Last week, I was left in a rather difficult spot on a submission. The author hadn’t given me the entire history of the project from before my involvement, and my approach to the proposal would have been quite different had I known more. Our job is to represent the author, but we can’t do that effectively without having all of the necessary information. It was a frustrating situation, only because it could have been avoided.
I began to think that we really need some kind of a list -- an etiquette list, if you will -- of things authors should and shouldn’t do when looking for and then signing with an agent. Here is what my colleagues here at Dystel & Goderich and I have come up with:
- First and foremost, read the agency’s submission guidelines. You can easily find these on their website. If they don’t have a website or guidelines, consult other resources.
- Make sure to query one and only one agent at each agency. A pass from one agent will be a pass from the agency as a whole but if all of us get the same query, we all will turn it down without reading it. (This is true for most, but not all agencies. Again, be sure to consult submission guidelines for each agency.)
- Please tell us up front in your query if you have been recommended by someone we know.
- If you have had books previously published, give us the title, publisher and year of publication.
- If you have previously submitted the material to publishers either through another agent or directly you must tell the agent you are now submitting to. This information is critical.
- Be sure to include all of your contact information with your query. Nothing is more frustrating than reading something great and not being able to contact the person who sent it.
- Unless you have an offer from another agent, do not follow up on queries. If you haven’t heard from us in six to eight weeks, please resubmit.
- Do let us know if you have queried us before, especially if we have read a manuscript of yours. The more we know, the better.
- Conversely, if we turn down your work more than once and haven’t asked to see the next submission, it is probably not a good idea to submit to us again. We remember names of those who submit to us and you will probably be wasting your time by continuing to send us material (unless of course we have encouraged you to do so).
- If we pass on your project, please don’t ask us to recommend other agents. If we think someone else is more appropriate, we’ll let you know in our response.
Most of what I am saying here is common sense, but I am glad to have spelled it out. Following these simple rules will make our jobs – yours and ours – easier and probably more successful.