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. Continue reading How I Read Slush: 3 Lessons for Writers
This is a tough one. Every agent feels differently about this, but my general philosophy is this: if I wrote up notes while I was reading the manuscript, I’ll pass them on, but if there are so many issues in the manuscript that I can’t tackle effectively in an editorial letter while balancing the work load of my clients then I won’t write one. That being said, there are many reasons why agents don’t explain why they pass on your manuscript and they include the following:
Time. I touched on this already, but our existing clients are always our first priority. We work so hard for them and do our best to balance reading the slush pile with our other work, but that often falls to the side as I read my clients’ work, their referrals, then the slush pile. Agents take time to read the slush pile, request material, and then take a huge chunk of their day, evening, night, and morning commute to read a manuscript that they aren’t sure whether they can invest in. If it is a pass after all this time has been put into it we need to get back to work on the phone calls and emails that have been waiting for us in the meantime.
Investment. Agencies don’t get paid until you get paid. That being said, it is always worth reading the slush pile because there are always those rare gems, however it takes awhile for those gems to turn into a manuscript that an agent can represent and sell. Our time is a huge investment and it’s all we have to give. Be patient with us when it takes time to get to your manuscript, because even though you might dislike form rejection letters even those take time for our staff to email out to everyone. We do the best we can in the careful balance of our job descriptions. Continue reading Why don’t agents comment on the manuscripts they pass on?