Had nothing better to do this morning, so I did a little cataloguing of the response times promised by those agencies I've e-queried (34 -- includes online forms). I assume the snail-mail queries will all get some kind of response, since all were accompanied by an SASE. Of the 34, only 13 promised to respond in all cases, most in 4-6 weeks. (A couple said "as soon as possible" or something similar.) Fourteen agencies said they respond only if they want to see more, most in 3-6 weeks. Six had no info on their websites whether they respond or not and one said they couldn't "guarantee" a response, which I probably ought to toss in with the non-responders.
Now, I really think there's no excuse for this. Donald Maass agent Cameron McClure discussed on her blog yesterday why she once didn't respond if she were negative -- because half the time she'd get an e-mail back arguing with her and that was a waste of her time. That's fair enough. I don't think agents should have to respond to responses to their responses to queries. But it seems to me the solutions are simple enough. One, you can use, as some agencies do, a "submissions" address for all queries and only give out the agent's real e-mail address if asking to see more of the book. Two, the agent can use two e-mail addresses, one for queries (e.g., query.[agent]@[agency].com) and one "real" address (a lot do this anyway). In either case, all you have to do is ignore or delete anything that comes in as "RE: RE: [whatever]."
Some agencies claim the volume of queries (admittedly huge) means they just don't have time to say "no." Sorry, that doesn't fly. Even if you're cutting and pasting a form rejection, it only takes a few seconds to say no. Agencies with serious IT departments could easily set up a macro -- for a form rejection, just hit "crtl - A" or whatever. The AAR could put a macro on a disc for all those boutique agencies that can't afford a lot of IT services.