Jon and I have been working feverishly for the past few days, reading and responding to the snail-mailed and emailed queries that we've received this month. Like all agents, we are flooded with queries. We are so glad, because that means people are writing; even better, the writers know about us and are interested in working together.
That's the good news. The bad news is that we sometimes feel overwhelmed with the wealth of queries we receive. We try to treat each one with the respect and the attention it deserves; when we feel our attention lagging, we stop and move on to another project. Now, here's the part none of you want to hear about and I don't blame you. We reject most of the queries we receive for a variety of reasons: the topic does not interest us; we don't represent the genre; the query is poorly written and unfocused; or, in the worst-case scenario, the query is awful and so is the book idea.
With the exception of gang-queries (the ones with all the agents in the world listed in the "to" section), or the queries where the author specifies that we answer only if interested, WE RESPOND TO ALL QUERIES, usually within 6 weeks. But maybe we shouldn't. The truth is, our responses are pretty boring and are not unique. We've learned that we have to be cold and perfectly clear about the turn down. I used to say, "...your project does not meet our agency's needs at this time." I don't say that anymore. "...at this time..." acted like an open door through which many a hopeful author shoved in a foot asking, "If not now, when will you be interested?" Shades of meaning are nothing but trouble in a turn down response.
Jon and I are of two minds here. He feels very strongly that every query deserves an answer.
I am not so sure. If I delete queries that do not interest me, how would you feel? (Jon handles all snail-mail, so if that's how you query us, you'll get an answer for sure.) I know lots of other agents don't respond to any but the queries that they want to pursue. Maybe most authors assume that a non-response is a turn down. But I'm just not sure.
The responses to queries I don't want take up a lot of time--time that I could spend reading manuscripts and chapters, visiting and pitching editors, and writing this blog.
How do YOU feel about that the dreaded turn down? Would you rather get a standard "so sorry" response, or would you prefer silence from me when I'm not interested? I'm just askin'.
Better instincts - "Go with your gut," is occasionally good advice. More often, though, it's an invitation to indulge in your fear or to avoid the hard work of understanding ...
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