Agents talk a lot about query letter writing and how we manage the slush pile. There’s the flip side of that too: once we request your material what happens? Well today, you get inside my brain. This is how I read requested material and how you make yours stand out:
1. I read on my iPad
I don’t print manuscripts out until I sign them and start to work on them. So I’m trying to see if I enjoy the writing and pair the writing with a name or book title to distinguish one manuscript from the other.
Lesson: Formatting! For the love of pete number your pages and title your file something like: Author Last Name BOOK TITLE. I don’t want to play a guessing game about which manuscript matches which query. The last thing I want is confusion when I’m trying to organize my slush. I also ask for a synopsis pasted into the first page of the manuscript document so that I can jog my memory and refer back to it.
2. I read 3-10 partials in a row
I’m not sitting down to indulge in one story, I’m sitting down to get through the virtual stack of manuscripts. Often it is between 3-10 when I start to read. That’s 3-10 different authors, voices, characters, plots and things to keep straight. When I read partials and other requested material I’m reading for plot, pace and potential. All I want is to be drawn in more than the story before that one.
Lesson: Voice! There is nothing more refreshing than something that stands out from the pack. That’s what keeps agents on their toes: waiting for that one manuscript that speaks louder than the rest. I want to forget to check my email. I want the words to scream at me and leap off the page.
3. I read late in the day or on weekends
When I get to my virtual stack of reading it’s usually after a long day or on a weekend when I’m forgoing other activities to make time for unsolicited manuscripts.
Lesson: Get to the plot! I want to meet your characters at the most interesting point in their lives. I want nothing more than to jump into a story and not be able to leave. Nothing makes me happier than being kept up late by an exciting new manuscript.
That’s it for getting inside my head today. Hope that helps demystify the flip side.