Do agents owe writers rejection letters?

There seems to be a ton of controversy in the writing world as to whether agents have some sort of obligation to send an actual rejection vs. stating something along the lines of “if you haven’t heard from us in 6-8 weeks, that’s a no from us.” I have a number of thoughts on this situation, largely influenced by my years of working in publishing.

Neither of the publishing houses I worked for were particularly big, and I’d imagine that even if we were, there’s no way we received as many queries as an agent must, especially a “big name” agent. Still, yes, I believe they owe a rejection form letter, at least.

I was the person who wrote the rejection letters, so this isn’t a matter of me not understanding, say, the time that goes into doing so. Also, don’t get me started on the annoyance that comes from receiving queries for novels when you are a non-fiction publisher.

Moreover, I have discovered something wonderful that may not have existed when I was in publishing: Query Manager (and similar programs).

I don’t know why every agent doesn’t use this. I’ve found it to be a delight – at any moment I can verify that my submission was received, I’ve received both rejections and requests for material through Query Manager, and uploading my materials has been simple.

Send a form letter and don’t apologize for doing so. I personally find the “I’m sorry for the form letter” to be unnecessary – I realize that people are busy. I don’t think people are too busy for common courtesy, and a reply is courtesy (like how you should ALWAYS reply to an invitation, even if the reply is no).

I realize this is controversial, and marks me as one of THOSE people. I’m also someone who queried an agent, never heard back, later re-queried them, and got a request for full. My query letter didn’t change in the interim. Is it possible they never received the original query? Sure. Is it also possible that they had a place for my piece that they didn’t before? Sure! This is why I lean so hard toward sending a response.

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Progress Report

I feel like this year has flown by. It was cold this morning when we left to start our day, which means fall can’t be that far off. I don’t know where the time went.

As far as my writing plans for the year, things have gone well! I’m hoping to finish three first drafts (two down – The Waiting Game Parts 2 & 4, the 3rd draft will be this year’s NaNoWriMo project! More about that to come) and one second draft (The Waiting Game Part 1 – in progress, and whoa is it going to be a doozy!).

The edits on TWG are going to be rough. Last year I had a couple beta readers look it over, because I had specific concerns, and they both came back with feedback that things were fine, but I recently heard back from another reader that the problems I was worried about were a huge issue for them, so…lots to fix. That’s okay, though, because I enjoy working with the characters, and I want to make sure they’re coming across to readers the way I imagine them. Apparently they are not.

I got another request for full for Cycling (which I guess I call Trying Times now? It’s a better title, honestly), so the manuscript is with two agents at the moment (yikes!). I’m trying to be both hopeful and not expectant. We’ll see what happens.

I’m not reading as much as I’d hoped this year. I’ve been taking on a lot – I joined a critique group, so I have to make time to read those pieces, and I’ve agreed to beta read a few things, another huge time commitment. I have a couple of vacations coming up in October and November, and I may find time then to read a bit more. We’ll see.

All in all, I’m making progress, getting words on paper (and then later better words on paper!). Hopefully the trend continues.