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Old 07-25-2010, 03:07 PM   #1
NickSpalding
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With this attitude, is it any wonder new authors don't trust the system?

Posted this over at Kindle Boards, thought you guys might have an opinion too:

Last night I had a curry with a few people, one of whom is a fellow author (and annoyingly one more talented than me, probably). We got to talking about what he was writing currently and he told me he'd just started sending his freshest manuscript out to agents.

One particular agent on their website made the claim that they were reading new author's work, and encouraged authors to send them their samples and synopsis - by email. My mate did this, as his book was the type of thing they agency was looking for.

He also made sure his email had a read receipt attached...

Two weeks later he got a read receipt at 15.00 hours precisely.

...He got a rejection email from the agency at 15.02 hours.

So they hadn't even bothered looking at his submission, despite claiming to be happy to read them.

He did point out that it looked like the submission had only been looked at by an assistant...and not an actual agent, which sounds about right.

Sigh.

It's this kind of attitude (completely unsurprising, but sad nonetheless) that really puts anyone off bothering to submit their work.
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Old 07-26-2010, 02:15 AM   #2
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I wonder if they automatically rejected it based on something like it not being in the proper format, or not properly spaced, or something like that. Maybe the font size offended someone.

That is really disheartening.
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Old 07-26-2010, 05:09 AM   #3
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It is perfectly possible (at least in Thunderbird) to open a mail with a receipt request without sending the receipt. So it is still possible that the mail was opened before and the manuscript actually scanned.
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Old 07-26-2010, 05:52 AM   #4
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From what I have heard it is often enough to read one paragraph to make a reject decision.
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Old 07-26-2010, 05:55 AM   #5
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There's a hundred a one reasons to reject a manuscript. It's a buyers market. I don't think the agent necessarily did something wrong. He thought there might be something to it, got the full manuscripts and then change their minds. Happens all the time.
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Old 07-26-2010, 06:07 AM   #6
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The read receipt may not have been sent immediately. Depending on software and settings, it might have been queued until other outgoing messages were sent.
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Old 07-26-2010, 08:22 AM   #7
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I'll email you a piece from the Grumpy Old Bookman blog in 2005 that will knock your socks off, Nick (too long for here). It's an essay by old-time trad editor, Mike Allen, and is called *On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile*. Very tongue-in-cheek but, sadly, very true. The job of acquisition editing at many houses -- especially the big ones -- is to clear the slush pile as quickly as possible (usually using an intern) with a whole list of house-accepted excuses. Frightening stuff. Cheers. Neil

Ah ... just saved myself a wee job. There's a free PDF here: http://www.kingsfieldpublications.co.uk/rats.PDF
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Old 07-26-2010, 10:50 AM   #8
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I wouldn't take offence, Nick. I never allow receipts to go back even if people request them. I find them intrusive. I think they're probably annoying to some agents as well.

As others have said, it only take a minute to read a query and most rejections occur at this stage.

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Old 07-26-2010, 10:56 AM   #9
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Neil, thank you so much for posting the link to Mike Allen's piece. It's wonderfully intelligent, astute and worth the time to read.

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Old 07-26-2010, 02:03 PM   #10
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Yup. It's a real shame that Mike closed down his GrumpyOldBookman blog a year or two ago (pressure of leisure I suspect). It was chock full of wit and wisdom. Cheers. Neil
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Old 07-26-2010, 06:49 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neilmarr View Post
Yup. It's a real shame that Mike closed down his GrumpyOldBookman blog a year or two ago (pressure of leisure I suspect). It was chock full of wit and wisdom. Cheers. Neil
It was a very good essay. And it said that some claimed it took only a copule of minutes to make a decision to read further or reject and it also said that most editors used readers to give a report. Both these facts can explain the observation about the emails.
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Old 07-27-2010, 04:45 AM   #12
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Actually, Tompe, a couple of minutes is often enough to decide on a submission that definitely *won't* fit the bill. An author -- like anyone else -- doesn't get a second chance to make a first impression.

My own wee house is swamped with submissions, but when an author has obviously read our guidelines and made an effort, we make time to at least read the first two chapters -- even if we're almost certain to decline -- so that we can offer a word or two of encouragement and advice.

Submissions I tend to reject out of hand are those from authors who have ignored the plainly stated short list of genres we do not publish or who send in material that isn't workable for one reason or another. I mean -- what's not to understand about 'brief synopsis and first two chapters only and in a single Word.doc or RTF'?

Communication -- and mass submission -- is so easy these days that authors often simultasneously submit the same closed PDF of a full manuscript (warts-n-all) to a whole bunch of publishers who will consider work without agency representation ... not even glancing first at the kind of books the houses actually publish. This is spam, people. I do not consider such proposals seriously. The authors (sometimes hopeless and obviously inexperienced agents) don't deserve it. Form rejection note.

I have rejected half a dozen submissions (with form letters) on these perfectly sound grounds this morning, and it's just 9:45am. So far today, I've been deluged with children's books, sword-and-sorcery fantasy, chick-lit and non-fiction 'inspirational' work ... all of which we plainly state in the *For Authors* section of the http://www.bewrite.net website we will not consider. It's a waste of precious professional editorial time.

Cheers. Neil
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Old 07-27-2010, 12:11 PM   #13
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1. I wouldn't read too much into timestamps on computer files - as someone said, the messages may have been queued in a mailserver somewhere.

2. Having read very many manuscripts when I was a member of authonomy.com, and knowing that agencies often have very particular tastes as well as genre specialisms, it's usually easy to reject a manuscript on the basis of the first page. Even if the writer writes competently, there are a hundred legitimate and/or personal reasons for rejection, from a dislike of the subject matter (agent to reader - "Don't pass on any more stories about dragons, OK?") to the book being too much like one that's already under consideration.

Really, I wouldn't sweat it - if the agent or reader didn't instantly like the book, they're unlikely to sell it for you (or your friend), so you really are better off looking elsewhere
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Old 07-27-2010, 01:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neilmarr View Post
I'll email you a piece from the Grumpy Old Bookman blog in 2005 that will knock your socks off, Nick
What an absolutely brilliant article. Not only underlining why it's virtually pointless to submit anything to the slush pile (I haven't bothered in years) but also why I go swimming twice a week, but still remain a fat b*stard.
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Old 07-30-2010, 05:22 PM   #15
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Since no one seems to like the slush pile -- neither authors nor writers -- I've been kicking around the idea that we should get rid of it. Maybe there is a better way for publishers to find work they can use, and a better way for authors to find appropriate markets. There's been a live lively discussion of this on my blog, and I'd be interested to hear what everyone here thinks.

Here's the link for background:
http://www.hanasiana.com/archives/001400.html
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