Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gearin' Up to Get an Agent BlogFest: Week 1

(Wow, two posts in one day!  Not usually my thing,
but I was on vacation and forgot to do this one item below.)



Oops, I’m a day late (and more than a dollar short) but I thought I’d throw my two cents in as an official participant in Deana Barnhart’s  Gearin’ Up To Get An Agent BlogFest.  The rule?  Take the greatest, dumbest, weirdest...just whatever kind of writing question you have, and post it on your blog Wednesday.  (See, I’m  late.)  So here it is:

When a writer receives a rejection from an agent, can we assume that the agent has actually read that query, or is more likely that the agent’s assistant just assumed her boss wouldn’t like it and replied on her behalf?

31 comments:

Emily Rittel-King said...

I'd like to think the agents actually read the letters, but who knows? I think in some of the bigger houses their assistants screen for genre, word count, experience, etc. If you pass the first test, then they lay eyes on your query. Otherwise, you're out the door so fast your head is spinning. I understand why they do this; some writers don't research agents thoroughly before querying.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Ooooo ... good question!

Vicky Bruere said...

Hmm...it hadn't even occurred to me that sort of thing might happen. It probably is the case though.

mooderino said...

I expect it depends on the size of the agency and how many queries they get. I'm sure there is some filtering before they get to the agent.

mood
Moody Writing
@mooderino

McKenzie McCann said...

Pfft, I have no idea. I don't think there is a way to check that kind of thing. I guess maybe you could question how personal the rejection is, but it's not always the best indicator.

Can't tell you. Maybe someone else will.

And it's better to be late than never. You bring up a very good question.

Alleged Author said...

Ah, the question of the hour. I'm sure many authors wonder this exact same thing when querying. It does depend on the size of the agency (some agencies even cite the fact they have readers/interns/gatekeepers/assistants).

Either way, the rejection is still coming from someone who knows that particular agent's tastes/dislikes otherwise he/she wouldn't have a job. Therefore, it's as though the agent in question read the query before replying.

Take Kathleen Ortiz. She used to be an assistant to Ms. Lowenstein and would read queries for her. Then--later--she became an agent (and now at a different agency). However, when she read the queries as an assistant, she read with her agency's interests in mind and wrote her response an an extension of her boss's tastes.

I know Absolutewrite.com is a great source to find out if the actual agent is replying or if they have an assistant/gatekeeper (look in the Bewares section).

Alleged Author said...

Whoa...I so wrote a long speech. Oops!

kathy stemke said...

I'm sure the bigger agencies have assistants filtering the queries.

A.E. Martin said...

Hi Nancy, nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by my blog =)

As for your question, that's always hard to know, I can't speak for the form rejections I received, but I've believed that the rejections I've gotten from partials have come from the agents themselves. Funny enough I never really thought a lot about who the rejections were coming from, it'd be disheartening to know the agents weren't really reading them.

Phil said...

Hi Nancy - I'm a new follower. Nice to meet you. From the amount of agent blogs and twitter feeds I've read, I like to believe that the agent does read your query, or at least scans it. Maybe the big agents use gatekeepers. Just remember, the gatekeepers of today could be the agents of tomorrow. And those agent assistants will be more willing to take on a newbie writer.

Deana said...

I'll bet it is both. Depending on what agency you go through what day of the week it is, the weather, and so forth. So many things have to factor into an acceptance or rejection of a query letter I would think. It would be nice to be a fly on the computer screen that gets our queries would it not:)

Angie Cothran said...

Unfortunately the world may never know (I sound like a tootsie roll pop commercial :)

I like the above tip about absolute write. If you find a great answer will you post it for all of us?

Juliana L. Brandt said...

Geeze girl, I hadn't even thought about this.

I assume it's a bit of both, depending on how much time the agent has. If she relies on her assistants I would hope she'd have very specific guidelines for them to follow.

Angelina C. Hansen said...

Nice to meet you, fellow WWAer. When I was querying agents, I ran into both. But when a request for a partial or a full came in, it said "From Assistant on behalf of Agent".

Melodie said...

