Wednesday, December 07, 2016

6 reasons I requested full manuscripts

I've done a lot of posts on reasons queries didn't get to yes.
Here's the flip side: queries that led to requested fulls.

1. I'd read an earlier version of the manuscript, liked it, but not enough. The author revised, and requeried. I generally take a look at these, particularly as in this case, I remembered the book without having to consult my files.

2. Voice. Everything from the rhythm of the query to the characters names just charmed me. There's plot on the page. A writer I know and like suggested the writer query me. Category is way outside what I normally read, but I still requested it. Bottom line: good writing always gets my attention.

3. Revised submission. I'd requested the ms on the first query, but it didn't get far. This is a revision. I'm usually willing to give writers another chance, but twice is the limit.

4. Interesting setting, good writing. Category is not one of my usual, but I like to see good writing no matter what.

5. Non-fiction. Came with a glowing recommendation from one of my clients who read the book. I read the pages with the query and agreed.

6. Non-fiction. Utterly compelling story.

Notice how no one is blacklisted if their manuscript got a pass?
Notice how good writing will get a look, even if not in my category?


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

7. Ran out of paint, roller broke and brush is as hard as a heart named Trump.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I like these better than the passes. It's good to see both sides of the coin.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Like this kind of list too. Although I have a question...

How much time did it take for you to gather 6 requests? I'm assuming that didn't all happen within a day. Or even a week.

I forget, Janet, that you represent non-fic too. #6 says an utterly compelling story for a non-fiction. Was that a memoir? For non-fiction, is narrative rather than explicatory generally more desired or marketable?

MA Hudson said...

Yes, Janet, I noticed both those things. I can't wait to resubmit a ms from outside your usual category. I suppose I better get to work on an original submission first - oh, and on the small task of producing some great writing.

2N's - haha - all good reasons to get lost in a juicy new manuscript!

Colin Smith said...

8. Query came with a pallet of assorted appliances.

Theresa said...

It was very nice to read the list. Like Lisa, I'm curious about how big this particular pile was.

Colin Smith said...

So... it's all about the writing, huh? Seems like I've heard that before somewhere.

This is good stuff, Janet. I'd be interested to see similar lists from other agents to see how they compare. My guess is they would look very similar. After all, who can resist a compelling, well-written story? Even if it's outside your usual genre.

Question: Janet--have you ever requested a full knowing that you wouldn't seek representation, but the query intrigued you so much, you had to read the book? :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I liked this list quite a lot! Maybe I'm just predisposed to liking lists. Who can say?

Writing and voice, got it.

It's interesting, while writing, I feel like voice comes to me far easier for some characters/stories than others. Some are just strong and sassy from the get-go, and others I have to adjust, and tuck in here, and replace words there, and then finally I stop stumbling with them.

Robert Ceres said...

Damned if this doesn't address two blog topics I had been about to send! The 'way outside' catagory and the specific reasons some queries get a yes. What a happy way to start such a grey rainy day. As always, however, the blog suggests a bunch of other questions. 1) I wonder what the sample size is, 2) I'll be really curios about how long Janet takes to read and respond, and 3) I'm already dying to know the manuscripts' ultimate fates (and I'm not even the submitting author).
Here's to wishing the authors good luck whomever they are. We're rooting for you.

Robert Ceres said...

And damned, haven't I learned not to write comments on my eye phone yet? What does a curio have to do with queries! Sigh.

Dena Pawling said...

I have another question too.

I know you formerly repped Kari Lynn Dell, but traded her to an agent "for a drink to be named later" [which made me laugh] because, so far as I understand it, you didn't know enough about that category and/or the other agent would be more successful placing those books.

So question [or questions] -- how likely are you to actually sign an author/ms you love from outside your usual category and/or how likely are you to refer the author/ms to another agent either before or after signing?

Timothy Lowe said...

Not all agents will look at a revision. Janet is one of the nice ones!

(exclamations as dozens of writers drop everything to revise previous projects)

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Yes. Good writing. Compelling story. Interesting setting. And good writing. Things we all are or should be striving for, and being reminded is a helpful part of the process. Plus, it's fun to say it as a mantra. Thank you.

Colin: A pallet of assorted appliances. HA!

Michael Seese said...

GOOD writing? Damn! There's always a catch.

DLM said...

A Christmas present! Encouragement from a real live shark/agent! Hoorah.

Yesterday, I worked from home and my background viewing included an episode of Star Trek: Voyager in which the holographic doctor publishes a novel - he hasn't finished yet. "He put it out? I was still working on revisions!" I thought of y'all here and laughed and laughed. And I thought of Janet, and I cried. Heh.

