Thursday, August 28, 2008

Submissions? Where are they?

Riddle me this Batman... (O.K. I'm not sure where that came from in my brain, but it was a great way to start this brief post).

Out of the 15 people I listened to at Nationals during the "official" pitch session, I have seen 4 writer's works.


Just something to ponder.

I have a busy day today so contemplate that one.

By the way, fire off some questions you want answered. Let's focus on that for the next couple of days.



  1. Hi Scott,
    Your comment about Nationals got me thinking. You mention in one of your posts about conferences to have business cards and marketing materials handy. I've noticed some debate on other blogs recently about what information should be on business cards and how often they should be handed out, and I'd love to get your opinion on the subject.

    Which do you prefer to get? Cards with an author's name/contact info? Their genre? A blurb or tagline for their current work? How about pseudonyms?

    Also, are you willing to take a card from anyone who hands you one? Or are only those you've specifically requested going to be the ones you keep or remember?


  2. I have to tell you Haleigh, I don't like the cards at all. Not that you shouldn't have the cards, but frankly, I just don't keep them. I also don't know how many of the other editors or agents keep the cards either.

    What should go onto the card, personlly, is all of your business information. Remember, it is a BUSINESS card and publishing is a BUSINESS.

    I would keep the information basic though with your contact information and certainly your email and website information.

  3. Scott,

    Do you think the slowness is submissions can be attributed to last minute jitters (i.e. people are making last minute changes and revsions) or do you think the work is not complete when it's pitched to you as 'done' and the writer is scrambling to finish it so they can be considered as a potential client?

    Also, what is the rule of thumb for a reasonable amount of time to get a submission to an agent after they request it? I know your website says 1 month, but that seems like quite a bit of time. And if a requested submission is slow and/or late getting to your mailbox, how does that change the way you see the potential client?

    Thanks for the blog. It's very informative.

  4. Lateia,

    Personlly, I have a feeling that people pitch at conferences when they don't have a manuscript to pitch, or it isn't even close to being ready. Why do they pitch? I have no clue. Heck, they should no that 90% of the time people will request a full. Does this come to them as a shock when someone does ask?

    Now, as for the time issue - I think that manuscript goes in the mail immediately when you return home from the conference. If it is in a cue for revisions, tell the editor or agent and give them a date when it can be there. My 1-month turn around is not business days but counts weekends. I am also figuring in the time it takes to ship my response letter back and the time it takes to ship it to me.


  5. Scott, I asked you this yesterday, but you didn't answer. I saw on your website that you've sold to Pocketbooks, but it didn't list specifics - like the author or the book. Can you clarify for me?

  6. If I already asked this here, I'm sorry. I know I asked it on an agent blog but can't remember where.
    I paid for a manuscript critique from Harlequin's critique service.
    Should that be mentioned in a query letter, or later on if the agent shows interest?

  7. It amazes me when I hear people are pitching and their manuscript is not complete and/or they want to know if the agent/editor will like the story concept. Thank the gods for my chapter and the pubbed authors who do their best to teach our new members to never pitch unless the book is done. That’s what contests are for and even then you should be well into the book.

    Although I’ve not yet heard anything, (and yes it’s still early to hear), my requests where out the door within the week of returning from San Fran. Of course I want them to love the story and oh, you know, make the call, but I also want them to know I good with deadlines and I take this career very serious.

  8. I'm with you Vicki. Having done my homework on Scott before pitching to him at Nationals by getting to know what he wanted from his website, I brought my partial with me. So at least one of the four he's received were those he got that day.

    Shame on the wanna-be writers that are pitching and have nothing finished. It's way easier to pitch something than it is to actually finish the book. FINISH THE BOOK -- you'll never sell what you don't have done.

    I had my fulls out the day after I got home from conference too.


  9. I had a friend send me a link to this:

    It has average advances on romance novels through different publishers, based on a survey that Brenda Hiatt has done with numerous writers.

    As an agent, I wondered what your thoughts were on these figures. Do you feel it's a reliable resource?

