What NOT to Do

August 1st, 2014 • Kate

dont1Though we’re still behind, Renee and I have been doing our best to get to all of your queries, and while it’s true we do use a form response, we absolutely look at every single one of them. How are we going to find a diamond in the rough if we don’t actually LOOK at the rough? Anyway, today we received this response to a rejection:

Dear Agent,

Many thanks for your form letter rejection, which I am receiving with your regrets. I sympathize with the demands of running a boutique agency–I’m a teacher, after all, and don’t work for a living–and I understand how difficult it must be to hit [control+c] and then [control+v] several times a day after making aspiring [Dear Author]s wait for eight weeks. I appreciate your lack of specificity when it comes to the various ways in which my writing sucks, as this will guide my abiding hatred for you and for all of the Ivory Tower Guardians you associate with. May your children contract gingivitis, and may your husband come down with an itch that will have you both wondering what the illness is until you get the [Dear Patient] email that asks you to empathize with the plight of “boutique” doctors.

[Disgruntled Author]

I don’t have to tell you that this is wildly inappropriate, right? Our use of a form letter is necessary when we’re sending responses to hundreds of queries, and it’s the same letter if the query is illiterate or intriguing, but not for us. This author went so far beyond the bounds of appropriate behavior in a way that absolutely guarantees not only that we’d never consider working with him, even if he had written a Harry Potter-level masterpiece, but that we would warn others if his name ever came up.

Don’t do this, ok? Just move on to the next agent on your list.

Filed Under: Slushpile

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9 Responses to “What NOT to Do”

  1. Rissa Watkins Says:

    Wow. People are crazy. Can you imagine finding out this was your kid’s teacher? I just can’t believe what people say these days.

  2. Heather Says:


  3. Krissy Says:

    I heard a story on twitter a couple years ago about an agent who also rejected something and the author actually tracked her down and confronted her in person. This behavior is outrageous. I can’t imagine what happens in that classroom when he’s having a bad day.

  4. La La in the Library Says:

    A few months ago I was reading a blog post about a bookstore event where one of the authors said it took four years from the time he got the idea for his book to its publishing date. Then he said his first question to himself was, “Do I get that time back?” I thought, WHAT? I went back twice and reread what he said, thinking he had to be joking, but found no evidence of that. I will never buy his book, and will probably never read it. He is a grown man with the ungrateful sense of entitlement of a teenager. How sad.

  5. Steve McCann Says:

    First, this displays a profound lack of professionalism. You don’t treat anybody this way in any line of work.

    Second, it displays a lack of an important quality in a writer. A good writer must be able to examine and understand all people from their unique points of view. The deluge of queries that literary agents receive must leave them feeling like they’re trying to drink from a fire hose. This “writer” clearly doesn’t or refuses to understand that.

  6. Heidi Kneale Says:

    As Agent Janet Reid said recently, boy, didn’t you just dodge a bullet? I can’t think of an agent who’d want a client who behaves like this.

    Sometimes I forget not every author knows how to handle rejection in this industry. Really, one shrugs and moves on. Sure, the first few rejections sting, because apprentice writers are so sure of their brilliance, and here is someone professional shattering that illusion.

    Also, we must keep in mind the big picture. Form rejections are there because they are time-savers. I would much rather an agent spent more time on selling a client’s mss (especially if that client is me), than an agent suggesting to a (currently) unpublishable writer ways they can improve.

    Want to know why an agent rejects your ms? Join a writer’s workshop. Not only will they tell you how, where and why your ms sucks, but will offer suggestions for improvement. This is the place for feedback, not some agent’s query slushpile.

  7. Alexandra Duncan Says:

    Goodness. I know this probably isn’t what the writer was actually upset about, but 8 weeks’ turnaround time is more than reasonable. I would even call that a fast response. It’s a good exercise to page through a copy of Writers Market and see what the different response times are for both agents and literary magazines. Rejection is tough, but a speedy form rejection is actually a mark of professionalism in an agent or editor. It’s not uncommon to get no response at all or to be left hanging for upwards of six months. It’s much better to know where you stand so that you can begin revising or submitting elsewhere.

  8. Michelle Hoffman Says:

    I think what querying writers forget is agents pass on a project when they don’t think they can sell it. It would be miserable for the writer if an agent took on their ms and nothing happened. Agents want to avoid that at all costs. The above letter writer will most likely never get published because they have no sense of the industry.

  9. Ken Buckley Says:

    As a reporter I was spoiled – to a certain degree. Getting published just about every day for almost 30 years breeds a little conceit. However, that came to an abrupt halt when I dived into fiction. Bashing an old Underwood and re-typing pages of poor typing, misspelled words, when today, a mere tap of a key corrects most of the mess, was a major relief. Waiting re-defined my patience. Some agents replied quickly, others a bit longer. Some just said “Sorry.” One or two offered a few words of encouragement. So you keep trying – never give up. And, never let your pride overwhelm you. At work, sometimes we’d get caught up in a story that would take ages to finish. We were flushed with pride until an impatient editor stuck a pin in your balloon by demanding to know: “What y’ writing? The Great American Novel?” These days many of us believe we are writing, or have written the “Great” one. It’s waiting to get on the ladder that demands patience. Lots of it. But while you’re waiting, write another one.