Thanks everyone for the comments on commenting yesterday. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who found it ironic that I ended up with so many on that particular post. It was interesting to see what people thought. I don’t tend to actually think about comments when I’m writing, so maybe that explains it too.

In any case…. had a curious thing happen. People respond to my responses to queries all the time. Every week there’s a handful of “thanks for your time” or “thanks for your feedback.” I certainly don’t mind those — nor, do I think they are a requirement. But, when they are courteous, they are pleasant. When they are not, or if they are downright insulting (e.g. you wouldn’t know a commercial novel if it walked up and smacked your momma), then…. they are not so nice. But I had a new one happen this week.

I sent my response declining the query on the basis that I was not excited about the idea. I tried to be straightforward but polite. In response, the person sent me their entire manuscript – as an attachment – with the suggestion that I just read it anyway and let them know where I stopped. I was taken aback. I wonder if when they ask a girl if they can buy her a drink, and she says no, do they order a pitcher delivered to the table? Doesn’t no still mean no? In any case, I was uncertain what to do, and certainly wasn’t going to open an unsolicited attachment. And I suspected if I emailed them back to explain why I wasn’t going to read it, they’d just keep after me. So, I ended up deciding that I should just delete it, so I did. What would you have done?

67 responses to “WWYD?

  1. Said ok, then mailed back “I stopped at the end my email saying no thanks?”

  2. Sounds like the right thing. Any continued conversation on it would kinda be falling on deaf ears.
    Every after a decade in publishing, I often forget the hopeful desperation that lurks in the heart of the unpubbed writer. Then I go to a convention and they do their damnedest to remind me…

  3. I’d have considered being snarky, but probably have learned that just disengaging silently is more likely to be nonstressy in the future.
    (I mean… Dude, when I figured out that my opening pages were too slow, I fixed them. If the idea isn’t exciting, then either the idea is not for that agent and you don’t want that agent anyway, or you need to jazz up the query part. Or jazz up the first few pages.)

  4. Delete. And then bitch to my friends. *g*

  5. I wonder if when they ask a girl if they can buy her a drink, and she says no, do they order a pitcher delivered to the table?
    Quite possibly. There was a t-shirt around (at least a short while ago) saying “No means buy aNOther drink.” There are any number of jerks around who think they are Special Snowflakes and “no” can’t ever be directed at them.
    I would have done as you did, and possibly added the sender to my blocked senders list.

  6. Scathing looks don’t travel too well over e-mail, so I don’t think there’s anything else you could have done…

  7. That’s what I would have done!

  8. Delete. That’s a person who will latch onto anything as justification in their own mind for future correspondence/interaction.
    And it’s still three-to-one you’ll get an email in the next week asking just where you are in the manuscript and whether it has changed your mind and if not why not and perhaps you should just re-read one more time.

    • BTW, I sent you an email on the 26th of June. Did you get it? Should I resend?

      • I did not get it. My work firewall is finicky and annoying. The IT adjust spam filters all the time and it catches things it shouldn’t.
        Would you mind sending it to my Yahoo address, which is what I should start using on a go-forward. It is paulsvantekemp at yahoo dot com.
        Sorry for the inconvenience.

        • No problem. I’m glad you commented because it reminded me I hadn’t had a reply.

          • I just tried to respond to your response but got a notification that the agency’s spam filter had blocked it and that it had not been delivered.
            Now I’ve stripped out the reply string and just sent my response. I’m not getting a bounce notification so hopefully that got through. There must have been something in one of our replies that makes Spam filters uneasy.
            This is actually kind of funny. 🙂

  9. Have you considered Rick-Rolling them?* That’s my answer to most internet problems.
    *Not even remotely a professional agent and cannot be taken seriously in most if not all pieces of advice.

  10. I was taken aback. I wonder if when they ask a girl if they can buy her a drink, and she says no, do they order a pitcher delivered to the table?
    I LOL’d for serious and read this to my mother.

