In this month’s SCBWI bulletin, the heads of SCBWI, Stephen Mooser and Lin Oliver, penned an open letter to the industry, expressing their thoughts on the response policies of agents and editors, particularly those who have a No-Response-Means-No policy.
In in a professional and tactful way, they basically said the No-Response-Means-No method of rejection is unprofessional, unnecessary, and inconsiderate of the writer’s time and efforts. In this day and age, all anyone has to do is click a button to send an automated response. This at least lets the writer know that their work was received and looked at.
I’m all for agents and editors giving some kind of response, even a short form letter. Some writers get their undies in a knot over a form letter, but that never bothered me. At least it told me that they got my query/book and someone looked at it (maybe.) But a no response causes me to question whether they even got the query at all, and that thought process can be maddening. What if they would have loved it and it’s stuck in cyberspace?! #$%@!
But then SCBWI also had this argument, which I found intriguing and somewhat perplexing:
From the writer’s point of view, never hearing back encourages us to undertake multiple submissions so as not to waste time waiting for an answer that may never come.
To say that the No-Response-Means-No method “encourages us to undertake multiple submissions” is a bit misleading in my opinion. Most writers would do multiple submissions in any case and I believe agents and editors have come to terms with it. Sometimes the average response time for an agent is 3-6 months, and not only because they have a mile-high pile of queries, but because they have work to do for their already existing clients. If I were to have queried one agent at a time before I hit the right one, it would have taken me years to find my agent. Even in the magazine market it can take months for a response.
So let’s not strike a deal where agents and editors say they’ll always respond if we’ll just query one at a time. That’s not practical. But it is practical to push a button, a form rejection auto-response. I’m trying to think under what circumstances this doesn’t make sense. I’m lead to assume that these agents and editors don’t look at all their queries, and the No-Response-Means-No method is a way to release them of any burden to respond to those they don’t look at. Hey, that’s their right. I certainly wouldn’t begrudge any agent or editor for not looking at something. Unlike some, I don’t think they owe the writers querying them anything at all. It could be their loss in the end.
But even so, most agencies and publishers take email submissions and unless their queries go directly to spam, they still have to click on the “Archive” or “Trash” button. Wouldn’t sending an auto-response be just as easy? One click. That’s all it takes to just say “I saw this. I’m not interested.” I don’t even care if it’s nice. We writers just like clear communication. That’s what writing is all about, isn’t it? Sending a message, even if people don’t like it.
Can anyone think of a reason why the No-Response-Means-No makes any sense at all? I’m really interested to know.
Oh, I just thought of something! Maybe they fear any kind of actual rejection, even a form one, will cause some writers to respond with malicious emails. We’re a passionate, funny bunch. Janet Reid has posted some pretty funny ones. I can see that as a reason maybe. Still, I don’t think that many people do that. Or maybe they do?