Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Conference Requests

I love listening to writers at conferences. In the hallways, you hear them overly excited about how Agent X or Editor Y requested a full manuscript. I laugh to myself and will then wander off to my new session thinking about what really went on in that session.

The deal is this. Too often, I have heard editors or agents request fulls from everyone sitting at their table during a pitch session. This is really the case for those group pitches. Now why do they do that?

There are several factors here. In group pitches, for example, the editor or agent really doesn't want to confront someone in front of their friends and say the story is really a bad idea. For all other pitches, it might be that the pitch was not that good and they have to see the story. Sure that might be the case, but in most of the cases, it is the editor or agent being nice.

In other words, as we listen to the pitch, we know you are stressed and tell you that we would love to see the story since, "until I read the manuscript, I can't really tell." Now part of that comment is true. We can't tell. I have heard pitches and thought the premise was out of this world but when I read the story, it simply sucked.

We might also request a full because this is an easy way to sort out the good from the bad. Many times writers will pitch stories that are far from done. Request a full and we know we run them away because the story isn't ready. It's a good scare tactic and works frequently.

But this is what I ask myself all of the time. If editors and agents complain about the number of submissions they receive, especially after conferences, why do they ask to see something that they know they will reject later? It took me 2 hours yesterday reading a stack of submissions and writing rejection letters. Ugh. That was time I will not get back.

The only thing I want you to remember is that a request for a full only means something if they beg to have it on their desk in 24 hours. That is a request worth shouting about. In the other cases, just consider that they probably have requested from everyone. Heck, listen to the editor and agent panels. They often openly admit they will request from everyone.

Wait until you get the request for revisions, or a request for a full AFTER the partial. Then start celebrating.



  1. "It took me 2 hours yesterday reading a stack of submissions and writing rejection letters. Ugh. That was time I will not get back."

    Really? Wow. I thought that was sort of the agent's role? Agents will say all the time "I need submissions to stay in business".


  2. I understand where you're coming from in this post, Scott. I really do. But is it really so bad for a writer to be excited that their work has been requested? Writing is such a solitary, personal thing and for a lot of writers, getting through that editor/agent meeting is so very difficult, so when they do, I definitely believe it's a cause for celebration. Especially if at the end of that meeting, a request is given out.

    The business of writing is a hard one. Celebrate each success. Even if the agent/editor has requested a full from everyone they've seen at a conference, so what? Be excited, and then go home and polish that manuscript until it shines and send it in.