Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"Dear Agent: I got your "Dear Author" form letter . . .

. . . and frankly you're embarrassing yourself!"

One of the funniest things about working in an office where we submit work on behalf of authors is seeing some of the correspondence that agents send out. No wonder authors get discouraged. Maybe the agents mean well, but to our ear some of these letters are really bad. Here is one we received today on behalf of an author, from the automated mailbox of an agency with which we have had quite a bit of personal contact (and we will have none in the future):


Dear Author,

[Blah-blah paragraph about how good it is but we don't want it anyway...]


The XXX Literary Agency

PS. Since you did not include postage with your materials, we were only able to respond to you via email. In the future, please send us a self-addressed stamped envelope with the proper postage.


My response to this? "Dear Agent. This could not have sounded more like a form letter if you had used a rubber stamp to send it. You claim you gave it 'ample attention,' but you can't be bothered to communicate with a fellow professional about her author in any manner other than this one. Why not just send a polite one-line e-mail that says 'Thanks, but this isn't right for me now,' especially given that your office was just on the phone with mine last week telling us how much you want to see what our authors are working on?

Oh, and what's with the P.S. about self-addressed-stamped envelopes? This isn't the 1970s! We don't need our typescripts back. Welcome to the 2000s, where printing is cheap and we never enclose SASE with anything because if you don't want it, you should roundfile it (we handle 98% of our submissions electronically anyway, because it makes more sense for both parties). In the future, we will submit to agents who communicate with us personally (however briefly), and who lose the SASE rhetoric. Much love, the OSLP."

And a real PS to our authors: don't let these agent form letters get you down. :-)

PS to agents: if you send these stupid letters, we stop giving you author submissions. Period.

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