Thank you for your blog post today. You specifically mention referrals by other agents. I was wondering - what's the difference between a referral by an agent & a referral by an author? If one of an agent's (currently represented) authors refer someone, is it all that big a deal? Does it get you to the top of the pile & an extra close read? Or does it happen so frequently that it's like receiving just another query?
Recently a writer on a bulletin board discussion told me in no uncertain terms that "a referral from a client that doesn't shoot to the top of the to-be-read list means something is seriously wrong with the agent."
It took the Shark Delay Team to keep my reply ("so glad you know so much about working in an agency and getting referrals") in Drafts, which was good, since this fellow didn't seem prepared to listen to someone actually doing the job he was talking about.
Here's how I prioritize referrals. By prioritize, I mean how fast I am likely to read. It's MY list, not the industry standard by any matter of means. (1 is fastest, 10 is least likely to be read at all)
1: An editor read your manuscript, wants it, but you need an agent, so editor gave you my name; or an agent read your manuscript, loved it, couldn't take it on, gave you my name. Editor/agent then emailed me independently to say "hey, I loved this, you will too;" [just so you know: THESE ARE RARE.]
2: An editor read your manuscript (or currently edits you) and suggested getting in touch with me; an agent read your manuscript, loved it, couldn't take it on and gave you several names (including mine) to contact on your own;
3: An agent or editor read some of your manuscript, and liked it, and suggested agents (including me) to contact;
4: An agent at a conference suggested I might be better suited to the manuscript;
5: One of my fabulous clients read and loved the manuscript and suggested getting in touch with me, whom he/she has called to enthuse about said manuscript;
6: One of my fabulous clients read the manuscript and thought it might be something I would want to read and contacts me to say so;
7: A querier asks one of my fabulous clients who his/her agent is, then sends manuscript to me saying client referred him/her;
8: A presenter at a conference who is not an agent or editor says I am a good person to query;
9: A form letter from an agent saying s/he is not taking on new clients but someone else at the agency might be interested;
10: A paid editor/book doctor/someone said I was cat's pjs, and author should query.
The value of a referral depends on two things:
1. has the person read your entire manuscript; and
2. how close to the buy/sell transaction process is the person making the referral.
Agents/editors are primary actors in the sales transaction. They know what gets acquired. Thus, their opinion counts MUCH more than anyone else's including clients. Clients know what's good to their eye, and many of them are close, careful readers with exquisite taste, or seriously tuned in to what's commercially viable BUT they don't have a broad sense of what's being acquired now. Their opinion is important but it's not got the impact of an editor's.
Now remember, this is MY hierarchy. Other agents may vary. Someone should email the Amazing Jessica Faust at BookEndsLLC and ask how she prioritizes referrals. (I think she only takes queries by referral now too, so her opinion actually counts more than mine on this!)
Maybe it's early and I need more coffee, but, I'm confused by your hierarchy. Are you saying #10 would be read the least fastest or the fastest? I'm reading this list as working from the least likely up to most likely. And if this is true, I'm ASTOUNDED you'd read 10 last!
I'm off to bake Christmas cookies with Mom now. Have a great day!
Well, if you're confused, I think other people will be too, so I renumbered AND added a bit more explanation.
Thanks for the heads up this wasn't as clear as I wanted it to be.
11. The clouds parted, heavenly light shone upon the earth and God said, “Thou shalt read Carolynn’s manuscript or I shall shower the earth with plagues, storms and republicans.”
That was last year. See, I told you so.
Just remember, I hold the copyright for the Ten Commandments. You do not want to get sued by me.
And God said, "thou shalt not mess with thy numbering system."
11 is now 1A
Yes Janet, that was thunder you heard.
I feel like you missed one of those few, genuinely legitimate opportunities to unpack the "don't you know who I am?" baggage ;)
Hah! Hadn't encountered the Shark Delay Team response before. And I thought I'd read all of your archives.
I'm glad donnaeverhart commented. I thought it was just me not being intelligent yet for the day. Yes, it makes much more sense now, Janet. Thanks.
Jennifer R, your comment is stirring up a lovely scene in my brain this morning.
