December 9th, 2004


Jennifer's Believe It or Not (take two)

Today's Episode: The Island of Misfit Manuscripts

It all started while I was out the last couple days on personal business... I came back to a huge pile of email and queries. I'm unsurprised by this and have been endeavoring to get back up to speed. Among other things I got an email which offered the following:

...we've come up with an idea that we think can make your life easier, and at the same time increase our sales. We are offering a rejection letter service that will alleviate the burden of having to write and send countless rejection letters for unwanted manuscripts - at no charge to you.

It purports to be from a "self publishing house" (p.o.d.) and I'm not going to post any specifics because some people find it to be a perfectly viable avenue for certain types of projects. In any case, what happens is that they offer to send a constructive letter to everyone I'm rejecting and provide them with an alternative publishing venue. They will also keep me updated on which of these projects do well if/when published so I can reconsider representation at a later date. My other favorite bit of the pitch was this:

In addition to not having to send a "canned" rejection letter, you will be providing the author with the opportunity to realize their dream of publishing - a valuable alternative to tossing it in the waste basket.

I admit it - I, out of necessity, have to use a form rejection. It sucks. I've always hated it. But it's a reality of the business that I cannot escape. I'm sure every author would love to get an individual reply. I can't imagine why they wouldn't. I can't see how this alternative would actually be helpful to them, though (especially after I succumbed to curiousity and went to the company's website and reviewed the costs of their "basic" publishing package). And I know that getting published is hard, damned hard. Since I both emotionally and financially invest in every manuscript I send out for one of my clients, rejection hurts me too, so I can sympathize. Even empathize. They can be discouraging, confounding, exasperating... I sure hope no one gives up after just a few of those, though - whether form or otherwise - and throws things in the trash. I know I sure don't. I tend to suspect if that is the case the person never really had the passion to be a writer (or an agent) in the first place.

I'm glad these people pointed out to me that this service wouldn't cost me anything (well, perhaps, except some self-respect), but they seem to have overlooked a few logistics such as who might pay to have these submissions shipped to them so they could do all the rejections for me. It's very, um, charming that they want to save me all this time so I can concentrate on developing new projects - but I'm not sure how exactly I'm supposed to do that if I'm not actually looking at them because someone else is rejecting them on my behalf. Or how much time it will take to get them all the information so they can send the authors the letters. And I'll bet they wouldn't be able to do anything to keep abreast of my personal interests or what areas of my list I feel need more substance either. I think it takes personal attention to recognize those unexpected surprises that occasionally appear, too. I'm often asked at conferences "what are you looking for?" and it's a hard question to answer because a portion of it is instinct at this point. Plus, there always seems to be something I don't realize I'm looking for until I start reading it. Altogether I think I'm much better off as an agent combing through materials and judging for myself. It suits me better anyway.
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    cynical cynical

agent-ly squee

My first copy of Hammered by Elizabeth Bear just arrived. I have held it in my very own hands and made delighted noises. And it has a teaser for Scardown. Hurrah! Welcome to "the hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut" (I love that part of the cover copy *g*).
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    excited excited