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 write across all genres.
- At least one entry offered graphic detail of a sexual encounter.
- The author stated her age as 25.
- The author said, “I have only written one book and have come up with 28 book ideas in a matter of literally five minutes.”
- The author stated, “I am a perfectionist therefore everything must be right.”
Let’s think about each factor:
- Too many agents: The fact that the author submitted to 185 agents shows determination. I admire that, as well as the work that compiling this list of agents must have taken. A quick scan of the list revealed that the author apparently had the wisdom not to spam multiple agents within agencies. However, 185 is way too many agents to query at once. I recommend going with your top choice or top three choices, and moving from there.
- Too many books: Asking any agent to consider more than one book or series at a time is not the best use of anyone’s time. An author might think that high volume will result in representation. Perhaps it will, but not with me. Instead:
- Choose your best project that you feel passionate about and focus on that when querying agents.
- If other books are available, I don’t mind hearing about those. In fact, if your initial project isn’t a good fit but I think you’re talented, I might ask to see another project. But please don’t submit the full details on more than one project at a time unless I have asked you to do so.
- Too many genres: “But if you have 28 ideas, why not discuss them all?” you ask. Okay, what happens if one agent wants to see a vampire novel, another wants to see the erotic novel, and another wants to see a set of Christian devotionals? Will you write detailed proposals for all three, or choose your favorite project and ignore the other agents, or what? This is a hard call to make, and is destined to result in frustration for author and agents alike. Note that few, if any, agents spread their efforts thinly enough to represent an author successfully across 28 genres.
- Too many categories: The right to create and to seek publication for explicit speech is protected by our Constitution, so authors are free to pursue these novels. However, let’s say you managed to find an agent who represents both steamy and Christian books and agreed to pitch both. Editors look for an author’s online presence before offering a contract. How would you, as an author, maintain those two disparate identities on social media and in person? Will you seem authentic to both audiences? Where will your heart really lie?
- Too much information: Editors, agents, and fans love to learn about their favorite authors. However, there is nothing to be gained by stating your age unless it means you can especially relate to your intended audience. Otherwise, there’s no need to invite controversy.
- Too many ideas too quickly: Many creatives come up with lots of ideas quickly. I advise creatives to take the time to cull through these ideas and to pursue only the very best.
- Too much perfectionism: If you tell us you’re a perfectionist, make sure there are no typos in your proposal.
I hate to see any submission with so many mistakes, because my guess is that it will be deleted without response by 100% of the agents the author selected to query. Those of us who are (ahem) past their twenties can well remember gaffes we made when we first started our careers. It’s regrettable that apparently this author is unschooled by any publishing professionals who could advise her against making these major errors.
This author’s determination may ultimately take her far. I can only hope she can connect with a great mentor to become focused so she can make a better impression in the future.
Do you have a mentor? If so, how has your mentor helped you?
How did you choose your genre?
What advice would you offer to an author who isn’t yet focused?