Your Submissions Questions Answered

Submitting your work to an agent can be scary. What if I get the secret handshake wrong? What if my attempt at humor falls flat? What if this agent really is the ogre he’s rumored to be?

And those questions are only the beginning. There are so many. So, in an effort to ease your mind a little and help you along, I’ve decided to list a few submissions-related questions I’ve been asked as an agent, followed by more-or-less helpful answers, some of which are even accurate. Mostly.

Q: What are you looking for?

A: Don’t ask. Not in an email, at least, when the answer is right here on the agency website.

Q: I know you don’t represent my genre, but can I submit it to you anyway?  

A: Why would you? It’s a far better use of your time and effort to submit your work to agents who not only represent works in your genre, but who love doing so and do it well.

Q: What if a submitted proposal has minor typos?

A: There are no minor typos. Not in “BobWorld,” at least.

Q: I sent you the wrong version of my proposal! Have I just ruined everything?   

A: It happens. Just send the right one, with a short, sincere apology; and all will be well. Unless your second proposal is also the wrong one.

Q: I’d really like to talk to you on the phone before I send my proposal. Okay?  

A: No, sorry. Let your proposal do the talking. If it’s not up to the job, keep working on it until it is. If it requires some verbal explanation before you send it, keep working on it until it doesn’t.

Q: Everyone says I need a platform, but mine is pretty small. Am I out of luck?

A: On the one hand, an irresistible hook and brilliant writing can overcome a modest platform. But agents and editors want to work with writers who “get it,” who can show they understand that authors and publishers are partners in the huge task of getting a book noticed, marketed, and sold.

Q: Do I need to tell you which publishers I’d like to submit to?

A: No, not unless you have personal connections with them; that’s always good to know. But agents are supposed to know this sort of stuff.

Q: If I send you my proposal and you say, “no thanks,” does that ruin my chances with everyone in your agency?

A: No, each of us speaks only for himself or herself. Except when Steve, the Big Kahuna, speaks for everyone. Usually when ordering carryout.

Q: If you reject my proposal, would you recommend another agent?  

A: No, sorry. Finding the right agent for you isn’t like choosing a watermelon (except for the whole thumping bit). Much depends on a personal connection. Can you see yourself working with this person for years? Is he or she enthusiastic about what you write? How you write? Are you the right match for him or her? And more. This is why I routinely recommend going to writers conferences and meeting (even interviewing) prospective agents.


So now’s your chance. What are some of your other submission questions?

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