Do the Math
The latest issue of Writers Digest included an article called 28 Agents Who Want Your Work and I was included in the 28. A dubious privilege, to be sure. (Thanks, Chuck!) I’ve been receiving a record number of submissions since then, and it really is cool to have such a large pool of writers from whom to choose. But I have to be as careful as ever in my decisions, and I also have to decide quickly so they don’t pile up too much. In any case, I’ve sent more pass letters than ever the last couple weeks, and I’m sorry for writing about rejection again, but it’s been on my mind a lot.
What I wanted to talk about today is that I’m receiving an astounding number of responses back from my rejections. A few are very kind, like the one I told you about on Friday. But most ask for feedback on their project, others try to change my mind, and a few ask for referrals to other agents.
First things first. This may sound harsh, but I’m not open to having my mind changed. If I’d ever (ever!) seen a rationale good enough to actually change my mind, I wouldn’t be so set on this. But experience has taught me that people tend to give it their best shot in the query, and if it’s not right for me, then it simply isn’t. As a general rule, I don’t respond to letters attempting to change my mind. (If you’re now thinking I’m mean and rotten, refer to Friday’s post which attempts to show that I’m really not.)
About those letters asking for referrals to other agents: If I liked your project enough to want to refer it to a fellow agent, I probably would have told you that. If I didn’t connect with your project, I certainly wouldn’t refer you to another agent unless I wanted to make enemies amongst my colleagues! So while it doesn’t hurt to ask, realize the odds of getting a referral are slim. There are numerous ways to find agents, both online and in book form, so writers need to do their own homework.
Now, about those requests for feedback. I’ve said this before… sorry to be a broken record. I’ve sent 300 pass letters in the last two weeks alone, and on some, I’ve given a bit of critique or reasoning. But IF I had to give personalized feedback on every one of them, spending approximately 15 minutes on each, that would take me 75 hours. Yes, almost two whole weeks of work-hours spent on activities that do not get me a client, build my business, contribute to my company’s bottom line, or serve the overall good in any way. Let’s look at it this way. If you are a salesperson, do you consider it a wise use of your time to spend half of your month calling on prospects you are 99.9% sure will not become customers?
I think not.
Just as importantly, if I were to give everyone personalized critiques, I wouldn’t be doing them any favors. I am just one voice in this business, and anything I said would be (1) just my opinion, likely to differ from anyone else’s, and (2) based on only a quick read of the material, not on the kind of in-depth study that a proper critique requires. So don’t look at personalized feedback from agents as some kind of magic bullet. It has quite limited value.
Bottom line… I encourage you to be thankful when you receive any kind of response at all from a busy agent or editor, and refrain from asking for more.
Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.