You’ve all been there (and if you haven’t yet, you will…). You put together the perfect proposal and finally, finally send it off to agents for their review.
So what happens next?
Well, from your point of view, waiting. And waiting. And…(yes, we’ve covered that before. The waiting. That’s not what this is about.)
But how about from the agent’s point of view? What on earth are they doing all that time between when your proposal lands in their in-box and they finally take a look at it?
Well, every agent has a different process, but here’s mine. And drew the above picture to illustrate what it looks like.
First, you need to know that, because of schedule and workload, I generally don’t reply to proposals I’m not interested in, whether that’s because of content or format. Other than that, here are the steps:
- Any proposal sent to me goes to my assistant first to for a first-pass review. In that review, submissions are checked to be sure they includes everything–not only content but format–as requested in our guidelines. If the submission doesn’t follow the guidelines, it is deleted. So if you’ve waited months and months and haven’t heard anything, go back to our agency site and make sure you’ve included what we requested for a proposal in the format we requested it.
So what will result in a deleted proposal?
A query instead of a proposal. (And I mean a full proposal, because yes, we really do need all that information.)
A proposal or sample chapters pasted into an email rather than attached as a Word document or PDF. (One reason for this: you have no idea how wonky text pasted into an email can look on someone else’s computer. Please, make your proposal an attachment.)
A submission with a link to check out instead of some element of the proposal, such as sample chapters. We don’t click on links.
A submission sent to a list of agents. If you’re sending me a submission, just send it to me.
Proposals for books that I don’t represent (e.g., children’s books of any kind, and YA books). So how can you know? Well, check out the guidelines page. It tells you what we don’t represent. And read my agency blog post, listed right on the blog under Top 25 posts, about what I want. It lists, right up front, what I don’t want.
- If a proposal passes the first-pass review, my assistant will email you to say that your proposal has been passed on to me, and I add it to my review folder. I try to review proposals every 10-14 days, but there are times when I don’t have time to do so for weeks. Even months.
When I review a proposal, it goes something like this:
I go right to the sample chapters. Nothing else matters if the writing doesn’t captivate me. If it doesn’t, I delete the proposal.
If I like the writing, I go to the section of the proposal about you, the author. I want to know about you, about your platform and reach, about your experiences, and why you’re writing this book. If I see something there that doesn’t resonate, or that makes me believe I’m not the right agent for you, I delete the proposal.
If I like what I see in the section about you, I read the whole proposal for the rest of the information. I look to see what other book ideas you have–I want to know that you’re thinking about a career, not just getting one book published. As I’m going through the proposal, I will go to your website or Twitter or Pinterest or any other URLs you include. I’m looking to see what kind of engagement you have with your audience, how professional your sites are, if you seem to understand your audience, how you present yourself. It all matters. And again, if I find something in that review step that tells me we wouldn’t work well together, I delete the proposal.
- If I’m interested after I go through all that, then I set the proposal aside and come back to it a week or so later, to read it over again. At this point, I’d only delete the proposal if something happens to change my excitement and enthusiasm.
- If I believe, after all of that, that we’d make a good team, I start the process of contacting you and exploring the possibility of working together.
So what if my assistant said the proposal had been sent to me, but you’ve waited for months and months and haven’t heard anything? As you can see, my process takes awhile if I like your work. If I don’t, or if I don’t think we’re a good fit, it doesn’t take long at all. But I spend time with a proposal so I’m sure. If it’s been a month or so since my assistant first contacted you, just email her for an update. And thanks ahead of time for your patience.