Thursday, October 12, 2006

Using Referrals and Requests

When it comes to submitting your work to an agent, the golden ticket is always the referral—when a friend or colleague kindly passes on your name to her agent, makes the introductions, and the agent asks to see more of your work. The most common (and most trusted) referrals are those I get from my clients. However, I’ve also received them from authors I’ve worked with when I was an editor, other agents, editors, my grandmother, and even my sixth-grade teacher (thanks, Ms. Johnson). Anytime I get a referral it’s guaranteed that I’m going to take a close and careful look at the work and most likely respond with a critique if I’m not offering representation.

What’s amazing to me is how many people screw up a referral, or even a request for material. How hard is it to do it right? That’s what I’d like to know. Recently a client of mine referred an author with a great project. One that’s not only perfect for my list, but one I was very excited about. I believe I even chatted with the author via email. So what happens? Instead of addressing the project to me it was addressed to Ms. Faust and Ms. Sach (always an instant addition to the slush pile in our minds) and ended up on Jacky’s desk. Which is fine, but it wasn’t at all the type of project Jacky does and would have elicited a rejection on her part had the author not used the name of my client in the letter. I know this isn’t a huge deal and it ended just fine, but if the author had already made contact with me why wouldn’t she simply address it to me?

The other odd submission decision comes from a request. And this is really odd. There have been a number of times when one of us has requested material via an email query. Let’s say it was me. I read the query, liked the project, and requested more material. When it comes in, the letter reads as follows: ”Dear Ms. Sach: I originally queried Jessica Faust on this project and she asked to see more of my proposal. However, after reviewing your Web site, I think you might be the better agent for it. . . .” Huh?!? Again, why wouldn’t you send it to the person who requested it?

As most of you know, BookEnds consists of three very accomplished agents (if I do say so myself), and each of us has our own list of talented clients and our own personal tastes. Although it might appear on paper that we all represent the same types of books, in truth the nuances of those books differ. When one of us requests a project it’s because she feels strongly about that idea personally and the other two might not have the same connection. So use your referrals and requests wisely. Just because one agent wants to see your work doesn’t mean everyone else at the same agency will feel the same way.



Anonymous said...

Can you ease my curiosity? I have seen written in many publications that successful agents have upwards of a 98-99% rejection rate. My question is, does that rate apply to initial one (1) page query letters, or does it apply after a query is accepted and a partial or full manuscript is requested? Thank you.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

It applies to everything we get. And is only an estimate. I would say of the queries, partials and fulls we reject 99%. Of course, the requested fulls have a better chance of being in the 1%.


Anonymous said...

Thank you.

elysabeth said...

so basically - if you have requested more material, no guarantee that this is a representation request? I'm really enjoying your posts more and more and I feel you have some very helpful information. I have met quite a few authors who have Jacky as their agent and I have even recommended a friend of mine query you all (and she did finally, to Jessica) - I thank you all for the service you have here.

So back to the double edged sword - if you have a 98% rejection rate (which I can understand that there are a lot of writers out there trying to get their mss sold) and you have requested more, you basically are wanting to add more on your plate but not necessarily making an offer to represent that author? I'm a bit confused on this - but I'm sure it will clear up with more postings - E :)

Anonymous said...

Elysabeth wrote:

"If you have requested more material, no guarantee that this is a representation request?"

When I was searching for agent representation, SEVEN agents requested my full ms. But only ONE offered me representation. The rest sent rejection letters, some personalized, some not.

Getting a request for more materials doesn't mean an offer is pending. It only means that the agent is interested enough in your project to keep reading.

Anonymous said...

It does seem like common sense, doesn't it?

I have a general question: let's say you've requested three different partials from one author (over time, clearly); two of those became full requests. If you pass on all three, should the author continue to query you on the next project, or is she/he wasting your time by doing so?

(I'm in the situation -- or could be soon. The agent has my full right now, but I haven't heard back either way. I really like the agency, and i'd be thrilled to be repped by them, but I wonder when they want to read more but it doesn't seem to fit....)

Anonymous said...

I'm guilty, sort of. I queried the general email box and got a request for a partial, signed "Editor". So I addressed in Jack Sach and hoped for the best. And so far it's working out nicely.