Following her highly popular #querytip series on Twitter, literary agent Julia Weber will be sharing more valuable query advice, and real examples, here with Writers and Artists. Follow Julia on Twitter @jawlitagent
How (not) to respond to an offer/ rejection
Disclaimer: All examples are 100% real… no, honestly they are!
You’ve spent months and months writing, reading, editing, researching, querying and then it’s suddenly here. An email in your inbox; the moment of truth you’ve been waiting for. What’s it going to be? A request to send over the full manuscript? An offer of representation? A rejection? Here’s what (not) to do in either of these cases:
Option 1: A request to send over the full manuscript.
This is good news. It means you’ve succeeded in hooking the agent enough for them to want to read more. And you want to keep it that way, right? Okay, so a quick ‘thank you for your interest’ note and a .doc attachment with the rest of your manuscript is definitely the way forward – please avoid other weird file types the majority of mankind cannot actually open. Oh, and please don’t just disappear (see ‘How (not) to behave during the waiting game’).
There's a big fat "Do not copy! Reading sample for J.W." on every single page of this ms. Right OVER the text. WHYY? #dontdothis #hardtoread
I know this doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the manuscript but it is an odd thing to do; not only does it make it very difficult and time consuming to read, but it makes me think that the querying author is telling me that he doesn’t trust me. Does he think I'm going steal his manuscript? Wow, that's... not very nice.
Why do I get the impression that many writers spend too much time polishing their first chapters - but neglect the rest?! #queries
Yes, your reading sample needs to be great to hook an agent but the rest of your manuscript matters too. Don't forget that. So don't just edit your first fifty pages to perfection and leave the rest. I will notice the sudden decrease in quality when I read the full manuscript and it won’t make me happy.
Option 2: An offer of representation.
I don’t actually seem to have any Twitter examples for this case (sorry!) but this is obviously the best outcome you could have asked for.
Firstly, you don’t have to accept the first offer straight away. Thank the agent for their interest and ask for some thinking time. Let the other agents considering your work know that you’ve received an offer of representation. Give them a chance to respond within a set time frame. Don’t tell them to get back to you within a day or two – it’s highly unlikely that they will drop everything to plough through your manuscript that quickly- 10-14 days are far more reasonable. In the meantime, seize the opportunity to talk to the offering agent. Ask all the questions you have regarding your work, their work, the agent-author relationship and so on.
Option 3: A rejection.
I can’t think of a single author who didn’t have to deal with rejection letters at some point. There are even websites about famous writers whose works were rejected repeatedly. It’s part of the business and though it may be difficult, you have to get over them. Don’t hit out at the agent. It’s not going to change their mind.
Writers, if I respond quickly to a query, it does not – repeat: NOT mean I didn't read it. #queries
Some authors complain that it takes so damn long to hear back from agents, others get upset when they get a response sooner than expected. Well, I can tell you this much: I read every single query and I can usually tell within a few seconds whether or not I’m interested in reading more. So if I reject a query quickly, it just means I knew straight away that it’s not for me.
Authors, I'm not a big fan of surprise visits that force me into explaining to you why exactly I rejected your query... #querytip
This has happened a few times – and believe me, it’s not very nice. A couple of years ago, while interning for a London-based agency, I even had an author wait for me outside the office because I had rejected his manuscript. He had travelled all the way from France to London to insult me. Yep. Now, that’s something you should never ever do. Believe me, these surprise visits never go down well.
First of all, it’s rude to just turn up on my doormat (see my thoughts on turning up announced in my post ‘What (not) to do before querying’). Moreover, the high volume of submissions makes it impossible to offer individual feedback to each and every querying author. If I had the time and advice, I would have given it already, believe me. Well, and lastly, I’m not a fan of being put on the spot and having to justify myself and my opinion.
Also, please don’t write back asking me to recommend another agent for your work. It’s called research – and that's your job, not mine.
Authors, if I reject your manuscript, please don't submit it to me again a week later. Your chances have not magically increased! #sorry
I WILL notice that I’ve already seen (and responded to) your query. My memory isn’t that bad and even if it was, every single query is logged on a spreadsheet – so there’s really no point in sending the same query again. A no is a no and will stay a no.
I don’t expect authors to respond to a rejection email, it’s really not necessary. Some authors, however, get back to me to thank me for taking the time to read their material and for replying – even though it wasn’t the response they’d hoped for. You know what? I’d never not reply. I think authors deserve a reply, even if it’s just a form rejection.
Most querying (and rejected) authors are extremely nice and polite. Others, however, seem to forget their manners the second a rejection pops up in their inbox. Writers, if you don’t have anything nice to say, please don’t say anything. Not only do I have feelings too, but insulting me and arguing with my rejection will just reinforce my decision. If you think that I ‘don’t have a clue’ and that my ‘opinion is crap’, I doubt you’ll be open to my editorial feedback.
I don't mind if you call to make me aware of a spelling mistake in my rejection letter. But you might want to consult a dictionary first...
What’s the point in doing this? Showing me that you’re smarter than me? Well, if you insist… but please make sure that you’re right. Otherwise it’s just a bit silly.
Publishing is not a "one-size-fits-all" industry. Not every agent is right for every writer. And vice versa. #publishingfact
As we all know, taste is very personal and yes, it really is true that personal preference plays a big role when it comes to deciding whether or not to take a project on. So a rejection doesn't necessarily mean that your manuscript isn’t good enough. Sometimes it just means it’s not right for ME, but another agent may absolutely love it.
Believe me, being rejected by an agent who isn't in love with your book is a good thing. They can’t represent you with all their heart and enthusiasm if they aren’t as passionate about it as you are! Find the agent who loves your manuscript as much as it deserves.
Why not regard rejections letters as battle scars? A sign that you were brave enough to try? You may be hurt but you'll survive. Try again!
Don't let a rejection discourage you. Don’t give up. Keep trying.
Julia Alexandra Weber founded the J. A. Weber Literaturagentur GmbH in January 2012, and is specializing in representing international authors of unique and captivating commercial fiction, namely thrillers, teenage, young adult and women’s fiction of all sub-genres. Prior to having her own agency, Julia obtained Masters of Arts in ‘Media and Communication Studies’, ‘Creative Writing’ and ‘Publishing’ and gained practical experience at Toby Eady Associates and David Higham Associates in London. Follow Julia on Twitter @jawlitagent.