Let’s talk about no response means no.

More and more agents are hanging out the same shingle:

“No reponse means no.”

So, when you query them, if they are not interested in your work, you will never hear back from them.

For some, that can leave doubt. Did the query get lost in cyber space? Lost to spam? They sit and wonder and it might possibly drive them crazy.

Positive rejections can be nice. But they are still rejections. I guess for some writers, a rejection offers closure. They can move on to the next batch of agents on their list.

Honestly, it doesn’t bother me at all when agents don’t respond(if that’s their policy). I don’t know why. I guess for me, it’s harder to receive the form rejection than not to hear.

How do you feel about the no response means no? Does it bother you?

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32 Responses to Let’s talk about no response means no.

  1. Kris April 21, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    I guess I don’t mind “no means no” if you know how long response times are. I admit I like closure. I’d rather hear “no” and move on, than no response and think “maybe.

    But that’s just me! Have a great day, Laura! It will be interesting to see what others say.

  2. Ansha Kotyk April 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    The sheer volume of queries that are received by agents every single day is staggering. The simple fact that each is read at all amazes me.
    Although I understand the reasons behind a no response policy, I can’t agree that it is a practice that should be widespread or used at all.
    It’s a matter of acknowledgment.
    Acknowledgment is the act of recognizing the existance of something.
    As writers I think we all struggle with acknowledgment of what we do. It is not an easy career path to walk, most of my friends don’t ‘get’ the whole writing gig. Some have called it a nice hobby.
    An agent refusing to acknowledge communication from another person striving to work in the industry is unprofessional.
    If you’ve taken the time to open my email, and it’s not for you, two clicks and a form rejection can be sent.
    I’m okay with that.
    But please don’t ignore that I’ve communicated with you.

  3. Laura Pauling April 21, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

    Right Kris, As long as they say, if you don’t hear back from me within this amount of time, assume no. As long as I have a time reference to go by, I’m okay. Because if they did respond after that, it would only be a nice surprise.

  4. Matthew April 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    Hi Laura, I saw your comment about Tim on Glee on my blog and I had to come by to follow you and say NO!!!

    And to your post I prefer a response but no reply at all is okay too. If an agent doesn’t love my project I don’t want them anyway. It’s their loss in the long run.

  5. Terry Lynn Johnson April 21, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    I actually skip these agents. I prefer to hear back so we understand each other and then I can move on. I really appreciate the lightning fast rejections (like Nathan Bransford) that I’ve received! 6 hours! No sleepless nights or needless wondering.

  6. Laura Pauling April 21, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    Terry Lynn – Yes, I’ve heard Nathan is super fast. There are some other really fast ones too, like within a couple days. It’s nice to know a timeline. If I have that, I’m okay. I love how writers feel so differently on this issue!

  7. Laurel April 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    I can totally understand agents not liking to send form rejections. It’s time consuming for me as a magazine editor, and I only get about thirty submissions a month.

    However, it seems like good form to publish somewhere the response timeframe so those who submit know when to give up hope.

    Strangely, I don’t mind the never hearing so much. My impression of unresponsive agencies is that if they’re too time strapped to send rejections, they probably aren’t especially open to new clients–too busy working with established writers. They were a long shot and oh well, time to move on.

  8. Jody Hedlund April 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    I was probably one who wondered if my letter got lost in spam or cyberspace! I think it’s great if the agent has some kind of auto reply that says they got the query. Then if you never hear back, at least you know they got it!

  9. Kelly Polark April 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    I know agents are super busy, but do like a reply even if it is a form letter for closure. But it seems like more agents are turning to no response = no. So I guess I have to deal with it!

  10. Laura April 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    Ansha – Thanks for sharing! I know this is a very controversial subject. And the arguments on both sides make perfect sense to me.

    Jody – An auto response would be great if there is no response b/c then at least we know for sure they got our letter.

    Kelly – Yes, I think it’s something we’re going to have to deal with whether we like it or not. I’d rather have no response than agents close to queries!

    Laurel – Good point. If they are so busy they can’t respond – do they really have room for great communication with new clients. I don’t know.

    Matthew – Thanks for following and commenting! Tim isn’t that bad. Okay, maybe a little bad.

  11. Jennifer Shirk April 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    I hear from writers all the time who are fretting and wondering if the agent even GOT their query in the first place. Accidents do happen.
    The no response doesn’t bother me, but maybe they should have an automatic response setup(like an out-of office response) that tells the writer it was in fact received and sitting in their inbox.

  12. Laura Pauling April 21, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    Yes Jennifer! I fully agree. And I love the agents that do have this feature built in.

  13. Creepy Query Girl April 21, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    I can’t say it bothers me. I have a list of querried agents and it always saddens me to cross one off after a form rejection. Often times the ones who don’t respond end up staying on the list because i’m too lazy to count back the weeks.

  14. Patti Nielson April 21, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    I think I’d rather get a letter, if it’s only one sentence. That puts closure on that agent. I hate assuming anything.

  15. T. Anne April 21, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    I don’t mind a non-response too much either. I did send out a HUGE proposal once and heard nothing. That was hard, since I poured hours of work into it.

  16. Karen Strong April 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

    When I was querying agents, the rejection form letters were worse than no response. Ha.

