Agency Lessons: Responding to rejections

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.
Today's question comes from the reader mail bag: When I receive a rejection, is it polite to send an email thanking agents for their time or just annoying? What if it is more than a simple rejection, and they took time to give me helpful feedback?

So, with anything else that deals with agents, this is going to vary. Some agents love seeing these little notes pop up in their box and others hate them with the loathing of a million black holes. You can't please everyone.

But here's how to please me. ;)

In general, I hardly ever see the little thank you emails that come back from query rejections. This is an issue of function rather than purpose. While I individually read and respond to all my queries, I do have help. All queries for Corvisiero go to a central box. Then our fabulous interns screen them to make sure they aren't death threats and they contain all the elements we ask for in a query (Query, synopsis and sample pages, in case you're curious). Then these queries are filtered into our individual query boxes.

I respond to my individual box, but they all show the same reply email address. Which means, if you reply with a lovely thank you, it ends up in the same box as all the other incoming queries. Sometimes an intern will forward this on, but usually, they just get deleted. Not because we are rude or uncaring, but because the influx of emails is so high we try to keep the volume to a manageable level. This is truly a numbers game of minutes in a day versus everything that needs to be done.

Now, what about a rejection on a manuscript. For me, these are different. I respond to manuscript requests from my personal agency account. Which means responses flow directly back into my inbox and I will always see them.

I never expect an author to respond to my rejections. Afterall, I've just said, thanks, but no thanks. Hardly the opening to a friendly conversation. That said, these are almost always a nice treat in my inbox. 

A few things to keep in mind:

1. I don't keep track of who responds and who doesn't and your friendly thank you note will not increase your chances that I will accept your next manuscript. I hardly ever remember the names of the authors I review (though concepts I always remember). So next time you query me, I will have no idea that you were the author who sent a note saying my comment was the epiphany they were waiting for.

2. A negative response will absolutely ensure that you will not gain representation on your next manuscript. In fact, a negative response at any stage in the process will earn you a quick trip to the garbage can. Yes, we do keep a record of these authors. Yes, we all know about them, even if the response went to another agent. Yes, it does mean that you will not be reviewed even if you next project is the next Great American Novel. Because no one wants to work with someone who is rude or difficult. This industry is hard enough without working with a pain in the rear. No one has time for that.

In the end, there is no standard protocol to responding to rejections. That said, if you want to respond, keep is short and positive and you can't go wrong, no matter what an agent's preferences are.

If you have questions of your own you'd like to see answered, you can leave them in the comments or fill out this anonymous form