Wednesday, July 24, 2019

why do agents still ask for partials?

I and doing some research and wondered if you could tell me why editors and agents prefer to view only the first chapter, first 30-50 pages, etc. over receiving the full manuscript? Do you feel it breaks the flow when you read those first pages, are drawn in and want to read more, and then have to reach out to the author to request the remaining pages?

This is a holdover from the Paper Days when authors had to pay to send pages, and pay to get them back. Agents didn't ask for the whole thing in order to save money. And frankly, shelf space on our end of things.

And yes, I do think it breaks the flow to have to stop and ask for more.

The best example of that is when Patrick Lee queried me (on paper!) and I emailed him and asked for the first fifty (I was young and foolish) and when I got to page 49 I called him up and said "I'm waiting right here till you send it."

And then I called the office and said "I won't be in today."
And then I read his book and called him up and said "Please god tell me no one has gotten their claws into you yet?" and he laughed, and I breathed a sigh of relief and we were off to the races.

I never asked for a partial again.
But, I've never seen a book as compelling as Patrick's was either.


E.M. Goldsmith said...

Interesting. Are many agents still asking for partials? I guess I will find out when I venture out into those trenches. Maybe it's a time thing - they figure if the first 6 chapters are cool, the rest can be worked with. But nailing the ending, wow- that is not easy so I would think it more valuable to have the whole thing.

I can see how the Patrick Lee thing happened. The Breach was amazing. He is a great writer. And fun if you like quivering with intensity as you turn each page under the covers well past midnight.

Kitty said...

I see, Janet you rep Bill Cameron. His first book was Lost Dog which begins with a prologue. Do you recall if he included that with his query? ... Btw, it was a great read.

Craig F said...

How much would it piss off an agent if I just told them, and then did, send the whole thing when they ask for 50 pages.

Fifty pages in mine is right when it is about to hit the fan again. I would really like for them to get to the conclusion of that incident before making a decision.

They could stop at any point and tell me to go away, but I hope they wouldn't. I think the plot thickens until the climax, but, you know.

Brenda said...

Lately I’ve noticed a new twist on the partial game. New to me at any rate.

The agent requires the query alone, no pages.
They request 3 chapters based on the query.
They request the full based on the chapters.

It’s the equivalent of a kid inching their way into a ice-cold swimming hole, one goosebump at a time.

Barbara Etlin said...

Because of the way agents asked for partials, when I was querying I tried to have cliff-hangers on pages 10, 30 and 50. (I succeeded at 10 and 30, not so much at 50.)

Laura S. said...

It's been my experience that of the 10 or so requests I've had for my MG contemporary fantasy over the last year and a half, they've run the gamut, but none have been fewer than 50 pages and more have been for the full. One of the latter was from the query alone (still awaiting a decision, wish me luck). I learned from Janet the importance of the first 50 pages, but my break-off point is actually around page 58.

Lennon Faris said...

I like agents requesting partials vs full bc it tailors to my questionable analysis of how MUCH they liked it. If they only liked it a little, partial. If they liked it a lot, full request.

And sure, I'm aware I made this system up. Sometimes it's just nice to arbitrarily create a system of order.

Colin Smith said...

In the old days of paper, envelopes, and stamps it made perfect sense to ask for a partial. These days, though, I do wonder what the point is. I understand what you're saying, Lennon, but do you want an agent who only likes your query a little?

Besides, even if you just send 50 pages, if the agent isn't sold after the first 5 or 10, they're going to hit delete and reject anyway. Why not just send the first 5 or 10 pages with the query? That's what some smart agents ask for... ;)

Lawson Reinsch said...

Usually I just lurk here, but feel compelled to second Janet's praise of Patrick Lee's books. She recommended his work during an email exchange and created another fan for her client. Janet doesn't just sell books, she sells books.

julie.weathers said...

Honestly, I imagine most agents can tell within the first ten pages if they're interested. Maybe less.

I checked the 10, 30, and 50 mark and have somewhat interesting things going on. I didn't plan it that way, it just happened.

The 50 mark is a spy eeling into the MC's third floor room window and asking her to raise the sash a bit and not shoot him, please.

That will probably change as I am debating cutting an arc and character. Maybe the first half of the book, who knows?

Unknown said...

Back when I handled the slush box for an agent as an intern, I had broad latitude. I'd often request a partial because it was a good way to check if I was really loving the story or just reading through. If I hit that 50th page and was like "OMG I NEED MORE", I would send an email right off to request it. If I hit that 50th page and was like, "eh" I wouldn't.

All I had to do was write up anything I thought she should offer on (Which, because she was so slow, almost all of those signed with other agents before she got around to them), and reject the rest. Also, fear not writers, that agent is no longer in the industry!

MA Hudson said...

Who knows, maybe the agents requesting partials actually think they're being kind and managing expectations... maybe?