Wednesday, November 16, 2011
No Response=No Debate
I'm sure many of you have heard more than enough on the no response=no policy and SCBWI's open letter to the industry causing all the hullabaloo lately.
I’m disturbed by this debate, but not because of the topic – rather, because I don’t feel like it’s stemming from the issue itself. I feel like people are frustrated in general with the industry, and blowing a lot of that frustration into this steamy argument.
We currently live in a time where there is already doubt on NEEDING an agent OR publisher; not responding is seen as an act of selfish authority, when authors are questioning if agents and editors should even HAVE a leg to stand on to enforce such authority.
Additionally, though SCBWI’s open letter addresses both agents and editors – most blogs I see seem focused on the AGENY side. I would argue that only shows more that this debate is being used as a front to express frustration with the industry – because, since more and more publishers are closing to unsolicited submissions, agents have become the ultimate “bad guys” who “make or break” a career.
Writers are focusing on the “guilty” party, in other words, who is the “most” responsible for not getting what he or she wants - which is a publishing deal.
Now hold on – before you explode at me that it’s the morality of it all, an issue of respecting everyone’s time and that, even if everyone got offers, it’s still not right to leave people hanging - let's put it all into perspective:
When people submit job applications - do they always get a response to let them know the application has been received?
When called in for an interview – is there a guarantee the potential employer will call back, regardless of the decision made?
Does that mean we should enforce regulations on employers to provide auto-responses to applications, and form letters to interviewees, so potential candidates aren’t left sitting around for months and months agonizing on whether or not they’ll get The Call?
In truth: submitting a manuscript is EXACTLY this process. I know it’s hard to hear, because writing is so very personal, but the process of publishing is business, not personal. And just as a “sorry, we went with someone else” is absolutely no help in the rest of the job hunt process, except to assume there was someone better - are we REALLY helping by sending that form letter? Or are we justified in thinking that, with all the writing resources out there, these people we don’t respond to should really be moving on and searching elsewhere, while at the same time looking at how to improve their WORK, not the rejection process?
In other words: should people spend less time worrying about those not responding...and more time trying to help those not being responded to?
Easy to lay blame, after all, rather than take responsibility.
I’m biased; and I can understand that people don’t like being left with loose ends. To be honest, if the shoe were reversed, and publishers started saying no response=no to AGENTS…boy, would I not be happy.
I am personally in favor of auto-responders for agents who have a no response=no policy, so writers at least know their work has been received - but that doesn’t mean I’m going to vilify an agent who disagrees.
We live in a time of change in the publishing industry; there are more ways to be published and submit than ever – which makes the competition steeper than ever – which makes the frustration higher than ever.
But maybe we should stop focusing on ways to fix others...and focus on how to make our work impossible to ignore.