Joseph Snoe said...

I prefer reasons manuscripts get requested to why queries are rejected. The most surprising and encouraging information in this entry is that Janet Reid (or any agent) would accept a second query after a major revision. I pitched to an agent back in 2014 at Writers League of Texas. She requested and later turned down my manuscript. I liked her anyway. I think I’ll resubmit when I finish my massive rewrite.

John Davis Frain said...

I'm loathe to put words in your mouth, so don't take it that way. I guess I'm trying to read between the lines. From these examples, it strikes me that the ms pages carry more weight than the query.

Or, put in a more writer-friendly way, you better sweat the ms because that's where the good writing is needed but don't sweat the query as much as you're doing.

Or am I just trying to pretend queries don't matter as much because I don't like writing them?

My favorite part of this blog entry: the word "synopsis" was never mentioned. Yay!

Lennon Faris said...

I'm interested in all the questions above. I have one more to add: was #1 solicited? as in, did you read and reject, but say in the rejection, 'maybe I'll take another look if blah blah blah', OR did the author just majorly revise and decide to just re-query you?

Thanks for the post. I do like the flip side as well.

Julie Weathers said...

I love this list. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

In the end, it almost always comes down to voice and writing, but there has to be a story there also. When you hit that magic trifecta, great things happen.

It just reaffirms you gotta keep on trying.

Colin Smith said...

John: I'm all out of chum, so I'll join you in putting words in Our Beloved Shark's mouth. *CUE JAWS MUSIC*

Yes, absolutely the ms is more important than the query. If you write a great query but your ms sucks, you're getting a rejection. That said, your query is important because it is the gateway to the ms. If your query sucks, unless the agent sees past the suck to something special, she isn't going to request. But if your query is okay, and your ms is socks-off-knocking, then you might be getting a call.

To sum up: The job of the query is to lead the agent to the ms. Bottom line. End of story. So the query is very important, but never more important that the ms.

How did I do, Janet? :)

Julie Weathers said...


Many agents will give you a second look if it's a major rewrite. What have you got to lose?


Janet requests 3-5 pages. Other agents vary, but five pages is common. Reading and responding varies.


In my case so far, re-sends have been after a "This is a pass, but here are my suggestions. Feel free to use them and resubmit."

Julie Weathers said...

Today is the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I couldn't sleep last night so I got up and wrote for a little bit and then spent hours reading letters from Pearl Harbor survivors.

The "punchbowl" is the site of the cemetery, which is in an inactive volcano. A reporter doing a story on Pearl Harbor was struck by the young ages of those buried there. Of course, half the casualties of the attack were on the USS Arizona. It took four direct hits and exploded so violently, the entire ship was lifted out of the water. My mother's uncle was on the Arizona.

Wreaths Across America has a program where they try to put as many wreaths as they can on veteran graves at Christmas time. Before they lay the wreath, they speak the name of the veteran so he is not forgotten. As long as someone remembers, and speaks their names, they will not die that second death.

Though we've been admonished to get over it for the common good, let us not allow these men and women die the second death of fading from our memory. They deserve better and we owe it to them to honor their sacrifice.

Casey Karp said...

Jennifer: I'm totally with you on voice. Some characters I hear immediately, others just stand around and mumble for weeks or months on end. And then suddenly the radio tunes itself and they come in loud and clear. Oddly, those are often the ones who wind up being the most interesting characters.

On the original subject, it's good to know there's hope for a revision, even without an R&R. I like the idea of having that option if the current project stalls.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Why, this whole post sounds perfectly reasonable and thoughtful. I thought agents were black-hearted ogres guarding the kingdom of publishing from trespassers. Are you sure you're a real agent?

Karen McCoy said...

A beautiful reminder that there are always options. And thank you Julie, for the reminder about Pearl Harbor. My Uncle Bob, who is 87 years young, remembers when the announcement was made over the radio. He was playing with a toy plane at the time.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Julie Weather's, wreaths across America stops in our town each year and speaks at the high school. We won't forget and neither will the kids. Thanks for remembering and reminding.

Anonymous said...

This post was good to read today, when I needed some positivity in my life. Thank you.

As for stats re sample size, I'd rather not know. Janet crunched the numbers in a post a while back and it was daunting as hell. Something like a 0.0000000000000001 chance of her signing a new client from queries received.

Welp, so much for positivity. Need to re-read this post a few more times now.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

9. Query came with a non-stick waffle iron.

AJ Blythe said...

As always, bowing at the feet of our Queen. Appreciate this insight into the flip side of queries.