Monday, December 07, 2009

No Simultaneous Submissions

Obviously writers can't query one agent at a time - no one would ever get published in his or her lifetime. But several agencies are asking for not only a query letter but also for pages, anywhere from 5-50 (and I have to say, asking for 50 boggles my mind). I recently got a response from an agent asking for a partial (just 20 pages or so) and states that simultaneous submissions aren't considered. I don't know how to handle this. Technically the other queries are just that - queries. The agencies just happen to ask for more than just a single letter. So while the agent reads the partial, I still have chunks of manuscript at other houses waiting to be sorted through. I don't really know what to think of this. Any thoughts on how to handle it?

Before I get to the real question, let me clarify that 50 pages is basically a proposal. These are agents who are asking for more than just a query letter, but accept unsolicited proposals. Back in the day, and for quite a number of years, BookEnds had this same policy. At the time we were a fairly new agency and had more time to read submissions. We were also still feeling our way and learning what we liked, and of course it hopefully gave us a bit of an edge in that we got to see the writer’s work before everyone else.

It’s not uncommon for agents to ask that pages be included with the query. I don’t. I find that typically I’ll only read the pages if I would have requested them anyway, so I just ask for the query and request the pages when I want more. While I won’t reject authors for sending pages, I rarely read them anyway. However, I think it’s becoming more common and simply depends on the agent.

I think not accepting simultaneous submissions is the same thing as asking for an exclusive. Do a search on the blog for "exclusive" or "exclusives" and you’ll see a great deal of information. However, my suggestion is to simply send along the material and note in your cover letter that other agents are reviewing at this time, but you’ll do your best to keep her apprised if anything should happen. If she chooses not to read it, frankly, it’s her loss. I really think, though, that, in most cases, asking for exclusives or saying you don’t accept simultaneous submissions is nothing but a scare tactic on the agent’s part. She wants to make sure she doesn’t have competition, which to me says she doesn’t think highly enough of herself to think she can compete. Obviously these two issues are hot buttons for me. I think authors should have the chance to choose an agent if possible, and not accepting simultaneous submissions or asking for exclusives takes the power out of an author’s hand, power you should have since it’s your career.

So in case I didn’t make myself clear, send it anyway and let her know other agents are reviewing. And of course if any agent offers representation, my suggestion is always get in touch with all agents who have pages or material and any agents who still have a query, but who you are really interested in. Give yourself the opportunity to choose an agent rather than simply waiting for someone to choose you.