need to find peace.

  23. cassandra said:

    My condolences for your sudden loss. A similar thing happened to me in August and it really is such a shock… You are so right Colour a major life event not to mention all the other tasks that you took on. It must’ve been a very difficult and stressful time for you and I’m sorry that people didn’t respect it

    thank you for sharing your experience… It reminds us that we’re not alone when it comes to people

  24. Heidi Kneale said:

    I am so glad you took the time away from less important things in life to take care of something really big.

    May you find the comfort you need during this time. I fully support your prioritisation and hope others come to the same realisation. Your rant is timely and necessary. Sure, I missed your newsletter. You’ve always been a source of knowledge for me and others, but you’ve never been obligated.

    I support you in your continuing choices to care for yourself. When you are ready, we’ll welcome back your words. But if you’re not, we understand. Take care.

  25. Claudia Brooke said:

    Im so sorry for your loss, Kristin. Losing a parent is terribly hard. As a self published author who reads and values your newsletter, I can tell you we don’t all suck. I’ve never queried because I lack the emotional wherewithal for rejection. But having attempted to read some questionable self published books, I know why it’s necessary. I’m sorry you had to deal with the worst of us.

  26. Kristen Robinette said:

    As someone who has lost a parent recently, I understand that the world needs to take a step back and let you “be.” We are all more than our jobs. Sympathy and hugs as you feel your way through this time.

  27. Tamatha said:

    I am so sorry for your loss, and also sorry you and your colleagues had to deal with the additional strain of selfish, unkind behavior on top of it.

  28. Emilya Naymark said:

    Kristin, I am so very sorry for your loss. I also lost my my last parent last year. I tried to work through it, but ultimately it took a full year before I was able to even remotely come back to myself. When it happened I contacted my clients and cut down on much of my work. I understand and I’m so sorry that so many people don’t. May your parents’ memory be a blessing.

  29. Barbara Ristine said:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I’m too familiar with the loss of parents and the duties as an executor. I lost both my parents in a six-week period and I had to take care of their estates. It is a full time job. Please take care of yourself as you go through the grieving process.
    I am sorry you had to deal with such clueless and self-centered people who have no sense of propriety.

  30. Jackie Layton said:

    You are a person first, and you deserve better. I’m so sorry for your loss and sorry for the challenges you face navigating the loss of a parent.

  31. Allison P Lee said:

    I hope you will accept my sincere condolences. Nothing can prepare you fully for the loss of a parent.
    I also hope you know that most of us un-agented authors (the good ones, anyway), respect your “humanness” with no explanation needed, and wish you comfort and peace as you grieve.

  32. Sarah Tatoun said:

    I’m so, so sorry, Kristin. My sister was still working when she had to take over my parents’ affairs and then deal with their estate after they died. I still feel guilty that I wasn’t able to do more to help her (I live abroad) during the years she had that burden. You’ve done heroic work and you certainly don’t deserve to have been harassed for it by a bunch of nasty narcissists!

  33. Natalie Aguirre said:

    My heart goes out to you. I just lost my mom, my last remaining parent, last week, and I know how hard it is. I’d already lost my sister and my husband too and I’m only 66, so it compounds the grief. Take how long you need to grieve and handle your mom’s estate. Natalie @ Literary Rambles

  34. Eric Stallsworth said:

    I’m so sorry you had to deal with the incompetent during such a difficult time. I’m also very sorry for your loss. I wish you all the best, and I hope that time will soon lead you to a place where you can revel in the fond memories of times past. Please know that there are many of us who wish you well during this hard time.

  35. Beth Dotson Brown said:

    Wow. This is an excellent reminder to all of us to extend grace to the people we work with, whether we’re in the same physical space or across the country. It’s also a reminder about how we each need to stand up for what require to live a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Thank you for putting your example and experience out here. Sending good wishes to support you through this transition.

  36. Gwen Davis-Feldman said:

    K. I lost my mom in 2004 and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her – in body and spirt. Sadly, many lack the empathy necessary to understand the many permutations of grief. I lost my mom that summer but I found her in the months following as I attempted every recipe in her “old African American Canadian – cookbook. The memories tasted so good. Here’s hoping you find beautiful, tasty memories and peace in your loss. Best. g.

  37. Mary Jane Cole said:

    Dear Kristen,
    I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing a parent is the hardest thing we ever experience. My condolences to your family, too.
    Mary Jane Cole

  38. Shan said:

    I’m so sorry for your loss . I salute you for recognizing what you needed to do, and doing it. I’ve been in your shoes but was fortunate to have incredible kind support from most of the people I worked with – not all, and I still remember the outliers at each end ten years later.

