If it isn’t obvious by previous posts, I have been in the process of looking for an agent for my novel. A couple rejections and some possible interest has been received until today. I understand rejection, I understand the competitiveness of the industry. I understand it all. What I will never understand is the snobbishness and the blatant rudeness that seems to plague the world in every industry.
Today I received the most rude and snobbish rejection I think I have received in any industry I have ever been in. I will not divulge names or agencies as I believe it is in bad practice, a belief I almost destroyed today after reading this email. The basis of the email was a rejection, which is not much to be bothered by, but the condescending tone and word usage nearly sent me over the edge. I am a respect driven individual. I will always show respect to those who deserve and show me the same respect. This agent though obviously does not subscribe to the same practice.
I was told by this agent that my query letter was extemporaneous and I needed to spend time looking at sample queries. For those of you who do not know the word extemporaneous, it means that it was done with little preparation or forethought. First, let’s start at just the word use. I have a very large vocabulary. This is from spending hours looking in thesauruses for different words to use in my novels other than the basics, it is also from the intense studying I did three years ago when I took the GRE to enter graduate school. A consequence of this is I am often told that I sometimes come off as condescending or snobbish as I will use large words that many do not know the meaning of. It is unintentional on my part, it is just the language I am used to using in my everyday life and academic writings. I found myself in my friends shoes today when I read this email. I know what extemporaneous means, but the tone of the email was what made the word sound more like a cruel and humiliating laugh rather than a simple, “this letter needed some more work for me.”
Does this person think I did not spend hours upon hours looking over sample letters, reading blogs and websites and each submission page of agents to make sure that the information contained in the letter was not exactly what was asked for? I followed guidelines, I put the information that the agency asked for and I receive a response saying that I threw together a letter with no thought or preparation. I spend hours on my query letters. Maybe it is a personal thing with me, but I saw this as a huge disrespect to me. Would someone really think I would be so careless with something so important to me that I would send out a letter without thought? That I would slap together some sentences and not care?
The disrespect and condescending tone of this email nearly pushed me over the edge. For an hour after receiving it the small, ill tempered and irrational part of me screamed to write a scathing response email. I wanted to rip this agent apart, I wanted to educate her on how to treat someone who wanted for nothing but to chase their own passion. Luckily, I am not the ill tempered and irrational girl I used to be. Five years ago I would have sent a response email with no problem. Now though, I stopped and told myself that I would regret it.
Why would I regret letting out the frustration and anger and disrespect I immediately felt upon reading this email? This questions brings me to the second part of this post. Some advice on what I have learned so far in this process.
1. Don’t write a generic “Dear Agent” query letter and assume you can send it out to every agent. I read blogs and looked at samples and still find myself having to rewrite every time I want to send to a new agent. If it is generic, they will know! They are agents and they read for a living! They know when you are being generic and when you have actually taken the time to write a specific letter to them. Does this mean you have to spend hours each time you want to send a letter? Probably not. It means you need to read the submission guidelines for each agent and make sure that your letter meets their requirements.
2. Don’t send a letter that you are not 100% ready to send. If it doesn’t feel right yet, don’t send it! There isn’t a deadline on this. Don’t send it just to get it out there, if you do this then you knock that agent off the list of people you can submit to later after you are 100% happy with your letter.
3. Read sample query letters. Most agencies will have links to sample query letters they like. These letters will literally tell you what to write in yours. They wouldn’t link you to them, if they didn’t like them or they weren’t successful queries to their own agency.
4. Don’t be ill-tempered and irrational. The world is full of those snobbish, rude and disrespectful people. No matter what industry you are in or deal with, there will be those people. The problem is, you have no idea who that person knows. If I had sent a response today like my temper had wanted me to, I could have ruined any chance I have at finding an agent. Sending that one email to one agent could mean much more than just ripping apart one person verbally, it could have been viewed has me thinking I do not care about the opinions of people in the industry I wish to be part of, or that I think I am better than they are in some way.
Even though I have had this one bad email, all others have been respectful, nice and encouraging. Which I guess is my last piece of advice, don’t be discouraged. If it doesn’t work out, you can self publish and still get your story out there. Keep writing and keep trying.