Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Tribe has Spoken

Okay, you seem to want closure, so I will continue to respond to queries at the pace that I can. For those that are really late, I'll add a note that says "sorry for the delay, but we get 30,000 submissions."

And for those writers who just can't stand getting rejection, on time or late, and feel compelled to write me a nasty comment I just might share it with you here, so you can see how annoying and frustrating it is.

Let me make one thing clear though. My list is full for all intents and purposes. I could make a comfortable living from my existing clients and their referrals. I have taken Jenny Rappoport on so that new writers can still get the benefit of my experience through her, but I am in no way obligated to take on new writers. I choose to do this. If you research me, it says something like 10% of my list is composed of first time authors - that's 7 or 8 a year.

And I'm sorry, I refuse to hire someone just to go through unsolicted queries. It's not a sound business practice. It makes no extra money for me or my existing clients. Yes, I might get a book or two from it, but if I didn't, I would probably put that time and energy into an existing client. And in my 20 years as an agent, I have never gotten a big book from the unsolicteds - all my big books have been nurtured or I have gone after them.


Anonymous said...

"And in my 20 years as an agent, I have never gotten a big book from the unsolicteds - all my big books have been nurtured or I have gone after them."

That's encouraging.....

Ravenous Romance said...

I'll probably use this as the jumping off point for my next post, but what this means is that writing a book is not like winning the lottery. Just as in any art or skill - in art, music, theater, film, even woodworking - most new works don't just pour forth perfect. It takes years of learning craft. Every first novel I've ever sold for a lot of money was either the writers' 3rd or 10th completed work, or the 5th or 6th rewrite by the time it was published.

Anonymous said...

This seems to be common with established agents -- they prefer referrals from existing clients. I queried an agency established in SFF, and after they read my query, they asked me who had referred me.
It's seems almost a credibility check. The agent told me "good people refer good people."

Stacia said...

Ms. Perkins, you don't need to add "...but we get 30,000 queries." Really. I think just "Sorry for the delay" is plenty.

Anonymous said...

That's encouraging.....

"Encouraging," in reference to the vast masses of yet-to-be-published authors, isn't (so far as I can tell) part of an agent's job.

An agent's job is to winnow out those manuscripts that s/he fells that s/he can sell and market them. That's how an agent scratches out a living.

The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can quit feeling sorry for ourselves when the mean ol' agent sends the form rejection, and get on with our own business of developing our writing.

Linda C. McCabe said...


As a former waitress and bookseller, I know how important it is to take things to the kitchen or receiving room when a customer drives you nuts.

Because in the service industry you have to toe the line of "the customer is always right."

However, you are not in the service industry and writers are not your customers. They are potentially your clients and if a writer is unprofessional and writes a nasty gram then feel free to share it with others.

That will help us better understand your perspective. I would like to suggest that prior to sharing any shameful acts that you would first strip identifiers away. That is just so a momentary lapse of reason will not translate into a indiscretion following them forever in cyberspace.

Thank you for the time you spend blogging. I appreciate it.


Bernita said...

Plain talk. Honesty.
Thank you.

Michael Carr - Veritas Literary said...

Maybe you should try to turn off the query spigot until you can catch up. You are busy enough with paying work, don't really have a lot of time for new clients, and aren't finding many writers through the slush that you'd like to represent. You could just close to unsolicited until, say, July 1.

Either that or clone Jenny. ;)

Ravenous Romance said...

It's impossible to turn off the query spigot. I will continue to get queries after I am dead (believe me). I have moved my office four times, but I have worked from home twice. I continued to get queries at the home office for years after I had moved and listed the new address in every available writer's guide.

And it's not that I don't want new clients - I get a charge out of starting a new career - it's that I don't want the uninformed writers. I have very specific tastes, which have always been public. The problem is that it is impossible to tell the wheat from the chaff from the outside of the envelope, and I get an enormous amout of chaff.

Tyhitia Green said...

Interesting post. I would love to read one of those nasty grams. I have never made a nasty response to an agent. Most times I don't say anything, which is what makes sense, unless a writer wants to thank you for your time. Writers need to just move on.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the honesty, Ms. P.

I hope that you will remember to update the various Writer's Market kinda Web sites to reflect your pulling of the string that makes the "Queries Welcome" neon go dim.

Liz Wolfe said...

And for those writers who just can't stand getting rejection, on time or late, and feel compelled to write me a nasty comment I just might share it with you here, so you can see how annoying and frustrating it is.
Please do! When writers do this sort of thing, they are making the rest of us look bad by association.

none said...

Lol, I've already received enough vitriol in my humble capacity as a slush reader for small press magazines not to need any more!

More seriously, I wonder if posting the hate mail wouldn't just encourage the sender by giving them publicity and attention they don't deserve. I suspect these people want to know they've had an effect.

Anonymous said...

Just a response, no matter how long it takes, speaks for itself.

Anonymous said...

writerious - don't think you understood my post. I was referring to Lori's comment that "unsolicited" books (as opposed to a writer's first novel) generally failed to hit it big. I agree with your comments, but they're not responsive to my post.

Anonymous said...

It's unnecessary to include how many queries you get in a rejection letter. When hearing back on a query, we want to know if an agent wants to take a look or why they don't. Period.

It's not that we don't care. It's useful to learn through blogs like this (again, thanks) or websites before we initiate contact. But you don't want query letters from us telling you how hard it is for us to work full-time jobs, raise families, contribute to the community, take care of our elderly parents, and still find time to write, go to critique groups, and research agents. Right? When we query, we feel like we've initiated a business dialogue.

But I'm sure we all sympathize with the amount of chaff you deal with. I wonder if it's possible to update all profiles to state that you will respond to queries that at least approach some of your stated interests. Anything else will be discarded without reply.

Just a thought.

Spencer Ellsworth said...

Unsolicited queries are just not equal to solicited queries, though. I'm sorry, but it's true. People who write novels or short stories for years and submit them to the point where they have success, enough success to interest an agent, will reflect that work in the quality of their writing.

Brandon Sanderson's first novel came out of nowhere with no previous credits. It's a fantastic book. But it was the sixth he had written, and it wasn't a blind submission. See:


The writer's conferences he went to are as important to the story as how hard he worked. It's an indication of how much he cared about his writing that he was willing to try and make those contacts.

Just some thoughts for anonymous.

Kim said...

It's impossible to turn off the query spigot. I will continue to get queries after I am dead (believe me).

If you state that you are not accepting queries and someone sends one anyway, I'd say you were well within your rights to toss it in the circular file.

As for the nasty grams, I'd like to see them as well - it would be interesting to see how it's your fault that their writing isn't something you feel you could sell.

Faith Bicknell said...

I commend you for hiring another agent for you agency.

Rachel Mork said...


After reading this, I want to thank you profusely for requesting my full manuscript today. I am honored you are reading it, and will wait as long as I need to. Take your time. I can wait.

With sincere thanks,

Rachel Mork

Anonymous said...

In fairness, Ms. Perkins, there are many agents out there who are very rough on writers. The boorish behavior of some literary agents is unconscionable. After a writer takes a drubbing from multiple agents multiple times, it's no wonder she or he lashes out.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for blogging and being so accessible to us writers.

A question for you as an agent who has stacks and stacks of manuscripts to read:

I have several full mss out to agents right now and just got my first rejection on the full mss with some helpful input. If I revise my manuscript, should I approach the other agents who have the full mss and offer to give them the revised version, or is this not acceptable? What do you prefer, and do you think your preference is typical of other agents?

Thanks for the input.