Submitting to Agents

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Jan 4, 2015
Is anyone else here in the process of submitting to agents via the slushpile? How are you approaching it? Do you send out in batches and do you inform them all when you get a full request?

How are you finding it's going in general ie responsiveness?
Is anyone else here in the process of submitting to agents via the slushpile? How are you approaching it? Do you send out in batches and do you inform them all when you get a full request?

How are you finding it's going in general ie responsiveness?

Hello Kitty. I have been following the advice on the Writers Workshop site, and in particular their "Agent Hunter". They recommend starting with no more than 12 and if it looks discouraging at that point to rethink. The trouble with them is that they make their income from charging writers for reviews, critiques, open days and courses, so their advice is likely to lean towards opening the wallet.

Having had a bad experience with co-publishing I made a terrible oath that with my current project, a fairly commercial thriller called "Lucas and the Girl from the Sea", I would not pay anything up-front. However, I remember one of the regular Litopians saying that paying for editorial advice was no different from paying for music lessons when learning an instrument. That sounds pretty sensible.

So, this is how things stand at present:
I'm half-way through the list of chosen agents with 5 standard refusals and one more encouraging response. If I get to the end of the list with a full house of refusals then I may try to justify spending £400 odd for a full book appraisal from the Writers Workshop. I have paid for sample chapter advice from them on my first book and found the reviewer helpful, though perhaps over-optimistic.
Last November, I made 60 submissions to agents + 4 to publishers with an open window of opportunity—all small independent companies with fine award-winning reputations. I chose who I queried very carefully, using Manuscript Wish List, agents' blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook postings and any interviews they'd recently given.

So far, I've received form letters of rejection from 28 and one personalised 'No', which felt like a tiny victory.

From previous experience in 2015, when I queried 160 agents, I'm not expecting many more replies. Then, 100 completely ignored me, 56 sent form letters and only four offered any feedback at all.

I am undaunted. My attitude to submitting is, that it's like trying to hit a fish swimming underwater in a vast river by throwing a stone. You wouldn't throw just one boulder, would you? It makes more sense to chuck a handful of gravel to improve your chances.

Average waiting time for a response is four months. The quickest was within an hour, the slowest took 16 months to get back to me...and I was kind of impressed that they had the perseverance to reply at all.

Querying is time-consuming, demeaning and maddening, but until literary agents come around knocking door-to-door begging for manuscripts, then bite the bullet and keep on keeping on.

I wish you luck.
Having made many attempts to gain the holy grail that is a literary agent, and occasionally submitting directly to publishers, without success--Form letters/emails ... don't you just love 'em?--I have bitten the bullet and signed up for Query Mastery with $400 (or £325 plus change).

I came to the decision that I should at least get some training in the finer nuances of querying to maximise my chances. My greatest fear, is that even after this 10 week course, my writing is simply inadequate. But without putting my very best into the process, I can not be sure where the weaknesses (if any) lie.

I suppose one could consider it in terms of the experimental model. One must eliminate the variables (as much as possible) to establish the independent.
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Very interesting.
I can see the sense of sending out in batches of 12 - it gives you the chance to rework your letter/synopsis, maybe opening chapters, if you get some useful feedback, before submitting to the next batch. But likewise I'm very reluctant to part with my hard earned cash to these guys!
@Paul Whybrow did you send out all 60 at once?
So roughly how many full requests does everyone get? From what you say they sound few and far between!
And do any of you chase up the non-responders?

Cheers for your input. This is all fascinating!
My last session of crawling over broken glass, to submit to 60 agents, took about two weeks. I prepared different query letters, synopses and writing samples to satisfy the finicky requirements of different agencies. There's no such thing as a publishing industry standard format for submitting.

Although I spent masses of time beforehand, researching up-to-date information on the likes and dislikes of individual agents, trying to target the right individual, I still feel that getting a positive response is largely down to luck.

By that, I mean one could submit the most perfectly edited manuscript of an imaginative, well-written story, but if it doesn't speak to the person reading it in some way, then it'll go nowhere. There's so much that's unknowable about how agents select which projects to take forward. If they've just committed to a novel with a plot that's similar to yours, then bad luck you!

Another aspect of querying, which rarely gets a mention, is that many agencies use readers to do the first trawl through the slushpile. They're expected to identify potentially publishable (marketable!) material, but they have to keep to a certain work rate. Your manuscript might receive a cursory, and jaundiced, skimming before being chucked into the waste bin.

As for asking agents who ignored me, or who rejected me, why they were stand-offish, that feels like asking a woman why she won't go out with me. I wouldn't expect a totally honest answer, more a half-hearted series of platitudes. The truth of both scenarios might simply boil down to a reply of "I just didn't fancy you."

While I'm on this tack, I'm reminded of an old joke:

A disgusting old man hangs around street corners, asking every woman who passes by if they'll go to bed with him. He's unwashed, ugly and has no money, but still, he tries it on with desirable females. One of his friends asks him, "You've got a lot of nerve, don't you get your face slapped a lot?"

"Yes," the man says, "but I also get to go to bed with quite a few women."

The moral of the story is: if you don't ask, you don't get.

Hence, like the dirty old man, I'll be persevering. Will I query agencies who've previously rejected me? Of course! :p (I have no shame....)
What was in it for the ones who said yes, I wonder.

Why not query again...I have. They probably won't even remember last time, besides which, things move on....
So it looks like nobody is having any joy with the slushpile route! Interesting. Has anyone had any positive responses? I know I didn't find my agent this way first time round but there was an element of luck there. Maybe I'm going have to start thinking a bit laterally and find another way in if the standard submission process isn't working. After all, books are still being published and debuts keep debuting so the agents must be finding their clients somewhere!
I was sending out 10 at a time, and when each rejection came in, I sent another, so there were always 10 active at any time. I had one 'offer', but they wanted me to pay a heap of money for them to 'take a chance on an unknown author'. I said no thanks to that.
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