letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 209
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: fantasy

Also, responded to a previously requested partial and asked for the full manuscript — it’s a southern gothic novel. Had to send the request by snailmail because the email bounced — this is an important reason to include other contact information in your query, whether it’s electronic or snailmail.

Meanwhile, there are two, shall we say, industrious individuals contesting for this week’s casualty — or possibly casualty of the year.

Casualty #1: The author has sent me 8 queries in the last 6 months for the same novel, 3 of those queries have been in the last month. They did change the title at least once. They’ve also used 3 different email addresses (after I, admittedly, blocked the first one because I had begun to feel harassed). The body of the query, however, is essentially identical.

Casualty #2: The author has also sent me 8 queries, albeit over the course of 9 months, and only twice so far this month. Six of these queries were for the same novel. Recently, they gave me a bit of a stalker impression by suggesting that if we could only meet in person they were sure I would change my mind.

In each case, I have responded politely to the first couple rounds of queries in my usual fashion declining interest. Since that didn’t seem to be having any effect, I then sent my 2nd tier response which thanks them for the opportunity to reconsider their work and indicates that I am still not interested and kindly suggests they should seek representation elsewhere. Apparently, in these two cases, this is not having any success either as I continue to receive the queries over and over. I have now ceased to respond because I fear that no matter what I say, they simply won’t believe these projects aren’t of interest to me. And, sadly, with one of them changing their email address in a chameleon-like way, I cannot simply consign them to the killfile.

And, to be honest, I feel uncomfortable with the notion of sending queries to the killfile based on any sort of filter – they are only as good as the computer thinks they are. However, as I said above, I have gone past feeling spammed and have now made the transition to feeling harassed. People like these are why agents don’t want to get re-queried.

I find myself flummoxed by these. I simply cannot conceive of what these authors hope to accomplish at this point. Can someone please explain it to me?

Meanwhile, I can’t quite seem to craft something that is a more stern and unequivocal rejection that will nonetheless pass professional muster. So, do tell me in comments how you’d suggest I convince these two authors to move on to another victim target agent. Or, share with me the worst rejection you’ve ever received (please do leave out any identifying names, etc.) for comparison’s sake.

And have a happy weekend.

64 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. 8 and 8? Ouch. I figure one re-query should be enough. However…
    Painful admission: When I still had a MySpace page, I contacted you there with an annoying “I’ll query you soon/someday” message. Sorry! Blame my ignorance.

  2. harassment
    I enjoy reading your blog and thought I would comment on the harassment you have been receiving. I clicked on “Anonymous” because I don’t have an Open ID or Live Journal account. My name is the same as what you see in my email address. My advice: this is probably harmless but you should forcefully discourage it anyway. You should tell the individuals that you are forwarding their various email addresses to a competent authority (FBI, NYPD or whatever). And if necessary, do it. A number of years ago, I had a co-worker who used to go on and on about a certain president. I tried to ignore it until he started talking about wanting to see this president harmed. I quietly suggested that perhaps the Secret Service needed to know about him (meaning my co-worker). That line of discussion never came up again. I’m quite sure these “authors” know they are harassing you; they simply may not see literary agents as people who would take steps to protect themselves. You should not hesitate to burst the fantasy-bubble they live in, if for no other reason than that their continuing to do this and seeing you try to respond reasonably to them undoubtedly gives them a sense of power. This is how they get their kicks. There are solutions for this sort of thing. You should avail yourself. Best wishes.

  3. I suspect there is no way to dissuade such behavior other than to put them in the killfile and keep putting them there if they change email addresses. I read a lot of agent blogs and believe these two may be the same two that are plaguing some of the other agents and their assistants. Does one of them happen to write in ALL CAPS by any chance?
    It’s people like these that make it harder for some writers, including myself, to get an agent to seriously consider a requery. I’m getting ready to send out a new batch of queries on my project. It’s been eight months since I queried you, and since then, the manuscript has undergone significant revisions with the help of an author mentor who has adopted me. I would never dream of querying the same agent on the same project over and over again. And I certainly wouldn’t send more than two queries total on the same project to the same agent.
    Lisa Iriarte

  4. you want we should have a quiet talk with ’em, boss? I could import orc-boy for the occasion….

  5. I have a rather persistent poet who does the same thing to me with submissions for our lit ‘zine. He repeatedly sends handfuls of really awful poetry, no matter how many times I’ve responded that his work isn’t suitable for our publication. I think we stand at around two dozen submissions and rejections. I have a form for that — cut & paste. I hate to be that way, but at this point, that’s all I can do.

    • If he’s sending you all-new awful poems each time, you can’t really tell him not to. Maybe someday his work will be suitable for your publication (unless you simply don’t publish poetry at all, in which case I completely agree with you). Plenty of writers garner many rejections from a market before they sell something there.

      • Oh, we’ve had several authors and poets who were declined on first their submissions and accepted on subsequent ones. They are often repeats of the same poems, none of which fit into our guidelines. We don’t publish that kind of poetry even when it’s excellent. I’m just amazed/annoyed at his tenacity.

  6. (Eight times? But… There are so many agents out there! There are, of course, ones whose style I admire greatly, but if they say, “No,” then at worst I plug a few keywords into my search engine of choice and click through to submission guidelines… Why pester one agent over and over again?)
    You could possibly contact their service provider and explain that you are being spammed by these, and are concerned that they have an email problem that is re-sending material over and over and over again…
    You might be able, if the bodies of the text aren’t changing much, to set up a killfile filter on a string of text from the queries, too. If it’s a specific enough string, it should only catch those. (Unfortunately, if they then change them, a query might get through. Maybe they’d give up before then.)
    Good luck!

  7. The second rule of life is “don’t engage with the crazy people.”
    There are a limited number of people who, by being certifiably insane enough to not take No for an answer, go on to become huge successes. Alas, these are typically egoists of the highest degree, intent only on their goals and completely incognizant of the other 6.5 billion people sharing their planet.
    You don’t want to represent the book by Crazy Author, but he thinks it’s awesome; of course you must be wrong, because here on his planet, only his opinion counts.
    Your patience has far exceeded politeness. Killfile at will. There are thousands of aspiring writers out there who already meet the minimum baseline for social skills; you don’t owe these two one more picosecond of your time.

  8. I’m not an agent – so could be overstepping professional boundaries left, right and center here. However, I do get to deal with ‘special’ individuals in my work (i.e. people who need a nice stint bouncing off of walls) and when they get a bit too odd (think female in construction industry so they think they can walk all over you)this would be a slightly modified standard reply:
    (Their Name),
    Pursuant to my emails of the (xxx), (xxx) and (xxx) and your emails of the (xxxx), (xxx) and (xxx) I would like to clearly and unequivocally state that I have no interest representing you or your work or in receiving any further correspondence from you.
    Any further correspondence will be taken as harasment under (Insert something legal here that applies to where you live/where they live/their ISP) and dealt with accordingly.
    (Your Name)
    Writing nasty letters to builders tends to make you a bit of a paranoid bitch though, I must admit. So it may require some fine tuning. Hope it is of some help though.

    • I think this is an excellent idea! Sometimes you need to be really really firm for someone to get the hint.
      Other times, they’re just crazy and possibly obsessive compulsive and will never get the hint. *sigh*

      • As an aside it ends up being really scary when you have over 300lbs of brawny builder leering over you after sending them something like that. Especially since my letters go something along the lines of “No. You do not deserve the money because the work was horrific. Redo the work at your cost and then we’ll talk.”
        So at least this does not require physical confrontation. 😀

    • I worry that this would be seen as antagonistic to a crazy person. A friend of mine who is also an agent uses a line that I love for frequent query-harassers: “I regret that I will be unable to respond to any further inquiries from you, and wish you the best in pursuing representation elsewhere.” This actually has seemed to work for her.

      • You could well have a point – as I said, I’mnot an agent. And probably writers are slightly more ‘ego’ and slightly less ‘meet mr. wrench’ than builders! So yes, softly softly could be the safer bet.

      • This is the best reply I’ve seen, because it draws a boundary while staying true to what I think is Jennifer’s desire to be kind and professional. I think this is what you should do.

  9. Seems like you’re doing the best thing you can. Perhaps if you send them, one more, polite email as notice you will not be responding to further queries from them…?
    Here’s a good one from The Editor Files: I got a rejection from a publisher about a month ago. Nothing interesting there, until a few days ago when I received another rejection from the same company. One of their editor’s had reviewed my work for a second time and liked the writing and the storyline. it just wasn’t for them.
    Now, I took this as a positive! I mean how cool is it that something about my story made them re-read it after rejecting it? They also took the time to let me know they liked my work. It made me smile and I sincerely thanked them.
    But if one were to look at it another way, It could read ‘you know that rejection we sent you last month? Well, disregard that. We’ve read your work again and this, this is the real rejection letter.’ =giggle=

    • Worst rejection ever
      This one is great! A friend of mine sent it to me yesterday.
      “Worst one ever was my friend who got rejected because he had a scene set in a zoo. The editor said, “I hate zoos!” He later won the Betty Trask Award and sold it to Bloomsbury…”

  10. The rules obviously don’t apply to them
    People like these authors just don’t think the rules apply to them. Nothing you will tell them in an e-mail will make them stop. They’d see a reply as evidence that they’ve gotten your attention, and just accelerate their efforts.
    I have an online presence and, about a year ago, I started getting e-mails from an e-mail address I didn’t recognize. They were short, just a couple of sentences, and we’re always unsigned. The author always dropped just a bit of information about me that was a bit unsettling. It was nothing they couldn’t get online, but there was a stalker element to it without coming right out and saying, “I know where you live.” I had no idea who was sending them.
    My first reaction was to just delete them from my inbox. When ignoring them just caused more to come at a faster pace, I started marking them as spam. Every once in a while, I’d check my spam filter and see a few e-mails from this individual there. Eventually, they stopped altogether.

  11. Y’know, I’ve heard of people responding to phishing scams, pretending to be a mark. I one case, the mark sent the phisher all over Central Africa (into dangerous places) promising to have his money for him.
    Unfortunately, that takes a bit of time. Have you thought of recommending the Woodside Literary Agency to them?

  12. People like these are why agents don’t want to get re-queried
    Are there reasons why an agent would want to be requeried? It just seems like a waste of everyone’s time, even if the querier doesn’t turn out to be crazy and talentless.

    • It’s not always a waste of time. There are a lot of cases where the writer has a solid story idea but needs more editing and work on the execution. Say that writer spends a year overhauling their entire novel, as well as changing up their query letter to better convey the novel.
      Another case where a re-query is acceptable is if the writer has written a completely different novel.
      I know writers who have re-queried after making significant improvement to their work and have been signed by an agent that rejected them the first time around.
      I also know of situations where an agent will invest the time into a personalized rejection letter with suggestions for improvement. In that case, it’s common courtesy to offer the agent another look at a work that has been strengthened as a result of the time they put in to the rejection.
      So, while re-querying is not always appropriate, there are situations where it is most certainly not a waste of anyone’s time.

      • Good points. I guess I was thinking more of these sorts of re-query, where it really is just resending the same query. For a different novel or a work that has changed significantly, I wouldn’t really think of those as a “re-query”, although I suppose they are.

        • That makes sense. I agree with you that sending the same query letter is a waste of everyone’s time!
          They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. 🙂

  13. An idea…
    You could always send a message saying, “We have instituted a new policy. From now on, a single book can only be queried three times per six years, regardless of how many title changes or editing updates are done. Unfortunately, this means that if you desire us to represent you, you must now wait six years before querying again. I look forward to hearing from you in six years!”
    🙂
    -Kathleen MacIver

    • Re: An idea…
      I think this would be a good idea, but chances are people like this would probably just keep doing what they’re doing, changing the title and maybe a sentence or two of the query in the hope that the agent wouldn’t notice it was the same story over and over again.

  14. Fine line between hopeful and delusional
    This is why I read blogs like this. I don’t want to be an idiot. This industry stresses perseverance, faith and hope, which of course you absolutely must have, but at the end of the day what I really want is to be intelligent and aware. This is what happens when we tell people “You can be anything you want to be,” and “Don’t take no for an answer.” Are we creating a delusional society? Sometimes people don’t like what you write. Sometimes the answer is just “No.”

    • Re: Fine line between hopeful and delusional
      I don’t this this is the cause of that kind of advice. Its when people misinterpret the sayings.
      You CAN be anything you want to be. Just dont expect to defy physics and also, don’t expect other people to be and act like you want them to everytime.
      And don’t take no for an answer, but dont smash your head againt the wall repeatedly. Either write a novel that will get a yes, or find an agent that will give you your yes. Never accept a no and give up your dreams.
      The writers who sent those emails just dont get it.

    • Re: Fine line between hopeful and delusional
      Unfortunately, calls for cultivation of the virtue of tenacity, while inspiring, are often too simplistic. Rather than a Churchillian “never give up”, they should really say “never give up permanently”.
      There are times when you SHOULD give up. If you are trying to bench press 300 pounds, and are unable to, it’s very important to give up before something snaps in your back or groin! You don’t have to give up forever, but for now, it’s time to take a break, figure out what you’re doing wrong, and re-evaluate.

  15. Harrassed by Authors
    Based on their behavior to date I suspect that they aren’t really listening to your response. I picture the contestant in front of the American Idol judges who cannot sing a note, but refuses to believe when the judges point that fact out. When the judges finally get through to them they turn angry and act it out stupidly. What could they do differently? Not much.
    Unfortunately it will take you getting rude, or angry, or both, for them to get the message. You could try telling them that re-submitting the same rejected submission isn’t going to work, and only makes you angry, but I suspect you are going to have to just get angry before they get it.
    twitter.com/thenextwriter

  16. While your persistence is admirable, I again decline to consider your work. I will continue to decline should you continue to harass, but I will add this one suggestion: you may want to consider a career in sales, that is one avocation that rewards persistence. Alas, it also requires finesse, I have no suggestions for how to acquire that skill.
    Or
    I look forward to considering your work in the year 2109. Yes, that is no typo, no less than 100 years should pass before you move to query our agency again.
    Okay, that probably wasn’t very nice…but it was FUN! hehehe

  17. Back in my radio days, when things got uncomfortable with listeners, I usually went with the “ignore them until they go away” method. It didn’t work all that well, as evidenced by the fact that I *still* have a stalkerish fellow who tried to contact me at every station I worked at AND just tried to friend me on Facebook this month. I haven’t responded to any of his attempts at contact since about 2003 and he still tries. 😦

  18. To be on the safe side, I would keep a file and report it to the police or FBI. You never know what could happen down the line.

    • Looney File
      Kasey Michaels had a series with a fictional publisher , that kept such a thing for the really wierd fan mail that came in. I wonder if she got the idea from a real event.

  19. I haven’t had any overly negative rejections yet. All the agents I’ve queried have been really professional about it.
    I wish I had something to offer re: the Query Writers of Doom. I agree with the others that the re-query option is a limited privilege that should be treated as such. And if the same agent turns you down twice it’s time to take the hint.
    I think the problem is that it’s not clear why a query is rejected. Is the query just not written well enough to catch the agent’s attention? Is the concept not something the agent would ever be interested in? Is the concept just too close to something the agent is already representing?
    Not that those lingering questions excuse spamming. And if writers took the time to follow submission guidelines, maybe agents wouldn’t have to deal with this kind of thing.

  20. Personally, I’d recommend a two-word response. “No, thanks.” Nothing more.
    There’s nothing in those two words that can be construed as encouraging, and yet you cannot be accused of being unprofessional. Longer rejections only encourage rejectomancy and can be strangely encouraging regardless of what you say. Strongly negative rejections just make people mad and fortify their resolve, making them determined to get through to you. The terse “No, thanks.” is the most universally discouraging response you can give.
    And speaking of which, if you can track down a copy of it, I recommend a short story by Bruce Bethke called “It Came From the Slushpile.” Amusing (if 20-year-old and therefore now dated now) take on how hard it is to discourage aspiring writers. I still remember it all these years later. Originally in the July/August 1987 Aboriginal, but ISFDB also lists an anthology publication for it.

  21. Worst rejection
    Anon because don’t have time to do the other stuff, but my name’s Lynne Connolly.
    Worst rejection? Nothing. When you don’t hear a thing, not even a no thanks. Because some will take a year to respond, you keep the thing live, wondering, and then, nothing.

  22. It’s rather sad to me. One of my greatest fears as a writer is that I really do suck. Yeah sure, my crit group says great, I’ve got the gramma’ down and the POV staight. So when someone tells me I suck, i.e. repeated rejections from a believeable agent, I’d hope I had the good sense to listen.
    People please do not lie to your crit partners, it’s a horrible disservice that makes the entire publishing food chain what it is – a mess.

  23. Too bad people can’t take a hint (or an outright no for that matter.) There is a whole market for those people that don’t understand when no means no. suricattus is right–send the orc-boy.

  24. Dear {pest},
    I am so sorry to inform you that I have passed on and therefore cannot represent your timeless prose. I deeply regret having succumbed to my mortality at such an inconvenient time, as I’m sure together we could have made literary history.
    Might I recommend {rival agent who stiffed you at the bar}? I mentioned your work to {him/her} before my death, and {he/she} seemed extremely interested.
    Best regards from the Great Beyond,
    {you}

    • Of course, this must be either written in Kenisington Gore or on tracing paper in lemon juice (which makes it transparent) for suitably eerie effects!
      Brilliant plan.

  25. Well this is just a guess, but either
    a. They think your in a bad mood every time you read their query and your just rejecting them because of it (which of course you’re not)
    b. They think if they query you enough times you’ll get sick of it and offer them representation
    c. They just don’t get it.
    Have a good weekend. 🙂

  26. I’m sorry to have heard about queryfail too late, it must have been a great project. I’m going to stop querying for a little while until I’ve absorbed enough ideas to take a shot at completely revamping my approach to the process, I’ll probably take a shot at the Public Query Slushpile. I love reading the “query wars” stuff but some of the stories of the sillier query attempts are like watching train wrecks, and a few of them are borderline creepy!
    Wow logrusboy, that was funny. I guess it was the timing … before reading that I was starting to get creeped out!

  27. 1)stop responding to Stalker Writer. Ignore -but print out- the offended e-mail that results.
    2)print up copies of their correspondence (and e-mail addresses and IP) and keep them in a “possible psycho file.” Best case scenario, it’s a waste of a folder and a sticky label. Worst case, you have documentation to hand over to appropriate authorities if you have reason to believe the stalking is actual.

  28. If you don’t feel comfortable sending filtered queries directly to the killfile, consider setting up an intermediate “quarantine” area where “suspicious” queries get sent automatically. Then you can periodically peek at the folder to check if any of the queries are legitimate.
    This may just be an unnecessary extra step or unfeasible due to the number of queries you receive. But it’s an idea. 🙂

  29. Block the IP address? Contact ISP and report harassment? Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like they speak logic.
    Ode to Mr. Common Sense.

  30. Tell them there is a fake-your-own-death, witness protection program for Agents and if they query you ONE more time with that same title they will be forcing you into it!

  31. Is this typical for you these days?
    I’m curious how many of your queries are from people who sound viable — not repeats, not people whose queries they have no clue. And is this a typical week for you in terms of volume/acceptance? Is it about the industry standard?
    Because if it is, an acceptance rate of less than half a percent is worse than a lot of raffles I’ve entered.
    Put another way, the stats you’re present right now STRONGLY suggest that right now, an aspiring first-time novelist might as well play the lotto instead.
    Do you agree?

    • Re: Is this typical for you these days?
      I think I have the answer to this one … it’s “No, because the lottery is 100% luck.” You can’t develop a skill in playing the lottery, you don’t learn something new each time you lose about how to pick the winning numbers (though many people think they do). There’s no way to make your $1 ticket have a better shot than my $1 ticket by trying harder, or picking inherently “better” numbers.
      Is there an element of luck in querying? Sure there is, after all you are basically selling something, and some sells are easier to make than others, and some of the reasons are things you don’t know about or can’t control. But equating the query process with lottery tickets is to say that skill counts for 0% of its success rate … which just doesn’t hold up.

  32. Query letters and on-line “wars” games
    A friend of mine recently asked me in to a game you could play on Facebook. You gather people into your “clan” or “posse” or “crew” or whatever, and the big deal is to get at least x-many of them before you hit x-level.
    Those of you who are younger than I am, please stop snickering immediately.
    The application will present you with a list of everybody on your list-of-people-playing-any-of-these-games and invite you to invite them. You just click the box. I find myself clicking the same boxes. Your query spammers are engaging in learned behavior and just clicking the box.
    “User [agentname] is no longer available. Further queries to [agentname] will result in loss XXX in experience points and XXX skill ranking.”
    It Might Work.
    Cheers,
    Moderately Successful Midlist Writer
    (though I =really= like the “I regret that I will be unable to respond to you in future” option)

  33. I’m not even sure what you could do at this point; several of the suggested replies above are excellent but these people don’t understand the word “no”, so it seems unlikely they’d understand anything longer than that.
    You’ve mentioned that they change emails, but can you check to see if they change IP addresses? If they keep using the same IP, block that. There’s always the chance they could go elsewhere and query from there, but it might throw them off.

  34. Could be they are misinformed
    I’ve done a lot of research on agents, and something I found at one point may be the reason why these people keep approaching you.
    I once read that some agents reject certain queries because it is at that particular moment that they may not be interested in that particular work. But, in some cases, apparently, they be at a later time. This may be why you keep getting these queries.
    The only other reason I can fathom is that these people believe they are the next best seller just waiting to be discovered and they can’t understand why you can’t see that. Or, in layman’s terms….they’re nuts.
    I would just ignore them, and hopefully they’ll eventually get the point.

  35. Ick
    I don’t understand why people don’t have some sort of brain filter (normally referred to as common sense) that should tell them they are acting bizarre. I don’t understand why anyone would think this behavior is acceptable. It almost sounds like the sheer fact they are doing that sounds like they are impatient and obsessive (but I’m just a student nurse so no professional opinion there).
    I would say the behavior seems like the early stages of danger. You know when you see little kids burning bugs with magnifying glasses or strapping firecrackers to sweet innocent cats…it can progress into something more! YIKES! I would let both authors know they are no longer permitted to query you with any works whatsoever (at least the one that wants to meet in person – uh ICK!).
    Especially when you see stuff like with little sweet teen Shawn Johnson in the news…this is a crazy world.

  36. re-queries
    I’ve seen this guy mentioned on many agent blogs. Some agents have mentioned that they broke from form and actually wrote a person rejection, telling the guy to stop querying. His reply? “I have a job to do, and until I’m published, you will be queried.” Or, “Until I get a hit, I must submit.”
    Clearly, this person is beyond reasoning. If you respond, he knows he has your attention. The best response is to not let it bother you and delete.
    Good luck,
    Sheila

  37. Re: re-querying
    Another thing that concerns me is that the query letters are skewing the business. I believe it’s ‘easier’ to write a query letter for a plot-driven book than it is for a character-driven story, so those letters are more likely to be written, much less read and accepted. Do you have any thoughts on the matter?

    • Re: re-querying
      I think it’s tough to write a query letter either way, but you’re right-when you have a plot-driven story, you can say “this happens, and then this happens…”
      But I think if you have a character-driven story, the trick is to focus on what the catalyst is for the character to set down their personal path to self-realization, growing, changing, etc.
      Does that make sense?
      I’m huge on characters, so this is something I definitly struggle with myself! (my book is currently almost at the polished stage and my query letter is still unwritten if that gives you an idea :))

  38. I do not advocate this
    I had similar problems a few years ago, with someone who escalated to the point of mentioning they were going to cause me physical harm. For the next two years, when I went to a few cons a year, I would forward my itinerary, including room number, to them.
    They never showed, and I haven’t heard from them in quite a while.
    Bill
    SubPress

  39. Question on querying
    You said in an interview last year (http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/meet-agent-jennifer-jackson) to “Send an overview of your writing background along with information about the next project you want to work on, including a synopsis and the first five pages (in the body of the email – no attachments, please) so I can get the flavor of your work.”
    By next project, do you mean the one we are currently querying, or do you really want details (how many?) on other projects?

  40. The Gift of Fear
    I would recommend reading Gavin DeBecker’s book “The Gift of Fear.” He is an expert consultant on matters involving violence, notably on stalking and harassment cases targeting celebrities and media personalities.
    Having read the book, I can tell you that his recommendation is, generally speaking, to ignore a stalker like the ones you’ve mentioned. Every time you acknowledge a stalker (or someone engaging in like behavior) with a response, you have only bought yourself more stalking. Any response at all gives them what they want – your time and your attention. If you stop giving them those things by not responding, they will probably do one of two things. They will either stop querying you and move on to someone else, or they will continue to query you and you can continue to not read and respond.
    Why is it advantageous to just let them continue querying? Sometimes people who tend to engage in this sort of behavior can become violent if they feel they have been personally slighted or rejected. For you, as a person who is forced to reject people as part of your job, this puts you in a difficult position. However, it is still quite likely that the people querying you repeatedly are doing so because they look up to you, admire you, and respect you within the milieu of the publishing industry. That’s why they’re so desperate for you to accept them. If you humiliate them with the most scathing reply you can manage, or if you call the police, or try to get them banned from their ISP, or any of the other drastic actions advised by some of your other readers, you risk turning that obsessive admiration into something much more dangerous – obsessive enmity. It is that latter kind of attention that can lead to killings by stalkers and things of that nature.
    Since the harassment has been limited to queries for novels, and they haven’t sent you anything overtly threatening (judging from your post) the best course of action is simply to follow the advice of some of the other people here – put them in your spam folder, or ignore them. The worst case scenario is that they continue to send you queries that you have to take a second to ignore or delete. If you choose to actively try to stop them from querying you, you are engaging in a ‘battle’ with these people, and it might lead somewhere much worse than simple query letters.

  41. query
    Odds are, you were picked as one of their top agents, and they don’t want to give up on the possibility that you might change your mind. Odds are, they are also semi-clueless about how publishing really works. Odds are they got bad advice from somewhere (and probably paid for it). While I certainly can understand the, “I didn’t write a good enough query to make her understand how good my story is,” thought process, they are lacking the professionalism required to be someone you’d want to represent anyway, which perhaps should be pointed out to them.

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