  39. Karen McCoy said:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Family stuff takes so much energy in general, and adding grief to the mix can make everything seem insurmountable. Thinking of you during this difficult time <3

  40. Doug Engstrom said:

    Kristin, I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m sorry you were subjected to that treatment.

    I will never understand people who make a difficult industry even more difficult.

  41. Judith Pettersen said:

    I’m so sorry for the anxiety this situation has caused you, Kristen. I was executive for both my parents and it was quite stressful. And I can’t help noticing how intense the world of writing/agenting/editing is becoming. I hope during this time away from queries that you have a chance to breathe and regain some energy, and also have time to properly grieve. Everyone I know who has lost a parent feels like a five year old, except one with responsibilities. I wish you the very best going forward.

  42. Lynn Rodriguez said:


    I’m so sorry for your loss. My condolences to you and your family. I lost my remaining parent this year as well and I’m aware of how important it is to stop and take the time you need to grieve.

    I did notice an absence of your newsletters, which I always look forward to, but I didn’t question why. Your rant leaves me shaking my head. I can’t believe the rudeness and self-centeredness of some people. Has technology made us so impatient that everything has to happen immediately? I hope most of us are better than that.

    Sending you much light and love.

  43. Teresa Ho Robeson said:

    My deepest condolence to you, Kristin. Having gone through something similar with my husband’s parents (and not looking forward to doing likewise for my own remaining parent), I sympathize with your having to deal with the post-death affairs while still needing to do your job. I’m appalled (but not surprised) at the gall of the demanding writers who think their needs come before yours. I just don’t understand how people can think being obnoxious will endear themselves to you and make you want to sign them as clients. It’s baffling. I hope you’ll take some time for yourself after sorting out the estate so that you can heal emotionally and physically.

  44. Paula McLaughlin said:

    I lost my only parent when I was 32 yrs. old. No matter what age the child or the parent, it is heart-jarring. The rawness of grief does lessen. Taking time for yourself is so important. Good for you. <3

  45. Sher Valentine said:

    Sending support and a hug! So sorry you have been going through this. I’m still dealing with the last few matters of my own mother’s estate and understand the pressures and grief you are dealing with. Hang in there and know there are more of us out here sending you support than the crappy experience you reported! Take care!

  46. Rolana Mierzwa said:

    Kristin, I’m sorry for your loss. It does change you. Sadly, our society doesn’t want to acknowledge mourning periods. Being unavailable seems like it should be a basic curtesy. I wouldn’t want to be a person that didn’t understand that concept. Go ahead and give them more hell, you’ll probably feel better. Prayers to you and your family.

  47. Rolana Mierzwa said:

    Kristin, I’m sorry for your loss. It does change you. Sadly, our society doesn’t want to acknowledge mourning periods. Being
    unavailable seems like it should be a basic curtesy. I wouldn’t want to be a person that didn’t understand that concept. Go ahead and give them more hell, you’ll probably feel better. Prayers to you and your family.

  48. Rob Cornell said:

    Oof. I’ve lost both my parents and know how grueling tying up an estate can be. All that business that demands attention when all you want to do is huddle under the blankets and slip into a good dream.

    Wishing you well. Take care of yourself.

  49. Tara Maria Amavi said:

    I have been following your agency for over a decade. While I only recently signed up for your newsletter, I have logged in and read everything you share in your blog year over year and it is a wealth of information. Your generosity in offering the newsletter is a statement about your character and I thank you so much. I am a business owner myself, and columnist (hence, my attachment to your agency) and I am always amazed at the self absorption and absolute lack of boundaries out there. I have been there, losing my mother in April and then my best friend in June, both in 2016. It blew me away when those who received the auto-reply that I would be unavailable for a few weeks simply routed around and started texting me. I am sorry for your loss. I trust those who remain within your inner circle are both a comfort and a protection for you, creating the space you need as you navigate this loss and the reorganizing of your world; at least when my Mom and Bob died, that’s what I did … reorganize who I was without them. Best wishes for you. Tara Maria Amavi

  50. Bob Walter Underwood said:

    So sorry for your loss. Don’t let the rude ones get you down.

    I lost my mother when I was thirty-five and my father the next year. Time does ease the pain.

    Get back to full speed when you are ready. You are the only one that knows when that time comes.


  51. Renita Bradley said:

    I noticed it’d been a while since I’d seen a newsletter. I assumed you were busy and would send out another one when your schedule allowed. Sorry to hear why the newsletter was on hiatus. Take care.