Tuesday, June 1, 2010

No Response Unless Interested by Terry Burns

I get it. There are thousands upon thousands of authors submitting books right and left. I understand of necessity publishing houses adopting a “no response unless interested” policy to cut down on the work needed, particularly with staff cutbacks in recent times.

However, it seems to me the policy should be different for agents sending submissions. We are culling through hundreds of submissions picking out the projects we choose to send, and we do our best to determine what might be the best fit for the editor that we are submitting to. I would think it would be professional courtesy to answer agents even if such a policy exists regarding the general public.
I work for my clients by definition, however, initially it is more like I work for the editors that I interface with. I’m trying to find something that they might be looking for, something that fits that catalog spot that they are trying to fill. Once a potential fit is determined, then I am all about representing my client from that point forward.

If I get no response, or just a “not for us” that doesn’t give me any information that will allow me to do a better job of finding what that editor might or might not like. Fortunately most of the editors that I work with are great about this and they give me input that will help me help them. That’s why I work as many conferences as I do, to try and establish relationships with them and I count a lot of them as good friends by this point.

As I said, I really do get it, I just think instead of saving themselves work, those who adopt this policy are creating work for themselves by including the professionals as we continue to try and find out what works instead of better targeting our efforts.


Timothy Fish said...

Hmm, seems like I've heard something like this before, but it was coming from authors complaining about agents.

Terry Burns said...

If it was said about me I didn't get it because I always respond.

Jeanette Levellie said...


This post helps us see how multifaceted your role must be. You need to juggle your responsibility to your clients while trying to help the editors find noteworthy manuscripts. I'll bet you pray for wisdom a lot!

I so appreciate my agent, Diana, and all she does for her crew. She is a gift from Heaven's heart.

May the Lord encourage your life in this juggling work do for Him,

Shmologna said...

It's a crazy, mad, busy world. I admire your courtesy in spite of everything.

And I hope editots will give you the same courtesy. Taking a moment to help someone understand what you want or need can bear much fruit.

writer jim said...

How do people make God feel, when we treat Him the same way? He seeks us, and people reject Him. He calls on us, and we give no response at all.
If we give God first place in our lives, and RUSH to respond in obedience when He speaks; He'll take big notice of you. Then He responds back to you in ways that are out of this world.
I would suggest for anyone to try it: tell God if He will speak, you will obey. Then RUSH in obedience, if ever you hear His still small voice. I doubt you'll ever, ever, ever again be the same.
I have had 5 AWESOME angelic experiences in my life. Each one came shortly after I had obeyed God in a sacrificial way that was meaningful to Him.
God wants a close relationship with people. He is moved when we RESPOND.
I am not nearly as concerned whether a publisher responds to me, as I am in making sure I always respond to God.

Stephanie said...

Wow...I didn't realize agents find the same frustration we do as writers. Thanks for sharing this and letting us know we're not entirely alone!!

Terry Burns said...

Actually we don't get the same frustration as writers . . . we get the same frustration multiplied by some sixty clients we receive responses on (or in this case don't receive responses for)

Suzanne said...

Even more to the point, editors should be professional enough to send a response on a full manuscript THEY REQUESTED. There's nothing worse than sitting on pins and needles when we're at the last stage before getting a contract...only to hear nothing.

Linda Glaz said...

Courtesy in any situation ought to be what we all experience, whether it's with an editor, an agent at a conference, or with each other as we support our love of writing. I've seen how you work with your clients and I have to say, your kind way of letting someone down is unreal. They leave feeling as if the answer "yes" is just around the corner and that, in itself, is enough to keep a writing going. You and Hartline should be proud of your agency and the editors should be proud that you even send to them. Keep up the wonderful work

Anonymous said...

Courtesy from agents, yes. What about from the publishers? Now editors let agents -and authors- wait and wait and wait for an answer until they finally just get the message?
This is cruel and rude and inconsiderate in any other situation. Editors cut their own throats by discouraging authors, let alone agents. Editors should consider the growth of other venues of publishing.
Authors already have to do their own marketing, and often pay their own private editor.
Why should authors go with publishing houses? Why not just go into business for themselves and do some kind of e-publishing?
Then they can eliminate the rather rude and, I'm sorry to say, arrogant middle man.
Where would publishers be without authors? Out of business.
Where would authors be without publishers? Published by another means.

-john stricker said...

I also "get it" for those agents and publishers dealing with the hundreds or thousands of queries they receive via regular mail, but those have become a minority, at least from an author's point of view.
For the people that accept (or demand) electronic submissions via email I have never understood the "no response" excuse. Assuming your query is actually read (and I believe most really are, after all, they DO want to publish new things) how much extra time does it actually take to hit the "reply" button and shoot back a message saying "Thanks for your submission but we just don't feel it's right for us at this time."
Granted, that's not very helpful as far as a critique, but at least the author and agent know that the query was read and considered. To me that's just a matter of common courtesy.