#7 doesn't sound at all to me like a referral. Wouldn't this be like me emailing Patrick Lee and saying "Wow, RUNNER is so awesome, your agent must have great taste--who is she?", and when Patrick responds, "My agent is Her Most Awesomeness Janet "the Shark" Reid, QOTKU," I send you my query saying the incomparable Patrick Lee himself referred me? Patrick didn't refer me, he just answered my question. And I think you've said in the past, if you get a query like that, you call/email Mr. Lee and say, "Do you know this guy? Have your read his work?" And when he says, "No", that's the end of that query.
Am I wrong, or misunderstanding #7? If not, wouldn't this be on a list of "sure-fire ways to waste my time and get your email address blocked"?
Colin, I'm using that as an example. You'd be surprised how many query writers think of that kind of scenario as a referral. I generally don't bother my clients about these kinds of things. They have standing instructions: if anyone asks who your agent is, tell them. I'll sort it out on this end. (That way, they're never in the position of being rude/cold to a potential reader)
Just a note to the Shark--
Thank you for being so generous with sharing your process. Many people clam up about stuff like this, as if sharing their knowledge were akin to cutting off their Samsonite hair. That's not to say we writers are automatically entitled to the wisdom you've earned over the years, but we sure are better off for it.
Janet, thank you once again. (But if JF is only taking by referral right now, why'd she need that "don't query until after January 15" post ... ?) I may need to re-read.
Oh. Wait, no. I need to be querying! Others. :)
Janet: Understood--thanks. And yes, I am surprised. I honestly think better of those who want to make a living out of words. They ought to know what a referral is. *sigh*
"I'll sort it out on this end." *GULP* 8-O
Ahh! So it's a Kevin Bacon Kind of thing – Six Degrees of the Sales Transaction. Got it. (Fun fact, on the Kevin Bacon scale, I'm a three.)
John: It seems I'm a 3 too. My brother shared a stage with James McAvoy in an amateur production some years ago. James McAvoy was in "X-Men: First Class" with Kevin Bacon.
Does that count as a referral? ;D
Thanks for the #7 clarification. Maybe I'm just cranky from hearing so many Christmas carols today, but this borders on the dishonest for me. It is one thing to say "I'm querying you because you represent Jeff Somers and I love his books," but it is quite another to get an agent's name from an author and call it a "referral." It would make me question both a person's honesty and their savvy.
ColinSMith – It only counts if you performed on stage with your brother. Technically, even that doesn't count. If you stick by the rules (film appearance) then I'm not on the scale either. But I acted with and was directed by my wife in amateur theater, she was a teenage walk-on in the TV series "Square Pegs" (she was Sarah Jessica Parker's standin) and of course Parker was in Footloose with Kevin Bacon. So I'm countin' it. And if you and your brother so much as sang together in the back of the car on a family vacation, I'd count that too.!
You should have seen how fast my head swiveled when I saw opened up the blog and re-read this post after BAKING ALL DAY. I was like, wow, I really WAS asleep this morning.
Then I saw your comment about "if you're confused...,"
Whew. You had me worried.
My brother and I played together, so that sort-of counts, doesn't it?
Do I still get the referral? :D
Sure! Why not?
Once again, another informative post. I hadn't realised there were so many types of referrals!
Mind you, I couldn't imagine asking an author who their agent was and then sending it as a 'recommendation'.
#7 Reminds me of that person who said they would pay big money to hire you. Brazen business practice. BBP
Or maybe they think it's like hitting the share button on FB.
I like reading those posts that seem to sneak out before the SDT.
@Colin, no surpise on my part
On a public forum, an artist I did not know wrote to me that they couldn't wait to come to my atelier, pick my brain - learn the ins and outs of how to make it as a painter in Italy.
Virtual elbow rubbing is not a referral. Not even following a blog is a referral.
How's this for a non-referral referral? I contacted two of my blurber's agents, telling them their clients blurbed my book and would they like to see my first novel? Worked well...they answered quickly requesting the ms...but long story short, rejected it very nicely. Well, I tried. Always enjoy your take on things, Janet.
Gossamer loves my work, and he was named an editor by no less than Janet Reid. That's a referral and/or a recommendation. Right???
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