Friday, May 23, 2008

Ask the Agent- Why Don't cha?

What's Jack up to? He's jumping and bouncing off the walls. Happy for the long Memorial Day weekend filled with BBQ's and plenty of neighbors to bark at. Lots of fun to be had. Oh, and Nana will be over for a visit which means tons of secret treats that I won't know about. Bliss.

So, today is the first of the weekly installments of Ask The Agent with my Fab Agent Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency. Yippee! You can now tune in here every Friday's to see what question or questions (there will be 1 or 2 a week) Elaine has answered of yours (or I have posted-grin!) for the week.

Please feel free to tell a friend. It's sure to be super informative. As it's already been proven, Elaine doesn't skimp on the info. You can click on the Ask The Agent tag under the labels on the right to read the other segments. You won't be disappointed.

How much do we love Elaine for doing this? Sooo much.

Now without further delay... here we go...

1. I've had nearly a dozen agents ask for a full manuscript after having read the first 100 pages and literally gushing over them. Then nothing for more than a few months. I'm assuming something is wrong with the last part of the book, but since no one has actually rejected it, or commented on it, I have no idea why the first part is so good and the last part turns people off. How can I find out?

First off, Congrats on having a full requested! This is a big accomplishment all on its own. As an agent I see upwards of 100 queries a day, accounting for this level of material combined with the additional partials that I request, my clients’ work and material I receive from participating in conferences/contests/critiques for me to go the extra step and request a full manuscript is a BIG DEAL!

This probably isn’t going to make the wait any easier on your part, but think about the time that the agent has to invest in reading the full manuscript. For me to sit down and invest in a 300+ page novel that may or may not end up being something I’m interested in I have to clear the decks and put it at a higher priority than all of the previously mentioned queries, client material, and partials that are also sitting and awaiting a response from me.

I have yet to meet an agent or editor that isn’t always trying to “catch-up”. I set my own personal goals for getting up-to-date on everything, but the second that I get there, another a whole new avalanche of material is sure to come raining down.

I think the first step is to realize that its not necessarily you, its just the demands of the requesting party’s schedules. However, that being said I’m not making excuses for these long time lapses in response time or saying that you don’t deserve an answer within a reasonable time frame. This is your work and you’re trying to get it published! Someone has to make a move or nothing is going to happen!

What I would suggest is ask the requesting agent/editor how long their typical response time is right when they request it. Try to get a feel going in for what the typical wait-time might be so you can psych yourself up and not feel like you’re hanging on the edge of a cliff day in and day out awaiting for that response :) . Also, these days most agents have their average response times posted somewhere whether it be online or in a Guide to Agents. Go check these sources so you can get a feel for what is normal with that agent.

If I request a full it probably means I’m pretty interested in the project, that I really see something in the sample I’ve read. If that’s the case I’m going to jump on getting a read in as soon as possible. My response time for fulls is typically less than it is for queries or partials just because I don’t want to see the manuscript get away. But that’s just my style, I know a lot of others that work this way too, but I’m not speaking for the industry at large.

Whatever the timeframe, after the stated time has come and gone since the request (plus a bit of a grace period) check in with the agent/editor and ask if they have a status update. You have to be proactive about these things or you are just going to sit there wondering (as it seems you currently are!).

Despite all of this don’t forget that you need to have a great FULL manuscript. A common problem I see is that writers really focus on those first three chapters, then an agent or editor gets very excited only to see a full and be let down. Make sure you are spending equal amounts of time making every bit of the novel as powerful and perfect as the opening line. You have to hook an agent on line one AND NEVER LET THEM GO!

Regardless of how the editor/agent feels you do deserve a response though, so as I said, don’t hesitate to follow up, but only do this AFTER the suggested time has passed.

2. How many requests do you ask for on average from the huge number of query letters you receive in a week? And what makes those query letters standout (other than following the guidelines of course *grin*)

It all depends. (Hopefully everyone knows we do all of our query reading electronically) When queries hit my inbox, they all get sent away to a nice separate little outlook folder. (and let me tell you, I’m a bit behind on my folder so its looking a little bulky and intimidating right now!) When I’m ready to sit down and dive in I do a first pass. As I’m reading if I see something that strikes my fancy I tag it with a flag, and if it isn’t for me (or anyone else at the agency) I will pass along my regrets. I go through all of the queries in this fashion until I’m left with a folder that is strictly flags.

I then reread through those flagged queries a second time to see they still hold equal merit the second time around. After a second look I have a pretty good idea if I think it’s a strong enough idea to justify a partial request, especially since this next time through I’m seeing it in the context of all of the other best queries.

Some days on my second pass I notice that I have twenty emails flagged, and I’ll end up requesting 15 of those. On other days I’ll only have one or two flagged, and upon second look neither of them really snag me. Its just luck of the draw. I’ve tried and am yet to find pattern relating to which days I get the best stuff J It seems it is pretty random regarding quantity received and quantity requested.

I can tell you I don’t have a “quota”. If I see thirty great queries in one day, you better bet I’m going to request 30 partials. In the same regard if I read 300 queries and not a darn one catches my fancy I’m not going to feel obligated to request a single partial.

That's it for this week. Thanks so much Elaine and thanks for the wonderful questions folks. Please keep them coming and post your question in the comments section. I'll be sure to pass them on and we'll have them for upcoming posts. This is fun! I hope you all are having as much fun as I am.

Best,
Kwana

6 comments:

pve design said...

Awesome "Ask the Agent" post, now I have even nore respect and admiration for the writer and the agent and all it takes. All very insightful!

Tony OH said...

Now that was one of the most empowering posts that I've read to date! Thank you Kwana!...I'd like to invite you to please visit my post, I think you may appreciate my style of writing, or at least be able to critique my writings. I will definitely visit more often and I have already Blog rolled you...Have a Blessed Weekend and please don't be a stranger!

Kwana said...

Thanks so much Patricia. I know you know what the writer goes through and I'm glad you're getting to see the agent's side.

Thanks so much for visiting, Tony and for adding me to your blog roll. I'm so glad your finding Ask the Agent insightful. I'll be sure to visit your blog!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for adding Elaine to your blog Kwana!

I met her last weekend at the Wisconsin RWA conference and of course I love her. I'm working on the chapters she asked for and completely ignoring the holiday.

But you have a good one, hear? You sure do deserve a great time.

Cheers,
Pet in Tennessee usually not anonymous but being a computer idiot that's the only way I can get on even though I share a blog on blogspot: THE TRANSPLANTS!

MariaGeraci said...

Great info, Elaine!

Marilyn Brant said...

Again, another great Q&A session, ladies! Elaine's responses will be so helpful to many, many writers. Looking forward to reading more :).

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