Friday, May 15, 2009

Wanted - Disappearing authors

Calling all authors...

Where are you???

I sort of feel like that British Airways commercial that has the person walking around the empty streets wondering where all of the people disappeared to. In this case though, I am referrring to the writers that pitch to an editor or agent and then fail to submit material.

When you talk to editors and agents, many hope to find something unique when they listen to pitches at conventions, but in reality, they fully expect to not find anything. Why? Because they know good and well that half of the writers out there, after receiving permission to send material to that editor or agent, fail to send anything. The same goes for those people that send in a pitch via snail mail or email and then don't hear back.

When I mention this to writers, I often hear people scream, "You have to be kidding. Writers fight for a request so why don't they follow through?" The answer is simple.

1) The writer is not ready.
2) The writer really wasn't interested in that editor or agent.

Let me explain both and then send out a plea.

Writers will often pitch stories to editors and agents when the story is far from ready. All of a sudden they have a request for a full and then panic. The deal is these writers should never be pitching in the first place. When you sign up for a pitch session, you need to be fully ready to make the jump to the professional world of publishing. No, the book doesn't need to go to the critique group one more time. No, you don't need to read it through one more time. No, you don't need to finish writing. It needs to be done. Simple as that.

I do know that many authors will tell you to just lie when you pitch. They aren't going to get to reading it for a long time so you have time. No, you don't have time. When we request, we expect to see that manuscript within a week or two, depending on mail service. Sure, it may take us a while to get to reading it, but we still record when that story showed up. If it took you 6 months to follow through on a submission, you are sending the wrong message.

Now the second reason for someone not submitting deals with people not having that editor or agent on the top of their list. Look, if you have a choice of three agents at a conference to pitch to, don't just sign up with someone that you really don't want to work with. Not only have you wasted the time of the editor or agent at that conference, you have also taken up a slot that someone else might have wanted and could have used.

The same goes for sending out pitches to editors or agents via email or snail mail. If you send a query to me, I am fully expecting that you really do want to work with me here at Greyhaus. I don't want to hear that I am your 3rd choice out there. I know other agents feel the same way. I was just talking to a colleague who really hates seeing a writer move from one agent to the next during a conference pitch session. In this case, the agent asked me, "How do I know where I am on that list? Am I just a fall back position?"

Of course I have heard authors provide a reason for doing this. They say, but you might not know what type of agent they are until you get working with them. This is a bunch of garbage. You should know. There is information out there. Do your research.

So again, I ask? If you have pitched to me at one time or another and haven't sent your stuff to me? Ask yourself why? You might even want to let me know. And yes, this includes that person from nationals LAST YEAR who was my first pitch doing the alternate history stories and I requested TWO FULLS! (I should note, I very rarely request this much).



  1. There are so many mixed messages out there. Someone likes your story but your voice wasn't indepth enough or vise versa. It's hard, but I would think if you meet an agent or editor face to face in a pitch and they request a full based on that? You have an edge somehow. I was turned down both times after submitting my full but at least I got the chance.:)

  2. Maybe these paragons of writing prosedom have perfected the art of the pitch or query and they have nothing beyond that to show you. Give me the old days where a meet and a handshake produced the best seller. How many good writers are denied their place on the shelves because they can't pay the terrible fees to attend the all important conferences? Not fair I say and wait another day for my ship to roll into harbor.

  3. I didn't pitch to you, but I did a couple other agents/ October. I'm still waiting to hear from them.

    I'm ready!! Just need that break.

  4. Good post. It really does surprise me how many wouldn't follow through. I've already heard enough about being ready before you pitch, so I'm surprised that so many haven't or don't live by that rule. I guess that's why they don't get published though.

  5. Wow, Scott. I hardly know what to say...I think this may be the important blog you have written yet, but from the point of view of a writer, I think we have begun to reap what was sown, on both sides. "Mixed messages" from agents is certainly on the top of the list. Only last week I read a blog written by an A-list agent in which he said that apart from the poor use of English displayed in the query, which obviously would seem to be duplicated in the ms, the second leading reason he TURNS DOWN most queries is that the writer has " no name recognition," and therefore won't sell many books. That would leave 99 % and more of us out of it from the start. Why even bother? The next big cruncher would be the new demand that a writer must have completed an entire book before an agent will speak to them. NOT agree to rep it, just speak with them. I won't go on and on about this again, only repeat the obvious. No one has time to write book after book hoping one might catch on over the course of a lifetime. That only results in more of the most desperate kind of poverty. And it is a new request on the part of agents, hoping to stem the overwhelming tide of substandard writers.
    Let me say again that I am completely in sympathy with the agents on this one, because I certainly would not have the time or inclination to wade through an avalanche of unsolicited queries day after day. No how no way. into the round file,leave me alone, and all that.
    More later, and because you are one of the good guys, I am truly sorry that some people left you hanging after conferences, I don't doubt you do a great job with the people you agree to rep. I'd say we have all been hoisted on our own petards on this one. Too many would-be writers-too few buyers. And no end in sight. Best to write a second Jurassic Park, a unique and clear best seller, and I believe that is about the only way one could vault over the near-impossible hurdle of being No one from Nowhere. Apart from that, the only chance I see for new writers is to get into the very tail end of the disposable paperback market, the one that pays from $10oo to "nothing" for an entire year of work. Such a deal. Burger Back!! And health insurance too! Gotta love it. Thanks for a great post. And the lovely revelation that agents ask for partials or fulls just to be polite. Yeah! No body promised us a rose garden. And I want fries with that.

  6. Hmm, interesting post and even more interesting responses. I was a bit confused. Are agents and editors angry that an author or unpublished writer pitchs to more than one of them? Or just that it's a false pitch after their attention is snagged?

    I can see your POV but in a way it is the same for the authors. If they pitch and no request for a full or even a partial is made, it makes perfect sense to move on to the next one and how are you to know this.