  11. I’ll join the chorus of “that’s what I would have done.”

  12. I would have no – you’re right: no means no. Nothing else. You aren’t going to give feedback for her, obviously. She expected too much and in turn must face reality.

  13. You’ve already said “no”. Further engagement is not required, and while I *like* ‘s suggestion, I fear that a response would have just encouraged the culprit to escalate.

  14. Course, now you know what’s going to happen don’t you? Come a few weeks, you’re going to get this status check email.
    Pending my mood, I could have written back and said make your query as good as you think your book is and it’ll make me want to read it regardless of the idea.
    Keri Ford

  15. I tried to be straightforward but polite. In response, the person sent me their entire manuscript – as an attachment – with the suggestion that I just read it anyway and let them know where I stopped. I was taken aback.
    I’ve had agents do basically that.

  16. Definitely delete it. And then block their email address.

  17. I would have done what you did. There is a kind of person that realizes they can often strong-arm other people into doing things just by ignoring all social etiquette and making it awkward for them to refuse. I think the best thing to do is not reward that behavior with a response, because they usually keep pressing. They only give up long after it’s gone past awkward and into embarrassing.
    I can understand if you felt like maybe you should have said something, instead of just being silent. It can feel somehow less mature, like an adult would simply give another firm “no” and would not leave them hanging. Really, though, I think you took the only good response the person left open to you. They invited the awkwardness in, not you, and they are to blame if their behavior makes others ignore them.

    • The reason I felt like I should have said something is that there is a lot of feedback that suggests agents who don’t respond aren’t being professional. However, I figured since I did already respond and this person was the one that was rude first, I wasn’t required to further engage. I think there’s a social contract that’s developed around the query process and both sides have to be professional about it in order for that contract to stay in force.

      • there is a lot of feedback that suggests agents who don’t respond aren’t being professional.
        It wouldn’t matter one bit in this instance whether or not you replied, or however gently you declined… this person can’t take no for an answer and anything short of offering representation and possibly a signing bonus will likely be considered a “wrong” response.
        Deleting was absolutely appropriate. And possibly indulging in fantasies of using the contact information to sign the author up for a few choice internet offers. *snort*

      • But you did respond, the first time, with a firm no. If they’re obnoxiously persistent after that, you owe them nothing. (Much like annoying guys at the bar and telemarketers.)

  18. I think deleting was the correct course of action, but I’m not sure I agree with all the people who recommend blocking the address. Yet. It’s conceivable that this person will get the message and try to work on developing a better query/manuscript before contacting you again. Of course if they contact you again to pester you about why you haven’t given them feedback, then blocking seems reasonable.

  19. Oh dear….hit the delete button!

  20. I’ve gotten that sort of thing with short stories submittals – persistant authors who don’t really understand how the process works, despite the very clear guidelines on our website.
    Unless they are outright hostile about a rejection, I normally try to be kind (because I’m a writer, too) and tell them that I’m confident they will find a market for their piece elsewhere. Then I wish them luck.
    Rejections are hard. I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten one from you (or your firm) in the past. You don’t seem particularly negative to me, but you don’t seem like the kind of person who is open to a requery, either. 🙂

  21. I wonder if when they ask a girl if they can buy her a drink, and she says no, do they order a pitcher delivered to the table?
    Teresa Nielsen Hayden addresses this issue in her Slushkiller entry – section 5, ‘Remembrance of louts past.’
    I am not a literary agent, but I am a girl who’s met her share of creeps (I suppose we all have), and frankly, if a person is not able to take no for an answer, I wouldn’t want to be involved with them – professionally *or* personally. This person you’re dealing with here may well be perfectly nice and simply a little clueless, but they may not be. So I agree with the deletion.
    – Tracey S. Rosenberg
    Writing (mostly): http://tsrosenberg.wordpress.com

  22. Probably would have deleted it and not given a response. Mainly because even responding means that there was that small chance you’ll keep doing it, and it would encourage them to keep on sending the manuscript to every other person, just in case one of them actually goes “wow, it was great right after that paragraph!”

  23. The writer requested you do him/her a favour, and you’re not obligated to.
    I think a brief email saying you’ve deleted the attachment due to your agency’s policies, and that while you admire the writer’s persistence, your answer is still no, would have been nice. As a writer, I appreciate having my cluelessness gently pointed out so I can learn from my mistakes. However, you sending that email would be another favour to the writer–and you don’t owe him/her any of those.
    In short, I think your way of dealing with the matter was perfectly acceptable.

  24. I would have done what you did, I think. I guess a short note back would be nice, but, like you said, it would probably mean more e-mails. You’d probably end up with the other four manuscripts this writer has finished since Jr High, in case one of them interested youmore.

  25. I would have deleted it. It sounds like they’d try to argue with any response you made.
    Of course, now I have to bet a notional farthing that that writer will now be sending you an e-mail asking if you’ve read it yet, and when you’ll sign a contract with them. The window for the bet– at most, two weeks.

  26. I’m usually one of the three or four people who comment on certain posts (the Karp essay), but don’t bother to comment on others where more than forty have commented. Now I’m starting to wonder about my own comment pattern 🙂

  27. I agree with the sentiments of mostly everyone here. Deleting was the right thing to do. Pushy people are kinda scary. No means no, and I’m sure this person will not let up if you don’t block them. Please know that all unpublished writers are not crazed. 🙂 I have infinite patience as I learn my craft. 🙂

  28. …. wow.
    I think you probably did the right thing. Had it been me in your shoes… I don’t know. If I were an agent much less busy than you are, I might have sent a second, firmer reply explaining that I don’t open unsolicited attachments…
    But then, I expect that you are absolutely right and that this person would have kept after you. He or she needs to accept a no with grace and move on, and it is not your responsibility to offer education in this area past what you provide right here on this journal. As we like to say in my household, “not your monkey”. 😉
    Interesting food for thought–thanks for the opportunity to give us unpubbed writers a chance to think about things from your point of view.

  29. I would have done exactly the same.

  30. Uh…wow. Talk about pushy. You did the absolute right thing. Delete that puppy. Someone’s not working on all thrusters. Because no matter what you do, polite or otherwise, they’ll latch on and won’t let go.
    Kinda like a tick. 🙂

  31. Just what you did. You cannot reason with those who ignore answers and rules they don’t like.

  32. I would have done the same. You are right, they probably would have just kept it going if you had responded back. If I were a girl in a bar getting a pitcher of martinis after I just turned away one, I would politely ignore that as well.

  33. Baleted, to use the net-speak. Goodbye, poor and desperate author.

  34. Have a policy
    If you have a policy of not opening unsolicited attachments (you probably should, if you don’t already), then just delete the email. When (not if, I’m guessing) the author follows up with you, just sound mystified and point them to your policy of not opening unsolicited attachments. Some people don’t take rejection well, no matter what you do. With a written policy, at least they can’t take it quite as personally.

    • Re: Have a policy
      We do have that policy. It’s right in our submission guidelines on the website. And I’ve repeated it on my own website too. But I suspect from some of the things I get that a number of people who submit each week don’t get around to reading the guidelines first.

  35. Your reaction was, to join the growing Greek chorus, probably the best.
    My personal urge would have been to have responded saying I stopped reading it at the suggestion to read the whole thing anyway, because this is not the bahavior of anyone you would care to represent, and while further queries are welcome, further pursuit of this issue will not be considered. That’s the teacher in me, wanting to let the person know they just did something that hurt their chances of getting the response they wanted. Again, hitting the delete button was probably the best thing to do, since your submission guidelines are probably laid out clearly on the website. You have a job to do. Editing rejected manuscripts isn’t part of it, I’m pretty sure.

