Five Simple Things Agents Can Do To Make Writers' Lives Easier (and Three Things Writers Should Do Regardless)

1. Set up an auto-responder email letting writers know that their query letter was received. By
doing this, agents will cut down on the number of repeat queries they
receive from writers unsure if their e-mail went through correctly. For
those agents whose policy it is to only respond if interested, writers
won’t wonder if their queries were received in the first place or send a
follow-up e-mail just in case.

Nancy Parish, runs the blog,
The Sound and Furry.
She is a
contributing editor to the GLA blog
runs the Footnotes series.

2. Respond to all partial and full requests.
When a writer receives a request for a full or partial manuscript from an agent, it’s a big deal. It means we’ve gotten over one hurdle
dreaded query letter, and now someone is actually going to read our
work. So please respond, especially at this level. Even a form rejection
is better than silence. That way we can move on. Please, I beseech you!

3. Provide periodic status updates on their slushpile reading. If
writers know the agent has read everything they’ve received by a
certain date, and we’ve sent a query during that time, and haven’t heard
from them; then we can skip the status e-mail
and avoid clogging up their inbox and just re-send the query. Status updates can come on a blog, Twitter or in an interview.

4. Be specific in what they are looking to publish. Online and at conferences, agentsas
a species, often give vague descriptions of what is on their wish
lists. Agents may do this so that they don’t miss something wonderful.
The tradeoff is an inbox clogged with queries about books they have no
interest in reading, let alone publishing. But: If agents were to be
more specific and even list examples of published works that they like
and want to see more of, the result might just be a clog-free inbox.

5. List online interviews they’ve given on their agency website.
Part of a writer’s job when trying to land an agent is to research
agents. That research includes learning the tastes of perspective agents
that we might like to query. We are more effective in our research when
agents list recent interview links on the agency websites
or better yet when they tweet them!

Three Simple Things
Writers Must Do Regardless:

1. Target your agent search. Stop sending mass queries to every agent on the planet.

2. Do your research. Don’t just look to find agents who accept
the genre you write. Read interviews the agent’s given, read books
they’ve represented and most of all, look at the agency website for the
most up-to-date information. Start with a book like Guide to Literary
Agents too see the big picture and start the narrow down, and then
continue your research online.

3. Don’t’ respond to agent rejections. Save the “Thank you’s”
for when the agent sells your book. Seriously, don’t clog the agent’s
already crowded inbox with thank you notes for nice rejections. It’s
still a rejection. Same thing goes for sending a nasti-gram e-mail when
you receive a rejection. It’s not going to change agent’s mind and
you’ve pretty much assured that they won’t represent you
ever. It’s best to let it go.

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10 thoughts on “Five Simple Things Agents Can Do To Make Writers' Lives Easier (and Three Things Writers Should Do Regardless)

  1. Elizabeth

    I don’t send out thank yous to every rejection, but I do send out thank yous to those agents who took the time to read either my full or partial manuscript, even if it is a rejection. Especially if that rejection is personalized. They took the time to personalize it, so I feel like it’s appropriate to thank them for their time.

  2. Jen VonD

    BUT…if an agent has taken the time to read your full manuscript and give you detailed info as to why they rejected, or what might improve the manuscript, I think it’s appropriate to send along a ‘thank you’. It’s the respectful thing to do. Love the idea of an auto-response! Sitting around wondering if your query was ever received is probably the worst part about submitting.

  3. marcy

    I agree with Lisa. A simple no would be better than nothing. I’ve got 6-7 queries I’ve never received replies for, some older than a year! And I cannot believe anyone would be so unprofessional to write a nasty letter or email to an agent who rejected their work. Isn’t that like burning your bridges?

  4. Eric J. Krause

    Good list, both the five directed towards agents and the three for writers. Hopefully it won’t take too long for more agencies to get more e-savvy, as it is a huge help to us writers. The auto-response alone would ease so much anxiety in writers (I know it would help me). And a simple form rejection instead of saying no response means no would help as well.

  5. Lisa Yarde

    May I add to this: 2a. Just say No. If the work is not right for you, a simple no, or not interested, from an agent would do wonders for writers who are puzzled after 6 weeks, thinking "Was my email / letter lost? Maybe I sent in to the wrong address." No clarifies everything, so we can move on to improving our queries / writing.