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.