In the old days–maybe 10, 15 years ago–when you queried an agent, one had to send a letter, sample, and SASE (self addressed stamped envelope, for the uninitiated) and wait a month or two or five for a response. Now, in the “future,” most of this is done via email in the digital realm.
Then, I rarely didn’t receive a reply. It might take a while, and the reply was nearly always a form rejection, but it was a reply. Now, it is common for agents not to respond at all, even though the mediums for queries and responses have vastly simplified the process. Many state on their websites that “no response means not interested.” At the same time, they say they can’t tell you how long a no response will take. How long should I wait before deciding that you’ve ignored my email long enough for me to consider myself rejected? This is, to put it mildly, maddening and thoroughly unprofessional (imagine if I took this approach at my job–sure, you can hand in your essay, but I can’t tell you when I’ll read it and if I don’t respond to it, that means it’s a failing grade…good luck!).
With that bit of background, I’d like to thank the astute and efficient readers of the Lippincott Massie McQuilkin Agency. Today, I queried one of their agents about my Apocalypse Nation manuscript. The time stamp on my email was Thu, Aug 8, 2013 at 1:11 PM. I expected the normal delay in response–a week, a month, a year–before realizing that they weren’t, in fact, going to respond at all. So imagine my surprise when I received a reply in a very short span of time (time stamp August 8, 2013 2:48:35 PM)–just a little over an hour and a half. Of course it was a rejection–that in itself isn’t surprising–but it was speed at which their dedicated readers and decision makers decided to look at my letter and decide against it that truly impressed me. Their form email informed me that they were thankful that I considered their agency, but after “careful consideration” they decided that my work wasn’t a fit for their team.
It’s the “careful consideration” that really earns my praise. I imagine a roomful of interns fighting over the incoming submissions, valiantly attempting to make their mark in the literary world, “carefully considering” the merits of each piece before copy/pasting a form letter and sending it back to the author. Some agencies wouldn’t even send that letter. Some agencies would have just ignored it. Deleted it. Pretended like it never happened, like some author whose been paying his dues for a long time hadn’t carefully considered their agency and studied their website and agent profiles seeking a good fit. But the Lippincott Massie McQuilkin Agency isn’t that kind of agency. They care. They consider your work carefully, for at least an hour. Maybe over lunch. Maybe while running on a treadmill at the gym. They work for you, even though you aren’t a part of their team, yet. Their consideration is all that really matters.
What really happened: Someone got my email query in a stack of other email queries, glanced at it for less than ten, fifteen seconds, and hit the automatic rejection reply email button. Seriously, dudes. If you’re going to send something back to me in the amount of time it takes for me to read a short story, you should take out the “carefully considered” line. It cheapens you.