Thursday, June 24, 2010

Have You Ever . . .

Have you ever requested the full of a manuscript where you knew it was not something you could represent, but you were dying to find out how it ended?

Yep. Absolutely. I don’t do that as much now, but that’s because I’ve made a concerted effort not to. I think there are plenty of times when agents request material from queries or even from a proposal that they aren’t sure about. We know the storyline is tired or the voice seems off, but the idea intrigues us; we know we’ll probably reject it, but there’s something about it that makes us curious enough to ask for more.

Agents are readers and as readers we’re curious people. The problem is that this is also our job and, like in any job, we need to be very careful about how we manage our time. That means being somewhat sure about what we’re requesting when we request it.

That being said, there are plenty of manuscripts I’ve read all the way through when I knew by page 50 it was a rejection. There are even times I rejected a book, but finished it anyway. It’s the natural curiosity of a reader.


**after reading a few comments and reading the post again I decided some clarification needed to be made. Sometimes I suspect I read the question and then go off on my own little rant of what I'd like to say without fully connecting with the original question.


I don't think agents ever request a full if after reading the partial they know definitively they will be rejecting the book. That is something no one has time for. More than that though, I don't think an agent ever wants to purposely give an author false hope.

With every full request an agent makes, with every partial request, the agent has hope just like the author. We don't request things unless we're sincerely hoping there's a potential new client in there. That being said, there are plenty of times an agent will continue reading already requested material well beyond the point the decision is made to reject. This is the curiosity of the reader.

I apologize for not being clear or for being obtuse. That's what I get for writing blog posts in the middle of the night.



MAGolla said...

Bummer. Tagging onto this post. . . have you ever gone the extra step and sent the full to another agent or recommend an agent to the author when you reject it? Or do you simply send a generic 'not for me'?

I'm wondering about this because you DID ask for a full and, though I know many agents don't feel obligated to comment, the author is on excited pins and needles about the request and would appreciate some feedback.

But then again, you have had to deal with a variety of crazies that I haven't been exposed to.

Marjorie said...

Did you ever read the last page of a book first?

Anonymous said...

I absolutely appreciate the honesty you're showing in your answer. That you're a reader who wants to know more, of course, doesn't concern me if you ask for the full via email. However, if you really are sure you won't be representing it, you're asking for a large monetary commitment that has no ROI for the writer.

Most writers send requests by the higher-dollar Priority Mail so they can get the comfort of the delivery notification. Then there's the expense of an ink cartridge and a ream of paper. All totaled, these might run between $25 and $30.

In addition, some writers don't live anywhere close to a post office, so a special run to town to get a full in the mail as quickly as possible could tack on another $3 or $4 in gas, plus a couple of hours spent printing and packaging the ms, driving to the PO, standing in line, and driving home.

I do so hope when you're in the "curious" mood, you're asking for the ms via email or are at least carefully considering the financial, emotional and time commitments you're asking of the writer to satisfy that curiosity.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Now, I not only lose sleep over will 'my full' be accepted, I lose sleep over...well maybe she just wanted to see what happens.

When you are finished, please pull my nighty down and be there in the morning.

Josin L. McQuein said...


Email costs nothing. Most agents/editors request MS by email attachment.

Personally, I only had 1 agent request a hard copy. The others were all done by email.

Jane Lebak said...

I've had several agents request full by postal mail and one by both email and snail mail. It's not that outdated.

Kim Lionetti said...

Anon 8:56 --

We request materials be sent electronically, so there's no cost to the author (except maybe time).

Sarah J. MacManus said...

Jessica - if you were curious enough to spend that kind of time, why didn't you issue a 'revise and resubmit'. There must have been something there that caught your attention.

I've had agents request partials by snail mail. (And knowing it would probably be a rejection without massive revision because of great feedback from Ms. Lionetti, and I didn't send it because of the cost).

I actually started writing and submitting shorts in the early 80's, but the cost of postage and paper/ink made me quit that, and complete dismiss the concept of writing a whole novel, until they could invent the web.

Yes, I'm kidding. Sort of. Well, not really. Rejection in the 80's didn't just hurt - it was bloody expensive! Especially for a college student/waitress.

I love the internets!

Anonymous said...

