Why "no response means no" is flawed

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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cheekychook
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Why "no response means no" is flawed

Post by cheekychook » April 22nd, 2012, 9:59 pm

Everyone who's querying or has even thought about querying knows about the often discussed "no response means no" policy that so many agents have adopted over the years. I've always argued that that's a flawed system and that, aside from being somewhat rude and possibly more time consuming overall (due to people who resubmit because they never heard back) it requires, at very least, an auto-response so the writer knows the query was at least received.

Why am I posting this rant now? Because I just got an email, from a very well-known, well-respected literary agency, in response to a query I sent in September 2010. Yes. 2010. The email states that it has just come to their attention that several queries have wound up in their spam folder and that they're very sorry and if the book is still available and I'm still seeking representation to please contact them.

The book in question is no longer available---it was contracted to a small press, by me, without the help of an agent and it's due out on 8/26/12. That's not the point. The point is that for the past 19 months I've assumed the agent I queried at this agent had rejected me with a "no response means no" rejection and that was clearly not the case. That makes that method flawed.

I have no regrets about the course I've taken with this particular project. I'm quite happy with my publisher and I'm thrilled the book will be out soon. Today's email just leaves me wondering how many query letters I sent out that never reached their intended agent...how many rejections I assumed I had that were actually a simple case of no one ever getting my letter. My guess is more than this one. Given the amount of time and energy writers put into crafting query letters, researching agents, querying according to every last detail of each individual agency's specific requests regarding format, content etc it just seems really, really ridiculous for us to assume that no response means no when it may actually mean "yeah, we never got this email."

Rant over. Go back to whatever you're doing.

P.S. I'm in the midst of querying a brand new project so I *may* be a little hyper-sensitive about this topic as I'm constantly refreshing my inbox.
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Mira
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Re: Why "no response means no" is flawed

Post by Mira » April 23rd, 2012, 10:56 pm

Wow, Cheeky. I know you put a ton of effort into finding representation, so this must be so frustrating. I'm glad you're happy with the path you took, but I can completely see how this would be really disappointing and maddening.

And you're right. In this day and time, there is no excuse for not at least having an automated system thanking people for their response. To not do that is not good business for a number of different reasons, in my opinion.

On the bright side, if you have received an offer earlier, maybe it would have taken you down the wrong path - maybe this really is the better one for you. And on the even brighter side, you did get an offer of representation, which is something that many never get. So, that is kind of cool and validating. :)

Since you're seeking representation for a new book, maybe you could respond and mention that you have something new....? Just a thought.

So, belated congratulations, and I completely understand your aggravation here!!

Joe Kosh
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Re: Why "no response means no" is flawed

Post by Joe Kosh » May 14th, 2012, 5:18 am

Being new to this scene, I've spent the last six months just researching the publishing industry, and I have to agree that the entire system is REALLY flawed. You bring up a situation that should never have happened in my opinion. Why? Because the number one thing I read is about being professional in this industry. That writing is the art and publishing is the business side of releasing the book. While I do understand this, I don't see alot of professionalism in not responding to someone that is a potential business partner. In six months, I've only found one agent that I want to represent me based on her positive attitude and her outlook on authors. She gives me hope.

I understand that agents are very busy but most of us spend a year or more on our manuscripts and a response just seems good business and a great way to keep author's motivated. Why is that important? The agency I'll be hoping to partner with had a success rate of landing representation at a whooping 0.00025%!! No, that's not a typo, lol.

Nathan had a post about a week ago about how it might be unethical to watch football because of the injury rate. It really made me chuckle when I compared it to trying to get published today. Let's use our % and apply it to his football game. Let's say that in a professional football game, only 0.00025% of the players survived the game, would he still watch? Based on the survival rate of our books getting traditionally published, those professional football players have it easy! And are a hell of a lot better paid, LOL. Nathan, you're a part of an industry and leaves virtually every single one of it's "players" permanently injured or dead...I give you permission to continue to watch your football guilt free. Their industry is a heck of a lot safer than ours :P

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