As one whose manners could always use improvement (well, table manners at least), I’m usually hesitant to weigh in on questions of etiquette. However, I got some emails this weeks that I thought were worth discussing…
Perhaps the only benefit of the recent heat wave is that things were quiet enough for me to catch up on submissions. Typically, I respond to queries with my standard form rejection, which I think is polite and honest in that it gives the ultimate reason why we chose not to take on any author’s work—we just don’t think we can sell it. Hence, when I do get an email back, it’s usually an equally polite thank-you note or a query about a new project, which I’m always happy to look at.
However, this time around I got a few replies from authors letting me know that while they were waiting for my answer, they either signed with another agent or got themselves a publishing deal. To which I say, congratulations… but why are you telling me this now, instead of when the interest in your project actually happened? Is it just to fill me in? Or is it to chastise me for being too slow? To show that my rejection doesn’t matter, since things worked out anyway?
Regardless of your motivation, telling me your news after you get the rejection means I just wasted time considering a project that wasn’t available anymore. So, a simple request: if you’ve got a submission with me and something develops, send me an email and tell me at the time—I’d love the opportunity to compete for your affection. (That’s why you initially queried me, right?) And if the message is that you’re withdrawing your work from consideration, then at least I can give you a genuine congrats!