First off, I appreciate your honesty in this question. I have wondered the same thing often myself. However, as a currently querying author I found it extremely disheartening, much like wry wryter said. I try not to get too excited about a partial request, but if I get a full request from an agent who has read pages...well, sometimes I let my imagination run away and I get very hopeful. If, as an agent, you request a full knowing you won't offer representation then you're kind of like Santa Claus. Full of hopes, dreams, and candy, but once you find out the truth ultimately disappointing. A full rejection, to me, is extremely disappointing because I think to myself, "I was so close..."

With that said, I completely understand curiosity and if an agent said in an e-mail, "This story isn't currently for me or isn't a good fit for my house, but I'm intrigued to see how it ends. Would you be willing to send me the rest of the ms so I can read on without hope of representation?" I would send it off in a flash because it's someone else reading my work, and my story which is why I became a writer. That way I know why you want the full, and won't have to invest in so much wine and chocolate when the rejection comes back.

WriterGirl said...

I can totally understand doing that. I've bought published books and by page 20 I just don't like the writing but something about the plot makes me need to know how it turns out.

Jane Lebak said...

"I don't think agents ever request a full if after reading the partial they know definitively they will be rejecting the book."

Okay. That makes it all better. :-) I can fully understand reading the rest of the pages that you already have in-hand. Requesting material you know is a no-go would raise everyone's hopes a bit too much.

Kyler said...

Going to the Watchung Mountains today and I always think of you when I'm there. Wish you repped my're a delight.

Purdee Lee Spackle said...

Once upon a time, such an admission would have angered me no end.

But now I find it utterly flattering. To have anyone read your ms and like it, even if it isn't right for them.

I have gotten to the point where I often wonder if these agents and editors are even capable of being delighted by reading. It seems they must employ such an over-arching critical sense, that I wonder how anything can ever actually please them.

Nothing makes me happier than learning I am wrong.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think agents ever request a full if after reading the partial they know definitively they will be rejecting the book."

Speak for yourself -- I once had an agent admit to asking for a partial and then a full of my ms. In his rejection, he explained he just needed to read my ms because his own client had written a similar book (about to go on subs) and he wanted to asses the competition. I almost fell off my chair. Um, gee, thanks. *&#$#@

Prettypics123 said...

Thank you for being an agent and helping us writers get published. We need you. Thanks for reading manuscripts even though you know you will not be representing the work. Thank God for Readers!!

Erika Marks said...

Hi all,

I was always, and still am, a firm believer that an agent's review of my material was always a good thing, no matter their answer. Yes, of course, when it's dismissive, as anon 1:57 said, it is crushing and leaves a writer understandably resentful, HOWEVER, in my twenty years of querying, I can tell you that the majority of agents I contacted truly did hope to find their gems and they did so courteously and respectfully.

I have always looked at it this way: Even if an agent ultimately rejects my material, there is a chance she will remember my work down the road. You never know where a partial or a full read will lead.

Mira said...

Thanks for the clarification, Jessica.

That really helps. I admit to sharing some of the initial responses - please, please don't get my hopes up if you're not interested. A full request!? That's like Christmas and a birthday rolled into one. Although, if the agent really does just want to read it, like Anon 10:38 said, and the agent asks upfront. that's cool. Then, it's flattering and validating.

But it's cool that you like to read books! There is a difference between a book an agent likes vs. a book an agent likes + thinks they can sell. So, all that makes sense.

??? said...

Completely off topic question, but I'm curious: Has there ever been an author who has been represented by more than one agent at a time? I write in genres that are completely opposite from each other, so I wonder if those authors who write under more than one penname have more than one agent.

Katie said...

I'm an intern at a literary agency and I just requested the full of something that I'm not sure will work out...the idea seems overused, but the characters were so appealing that I wanted to see where the rest of the book went with it. After all, queries only tell you so much. I wanted to give the manuscript a chance to speak for itself, even though I'm a little pessimistic. And of course, I want to see how it ends.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It's good that agents are readers too! I suppose you wanting to know what happens next is a good thing, but not wanting it after that . . . does that mean something is wrong with the execution?

Louise Wise said...

If an agent is honest and says, "Not for me, put could you send the full ms so I could read it anyway?" then they'd be no problem. I'd even be flattered.

But please don't get our hopes up just because you are curious.

Anna Banks said...

Jessica, thanks for the additional clarification of your original post.

CFD Trade said...

Is it such a waste of time to finally read the end part and decide it's a rejection after all?

Tammy said...

I absolutely love your honesty and when the time comes for me to query, you are on the top of my list!!!