Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A book in the door

I've recently received a rash of emails asking me if I would please pass manuscripts along to my agent, or make an e-introduction so the person could query him, or just "put in a good word." No. Sorry. I won't. I don't read random things that show up, unasked for, in my inbox from people I don't know. But here's the thing: you don't need me to do this.

I am represented by Joe Monti. My agency is Barry Goldblatt Literary. And yes, I am very happy with that situation - Joe is not only a terrific agent, he's a terrific person, and the extended BGL family are among my favorite people. 

There was no secret path that opened up for me in my agent search. When I queried Joe, I went through the slush pile - no introductions, no passing along of manuscripts, no "hey, would you put in a good word." All I had was a manuscript, the best I could make it. I followed the submission guidelines, which, in this instance, meant a query letter, a synopsis, and my first five pages. That's all anyone needs. And not just to query Joe, but to query any agent.

Let me say it again: all you need is your book. It should be finished, and revised and edited, and made as polished and good as you can make it at that point in time, because you usually cannot query twice with the same project. But you don't need a letter of introduction or a secret handshake or a code word. Clients do not act as screening devices for agents. We aren't the ones who read slush. You don't need to know someone at the agency to get your book in the door.

So no. I won't pass along your manuscript for you. But you don't need me to do that anyway.

6 comments:

  1. Amen. And Amen again. After receiving my contract for my series, the number of people who requested this or having me read their mss and provide feedback was overwhelming. I will always gladly share my experience and advice. But I've found too many people believe there's a "secret" to being published and are sorely disappointed when you reveal the only secret is write, write, write some more and pray you find the agent or publisher who likes the finished product as much as you do!

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  2. It's generous of you to share the name of your agent and agency. Many years ago (when I was in college, young and naive), I had an ill-conceived sci-fi novel I was trying to shop around, and one thing that stymied me was trying to identify agents/agencies that were open to genre work. I wrote to a couple of authors who I thought were writing in a similar vein, and I asked who their agents were -- not for an introduction or anything else, just asking the name of the agent. They did respond, but neither would give that information, and one of the authors totally upbraided me for asking, with the implication that I couldn't be more rude if I tried. Luckily, information is much more easily available now than it was then, thanks to the internet. But I do think the process of finding an agent is still a bit confusing and scary to new writers. It's nice to see established authors who are willing to guide people in the right direction.

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    1. I'm sorry you had that experience. Perhaps the fact that the internet makes such information so easily available means that people are more likely to be willing to share it.

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  3. Well, when agents say, "Get an offer or a contract and I'll represent you," and the publishers say, "Get an agent and I'll look at your stuff," it's a catch 22. I have no doubt your books are great but you got a little lucky.

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  4. Anonymous: everyone who gets published is lucky. Yes, it's talent and hard work and having a solid product, but I think there's always a little luck involved. The author queries the right agent who finds the right editor who has the right slot of that particular book and the right people up the publishing people say yes...

    I'm starting to get this a little more often now, as well. I've only recommended one person to my agent, and I had read and loved her book months ago when we were beta readers for each other. She also didn't ask--I offered. And that's the only time I'd do it. Asking a total stranger to vouch for work you haven't read just...boggles the mind.

    Great post, Kat! Seen you around here and there on AbsoluteWrite.

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    1. I'm glad you liked the post!

      While I love AbsoluteWrite, and highly recommend the site, I'm not active there, so I'm pretty sure it's not me you're thinking of.

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