I have an unhealthy habit of checking my QueryTracker comments.
For those of you who don’t know what QueryTracker is, it’s an online query tracking system that allows users to find agents and publishers, list those they are querying, and track responses. Each agent is listed separately, and you can go in and look at comments users have posted about that agent. I like reading these comments because it helps me know what querying authors are thinking about me and my process.
Back in the early days, I was able to give some feedback on my queries. Not always, but you were far more likely to get some sort of personalized feedback then. I didn’t realize at the time that that luxury was afforded to me because I was new, lots of authors hadn’t found me yet (thus I wasn’t overwhelmed with new queries daily), and my client list and obligations were tiny. Basically, I had the time.
These days not so much. Ya’ll have all found me, lol (kidding, kidding). I get an inordinate number of queries weekly, the most in our firm; this is because I am currently our only agent who does kidlit, so all those come to me. You can go back and look at my DataExplorer tab in query tracker to see just how overwhelmed I was. My response rate became glacier at some point. (For reference, the DE shows every time a user submitted a query to me, and dives deeper into the data showing the genre of the book, its length, how it was submitted, when it was submitted, what their response was, and how long it took to get it). The “how long it took to get it” number is important here, because I was taking FOREVER. Something needed to change. That something was, in part, the form rejection. The second was the addition of a submissions manager to Spencerhill.
So anyways, back to my unhealthy obsession with reading my comments. This one kinda got me in the heart, because you might know that I quite love querying authors, and wish I could do more for you all.
“I’m so sorry you got form-rejected.”
Youch. But also editing to say someone who read this article mentioned this is also querying author to querying author speak for, “I’m sorry it didn’t go further.” (So that makes me feel a little better).
Also, don’t go back and erase that whoever posted it. The rest of your comment was so nice and encouraging to the user you were chatting with.
But literally I hate how cold form rejections are/seem and that anyone would surmise I’m form rejecting for mean reasons, or that I don’t think you can write, or have potential, or any number of other nasty things!
I’m sure some of you have heard this before, but agents don’t form reject while wearing a witches cap! The reason boils down to this, if you have 150 new queries each week and you take say 3 minutes with each one, that’s 7.5 hours to respond to all those. Sometimes its 100, sometimes it’s 300 queries! Now, add in that I run across a few with potential and take much longer with those so that length of time grows! It’s a ton of work, and realistically 7+ hours of that work results in NO new saleable work for me. If I gave feedback to everyone, I’d never have time to pitch client work, edit client work, read fulls, sign new clients, meet new editors, etc.
Fortunately for you all, I’m not the only one who reads your queries anymore.
I know! I know! You don’t love this. You wanted me to read. Well, let me tell you, lots of agencies have readers. Often, these are interns! Sometimes they are assistants or junior agents. Spencerhill has a dedicated Submissions Manager who answers the majority of our queries, and maybe you’ll be pleased to know they are a former agent with significant quality sales. They know good writing. They know what sells. They know what I’m looking for, the boundaries of my word counts, and again, what ready-to-sell writing looks like. And they happen to have VERY similar taste to my own. Yay team!
Yes, they form reject. They are handling all our agents inflow. It’s A LOT.
However, the savvy QT user above also noticed I signed one of my form rejections “Ali Herring” and left a PS on that form rejection to “query me with new work sometime,” or something to that effect. They followed up with this:
“Take heart, though–she saw something in your writing!“
So yes, I do try to sign “Ali Herring” at least if I personally answered your query. It’s also likely, but not certain, that if I signed a response, you made it past our submissions manager. That being said, if it’s a form rejection with no name on it, I might have *also* answered that query and was just too busy or tired to type it that night. You know I have three kids, a house to run, and work an ungodlily amount of hours each week. It happens. I do *try* to sign though, but it again, it does happen that I sometimes don’t.
Now, if I left you a note on top of that signature, yes, that’s a super positive sign about you and your writing or your ability to conceive a hook. You didn’t get a note? That means nothing too. I might have been too busy answering too many queries to write one. But yes, a PS note is a certainly a good thing on a form rejection, and it means you should query me again with new work – AND YOU SHOULD NOTE IN FUTURE QUERIES THAT I ASKED TO SEE NEW WORK RIGHT UP FRONT, FIRST SENTENCE OF YOUR NEXT QUERY. If I follow you on Twitter, that’s also positive. I have secret list of “authors to watch” too my friends. So, yes, fill in your twitter username on the QueryManager form!
Last note, sometimes our submissions manager requests full manuscripts on my or other agent’s behalf. We learned something about how we should go about this better from a QT comment too, and have revised our policy based on that.
So yes, I love/hate my QT comments, but I also learn a lot too.
I don’t like form rejecting. Please remember: A form rejection is not an indication of your value as an author, but a reflection of an agent’s judicious use of their time.