Monday, January 29, 2018

Dear [Unnamed Wannabe Author Who Thinks They Are God's Gift to Agents]

My husband recently alerted me to a generic letter to agents that was making the rounds on Twitter. I have no idea who actually wrote it, and he didn't either. I tried searching Twitter and didn't succeed in identifying the person.

However, the Internet is where your sins go to die a thousand deaths over and over again because nothing can be truly, permanently eliminated. Screen shots and archival services see to that.

This was the letter:



I am not an agent. However, on behalf of all the decent authors trying to get agents or editors who may be in a justifiably bad mood after getting a submission such as the one above and based on my experience as an editor reviewing submissions, I do have a response.

Dear [Unnamed Wannabe Author Who Thinks They Are God's Gift to Agents]

Please don't be offended that I haven't taken time to read your query letter to the point where you present your name because it's actually better that I forget who you are. NOW. Otherwise, I'd be likely to tell fellow agents and editors of the incredibly unprofessional submission you sent and you wouldn't just be banned from submitting work to me again in the future.

When I was a teenager applying for my first job I didn't photocopy my application form for McDonald's and drop that off at Burger King or Wendy's. I filled out each form. You know why? Despite the volume of applications I was putting out I understood that each place I hoped would hire me had specific application requirements.

A submission to an editor or agent is like an application. The employer has told you what they want to see to evaluate your application to advance to the next round in the publishing industry. You're either going to get a book deal or get one step closer to a book deal than you were before you submitted.

When you don't follow my submission guidelines it tells me several things. You don't respect my time enough to ensure that I have just what I've asked for.That doesn't suggest to me that we'll have a good working relationship.

I did you the courtesy of providing clear directions. You just showed me you can't follow them. That worries me because if I present your work to an editor I need to know you'll follow their directions for editorial revisions. I need to know you'll respect their time. I need to know you'll do your job like a professional. If you don't then the editor won't be happy with me and that can jeopardize my business and my reputation. Right now, you're begging me for my attention and you've given me several reasons to believe that representing you would be a headache and could cost me future business.

Remember how I said I didn't photocopy my McDonald's application and hand it in at Wendy's? I didn't want the managers to think I wasn't that serious in an opportunity at their business. You're sending in so many submissions you can't be bothered to properly format them or send the required material? Have you researched your subgenre and the agents who specialize in that type of content? Clearly you aren't very serious about having me represent you because any one of hundreds will do. I know you aren't concerned with my submission guidelines so I doubt you even know what type of writers I work with.

You clearly think you're too special for guidelines to apply to you but I'm the one who is a gainfully employed professional in this business. While having my ass kissed isn't something I expect I do appreciate being treated like a respected professional.

I'm not sure what you define as a reasonable sample and a reasonable synopsis. I'm also not going to find out. The reality is that on any given day I receive dozens of submissions. This is a very competitive industry and part of how people distinguish themselves is by showing they are ready to take their work as an author seriously. That means doing pesky little things like using punctuation and following submission guidelines.

In sending this response I've actually shown you more courtesy than you've shown me. I've explained why we have submission guidelines. In case you didn't connect the dots, part of what we're looking for is someone who knows how to read well enough to follow directions. How you present your material is an indication of your professionalism, or lack thereof.

For every hundred submissions I receive I may only seriously consider representing three writers. Out of those writers given serious consideration I will only represent a handful. Publishing is an industry that favors buyers rather than sellers. For every book that is traditionally published there are hundreds to thousands of writers who received a rejection letter. Consequently, I'm looking for reasons not to work with someone so that I can devote my time to the writers who have the potential to have a serious writing career.

And those writers are not the people who decided to make a bad first impression by presuming their time was more important than mine, that the rules don't apply to them and that they can do whatever they want and still get a publishing deal. That may be true if your name is Brad Pitt. It is not true if you are a nobody.

Sincerely,

The Agent You Didn't Bother To Identify

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If a writer doesn't follow our submission guidelines their work may be deleted without further correspondence or consideration. In some cases, they may find themselves on our shitlist and be barred from consideration for publication in the future.
And as much as I want to discover great new writers and give people a chance I sleep perfectly fine at night with that policy. I've been sworn at too many times by people who were rude, I've given up time with my family dealing with someone who didn't think they should put in the work on their own writing.
No more. No respect for me means you can take your sub and shove it.

3 comments:

Sandra Ruttan said...

I do want to note that since I don't know who wrote this or posted it, I don't know if it was serious. There were tweets attacking it and defending it. In case any aspiring novelist out there thinks it's a legit way to go I've posted my 2 cents.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I think it was in a Writer Digest column years ago--as a semi joke-- and then was morphed into a twitter deal that comes through every few years. Just like last when the Heavens Gate hoax and several other hoaxes suddenly surfaced on FB again. These things are worse than the annual damn groundhog.

Patrick Balester said...

I cannot understand why anyone would defend this. Even as a novice I don't think I ever did something this dumb.