Sending Those Dreaded Pass Letters
Earlier this week, a writer sent me this response to a rejection letter:
As a first time author I can’t tell you how much I am humbled for the kind and thoughtful responses from you agents. You guys are really nice people out there…and God bless you for the kind words.
Wow. It really struck me as unusual, kind, and incredibly thoughtful.
I find it difficult to have to say “no” to so many people, so this was nice to hear! Sometimes I need encouragement like everyone else. I don’t like the idea of so many people being disappointed upon hearing from me when I have to send pass letters. This month has been particularly challenging for a number of reasons… suffice to say, I’m busier than usual all around, and my query box has also been busier than usual. I struggled with how to handle it, but there seemed to be no other way than to read and respond to queries everyday and try to keep up.
Then recently I read an article that detailed the process of prioritizing our lives, based on the urgent vs. important construct. It’s pretty easy to figure out which tasks in life are urgent; a bit trickier to determine what’s really important. The article also made an important distinction: We should decide what’s important for ourselves, not what other people think it’s important for us to do.
Well, that set me on a bit of a tailspin as I looked at the queries in my box. Since my client list is pretty full, it’s not urgent for me that I read them and respond to them quickly. But for the writers who sent them, it probably feels urgent.
Similarly, from a simply business perspective, it’s important that I carefully read the queries because of course I’m looking for new talent, but in the hierarchy of my daily tasks, responding to queries (if they don’t interest me) is rather low in importance. Yet for the writers who sent the queries, it is extremely important that they hear back from me.
Hmmm. There was a moment there (just a moment, I promise!) when I could see the wisdom of the literary agencies whose policies state that they will NOT respond to queries if the response is a “no.” They are making a clear decision to avoid spending time on activities that for them are not important: sending pass letters.
But on thinking about it some more, I decided that it’s important for me to maintain good business practices, to be compassionate to the plight of the writer, and to build a reputation as someone that writers might want to work with.
With that, my decision was made. I got back to the task at hand, reading queries and responding to them. It was nice to get back a response that affirmed my decision!
Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.