Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Etiquette We Wish All Agents Would Live By

Joshua from The Technical Parent brought up a very good point in response to my post, Etiquette for the Writerly Folk. Sometimes agents and people from the publishing industry in general don't live by the kind of etiquette we wish they would. And how do we know to what standard we wish all agents would be held? Because some of them actually do.

So listen up agents, publishers, assistants everywhere! We've gone crazy checking our email 100 times a day for months on end only to discover the inbox empty and we're not gonna take it anymore*!

Let's get started...

Please get rid of your "no answer means no" policy. Yes, you are busy, but there are plenty of agents who find the time to respond to each and every query and it's reasonable to assume that you can find the time as well. It takes two seconds to hit reply and paste that form rejection and it saves us from months of fretting and wondering if we should move on to our next batch of agents.

Don't be so inaccessible. There are thousands, perhaps millions of new writers out there who just don't know where to get started when looking for publication. So what happens? They go to google and are bombarded by vanity publishing companies. They fall for it and end up ruining any chances of really getting their works out there. Here's a fact: There are plenty of honestly talented writers who write amazing novels but don't have the first clue about the industry. If they can't find you on the first page of google or bing, they're going to get bamboozled by people who want to take their money. Admittedly, this sort of thing has improved over the past few years and we certainly appreciate it.

One should not have to have a masters in computer engineering to find your submission guidelines nor a law degree in order to be able to read it. We want to submit to you and we want to do it right. Please leave no questions unanswered when telling us exactly what we should do. We know the war between Times New Roman and Courier. If you prefer one over the other, make it known so that we may comply and prove that we have done our homework.

If you have our full manuscript in your possession, wow, thank you, our hearts are a-fluttering in anticipation! But that high in the sky feeling quickly drops when we fail to hear from you for 6, 12, 18 months. Please oh please let us know the state of our submission! Just a short, "hey, still reading, back to you soon" or "thanks, but no thanks" after a few months would be greatly appreciated. As you might expect, the queries are probably on hold and waiting a year for a no is a long time to be out of the market. I've heard of a particular horror story from someone who didn't hear back for two years from an agent who had his full and eventually decided to self-publish only to have an offer from said agent just weeks after going through the self-publishing route. Ouch.

So there it is. We don't ask for much, but what we do ask for could keep us from making huge mistakes that inevitably ruin a potentially successful career in writing--like sending nasty emails or showing up at your office uninvited.

~Emily White

*This list or emphatic cry for change should not in any way indicate that all agents, publishers, assistants, etc. have failed to help us poor new writers out. In fact, it's because of the wonderful blogs provided by many in the industry that we even know what we should come to expect.


  1. It would be nice, but after a couple of months, a writer should start thinking that a no response = no. Hell, that's what I thought when I queried an agent and didn't hear from that person for four months. Then *BAM*, I got a rejection, anyway. I figured it was already no, but it was just bizarre seeing that rejection four months later. xD

  2. One would normally think that a few months of no response would mean an automatic no, but that's not true for everyone. There are plenty of stories out there of writers not hearing back for even up to a year, they move on, and then one day they get a request for a full from the same agency they had given up on. And this came from an agency who had the "no answer means no" policy. If they're going to go in that direction, one would hope the yes response would come a tad quicker.

    Thanks for you comment! :)

    Oh, by the way, did you see the other post where I awarded you with the Sugar Doll Award? Congratulations!


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