1. Philsy

    Philsy Member

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    Publishers and agents don't respond

    Discussion in 'Publisher Discussion' started by Philsy, Oct 19, 2016.

    I have submitted three books to a large number of agents and publishers here in the UK. One a novel written by a good friend (he is not in a position to deal with it himself so has asked me to), another a children's novel written by me, and finally a self-help book I have written.

    Of all these, I have had just one reply, which was pleasant but in the negative; although they did kindly suggest another publisher. No one else has bothered to acknowledge me.

    Now, I know that these people do get a huge number of submissions but, in this day and age, they could at least set up an automatic email reply, to say they've received the work. Then, that could be followed up by an email saying they've assessed the submission and it's a yes or a no.

    To get no response, even after a number of months, smacks a little of arrogance. Which is wrong, because if publishers and agents didn't get anyone submitting work, they'd be buggered! :)

    Or am I being too harsh? :)

    Phil
     
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, "a number of months" may not be long enough to wait. My understanding is that these things take a very long time.

    I do agree that if you're supposed to wait for several months for a response, it would be nice to at least know that the work has been received and is in the queue. But "would be nice" isn't really a requirement, it's just "would be nice." And there is really no risk at all of publishers and agents having no one submitting work, so they're not facing that issue.

    Also, are you absolutely positive that you submitted the work in the way that the publisher/agent requires? I can see that they might choose not to take the time to write up the exact details of how you've violated their requirements. For example, if they want you to snail mail a synopsis and include an SASE, and you emailed a Word document with the whole novel, I wouldn't be surprised if they declined to respond. Again, it would be nice if they bounced a reply to all emails pointing you to a link that describes the requirements, but that's just a "would be nice."
     
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  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    In addition to making sure you submitted it correctly, publishers will often provide a time period in which they try to respond and after which they recommend a query as to the status of the work. If you're still within that time period, it's just a matter of continuing to wait.
     
  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    If there was a serious risk that writers would stop submitting to places that don't respond to submissions, the behaviour might change. But there are so, so, SO many prospective writers and really not that many agents/publishers... they're in the cat bird seat. And by the time they don't respond, I assume they've already decided they don't really want to work with you, so they lose very little by not giving a response.
     
  5. psychotick

    psychotick Contributor Contributor

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    Hi,

    When I was going that route probably half of publishers and agents never bothered to respond at all - which was I understand quite normal. That was about fifteen years ago though. Things may have changed.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  6. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    "No response means no" is increasingly the norm. I think it's very sad that it's the norm, and I do have more respect for agents and publishers that don't do it, although I understand why many of them have stopped responding.

    If you're submitting in the US, take it as a rejection after three months of no response.
    If in the UK, assume a rejection after six months.
    Publishers can easily take up to a year for unagented submissions.
    Of course, you might get a response after you've written them off... but that'll be a bonus. I think there comes a point where you have to write it off for your sanity.

    You should be aware that many will completely ignore a submission made on behalf of someone else, even if they usually respond to submissions. They want to work with authors directly, not through a proxy (the exception of course is submissions made to a publisher by an agent). You're wasting your time with your friend's novel, unfortunately.
     
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  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Any agent or publisher who simply doesn't respond at all is unprofessional, in my view.
     
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  8. Philsy

    Philsy Member

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    Hi, I have been very careful to tailer submissions to each publisher or agent's requirements.
     
  9. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm afraid I totally agree with you here. Automated responses are so common these days. I get them from eBay sellers, for pete's sake. What's so difficult about sending an automated email that tells the author their submission has been received—and contains information about what will happen next?

    Such as: "Dear author, Thank you for your query submission. This is to let you know the process of assessment may take a long while. If you don't hear from us for months on end, please assume we have not read the submission yet or are still considering it. When we finally take a decision, either to reject your MS or ask for more, we will immediately let you know via email. Unfortunately, rejection notices will be automated, due to the volume of submissions we receive, but your submission is certainly appreciated. Without submissions, we would not exist."

    If you are an agent or publisher who wants a professional relationship with a client, best to start as you mean to go on.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
  10. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Then there are a lot of unprofessional agents and publishers who are well-respected in their field...
     
  11. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I wouldn't expect agents to reply personally to every submission. That's just not possible. However, an automated email response to every submission? Surely that's not too much to ask. It keeps everybody informed of the process and where they stand. That's professional.

    Agents succeed because they are good at selling a product. They may or may not treat the folks they reject with courtesy. The world is full of people who 'make it' that way, and don't give a shit about who gets swept aside, but that attitude isn't necessary. Not to mention it's kind of stupid. If an agent or publisher doesn't automatically acknowledge receipt or rejection, they're going to get peppered with follow-up letters and even phone calls asking about the state of submissions. It would be a lot less hassle for them, to just fire off an automated response. Then everybody knows what's what.
     
  12. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Yeah, I do understand the reasoning behind not responding (even if I don't think it's 'right') but I don't understand not having an auto-reply to confirm the submission was received.
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I don't doubt it. There's no real incentive for them to be more professional in this regard.

    When you open up for submissions you're inviting people to potentially enter into a business relationship with you, and when people submit they're responding to that offer. In any other business context, never responding would be deemed highly unprofessional, but in the publishing industry people accept it. It's disrespectful of authors, and it's particularly bad if you're a publisher who doesn't take simultaneous submissions.
     
  14. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

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    I've worked in the media business and there it's also become the norm to not reply if there's no interest in a business relationship. I don't agree with but having worked myself with recruiting, I also know that a lot of the time it's simply a time capacity issue nothing personal.

