Miss Snark has a rant about people who don’t follow directions. I concur. I also find myself deeply puzzled by people who write back to argue with rejection. Not persuade. Or request to submit revised work. Argue.
This week I was told I lacked discernment (for not agreeing to read a manuscript). Further I was told I wasn’t taking that same work seriously after all the research and time spent crafting. I don’t like the first bit. (Did this person just say that I was stupid? How very flattering. Let me immediately call them and offer to work for them. Er…) What my reply to the query said was that I wasn’t enthusiastic about the premise of the book. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how much research went into it. Or even if I’m incorrect about its saleability. I feel I’d have a very difficult (nigh impossible) time representing books that I’m simply not interested in reading. I also get quite confused by the idea that an author would want you to represent a book that you aren’t into. Ideally, shouldn’t you also be a fan of their work? It was also suggested that it would only take me 10 minutes to actually read the first five pages. I don’t read that slow, but supposing I did, if I spent that amount of time per query, since I average over 100 per week, that would be (er, math) over 16 hours, or two regular business days of work. Not that I don’t read each submission carefully. I really do. I want new and exciting projects. But this seems an overzealous percentage of available review time even to a hunter like me. How much time does it take a reader to pick up a book in the bookstore and decide whether they want to buy it or not?
Furthermore, I have no idea what this person was trying to accomplish. Would I change my mind? And, if so, would you want an agent who was so easily swayed in their opinion of the book when they must remain steadfast in their belief in it and the writer though potential rejections by publishers? I suspect they simply wanted to make themselves feel better and blame me for not connecting with the book. I hope they do feel better, but I think it probably didn’t help them all that much. And it’s entirely likely that when I don’t connect with a book, it’s because it doesn’t resonate with me as a reader. Or it could just not be that good an idea. That’s why “they” keep going on about how difficult it is to mix art and commercial business. You have to like it and be able to sell it.
In other news, someone responded to a rejection by asking whether I had received the pages they sent. I have no idea how to parse this one. I said I didn’t want to read it. If there were pages, I don’t want to read them either. (And, no, I’m not sure. I get a lot of queries and, though I have a phenomenal ability to remember titles from my bookstore days, they don’t all stick.)
Most people don’t reply to rejections. They internalize whatever they need to learn and move on and hopefully find the match they’re looking for, or get enough out of the experience for the next project to succeed. That seems the healthiest and most pratical approach to me. I have, on occasion, ended up representing someone I originally rejected. But it often isn’t the same book, and it generally isn’t even in the same year of the original submission. Writing is hard. Getting published is harder.
My instincts say that replying to the above correspondence, and opening up a dialogue with these people (which is clearly what at least one of them is going for) isn’t a good investment of my time when I could be doing any of my other myriad agently-tasks. Or posting to LJ. Heh. In other areas of life doing such a thing rarely seems to result in the two parties reaching an accord. Yet, some also deem it rude not to reply. What a quagmire.