Why Won’t Agents Answer Me?

“Why don’t agents respond to my query?”

That question is so much easier answered than you could possibly imagine, and I can do it in 4 simple bullet points:

#1. Too many people fail to read the agency’s submission guidelines. Whether it’s because your book material fails to fall within the genres that the agent represents, or you’re still sending hardcopy or—God forbid—disks to the agency’s PO Box (as I received today), you will not be hearing from an agent. Here’s why… if you can not adhere to simple instructions found on a website, how can you be trusted with the details of an entire book?

#2. Painfully long query emails. If it weren’t time-consuming enough for the recipient to read hundreds of words in one query, many submissions don’t readily offer the information agents first look for, such as target audience, word count, title (if you can believe that one), and author platform. Some ramble on without saying anything at all but how passionate the author is about the subject. Here’s my personal rule: If I don’t find the title and plot or topic within the first few paragraphs, I’m on to the next submission. There simply is not enough hours in the day for an agent to burn time on someone who can’t yet articulate their project with economy, and expect us—as agents—to take them seriously as an author.

#3. We don’t talk to crazy. Now, I can hear the cynical chuckle of those agents and editors who know exactly what that means. From “Elvis told me to submit my book to you,” to “WHY HAVEN’T YOU ANSWERED MY LAST 10 EMAILS?” sparring or even posturing with an agent or editor is a fast way to the door. Why would you bite the hand that could potentially feed you, so to speak? You’re attempting to make friends in the industry, not wind up in the “Out-to-Lunch” file. Yes, we have them and we’re not afraid to use them.

#4. The writing falls so far below par. It doesn’t take long—in some cases less than a page—to know for sure that the writer has taken zero writing classes. Their sentence structure is lacking; there are typos littering the page; the repetitive use of a single word; over-the-top (caricature-like) physicality; and never to be underestimated, clichés. In this day and age, there isn’t any excuse for poor writing skills since one can take online workshops, join seasoned critique groups, not to mention ACFW and the like, all out there to make you a better, more polished writer. There is only one way to get better. Ask anyone in the business and they’ll tell you the same thing. Practice! Everyday, sit your butt down and write a page, a paragraph, a sentence…. practice for the love of it.

There are many more points of interest that we could talk about, but those can be found on Living Word’s website. However, these 4 little tidbits from an insider should set your literary feet on the path to understanding.

If you do not hear back from an agent, it’s not the end of the world—it is now the norm. And if you do hear from them with a rejection and they don’t offer advice to improve the material, remember that they are not there to critique your work, but to maximize their hours, fulfill the expectations of their signed authors, dialog with editors, submit new projects to publishers, and continue to dig for those prospects that will fit their particular interests.

In closing, I’d like to offer some encouragement: There are times when I love the writing, find a perfect proposal, laugh out loud (in a good way) to a brilliant cover letter, and still don’t have the time to respond. I try, but I can’t. Yet, there’s something you don’t know. When it comes to those submissions, they are placed in a “Future Possibilities” file on the off chance that if the author sends another project to me somewhere down the road, a flag will go up in my Outlook files. Ya see, I did notice them, and hopefully will have the pleasure of working with them later on.

Publishing: It’s all a fascinating journey that takes special patience—for everyone. So hang in there and keep going, even when you think no one is watching.


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