    However, I also find it simply bad mannered and I don't like how increasingly bad manners have become accepted as 'cooler.'

    But I agree with some others here. Some publishers come back after months and months and month....so I wouldn't write it off yet and I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

    I agree that if you have a time management problem, then you should enable automatic acknowledgements of receipts asap.
     
  15. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    One downside of auto-responses is that when you're F5ing your inbox every three seconds during querying, when you see that email pop up you think for a glorious second that it's a request.... and it's a note telling you they're currently reading submissions from January 1925 and will get to yours in approximately seven millenia.

    /bitter experience
     
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  16. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

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    That's is very true! However, I think as long as the response comes immediately after submission I don't usually feel the disappointment. But when you get it more than an hour later, I do. Even though it would be crazy for a publisher to have made a decision within an hour, of course :D
     
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  17. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I must be the exception here. I have submitted about 35 queries since late July, and I have gotten automated responses within hours to a day of submission from well over half, most recently from a UK outfit (I am in the US) in just four hours. These all indicate whether I should expect to see a rejection or request for more info. or just assume rejection if I haven't heard from them in x weeks. I have gotten about 5-10 rejections, basically saying "sorry this does not fit out needs at this time, but please keep trying." These come within days to a few weeks. And I had one request for manuscript within days, though it was ultimately rejected, with a valid criticism, that generated a rewrite of several chapters. I think if you are not getting those kinds of responses, you might want to go to the agencies' websites and verify that you are submitting exactly what they ask for, the way they want it ... I recommend using querytracker.net as a means to get there. In their submission pages, they are all very specific about what they want to get, and they are very explicit that they will dump queries unanswered that don't match their format. The most common format is that with few exceptions, they want the sample of your work embedded in the text of the e-mail following the query letter text and NOT as an attachment. This minimizes their risk of virus intrusion. Most say that if you send an attachment, it will be automatically intercepted by their internet security and simply flushed. Many offer specifics about what they want to see in your query letter, including something about you, your education, your qualifications for writing on this subject, other things you have written. And almost none of them take snail mail.

    Also go the agent's page on the agency website, and see what their preferences are... many very specifically do not want certain genres, and if you send them something that they have specifically said they don't want to see (i.e., no YA, no fantasy, no vampires, no erotica, no romance are some of the more common) they may not feel obliged to answer you.

    I have a standard query letter, but
    1. It addresses the agent by name, formally: Dear Mr. /Ms. XXX XXXX, not "Chris" or "Joe"
    2. The first paragraph is addressed to the agent: why I picked that agency, and then why I picked him/her in particular, and why I think this submission will be of interest to them, based on what they have said their interests are.
    3. And the rest of the body of the query may be tailored as well...

    In short, it takes me about an hour or so to put together a query to make sure I submit it the way they want it.
     
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  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    This is interesting. Some email clients have an interface that may not make it clear that a person is indeed including an attachment. For example, if I paste an image into an email, that's an attachment, even if it may visually look like it's an inline part of the email content. And some people have pictures in their sig that arrive as attachments.

    @Philsy, any chance that you're accidentally including attachments when they're forbidden?
     
  19. Philsy

    Philsy Member

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    Thanks for all the replies.

    Ironically, I have just had an email from an agent I sent my friend's novel to. It was a personal and very thoughtful critique of the book. They liked it but wasn't for them, sadly, but at least they explained why. :)
     
  20. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I never know when they're not going to respond and when they're just taking a long time. I have a few submissions that I am pretty sure are non-responders, but I'm hesitant to write them off. I had a place take about two years to get back to me. And I'm pretty sure it was just a form rejection when they did respond. I've got a good half dozens submissions that have been out over 200 days, but those are for journals and magazines.

    When I was querying agents, I remember a good number of them responding fairly quickly. But there were some that took quite a bit longer. I don't know much about how the UK agents operate, but I imagine it's not all that different. Do US authors pretty much stick to the US agents and UK authors to UK agents?
     
  21. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Except that if you're a publisher open for submissions you are asking people to send you their work. It's like being a 911 operator and being annoyed that people call 911.
     
  22. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Not quite... I mean, obviously publishers are neither publicly funded nor life and death, but leaving that part aside - if there were so many calls coming in to 911 that the operators weren't able to do anything but answer calls, 911 wouldn't be too effective. The operators need time to gather information, dispatch relevant services, etc. If 911 were in the situation where they were too busy to follow up on the calls they answered, I'd expect them to get more funding. But since I don't want my tax dollars going to fund publishing (at least more than they already do), I accept that something has to give.
     
  23. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    That presupposes that the marginal cost of responding to everyone would be prohibitive. I find that hard to believe, though. I think an automated, form email rejection would be fine, and I can't see that as being overly expensive or time consuming. I am not saying they have to put a lot into it, just something to let you know they reviewed your work and are passing. This would be unprofessional behavior in other fields, and even in publishing it is unprofessional among professionals (i.e. their interaction within industry), but the balance of bargaining power so strongly favors publishers that writers appear to be willing to put up with it on the chance of being published.

    I think, more than anything to do with costs, some publishers do this simply because they know they can.
     
  24. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Yes. New authors will accept a lot that they probably shouldn't, because they're so eager to be published. Bad agent agreements, bad publishing contracts, and so on. For the vast majority of new authors trying to break out, they have very little bargaining power.
     
  25. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I think if you are not getting at least an acknowledgment in a day or so, go to the agency's web page (not the agent's) and find the submissions tab. That will give you the specific instructions for submitting to that agency. If you follow them exactly, including the subject line, you should get at least an automated acknowledgement ASAP.
     

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