Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Feel Your Pain, Man

Miss Rejector,

What is the time frame for an agent to give a yay or nay for a ms they requested?

I met with an agent at a conference. She requested my full manuscript to be emailed to her, which I did. That was 6 weeks ago. I’m worried that the internet ate my email and she never got it. I don’t want to be an ass about it; I’m grateful she even wanted to see it. But should I contact her? Maybe send a note asking if she got it? Is 6 weeks too short a time?

You can contact her to see if she got it, but she probably has and probably hasn't read it. (Still, it's best to be on the safe side with email submissions) Six weeks, sadly, is not a long enough time for most agents to look at a full. Not that it takes them six weeks to read a novel, but they're not only reading the novel but actually considering taking this person on as a client, which is a major financial endeavor for them. They have to feel sure about it. That takes time.

Or at least, that's what I tell myself as I wait for a response from an agent on my full. I gave my mind four weeks to not get anxious, but man, this is getting brutal now that I'm into the second month.

Monday, February 19, 2007

In Which I Misemploy Fishing Analogies

I just stumbled across your blog and slunk through your latest posts and comments and I like what you said about what takes priority in a query letter: your story idea.

It seems like a lot of writers fuss about getting that query letter perfect (credits, how they found the agent, etc. all in the perfect place), when it seems to me that if you get the hook right, then you're going to get a call. You still shoot for perfection on your query letter, but 90% of your time should be in getting that hook dead on.

What do you think?

So it seems we're getting to the point in the blog where I'm getting repeat questions, at least partially. As to why you should try to get everything right in the query - spell the agent's name correctly, don't mention you're a first-time author with five previous rejected novels, don't try to be cute, don't hand-write it over five pages - that's just basic common sense. It's a job interview. Authors like to emphasize that the agents work for them, which is true, but the agent still gets to pick whom they work for, so it is in that sense like a job interview, with some of the elements reversed. And like a job interview, you want to look your best.

That said, it is all about the hook. This isn't entirely true - some credentials will float you into the maybe pile with only the barest summary of your new work - but it's not so much about having a great hook as having a bad one. A bad hook will sink you. Yes, I know hooks don't sink unless someone bites; it's a bad analogy, but my point stands: If your idea sucks, you will get nowhere, and all the fine-tuning in the world won't help that.