    :) Terri

  10. Whoa.Computer consumed comment. Into the fire.
    Writers want a positive response to the plot concept before they waste a year writing a book because it seems like a poor use of time in this tough market to go forward.
    If an agent has no interest in a ten minute pitch, why on earth would he waste a moment reading a 100,000 word manuscript?One may as well come up with some different plots.
    I thought this might be in line with the admonition that plots should be applicable to several genres.
    For instance, my present plot is based on dramatic events in mid-century England, and could easily be used for a straight historical, a romance historical, a romance mystery or thriller, or even an inspirational novel. That's the wonderful thing about reading history. People are usually affected on many levels by any shift.
    But, the agent who was really enthusiastic about the story sent me a two line rejection one year later, for someone else's book. No big deal, she goes to a lot of events, and these things happen. But she was really excited about the story, I have been published extensively already, and someone else must have also gotten a wrong answer for thewir work. I am so very glad i did not waste a year writing s longt book. (NO, she never asked how much was done.) Just ;pved the concept.
    I feel as if this is a case of good people getting into an unintentional snit. How many books must I write, out of at least five possibilioties? Why should I even begin without a green light from at least one agent?
    What if we thought about this differently, and agents at conferences agreed to put aside a small amount of time to discuss concepts?
    After I got home i read this agent's latest purchase, yes, winking sphincter! and realizws despite the info on her website, we were looking for very different things. I really enjoyed meeting her, and that was that.
    Can we not all work together? Please? Nobody goes home angry? Sounds good to me. And personally, if they had a chance to sign with you, Scott, it is SO their loss.

  11. I promise. No more multi-paragraph posts. But there is a question. Since it is apparently good that a plot be usuable for several genres,how does one avoid the implication that book after book must be written? I would feel like an idiot resubmitting a formula romance after the agent had rejected the straight historical with the same plot. Surely Gregory & Follett do not work in this potluck manner?

  12. Last year I attended a very small conference. I'd published lots of short stuff, won a few contests for short fiction, had written that first highly autobiographical novel and gotten that out of my system, and had started three more, and written premises for two beyond that. I rather enjoy writing more than one book at a time -- I get to choose who I "hang out with" on any given day, and it keeps me from getting bored. This conference was not well attended (less than 200 attendees) and there were 10 agents with lots of open spaces on their one on one schedule. So, I signed up to speak with two agents.

    Did I break the rule and pitch incomplete novels? Yes and no. First, I did not go into the session with the agents and lie to them. I told them straight up after introductions, that I did not have a completed novel, but I hoped they would be willing to talk to me about my ideas, look at some premises, read some writing samples, and answer a few questions.

    One agent pretty much told me to get lost, which I didn't mind, after all, I broke the rules, and if s/he'd rather sit there twiddling thumbs, thats fine with me (though I wondered why s/he came to the conference if not to help writers). The other agent was completely open to spending ten minutes with me.

    What I wanted to find out was if I had written compelling premises, if my ideas seemed salable, and more importantly, I wanted to get a feel for how we'd work together when the time came for submitting a query for a finished novel.

    I would NOT have done this at a large conference or had the agents not had big empty gaps in their schedules.

    I might add, that I had done my homework, pretty much memorized the two agency's website, knew these agents handled my genre, and I'd attended all teaching sessions they gave at the conference. My opinion of these agents only improved as the conference went along.

    The agent who agreed to talk to me liked my writing and premises well enough to suggest that I complete the novels in an order she selected - which most certainly pointed me in a direction for completion, and then send a partial stating very clearly that the door would remain open for as long as it took.

    You better believe THAT agent will get an exclusive query.

    I admit it was a bit of a risk, but it also answered those two nagging questions beginner novelists always want to ask of someone who really knows -- "Am I writing at a publishable level?" And, "Are my story ideas salable or just plain sucky?"

    I lucked out, and am working on revisions now, and writing the novel the agent said s/he wanted next.

    I don't know whether to recommend doing this or not, but I think it never hurts to go with your instincts and to take a reasonable risk.

