Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What Has Happened To Professionalism?

Some how during the last few years professionalism in the publishing industry has taken a permanent sabbatical. Five years ago, a query would rate at least a form letter rejection, but at least you knew where you stood. In the 1990s, human resource departments started it all. Once upon a time, an applicant would forward a resume and then get a response back. Many times that response was a rejection informing the applicant that their resume had been received and although the company had no openings for a person with the applicant's skills and experience, they would keep it on file in the event something opened up. In the middle of that decade resumes went into the black hole... No response and thanks to automated attendants, you could not get through via telephone. You could of course leave a message and the party you sought would get back to you. Riiiight. Maybe when pigs fly.

About now you are asking yourself, what does this have to do with writing? Well, the virus has spread to literary agents and publishers! I believe the increase in agents who accept queries by email may not be the best thing. At least with a letter and SASE, they felt as if they had to reply (again, usually a rejection).

In the past six months I've had both an agent and a publisher disappear from the face of the Earth. I forwarded a manuscript to a publisher after spending a week to insure that it met all of their requirements (I have a binder filled with documents listing their submission standards.) in August of last year. In January, when I had heard nothing, I contacted the Acquisitions Editor via email and was informed that my novel was in the 2nd stage of the approval process and I should have an update in a week. She also implored me to have patience since she was the only person reviewing all the incoming manuscripts. Okay, I thought, at least I'll know soon. Along came April and no response or update. I sent another email to the editor...no reply. I've since sent two follow up emails, one to the editor and another to a person listed in the publisher's documentation as your contact if you ran into difficulty. You guessed it, no response.

The second case is a literary agent. She was with a well-known New York Agency and I queried her in June of 2009. I received no response. I met her at The New England Crimebake in November and learned that she had left the agency where I queried her and had started her own. I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and made a five minute pitch to her. I should have known it would lead to nothing when she said, "I remember your query. Send me the first 50 pages..." I know agents are busy and get inundated with queries, but how long does it take to send a brief rejection via email? This agent is a member of my Friends List on Facebook and she has enough time to be on it daily leaving posts about her busy personal life...

I for one, am mad as hell about the run around agents and publishers give to writers. I spoke with numerous writers at the Crimebake who had pitched to one of the ten or so agents there. Everyone told me the agent asked to see a sample of their work. To the best of my knowledge, not a single one has entered into a contract with an agent. Today, many agents and publishers are downplaying ebooks and their potential impact on the industry. I know why... Based on my experience, to publish an eBook you don't need an agent or a publisher (you are both). They don't like eBooks because if they take off as projected, these unprofessional agents and editors will have to get real jobs, which means they will have to send resumes to HR representatives who won't reply!

1 comment:

Elle Robb said...

I have to agree that a prompt reply would be nice. Even an automated reply that says "unless you hear from me in three weeks, I'm sorry to say that your work did not sufficiently impress me". Anything is better than wondering if your researched query that you laboriously checked to make sure that it met that particular agent's submission requirements got lost in cyberspace. I'd even be happy with a 2 click, 2 letter reply - N-O.