Hi Nancy:
Agreeing with everyone else that it depends on the agent. Some hire readers - usually unpaid interns - to filter. Others don't trust the filter and want to do it themselves. You can usually tell by visiting the agent's blog (if they have one.) Two agents I know use readers just posted openings for readers - Jenny Bent and Jennifer Laughran.
I'm following you. Love your bookcase background! Now I need to figure out how to personalize my blog....hmmm, should post on that next! :))

The East Coaster said...

I have to think the answer is both. I've received emails from assistants for agents in the past. When you think about how many stacks of emails and paper subs these guys have to go though...whew...they need all the help they can get just to put a dent in it all

Bryce Daniels said...

VERY good question!
Hey, do you follow "The Intern?"

Excellent blog by an agency's intern. She's funny and brilliant. Highly recommend it if you don't.

JRo - Jaye Robin Brown said...

Gosh, isn't this what we all wonder about. I once had a one minute rejection. No lie. There is no way the agent could even have read the whole query - all I imagine is she got through the first paragraph and was like, "Meh, not my thing...reject." Some agents say specifically that they request pages in the body of the e-mail because they don't always trust the strength of the queries. It is a big mystery and I bet a lot of it depends on the weather and how strong the coffee was that day.

Laura Barnes said...

I believe it depends on the agency. Some agencies are big enough that an intern does it all. Most of the boutiques, though, I believe the agent reads the queries themselves.

Dawn Simon said...

I think it just means the letter didn't grab someone at that agency.

I saw your comment at Angelina's. I'm an SCBWI-WWAer as well! Hi!

Al Penwasser said...

It would seem to me.......that the assistant reads ALL queries. I would assume that IF she (or he) finds one that he (or she. Like how I switched up genders that way? I know what you're asking: "Why isn't this guy published? He's so darn clever! Hmm, maybe because I employ parenthetical asides so often they make the reader forget what I was talking about in the first place. So, that being the case, let's try again...)
I would assume that IF he (or she) finds one that she (or he) finds one which is especially significant, then he (or she) would refer that query (or it) to the agent him (or her) self.
In any case, rejections are form letters, anyway.
But, what the heck do I know? I (not ME) write on Blogger and don't get any money.
Going to eat breakfast (or lunch) now (or later).

Jasmine Walt said...

Hmm... no idea, since I haven't gotten to the querying stage yet. But I'd imagine the more popular agents with bigger publishing houses do have someone to screen their queries. Sad, but true. That's business for ya.

Joylene Butler said...

I think Al is right. They haven't got time to read every query. In fact, they probably have 2 or 3 reading the letters to help catch up.

Laila Knight said...

Looks like you posted twice in one day, caught me by surprise.

I really hope the agents are reading them. I know a few of them have assistants that shuffle through the slush pile, and it's frustrating enough to receive a rejection without dweling on that posibility. :)

RAD - Dot Painter said...

I heard that the person that pulled Stephanie Myer's query out of the slush, and asked for more was an assistant. So, you never know where your luck may fall;)

Lora R. Rivera said...

Agree with all you smartypants writers! Depends on the agency all the way. If they have an assistant, you can bet there's some sort of screening process going on. On the other hand, most of the time, you'll get a rejection FROM the assistant... If it's direct from the agent, even if it's a form, likely the agent her/himself has read it. But, yeah, depends on the agency.

Lisa L. Regan said...

I think it depends on the agent/agency but I'd be willing to bet that MOST agents use an assistant to screen queries. Although with email now, it seems easier to tell. I remember researching many agents who would say up front to send your query to their assistant at their assistant's email. On the other hand, I've emailed agents and then they've forwarded my query to their assistant to ask me to send a partial or full. I guess it depends on how much of a control freak the agent is--do they want to see everything as it comes in and decide for themselves or do they not want to be bothered? Speaking of the agent for Stephanie Meyer--when I queried her, I dealt exclusively with her assistant. He asked for a partial, read the first 50 pages and THEN wanted her to read it. But I signed with someone else before she got to it.

M Pax said...

I have gotten personal rejections. I'd like to think it was the agent ... but you never know.

Christine Danek said...

I think it depends on the agency/agent. Some have assistants that weed through the pile and when something peaks their interest they let the agent read it. The assistants know what that particular agent is looking for. (we hope.)
Great question and thanks for visiting my blog.

Catherine Johnson said...

Agree with Christine. And of course any response is a good thing.

Julie Musil said...

Great question! I've heard it depends on the agent and the agency, but hey, what do I know?