    What say you, Scott?

  13. While I respect anonymous's brass in taking the chance, I have to say that not being truthful with the agent in the beginning is both unproffesional, and will - in the long run - make pitch sessions less and less effective.
    Too many times bitten, and the agents will become reluctant to give these opprotunities to would be writers who choose to play by the rules.

    Besides that - I can't imagine you would like it if the agent agreed to meet you and said they'd have a contract ready for you to sign if you wanted. Then when you arrived the agent said, "Oh, sorry. I lied. There's no contract. This was just a way for me to see if you were serious about your career as a writer."

    Both sides must be considered.
    But ever professional is the best policy.


  14. Anon 3:18,
    I'm somewhat new to the biz, so this is most definitely only my opinion.
    A straight romance that could be a historical- wouldn't that be a historical romance?
    Also, I read tons of blogs, websites, etc. I've never heard of it being good to be able to switch the plot around so much like that. I've heard to call chick-lit women's fiction or that you can tweak a paranormal into a fantasy (or something, lol). But changing the genre so easily seems strange.
    Anyways, this is such a frustrating business and so subjective that it doesn't matter what the agent thinks of a plot idea at the moment. By the time you've got that book written, someone else may have published the idea or something else may be hot in the market. My advice to you (and I know it wasn't asked for, so if I'm overstepping, please forgive me) is to write what you like to write. What you love.
    Don't bounce ideas off an agent. One agent will love a concept and another will hate it. You've got to write what you want, then try to sell it. There are ways to make it more marketable, but there's no 100% way to make sure your book will sell after it's done. Or before.
    I wish you the best with your writing.

    One-who-received-a-form-rejection today-in-the-mail.

  15. Pitching is useless, in my opinion. A person can be a great speaker and pitch a fantastic story to me, but not have the writing to back it up. 99% of the time, this has happened to me as an agent.

  16. Why would an agent get upset with a person who used their pitch session to ask for an opinion on their ideas and ability to write? I don't see the deception, and for gosh sakes, it is only 10 minutes -- hardly enough to ruin a day let alone a career.

    Why would this be such a risk to a persons career and future?

    What is unprofessional about seeking help and advice?

    I don't get it.

  17. While it might only seem like ten minutes to us, to the agent, it is a potential client. That is their job. To find writers who are ready to enter the pblishing world.
    Not to give advise and help.

    There are resources out there already for that. Blogs, workshops and crit groups. Agents and editors are at the end of the process, not for finding out if you are ready.

    And the deception is that agents make it clear they want to see a pitch on COMPLETE ms's. Not idea's that may never come to be written.

    I don't think doing this would ruin a persons career. Not by a long shot if they have talent and are willing to wrok hard. But when an agent has, let's say ten people who do this to them at a conference...
    Can you imagine how frustrated they get? What if you blocked in ten agents to pitch to and only five of them actually showed?
    I mean we aren't talking about one person doing this. It happens all the time.

    It's unprofessional to take up a persons time - yes, even ten minutes - if you are not willing to comply with what they request, or what they expect.

  18. Thanks, Candi. That makes sense if you look at it from the perspective of the end of the day for the agents and editors. I figured if you could sign up to talk to an agent it was your ten minutes and you could use it anyway you wanted.

  19. Hehe...Sara don't get me wrong, I wish I had anonymous's tenacity. But to me, at the end of the day, I want the agent to walk away with a positive thought when it's associated with my name.

    Even if they only remember it for the day. You never know when that will come back to bite/help you.

  20. I like to be completely certain I'm doing the right thing when submitting and I can't find this particular detail on a lot of submission pages.
    When agents ask to include the first five pages of the novel in the body of the email along with your query, am I correct in assuming that they expect to see five pages as in Word, double-spaced with the first chapter beginning halfway down the page?

    Or, since e-mail doesn't use double-spacing the same way as Word does, do they want single-spaced? Does it really matter at what point on the page the first chapter starts? What about spacing between paragraphs, as is common when reading long texts on a computer screen?

    Thanks for your time.