On a whim, last night, I sent out a query to an agent. First of all, I hate querying agents. It’s not that they’re scary or mean, it’s just that I always feel like my letter is half-baked, no matter how many how-to sites I read or how many times I rewrite it. And as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not someone who does very well with standing up and shouting “look at me, look at me!” Not that that’s what you’re supposed to do in a query, but that’s the general underlying idea.
But I decided to do it anyway, because I’ve been sort of down this week and yesterday I had a string of unrelated setbacks that wasn’t helping matters. Doing something bold and conquering my dislike of an activity usually helps perk me up, and sending out an email seemed like an easy way to accomplish that.
So I looked at my list of possible fantasy agents and picked one at random. Agent X (hey, that sounds kind of cool, actually) asked for a query letter, the first ten pages, and a two page synopsis. I had all of these prepared, of course, and sent out the package at 9:21 PM, not expecting to hear back for the standard 4-8 weeks.
At 9:44 PM, I get an email. Thinking it was my sister, or something equally routine, I opened my Gmail and was shocked to see a reply from Agent X.
It was a rejection, of course.
Now, that on its own didn’t bother me. I’ve sent out a handful of queries before, and I wouldn’t be sitting here talking about it if any of them had come back positive. That’s fine. Rejection is part of the process, and a familiar occurrence in my life. And honestly, the promptness was remarkable and laudable, in a sense. I’d rather wait twenty minutes than six weeks to hear back, no matter what the decision.
But X said the following in the two-paragraph form letter:
[Manuscripts]…must have stellar world building, characters that leap off the page, pacing that is relentless and a story that entices the reader to take its journey with the characters. I know that’s a tall order, but if your writing is lacking in any of those areas, I must pass on it.
I get it. I do. That’s what I look for in a story, too. But you don’t know that my book lacks any of those if you only take ten seconds to look at the first ten pages of a 145,000 word piece. Say you want to pass on it – fine. That’s absolutely within your rights, and I’ll move on and look for someone else who gets a good vibe from it. Great.
But don’t tell me that my writing lacks any of those things if you haven’t even read it. Don’t pretend to be giving me a legitimate reason when you can’t possibly have one. That’s the part that annoyed me. I feel like it’s disingenuous, and a little condescending. “A tall order”? Well, we won’t even go there.
Would it have bothered me so much if X had taken four weeks to send me that letter? I don’t know. Maybe not. At least I might have gotten the impression that any care and attention had been given to my work at all. But maybe that’s not really an agent’s job.
I know I’m probably getting myself in trouble by writing this. No one wants to work with a whiny little girl who can’t handle being told “no”. But that’s not what’s happening. There’s no hard feelings about the “no”. All I’m trying to say is that even though you’re an agent, even though you’re in a position of power and probably do deal with a hundred people a week who can’t take no for an answer, that doesn’t exempt you from being considerate to the pool of authors who are, after all, the way you make your money, whether you want to work with them or not. I know there’s a million of us and you can afford to be picky.
But even authors are humans, and most of us have hearts and souls. We’re giving you our babies to hold for a minute and asking if they’re worthy of notice, and that’s an emotional investment that sound be respected.
I’m probably being overly sensitive. Me and my big mouth. But I really felt nettled by that. I’m not saying who Agent X is on purpose, and please don’t guess. There’s no point. What you should take away from this little rant is that yes, agents really do only spend a split-second looking at your materials, so make them better than mine. The end.