    But no responses don’t bother me. There are too many other agents to query. Plus, the agent the loves your work will respond so keep querying until that happens!

  17. Laura April 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    CQG – I know what you mean. I usually assume it’s a no after a few weeks anyway, regardless. And if I’m wrong, I’ll have a nice surprise.

    Patti – Closure is good. But receiving a letter with my name spelled wrong or no name or a 4 word sentence is worse then a no response – for me anyway!

    T.Anne – I think a form rejection or no response to a partial or full would be much harder!

    Karen – I’m with you!

    Thanks everyone for commenting!

  18. Theresa Milstein April 21, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    Especially with e-mail queries, it’s easier than ever for agents to respond. I don’t love rejections, but it’s better than wondering. After six or eight weeks, I figure that I won’t hear back and I’m usually right.

  19. Karin April 21, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    Yes, not hearing back sends your mind wondering in many directions. I understand everyone is busy and the time to reply to each submission is time consuming. BUT…if you have e-mail submissions set up, which I would believe to be easier on everyone, a smiple, NO as a reply would be better than wondering. We all just want to move on to the next thing, after a rejection, so make it simple and quick! It’s hard to swallow as it is.

  20. Karen Lange April 21, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    I understand but dislike the ‘no response’ thing. They are busy, I know, but it is nice to know that you can resubmit elsewhere or work on it further or whatever.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

  21. Laura April 21, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    Theresa – That’s okay, with some agents, I figure after 3 weeks it’s a no.

    Karin – Karen – It is nice to get closure. But I don’t foresee agents receiving less query letters in the near future.

  22. Anne Bingham April 21, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    I’d rather have a form rejection than silence, and I print ’em all out. Good to have the rejections on file in case you’re audited so you can prove you’ve been pursuing this methodically, like a sales rep cold-calling.

  23. Laura April 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    Anne – Not a bad idea! Thanks.

  24. Kristin Gray April 22, 2010 at 12:50 am #

    Hey, Laura, I prefer getting a form. I need the closure. However, like others have noted, if I can mark it off my calendar after so many weeks, that works, too, but it doesn’t seem as real. I know a few people hear back after the specified time has past, if that were to happen to me, I’d chalk it up as bonus.

    Thoughtful post.

  25. Carl April 22, 2010 at 2:02 am #

    I have no doubt that there are plenty of great agents who can’t figure out a way to respond to every query or at least implement an autoresponder, but some of the busiest and best manage to do it, so it makes you wonder about those that don’t.

    I queried a very busy agent who responded to every query but I never got a response. I status queried her and it turned out she never received it. The only reason I status queried her was because her stats on QT were so darn good I couldn’t believe she was just not responding. You can’t make that same type of judgment with a non-responder who doesn’t even provide a confirmation of receipt.

  26. Laura April 22, 2010 at 3:34 am #

    Kristin – There is something nice about crossing off a name on a list and making it official.

    Carl – You make an excellent point. I think it is crucial for the agents that don’t respond to have the autoresponder in place. Because, unfortunately, queries do get lost. Thanks for commenting!

  27. Andrea Vlahakis April 22, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Good post. When this started, it bothered me. But no longer. Agents are flooded with queries.

    I agree with some of the others that the ideal would be to have an email confirm receipt of your query. At least you’d know it got there so you wouldn’t be sitting for four, six, eight weeks wondering if they even got the query. (Of course, you wouldn’t be sitting around, you’d be writing, but you know what I mean.)

    The other thing I wish would be standard is a line in their guidelines about a time frame. Knowing if six weeks have passed, they’re not interested frees me to move on. Otherwise, you’re still wondering. That would be a nice courtesy.

  28. marcia April 22, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    Since publishers do “no response means no” it would seem strange if agents didn’t also move in this direction. I’m fine with this if a time frame is given. That’s just professional courtesy. It does seem that “no response means no” would have to speed up those agents’ responses, which may be a good thing. How can they take 9 months to a year to request something they’re interested in when that writer might have signed with someone else 6 months ago? You snooze, you lose.

  29. Laura April 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    Andrea – I totally agree. Include a time line on the submission guidelines (which many do)and an auto responder.

    Marcia – We’d think it would speed up the response time, but I’m not sure it will. I think queries are on the rise montly!

  30. angela April 22, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    I think it depends on the circumstance, and it never hurts to follow up (unless the agent’s policy states they will not respond if they are not interested). I got my first agent by following up. Status updates are not always the kiss of death.

    I’ll tell you why the ‘we won’t respond if we aren’t interested’ can be a good thing for writers: it saves us time. EVERYTHING about this business is slow. I’d rather wait 2 months and hear nothing that wait 4 months for a form no.

    In either case, write your queries, polish them until they shine, and set up a schedule for sending them out in batches. 🙂 Unless you suspect there is a problem with your query (such as no requests for partials/fulls or a very low average) and you want to hold off querying futher to tweak it, juse send and move on. 🙂

  31. Laura April 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    Thanks Angela for the experienced input!

  32. Ruth April 24, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

    Of course I’d RATHER get a response–especially a positive or encouraging one, LOL. But I can understand the “no response means no” practice, and it does not bother me as long as I have a reasonable time line so I know when to change the status from “query outstanding” to “no”. That said, three months is too long to be in “no response” limbo. A maximum of one month seems about right.

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