Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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EvelynEhrlich
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Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by EvelynEhrlich » February 26th, 2010, 12:59 am

For those of you already in the query process, are you submitting sample pages with your query letter, even if the submissions guidelines say "query letter only"? Nathan had a post (sorry, can't find it right now, but it was when he revised his submissions guidelines to include 5 sample pages) that suggested you should just include 5 pages to the query (in the email body, of course), regardless of the agent's guidelines. On the flip side, Rachelle Gardner blogged yesterday about how important submissions guidelines are to agents (http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2010/ ... lines.html).

So for those of you who have already queried, what are you doing? And have you gotten any measurably positive or negative responses based on ignoring the submissions guidelines? (Although I suspect the response to the latter will be that it's too hard to tell why individual agents reject/request).

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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by JustineDell » February 26th, 2010, 8:13 am

I would be afraid to send a query that didn't meet their guidelines. Many of the instructions basically say "follow to a "T" or you will be rejected". Eeek! I wouldn't want to be one of those guys.

But at the same time, I understand the importance of having those first few pages with the query. Would I sent it to an agent that only wanted the letter? No, I wouldn't. I would first query agents who want the query and sample pages. For me, I think that's the best way to go. Then, if I get rejected from all of those people, I would query the ones who on want the letter. Thus far, I have found very few who only want the letter - which gives me hope ;-)

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » February 26th, 2010, 8:28 am

I think Nathan's suggestion was more that you attach the pages unless specifically told not to. Most agents ask for a query, some with pages. I'd put pages with all of them unless the guidelines are very clear on query only or no pages.

Just my take.

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r louis scott
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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by r louis scott » February 26th, 2010, 10:17 am

It would seem to me that following a particular agent's guidelines when submitting is like passing the first test of the initiation rites. If you don't get that right, there doesn't seem to be much chance of going on to the next circle. While I believe that following some of the guidelines is just a tad anal perhaps, it probably makes the agent's life a little easier when all of the submission follow a single format. When Nathan has run some of his contests, my eyes were glazing over just reading the paragraphs. I can't imagine having to sort through pages of stuff to find the thing I asked for.

So to answer the question, yes, I am following individual agent's guidelines to the best of my ability.

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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by BlancheKing » February 26th, 2010, 9:11 pm

Frankly, I think sending in the first five pages without being told to do so is actually bad for your manuscript. Even if the agent doesn't get offended by the lack of compliance, s/he will only see 5 pages of your manuscript. If he decides he likes your query but not the 5 pages, then you will get a rejection from what could have been a partial request. And we all know partials are much longer than 5-10 pages =)
Last edited by BlancheKing on February 26th, 2010, 10:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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EvelynEhrlich
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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by EvelynEhrlich » February 26th, 2010, 10:12 pm

BlancheKing, I think that is an excellent point, and perhaps a stronger selling point to adhering strictly to submissions guidelines than blind fear of rejection for not following the rules.

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » February 27th, 2010, 8:54 am

I don't agree with that last bit. If your first five pages don't do it, whether in a query submission or a partial or full request, well, that's it. It's gonna be a rejection either way. Just because they request a partial does not mean they will read all of it. As soon as they decide it's not good enough, it'll be a no. And if the five pages weren't good enough with the query, than the five pages aren't going to be good enough in a partial.

It's all about the writing. Either it's good enough or it's not (at least subjectively for that agent). If you think your writing is good enough that's what you want the agent to see, and as early as possible. If you're confident in your writing (and those five pages), why hide it? What's the point in sending a query and getting a request if the first pages are going to get it rejected anyway? All you've earned is lost time.
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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by BlancheKing » February 27th, 2010, 1:27 pm

That's interesting.

So are we being evaluated for both the context of our story and the style of our writing? Or does the context of lesser importance in the reading process?

Basically, what I'm trying to say is: suppose a writer has a strong query and feels that it would draw manuscript requests. given that he is confident in his writing style and the plot in the first five pages but feels that an agent would get a better idea of the story if he read the first 30 pages, would the writer then want to hold off on sending the pages, or should he send them anyways and hope that the agent would request a partial?
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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » February 27th, 2010, 2:43 pm

BlancheKing wrote:That's interesting.

So are we being evaluated for both the context of our story and the style of our writing? Or does the context of lesser importance in the reading process?

Basically, what I'm trying to say is: suppose a writer has a strong query and feels that it would draw manuscript requests. given that he is confident in his writing style and the plot in the first five pages but feels that an agent would get a better idea of the story if he read the first 30 pages, would the writer then want to hold off on sending the pages, or should he send them anyways and hope that the agent would request a partial?

They're evaluating both the story and the writing. And I'd send the pages. I think there's basically a few options:

1) Send just the query. Hope for a request of a partial.
Result: a) they don't like the query. No request.
b) they like the query. Request a partial. Note: They will only read past the five pages if they're really good.

2) Send the query plus five pages.
Result: a) they don't like the query or pages. No request.
b) they like the writing. Request a partial. Will probably read the whole partial (or at least more of it), as they like the writing of the first five pages.

The trick is that the end result of 1b and 2b are basically identical, except sending the pages is more efficient. They see your writing earlier. Either way, those first five pages have to convince, have to make the agent want to read the pages that follow. With 2b you know they like your writing when they request a partial. With 1b you don't.

