I believe it when agents say they are busy people. Whether they are constant bloggers or not, I understand that I don’t understand all that goes into their job. I also understand that agents are people, and may want to spend time with other people doing some of the non-work things people like to do.
For those reasons, I can easily accept form rejections on queries. I can accept waiting longer than the agent’s self-posted average response time, especially when said agent suggests sending a follow-up email if that happens. Not hearing back from an agent when they say specifically in their guidelines that they don’t respond to queries unless they’re interested doesn’t bother me either. Not hearing back from an agent who says they respond to every query bothers me a little, but I send a follow-up email and/or get over it. If I never hear from them, maybe that agent just wasn’t for me.
That said, in the midst of form rejections, I received a pleasant surprise. This particular agent didn’t respond in the time specified on his website so I sent a follow-up email. After a big chunk of time passed, I figured I wouldn’t be hearing from him, but lo and behold a response came. There was something different about this form rejection… could it be that it wasn’t a form rejection at all?
Rather than the usual “doesn’t fit my list at the time” or something similar, which is what I’ve come to expect in a rejection letter, this agent (or his assistant?) wrote that he was “intrigued by the premise” but that the sample pages didn’t draw him in. He even gave a reason why the writing didn’t engage him!
What really caught my attention was one phrase. Intrigued by the premise? Intrigued by the premise! *Gasp* Dare I think it?
I think I dare…
Okay, yeah, there’s that little problem of my sample pages not being engaging, but do you know what’s harder than re-writing an entire novel? Writing a good freakin’ query letter! I literally have seventeen pages of query re-writes. (And I do mean literally). Let’s not even add to that how many query re-writes I’ve done for my second novel. I’ve written so many queries for my two complete manuscripts that I’ve given certain Word documents names like “Query Omnibus.”
I’ve thought that maybe this agent has several forms of form rejections. Form rejection A for situation A. Form rejection B for situation B, and so on. I've also thought that maybe I'm reading too much into into this. But I've pushed those thoughts aside. Why burst my own bubble?
I don’t know if this agent realized I’d find encouragement in his seven-sentence response email and I didn’t write back to tell him I appreciated his opinion because I didn’t want to clutter up his inbox, but I appreciate his efforts just the same.
As I move forward into a new round of querying, I’m submitting a different project. One that has seen almost as many revisions as its query letter. I don’t suddenly expect non-form rejections from every agent I reach out to (actually, I’m hoping to get no rejections and to finally make it past the querying stage), but I did want to take a moment to thank those agents*who take the time to blog, grant interviews, and do so much to make it easy for writers to find information about this whole query process (and beyond). I’ve learned a lot from you.
*Not to slight the writers, editors, and other industry professionals who are also awesome in their giving of helpful information.** I thank you, too. But you know, when you have a theme and stuff going you gotta roll with it.
**Or who just make me laugh: