In researching literary agents to submit to, I’ve noticed something very disturbing. A large number of them state that they will respond if they are interested in your query. If you don’t hear from them, they’re not interested. So um. okay. Got a lot of thoughts going through on this one. First off, honestly, it’s very unprofessional. I hesitate to state my second point, because I don’t want to wind up on some blacklist, but I’m going to say it anyway: It’s rude.
Let me soften this criticism, however, by saying that I get it. I mean, I really, really get it. When agents (and editors) opened themselves up to electronic submissions, they also opened the door to the hoi polloi; every Tom, Dick and Jane who’s written anything (or even nothing) can now shoot off an email query; it probably multiplied your incoming queries by the dozens, perhaps even hundreds, from people who would perhaps never have submitted at all in the olden days when we had to look up agent and editor submissions guidelines, and type out a query letter and print out and enclose synopses and partials, and makeup the right size envelope and mail it all off with an SASE. The kind of queries that had Jim McCarthy tweeting, in apparent frustration (accompanied by a gif from Home Alone of Macaulay Culkin cocking a rifle): You: “I’ve written a fiction novel.” These days anyone can do some quick search on google, find your email address, and send off their “I’ve written a fiction novel” query. Understood. Again, I really, really get it. You probably have nightmares about waking up in the morning to face the avalanche that’s your inbox (I would!).
However! That being said!!!! Those of us who are approaching this in a professional manner… who have done our homework, who have a finished manuscript (or more), who have synopses and blurbs and a carefully crafted query letter… we not only hope and dream of being a published author, we’re out there educating ourselves and doing what we’re supposed to do to try to make it happen. A lot of time and effort goes into our queries; we study your submissions guidelines, then craft our query letter accordingly, revise our synopsis (and/or blurb and/or pitch) to suit the size you request, put together the exact amount of pages (or word count) of a partial if it’s required; and we do this individually for each and every query, because each and every agent has different requirements. And then the waiting, which is hard enough, anticipating with dread the possibility (even probability) of a polite “sorry, we’re not interested” response to that query we sent out with so much hope. It’s my belief that we deserve at least the courtesy (<—courtesy) of a response. After all, a standard cut-and-paste rejection would take you only a couple of minutes to control-V into a return email and shoot it off. And it’s not like we’re not used to those form rejection letters from the old snail mail and SASE days (those days when every query got a response!). What’s more, shooting off a return email is sure a lot faster and easier than the olden days when you had to type up the letter, print it out, fold it and put it in the SASE and seal it and stick it in the outgoing mail bin.
So, what if you just kind of modified your policy, so that those who do submit in an educated manner, following your guidelines and having clearly made an effort to be professional, would receive at least the professional courtesy of a rejection, be it ever so brief?