Monday, March 25, 2013

How to find out if your agent is an idiot-part 5

Here's the text of a recent email to an editor friend of mine:

I'm just writing to confirm that you've received (title.) Our records show we sent you the manuscript on (month date) 2011.
Editors prioritize how they read just like everyone else.

They read stuff they think will go fast first (generally); they've learned the hard way not to dawdle on projects from agents that go to auction often (Hello Brooks Sherman!)

They read things from their own writers more quickly than submissions as well.

That means if you have an agent the editor doesn't know well, or hasn't worked with, the agent MUST FOLLOW UP in a timely fashion or the submission sinks to the bottom of (I'm not kidding here) 11,206 emails.

What's timely?
7-30 days for material sent to an editor the agent has a longstanding relationship with.
30-60 days for everyone else.

How can you tell how often your agent follows up on submissions? Ask.

Your agent should be able to send you a submissions data base with the name of the editor, the publishers, when the ms was sent, and when s/he followed up.  If s/he doesn't list dates: ASK.

The worst thing in the world is to think no one likes your work when the truth is simply no one has read it.


Anonymous said...

After 20 odd years of sending to agents & publishers it usually took a couple of months for them to say they didn't like it; shoe boxes full of rejections from 20 years of submissions suggest I'm crap, or at least not commercial. Still if there were no crap writers like me who would people be able to compare the good writers to. Still I did learn early on not to be put off by how long it took to be rejected. Anyway it's an interesting insight and should I feel like going through the pain of being rejected by every suitable agent in the 'book' again I'll keep it in mind; meantime Amazon KDP is the best place for hobby writers like myself. With Amazon I can have fun writing and make £20 a month selling it. I would say that you offer great insight though and that's why I enjoy your blog. I expect it reads better than it lives though.

Elissa M said...

I guess I would have assumed the 2011 was a typo-- which is bad enough. More than year to follow up on submissions? Eesh. How is it that this agent still has clients?

Thanks for reminding us writers that we really don't have to tolerate treatment like this.

Ellipsis Flood said...

I like these posts a lot, because, as with publishing contracts, I'm sure I don't have the experience to tell what goes and what doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Wow. 2011?? But, how long did it take the writer to ask their agent for a followup? Maybe they deserve each other?

SamuelAlito said...

On a related note, what is the appropriate legth of time before which one can nudge an agent about providing that list? After a year of revisions, an agent has stated that he wants to move forward with teh book, and that he would put together a distribution list. That was three weeks ago. How long before one should check in and ask whether the list has been drawn up?

Eileen said...

I often see questions re: how much time should I give to nudge my agent about (insert issue here: reading a manuscript, submission list, follow up etc.)

To me the answer is clear- you should feel comfortable talking to your agent about reasonable timelines as an ongoing part of your business relationship. "Great to hear you'll be sending the manuscript out- when do you think you might have a submission list for me to see?" Maybe the agent is slammed busy or there is a holiday coming so things may take longer, but they should be able to tell you an estimation.

One of the keys to getting along with your agent (or editor or people in general) is clear communication. No need to chew fingernails over these types of issues. Plenty of other things to be all crazy about.