When I was searching for a new agent, I was searching in a different way than I had ten years before. Back then, it was all about paper and correct postage and long waits. Rejection letters came back from those who didn't want it and happier letters came from those who wanted part, some, all. Acceptances came by phone, and then there were more phone calls to strategize. Very little was done via email, even though email existed.
With my last agent search, almost every little thing was done by email. In fact, many agents (like many literary journals these days) had an online submission form. Fill n the form, paste in your cover letter, and attach your first 10, 25, whatever pages.
Off it went into the ether.
Agents now include submission guidelines on their web sites. Click, click, click away--manuscript sent off.
But as I've mentioned before, all that ease in submission makes it easy for people to click, click, click you away and forget that you ever submitted a thing. While most agents wrote back to me, a large handful did not. Sometimes this ignoring occurred by an agent who was referred by a friend. Sometimes, I'd have a long email discussion with an agent, send the manuscript, and then--nothing. Ever. One agent requested a hard copy of the manuscript and to date (not that I need another agent now), I've not heard a peep from her, 13 months of rudeness not to mention environmental waste. Let's just hope she recycled.
I'm thinking about this again as I have an acquaintance who is going through this process, and I counseled him to accept the fact that there is a fast and easy rudeness in the land. He said that he had already experienced such. It's just too easy to be rude.
After my agent search ended on a positive note, I vowed to myself to answer my emails. All of them. And folks, I get a lot of emails, especially at the beginning of/end of a semester. Hundreds of them, actually, all about getting into or out of a class. Students begging me to let them in a class or begging me for a better grade. There had been times in the past where I'd look at my work email, see the 25 emails from strangers, and then ignore, say, half. There was no happy answer for these people (just as the agents likely could not offer me anything) and I figured, what the hell?
After my own "what the hell" non-response from folks, I started replying. Short and sweet. Or I wrote up an email to copy and paste. I learned a little about tone with my first copy and paste--someone's mother was irritated that I didn't take her child into my class and told me I was rude. So I lightened up, made nice, pasted happiness and regret into the body of an email and click, click, click--at least I gave them an answer.
After that first semester, I realized that I would continue such. It was a pain, but people had written to me. If this were a conversation in real life, I would never look at them and turn around and walk away. So I wasn't going to do it in email.
I told this tale to my acquaintance yesterday, and he said that this process had taught him the same thing. There is karma lesson somewhere in here, and I'm hopeful that I've turned mine around a little bit in the last year, by not erasing but answering.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org