Writers are the lifeblood of the publishing industry. I would expect agents and publishers, who work with them every day—and whose livelihood depends on them—to understand and respect writers. Most agents and publishers would claim that they do. But an industry practice that began some time ago, and has increased dramatically in recent years, belies that. This practice is not bothering to respond to rejected queries and submissions.

Agents and publishers who don’t respond will point to the warning on their submission page that says something like, “If we have not responded to you within x number of weeks or months, assume we are not interested.” In what other situation in business or personal life would such a practice be acceptable? If you sent out a party invitation that asked for an RSVP, would a response reading, “Assume that if I don’t respond by the day of the party, I’m not coming,” be considered anything but rude?

A writer has much more at stake than someone hosting a party. By nature, a writer has an active imagination, so this “negative option” approach can play havoc on the writer’s mind. Once the stated number of weeks or months passes, the writer, knowing that agents and publishers are busy, will begin to speculate that the agent or publisher hasn’t had time to read what was submitted. Or the writer will imagine—and hope against hope—that it’s taking so long because whoever read the query or submission first then passed it on to someone else at the agency or publishing house, who is still considering it.

All it takes to relieve the writer of this illusion, to prevent the writer from hoping against hope, is to send a rejection letter—something that was long a standard practice in the industry. Receiving a rejection letter is painful, of course, but at least it provides closure for the writer. It means a lot to a writer just to know for sure that the agent or publisher is definitely saying no. Someone once wrote that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference, and the indifference to a basic need of writers displayed by many agents and publishers today shows a disturbing lack of love for writers.

Why is the practice of sending rejections dying out? From what I’ve seen, it’s a victim of agents and publishers (and people in other industries, too) wearing busyness as a badge of honor. This “I’m too busy to respond” attitude sends a message to writers: “You’re not important enough for me to take time out of my punishing schedule to respond to you in any way.”

I’m not saying that agents and publishers aren’t busier than ever—it was bad enough in the 1980s, when I was in the business and things were at least a bit more laid-back. What I am saying is that responding to a writer takes so little time that no level of busyness makes it impossible to do—or even, frankly, that difficult.

It means a lot to a writer just to know for sure that the agent or publisher is definitely saying no.

In my day, we actually snail-mailed physical form rejection letters, and I agree that no one has the time or money to do that anymore. But a form email or text message would accomplish the same thing with miniscule effort and virtually no cost. All an intern or editorial assistant has to do is take a form, put an email address or phone number on it, and hit send. That’s it! It takes seconds to do. Let’s say it takes 20 seconds per rejection; that would mean one person in an agency or publishing house—an intern or editorial assistant—could handle the rejections of about 180 queries or submissions in one hour! You can’t convince me that there is an agent or publisher in the world who can’t afford this amount of time and labor to handle that many rejections.

This indicates that it is neither the volume of queries and submissions received nor the amount of time it would take to respond to them that prevents agents and publishers from sending rejections. If that is indeed the case, that leaves us with a lack of understanding of, and respect for, writers—with a lack of love as the reason. It’s time for agents and publishers to get over themselves and provide the minimum level of respect that the writers who make their industry possible deserve.

Lawrence Kessenich was an editor at Houghton Mifflin in the 1980s. Since then, he has published four books of poetry and a novel.