Tag s | book proposals

What Happens in the Agency After I Send my Proposal?

Jeanine asked, “Please help me to get a picture of what happens to a manuscript that has been submitted (via email) to your office, from the time of its arrival to the time of the agent’s acceptance/rejection.”

Thank you for the question Jeanine. I will first give a silly but kinda true answer of what happens in the agency as follows:

We avoid looking in the incoming proposals inbox with all vim and vigor. We talk on the phone, read and reply to other emails, eat snacks, sharpen pencils, and write next week’s blog. We eat more snacks. We check the toner in the printer. We whine about the weather. Count the cash, gaze longingly at the vacation calendar, fold post-it notes, count the spots in the ceiling tiles, get something to drink with our snacks. Read blogs, listen to podcasts, wonder if Linkedin is a fun place to be, and search for Fun Friday videos. We do that for months. Then,  when we are in a bad mood…then we look at your proposal…

All silliness aside. We will look at proposals, of course, but our first priority is our current clients and the work that revolves around them. Those active clients create proposals of  their own. Those are reviewed immediately and come first before any other proposal in the office.

Each one of our agents has their own process that works for them. For me, I take each hard copy proposal that arrives via the post and give it to a first reader who looks at everything. Those subsequent reviews are attached to the proposal that comes back to me for my review.

I tend to go through  incoming unsolicited proposals in bunches. Periodically set aside a few hours where unsolicited proposals become the focus. I look at the review notes and compare them to my own thinking on the project. Then write the rejection letter.

If it is great but we need to see the rest of the manuscript that request is made and another round of review occurs upon its receipt.

If all is fantastic and I think it will gain the positive attention of our publishers, I reach out and our conversation and possible working relationship begins.

Email proposals, for me, are looked at, but I will have a first impression immediately upon opening that email, before I’ve read a word of the manuscript. If the pitch is flat or uninteresting it won’t get much more of a look than that.

It is amazing how poorly people will pitch something via email. Like the one this past week where the body of the email was blank. Zip. Nada. Only an attached document and a subject that said something like “query.” To make it worse the email address was very un-professional (this is not it, but something like irawritur@ or highonjesus@. Yes I’ve seen worse.). Or the pitches that read in their sum total, “Here is my proposal.” or “I won’t write anything here because it is repeated in the attached.”

There are some who complain in their pitch that we make writers jump through annoying hoops for no reason. Those won’t receive a response at all.

And others who write, “I know you don’t represent this kind of book but thought I’d give it a shot anyway.”

If an email catches my interest it will get forwarded to a special folder for further review.

Email proposals can build up quickly in the inbox. This past week, a slow time of the year, there were 34 unsolicited email proposals that came to the inbox and 8 unsolicited hard copy proposals in the mail. That doesn’t count what Dan, Bob, or Tamela received. They have all been lined up in the queue.


Leave a Comment

Books are Sold with Proposals

If you think about it, the first step leading to the eventual sale of any book begins with grabbing someone’s attention with a short description of the book content. The proposal or short description motivates the agent, publisher, book retailer or reader to take the next step, which is different …

Read More

Make Me Jump off the Fence

So, when querying me, maybe you followed my guidelines, submitted an appropriate manuscript, and your work has much to recommend itself. So why am I not getting back to you right away? Am I ignoring you? I’m sure it feels that way, and I’m sorry. What has probably happened is …

Read More

Where Do You Find New Clients?

“As an agent, what percentage of your new clients come from meetings at conferences vs. general email or postal proposals? Can you address the importance of conferences?” Thanks to Scott for the question. It is a good one. Another way to frame it is “Where do you find new clients? …

Read More

When Proposing a Series of Novels

“Are today’s publishers more interested in an individual novel or a trilogy? Also, when submitting a proposal for the completed first novel in a planned trilogy, is it better to focus on the first novel or give an overview of the complete trilogy? Is there an upper limit to how …

Read More

The Ambitious Author

Recently my office received an unsolicited submission from an author unfamiliar to us. Of course, this is not unusual. But here is a list of what is unusual: The submission was openly cc’ed to 185 agents. The author sent writing samples for 28 books. The author said she wants to …

Read More

Why Write a Synopsis?

Attention all novelists! I get it. I understand how difficult it is to write a synopsis. And yet, every fiction book proposal must have a synopsis. Everyone who teaches on the book proposal says you need one. But why? Those two to three single-spaced pages of agony will never be …

Read More

WHAT Were They Thinking??

You know, one of the things I’ve learned since becoming an agent is that people have an odd sense of what’s appropriate. Happily, quite a lot of what I receive is well prepared and enjoyable to read. But I’d have to say that anywhere from a fourth to even, on …

Read More