Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Agents Getting Preferential Reads

A good number of the science-fiction/fantasy imprints accept unsolicited manuscripts or unsolicited queries. While searching for an agent, I ran across one that stated authors should look for an agent who has sold to a publisher that doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts. If they only submit your manuscript to publishers that do accept unsolicited manuscripts, then your manuscript isn't going to be treated with any more priority than if you submitted it yourself.

I kind of doubt this claim since at least an agented manuscript has successfully passed one professional's crap-o-meter, so it's bound to be looked at more quickly and closely. However, it did make me wonder about another statement that I've heard from several agents. They don't want authors to shop manuscripts around by themselves because, once a manuscript is rejected, they can't try a publisher again. They might have submitted the manuscript to a different editor at that publisher who would have liked the book, but that chance is lost now.

But isn't there one editor--the acquisitions editor--that the manuscript will have to get past whether the author submits it or the agent does?

I would love to hear more about the things authors are being told on other agent Web sites. That’s crazy. What that says to me is that this agent doesn’t know enough people in the business. Of course my submissions are going to get read faster than those that are unsolicited. I already have a relationship with that editor, and that editor, or any editor, knows my name and my reputation, and, more important, the editor knows that sitting on my submission for too long is likely to mean either I won’t submit to her again and/or I’ll sell it out from under her. In other words, from most agents a submission is going to get preferential treatment, but if you are with an agent who doesn’t have contacts, then no, it’s just as good as submitting it yourself.

As for your other question, that’s very true, and let me explain why. If you send your manuscript to Joe Dell at Bantam and he rejects it, I have no real idea what process the book went through. Did Joe simply read it himself and reject it? Did he pass it on to an assistant who rejected it or did he pass it on to a freelance reader who rejected it for him? Or, did Joe like the book enough to bring it up at an editorial board meeting, get second reads, and ultimately reject it based on the decisions/opinions of his peers? Even if I think the book would be better for Jill Bantam at Bantam, I can’t go over Joe’s head (even if Jill is Joe’s superior and even if Joe had a reader reject it for him). Now, there is the rare instance when an agent might be able to resubmit to the same house, but as we know, this business is tough enough. Why depend on a rare instance?

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Always exceptions. If an editor asks you directly to submit, then submit. Don’t wait around and don’t miss a golden opportunity.