  36. What would you have done?
    Reply with a copy-and-paste of the original rejection, perhaps with a note saying something like, “I’m sorry, you obviously didn’t receive this.”
    I might consider lying and telling them that their attachment had been auto-stripped from the email since it’s clearly stated in the submission guidelines that you don’t accept attachments, but that might come back to haunt me.

  37. Me, I would have written back saying “Please do not send materials that I haven’t asked for.”
    And I would probably have regretted it.

  38. It’d be hard for me to resist being too snarky, because it annoys me when people can’t take a firm “no” as an answer, but I’d delete it and probably shoot them a short email explaining why what they did wasn’t the best idea. If they then kept after me, I’d ignore them and block them if it got bad enough.

  39. I’d have read it (until I stopped), primarily because most of my favorite books and many of the best books I’ve ever read (Jayber Crow, Godric, Confederacy of Dunces, Gilead, etc.) are those that don’t sound in the least bit interesting or exciting to me but thankfully, someone nagged me to read it for so long that finally did.

    • I think if it had come with a recommendation from a friend that I knew had great taste in books, that would be one thing. But as 1 submission out of over 150… why should that person be rewarded for blowing off my considered, thoughtful, and professional reply? Plus, the job of the query is to get the agent or editor to read the book — not to ignore their reply and send it anyway. And, finally, there’s the whole thing of opening attachments from people you don’t know.

  40. question
    See? End with a question and you’re up to 56 comments!
    Delete. Delete. Delete.

  41. I think this is a no-win situation, but you can at least choose how you lose. With luck, this will be the last you hear; without, you can reiterate that you will not be picking up the author.

  42. It’s just another ‘clever’ way to try and get you to look at their stuff.
    TBH, if I were an agent, I wouldn’t care if the book was excellent. You just showed that you’re an arse and you can’t follow the rules, so why would I want to work with you?
    Totally agree with the deletion.

  43. Delete. Absolutely.
    I’m on the fence about a reply email. Someone who has already showed a disregard for submission guidelines, a disinclination to take a hint, and either an unfortunate amount of chutzpah or an oversized sense of entitlement? Not likely to go away easily. Probably best not to encourage him.

  44. delete. For sure. No more time wasted on it. Moving on.

  45. Delete?
    Absolutely delete this. Do NOT encourage any further dialog. You owed them a response, which they got. They’re not entitled to an explanation, and thinking they’re derserving of more of your precious time is a sign of arrogance.
    IMO, the bigger the arrogance, the smaller the talent. You don’t even need to see the first page to know it’s bad. I sure learned that judging short story contests.

  46. I wonder if when they ask a girl if they can buy her a drink, and she says no, do they order a pitcher delivered to the table?
    That’s a strong parallel to make there… unfortunately, I can’t argue that you’re that far off.
    I think the word I want to use here is entitlement. I’ve “been around the block” enough to see a good percentage of prepublished (and on rare occaision published) authors that have this erroneous sense of entitlement that they somehow deserve feedback from every agent, editor or published author. That you somehow owe it to them?
    But to follow up and send a full (unsolicited/post-rejection) ms and request that you read it anyway — it reeks of narcissism in 1st degree.
    If they want professional validation or services on a manuscript then pay for professional validation/services and hire a freelance editor. Pretty.Simple.Stuff.
    You added them to your spam filter right? You are entitled to do that. >;)

  47. You should…
    I recommend that you avoid replying, but then post a public blog entry detailing your reasoning for doing so. Get >60 disinterested readers to agree with your decision. If your persistent would-be client reads the blog, which he/she undoubtedly does, he/she will be anonymously shamed. And so the email exchange ends, the submitter’s reputation is not ruined, and the fifteen other potential clients who were about to do the same thing learn that they risk having their tactics publicly condemned and/or compared to ineffective bar pickup attempts. Success!

  48. The Stranger Who Queried
    I would probably have done the same.
    By the way, your blog is quite interesting. lol Though I am reading it in reverse order…mostly.

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