This past weekend, I attended the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference in New York City. In one of the panels, literary agents critiqued a very brave group of writer's query letters.
I was not one of those very brave writers. Mostly because the rules said they had to be nonfiction queries, and right now, I don't have one. I'm a glutton for punishment under most circumstances.
One of the agents, Jonathan Lyons, had some interesting things to say about multiple submissions. In the past, I've attended other writers conferences and heard that they were a strict no-no. These agents didn't agree. In fact, they said it's not reasonable anymore. Agents are just too damn slow. From Jonathan's blog:
Well, then: color me wrong. I've been submitting one at a painful time for three months now, and so far, I still have no agent for my picture book, Bella Eats the Monsters. So today on my writing day, I submitted my darling to seven more agents on my short list.
Some of them accepted queries only via Web form, which I personally think is great. I rest assured that my query is somewhere in a database, not lost amidst the agent's overflowing e-mail account. I know in my professional and bloggy life, even relevant, timely e-mails from people I wish to correspond with can get hopelessly lost, and I've had close friends and professional acquaintances alike e-mail me months after I contacted them, aflutter and apologizing that my e-mails had been eaten by their Gmail accounts. Hey, I get it.
The other pertinent detail I noticed: The rejection letter or even the rejection e-mail is becoming a thing of the past with agents. At least three to whom I submitted sent me an auto response saying if I hadn't heard from them within four weeks to assume they weren't interested. While that is discouraging -- they're already warning me they'll probably blow me off -- it's better than me assuming they will send me something and then sitting on the mailbox or computer past the four-week mark, wondering if I should follow up or not. At least this way I can set a timer and move on if I haven't heard from them. In the writerly world, no news is NOT good news.
So, the literary agent timer is back on. Tick, tock.