Publishing is about relationships and networking. Everyone likes a stuffed Rolodex of people who can answer a question, pass along info, or exchange the latest gossip. And in the odd case, make a recommendation. We protect our relationships like the beagle protects a fresh bottle of tequila, which means we don’t use up a “friend chit” on a whim. In a word, there are reasons why we don’t offer blank recommendations to those nervy enough to ask.
The first case is those who write back, after being rejected, and ask if I can recommend someone else to them. First off, that’s not my job, so I find this a bit cheeky. I know, I know, what does the rejected author have to lose by asking. Well, their dignity, if anyone is keeping count, because it’s just a bonehead thing to do. The editor has sent you a form rejection letter on your query. This means that they haven’t even read your work, nor have they established a relationship with you. A rejection isn’t an opening to invite further correspondence; it’s a “thank you, but we’re not interested in your work at this time.” Given that fact, why would they drop what they’re doing to use up a “friend chit” on you? You’re probably a lovely person, but the whole idea defies logic.
Yet I get requests like this all the time…and not just from people I don’t know. I get the occasional friend of a friend request, as in, “Acquaintance A is a friend of mine, and they said you might be able to help me with (fill in the blank).” This is head-bangy stuff because I’m in a position I don’t want to be in. I don’t want to offend my acquaintance, but I also want to nip this in the bud so it doesn’t get out of hand, and this makes me doubly grumbly.
Here is a good standard to live by: Agents and editors will only recommend something to someone else if they’ve read the work in its entirety and loved it.
I do this with manuscripts that weren’t quite right for us, but I had a feeling a friend might be interested. I don’t do it because the author asked me to do it, but because I wanted to do it. I’ll pick up the phone and pitch it. If they’re interested, I’ll send it. If I just automatically sent stuff to friends without vetting the work, how valuable do you think my opinions would be? They’d see my name and run screaming from the room. I’m not about to risk my reputation or tarnish my friendships any more than they would do to me.
We understand how tough it is out there, but unless you’re a good friend, please refrain from asking an agent or editor to read your work. We might appear to be as brainless as a Bing cherry, but we do have a few firing synapses, and we’ll offer to read someone’s work if we’re truly inspired.
The one thing you always want to be mindful of is being an imposition. We already have day jobs that are long and busy. We squeeze favors in where we can, and we hate to say no. But we will do so as a matter of self-preservation.
And look at it from a different perspective; would you appreciate people requesting favors of you during the course of your day job?