But the real key is 1a and 2a. In 2a, where you send the pages and they don't request... sending 30 pages with a partial wouldn't make a difference. They wouldn't get to the latter pages. And even if they did, if your first five pages aren't doing it for them it's unlikely the next 25 will. But, for me, the big advantage to sending pages is 1a. If you send just a query and don't get a request... they've never seen your writing. And in the end that's what you want to be judged on. What if they thought your query was mediocre, or close but not quite... but they love the pages? Those pages are your second chance to convince the reader to keep reading. Leave them out and the job is left to the query alone.

So, for me, it seems beneficial to send the pages unless the agent explicitly asks writers not to. I don't think there's much risk, either. If the query is terrible they'll simply ignore the pages pasted in afterward. I think the thing with agents is that they'll always keep reading until they no longer want to... which is short, with just a query. A maybe query... are they going to go the extra effort and request? Or just hit form rejection? But if you have five pages, the agent will probably start reading. Most likely, at first, to confirm a no reaction. But that's the thing. It's now in the hands of your story, where you want it to be. Keep them reading.

Just my thoughts.

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Ink
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BlancheKing
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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by BlancheKing » February 27th, 2010, 2:54 pm

Thank you. That is helpful. I think I follow you so far. I think the only thing I'd like to add is that while 1b is be as efficient as 2b, it does give the amateur novelist a chance to figure out what went wrong: the query or the manuscript. If the query led to a partial/manuscript request and the partial/manuscript led to the rejection, it would say that the manuscript needs work, no?
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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by Nathan Bransford » March 1st, 2010, 6:53 pm

Ink wrote:

They're evaluating both the story and the writing. And I'd send the pages. I think there's basically a few options:

1) Send just the query. Hope for a request of a partial.
Result: a) they don't like the query. No request.
b) they like the query. Request a partial. Note: They will only read past the five pages if they're really good.

2) Send the query plus five pages.
Result: a) they don't like the query or pages. No request.
b) they like the writing. Request a partial. Will probably read the whole partial (or at least more of it), as they like the writing of the first five pages.

The trick is that the end result of 1b and 2b are basically identical, except sending the pages is more efficient. They see your writing earlier. Either way, those first five pages have to convince, have to make the agent want to read the pages that follow. With 2b you know they like your writing when they request a partial. With 1b you don't.

But the real key is 1a and 2a. In 2a, where you send the pages and they don't request... sending 30 pages with a partial wouldn't make a difference. They wouldn't get to the latter pages. And even if they did, if your first five pages aren't doing it for them it's unlikely the next 25 will. But, for me, the big advantage to sending pages is 1a. If you send just a query and don't get a request... they've never seen your writing. And in the end that's what you want to be judged on. What if they thought your query was mediocre, or close but not quite... but they love the pages? Those pages are your second chance to convince the reader to keep reading. Leave them out and the job is left to the query alone.

So, for me, it seems beneficial to send the pages unless the agent explicitly asks writers not to. I don't think there's much risk, either. If the query is terrible they'll simply ignore the pages pasted in afterward. I think the thing with agents is that they'll always keep reading until they no longer want to... which is short, with just a query. A maybe query... are they going to go the extra effort and request? Or just hit form rejection? But if you have five pages, the agent will probably start reading. Most likely, at first, to confirm a no reaction. But that's the thing. It's now in the hands of your story, where you want it to be. Keep them reading.

Just my thoughts.

Best,
Ink
I agree with Ink - it doesn't hurt to send pages provided you've otherwise followed the submission procedure to a T.

Also, if you're e-querying be sure and paste the pages into the body of the e-mail rather than sending an attachment.

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Scott
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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by Scott » April 28th, 2010, 8:51 am

Guidelines can be very tricky, and recently I've had to make some decisions on my own.

We're all so afraid to misstep, but sometimes you have an issue. For example, I emailed a submission to an agent who said in her guidelines that I would receive an automated response letting me know she received it. If she didn't get back to me in 6-8 weeks, I should consider it a "no". Well, I didn't get an automated response. I checked my trash and everywhere I could, but none showed up. At this point, I began wondering if she still worked at the agency at all, so my only option was to email someone else in the agency (who I believe are the owners) to see if she worked there. I apologized for having to do so, but now wonder if I'm off to a bad start should my concerns be off the mark.

Another agent requested the first three chapters of my MS. Well, here's the deal: I'm in the process of putting together an integrated self-pub campaign and my MS is unfortunately edited into finished .pdf format, gutters and all. Breaking off the first three chapters at this point can't happen. Now, do I briefly explain my situation and send the full .pdf and hope I don't get summarily tossed into the trash folder? I do explain that finding this particular agent has sidelined my self-pub efforts in the query.

I'm trying to use common sense, but you do have to wonder if the only sense that matters in these circumstances is the agent's.

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Scott
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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by Scott » April 28th, 2010, 2:36 pm

UPDATE: I got a reply to my second email. It reads, "Yes, she is part of the agency and working as hard and fast as she can". In other words, she either skipped or missed the part about the auto-response not showing up and saw it fit to subtly reprimand me.

Is it me, or do some agents give you the impression that they're under more pressure than anyone else in any other job in the universe?

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marilyn peake
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Re: Submissions guidelines - are you following them?

Post by marilyn peake » April 28th, 2010, 4:24 pm

I follow query guidelines to a T; or, as Nathan recommended, I’ll sometimes include the first five pages or so even if those aren’t specifically listed in the guidelines. Right now, I’ve had a request for a full manuscript from a literary agent with whom I’d absolutely love to work. Crossing my fingers. :)
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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