Monday, April 25, 2011

How not to approach an Agent

So, as some of you know, I am a part time literary agent. I have a few select clients that I have chosen to work with because I love their writing and I think that it's worth the time and effort to get their work published by a traditional publisher. I generally don't advertise my agent services because I earn a living doing publicity- which is my first love, but I am excited to be working on selected manuscripts.

Anyway, people seem to find me and send me lots of manuscripts. Some are referrals from current clients, but many are unsolicited. It's those ones that I sometimes have problems with.

Now, I have to say that for the most part I will offer up as much feedback as I can, but on occasion, when I get a manuscript that doesn't fit any of my submission requirements, those end up at the bottom of my manuscript pile and if they send me messages, I get pissed off.

In the first place I receive a ton of manuscripts a week. Coupled with my publicity business I am quite busy and I am extremely picky about what I choose to sell. It's not uncommon for people to wait months to hear back from an agent and many don't give any feedback at all. I'm usually pretty nice and will reply to all my inquiries in a timely fashion if possible.

Since I am also a writer,  I know what it is to wait to hear back from someone and then find out it's a big fat no. As an agent I waited 8 months to hear back from a publisher- and it was a big fat no. So when someone submits a manuscript that isn't even in a genre that I'm interested in I don't think it's asking too much for them to wait.

So this brings me to my small rant. I received an unsolicited manuscript by someone who dared us to read their manuscript. The first note was somewhat humorous, so I passed it to my partner because it was non-fiction.
The manuscript was chock full of spelling errors  (they spelled excerpt incorrectly) on the chapter sample so already it would have been a no. We are really picky about that kind of thing.

So, Brian didn't like the manuscript and sent a polite no thank you, best of luck, and wished the writer well.
So then I get a note that said:

"I really disagree with the assessment of my manuscript. Please read this, I think we can make a lot of money with this amazing piece."  

So because I'm nice, I replied with the following:
"I currently have a backlog of manuscripts to go through, but I will try to schedule yours in as soon as possible and give you some feedback. Please note that I don't choose every manuscript based on a monetary value. Selling a book for me is more than that. I have to love and get excited about a project. Just FYI.I'll be in touch." 

Even though I should have said no because I'm interested in fiction at the moment, not non-fiction. 

I think that pointing out my backlog ( which I do have- and I'm trying to get through them) is very fair and actually more than other agents reply back. Most of them will give you dead silence. I also wanted to point out to the person that I don't just look for sales, I look for merit, quality of writing, and I want to get excited about the project. Because, as everyone knows there isn't much money in books these days!

So, 21 days later ( I still have a backlog) I get another note from the submitter. It stated:

" I know that you are super busy with all of your work, but I really think you should take the time out to read my book. I'm not asking for much. I'm sure that once you read mine you'll see that it's the best one you've ever read. My family and friends all love it, and I really think you owe me a reading as soon as possible. I think I've waited long enough." 

Because I was in the middle of work, and hadn't found time to schedule his work in, I wrote back:
" Hi. Just a note. If I feel I would like to represent it. I'll let you know." 

Yes, it was a don't call us, I'll call you. But I didn't think that I was out of line, given the fact that it wasn't in a genre I generally deal with, it was unsolicited, and I really didn't like the angle of the submitter. I don't think this person realized how an agent works, and how many unsolicited manuscripts cross our desks. Excellent writing moves me.
So, about ten minutes later I got a reply.

" I think you are being very unreasonable. And I doubt you have that many manuscripts anyway. I'm withdrawing my request- too bad, cause you are missing out on a ground breaking book."

Well. I guess it's my loss. Now, that writer wasn't bugging me so much, but I couldn't connect with the tone in the emails, and I did actually scan the manuscript and it wasn't for me at all. But before I could tell that writer, they got pissed off with me and ended the conversation.

Unfortunately, I think that writer is going to hear a lot more of those types of answers if they continue to submit their work without reading the submission guidelines they are given, without checking for spelling errors, and without a little patience. It's these types of writers that might be more suited to self-publishing, and most likely will self publish, and then complain when they aren't selling anything.

Writing should have passion, yes, but it should also have quality, spark, something that no other manuscript has- that it quality. It takes time to find an agent that will work for you and with you to sell your work. Being an agent is a grueling, arduous task that  can take a long time with a lot of doors slammed in your face. It's one of the reasons why people ask an agent to sell their book for them. Because they want someone else to do the work while they hone their craft ( and to get them a smoking amount of money).

There are lots of pros and cons to having an agent, but if you do seek one out be prepared to be patient. Remember that they aren't getting paid for their time reading your manuscript. They don't get paid unless they sell a book, and that could mean hundreds of hours of reading unedited chapter samples and manuscripts before they find that gem in the bunch. Yours could be that gem. If you have a little patience.

( By the way- in terms of spelling and grammar- yes we have high standards,and I am the comma splice queen  in my own work, but I can pick out errors in other people's work in a second, so don't think I won't notice!)

Cheers, Rachel

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments: