Monday, October 29, 2007

Inside the Partials Process

Obviously this is only true at agencies with an assistant, and then only some of them, but at every agency I've worked at, it's gone something like this:

(1) My boss asks me to read a partial she requested because she's especially busy lining up interviews for her bestselling author.

(2) I read the partial. (Obvious)

(3) We have a 2-minute conversation, tops, about the partial. Sometimes it doesn't take two minutes. I once worked at an agency where for the most part, the agent did not personalize the response to partials unless they were very close, but she did have a special form letter response specifically for partials. My current boss responds herself, in her own handwriting (not mine).

Most of the time with partials, I don't say to reject unless it's obviously so horrible that the query was just plain misleading. Partials are something the agent was interested in from the get-go, so I'm not quick to dismiss the work, and if I do, I have to give a reason. (Occasionally "The author can't spell" is enough) Here are some common responses I'll give her:

"I'm not thrilled about it, but to be honest, it's not my type of literature anyway, and there's nothing wrong with it on a sentence level, so you might like it."

"The author has a specific style of prose. You'll decide whether you love it or hate it in two pages."

"It's very similar to a lot of stuff on your list in terms of content, but I don't think it's as good as any of the stuff on your list."

"I can't make heads or tails of it. Was this an e-query you responded to? OK, you look at it then. I have no idea."

"Does this guy know you, or something? Why was this requested?"

"I hate literary fiction, and this is literary fiction, and I actually liked it a little, so that's pretty much a stunning recommendation."

And so on. If it's a reject and she doesn't want to read it herself for time reasons, she asks me specifics about it so she can be more personal in her reply.


Anonymous said...

"Does this guy know you, or something? Why was this requested?"

ROFL! That one must've been very bad....

Anonymous said...

The fact that you have to read so many partials based on interesting queries, just goes to prove that query letters are misleading, and possibly irrelevant to finding publishable work.

If I were an agent, my submission guidelines would be:

1. Contact info.
2. Genre
3. One sentence synopsis.
4. One page from the ms.

Anonymous said...

'Queries' these days seem to be author code for a list of lies on paper :)

We receive an abundance of submissions and are pressed to be very selective and only take on projects we feel confident in. Unfortunately, with your submission, we did not.

Anonymous said...

"ROLF!" --Kendall

It sounds like you're vomiting.