Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Don't I Request Fulls From Everyone?

There are a lot of editors and agents out there that request full manuscripts from all of the writers that query them. The statement I often hear is that if they like the story, they don't want to wait until the additional material comes after the request to read more. While this comment makes a great deal of success, it is simply not the approach I take here at Greyhaus.

There is really a method to my madness when it comes to submissions here at Greyhaus. As most of you know, I have two methods of queries:

Option 1 - The Form. I have really fallen in love with this method of reading queries since it speeds up a response time. In this case, you fill out the form on my website, include the necessary information and call it quits. Simple enough. With this method, I have the ability to see the general premise of the story, and all of the basics (title, word count genre, etc.). There is no reading material, no excessive query letters, no SASE's. Responses require a simple, "reply" function and we are good to go.

Option 2 - The Snail Mail Query. I this case, I get to see a bit more of the writer's material. Query letter, First three pages only and SASE. Again, it is just enough to have a taste of what is going on.

Now, the question is, why do I ask for so little? There are actually two reasons for this. One that helps the writer and one that helps me in an assessment of your work.

For me, I really only need to see a small portion because I know what I am looking for. If the premise of the story is not something that attracts me, then why look for it. I am not looking for a sudden gem in something that didn't intrigue me from the start. As for not reading the full manuscript, frankly I don't need to just to see if the writing is fine. If there are problems in the first three chapters, we all know that as readers we don't continue. Why, as an agent, do I want to wait to see if the problems will get fixed. 9 out of 10 times, the problems are still there or get worse.

There is another element of this as well. I know we hear a lot of time online of editors and agents complaining about the load of submissions that come in. Yes, I know I complain as well, but you know what? I have far less to deal with. This is not because I am not an agent that someone wants to work with. It is simply that I am not making more work for myself.

For you, this is a cheaper way of getting material into my hands. As we all know, sending a full manuscript requires time and certainly money. Consider the cost of printing the full manuscript - easily $5.00 and then shipping, another $5.00 and then tack in a SASE... you get the idea.

I have always believed in being open and honest from the beginning of the query process. I don't want to lead you down the garden path thinking I am head over heels for a project that I really don't have a fantastic interest in. It is nothing personal. It just isn't right for me.

I also want to note, I take the same approach when it comes to pitches at conferences. I have heard a lot of writers talking after pitches to me that they were shocked that I didn't request a project. No, it is not because I have standards that no one can meet. It is simply that the project wasn't right. Yes, I know there are agents out there that request everything. I was at a conference once when I heard an agent say in a group pitch. "So, let's get the business out of the way, here is my card, everyone send me a full manuscript and we don't need to pitch. Now that we have done that, we can chat!" What???

These people walk away from the table thinking someone is interested? Really? I don't hear interest in theriting with that approach. I hear someone who just got to attend a conference with little or no work. Personally for me, this is not the right approach.

So please understand. If I pass on your project. It means it isn't right for me.


  1. Interesting post, Scott. Thanks.

    And I've been in some of those group pitches where the person requests material and doesn't want to hear pitches. 9 times out of 10 the person never responds to anyone, and it makes the writers feel as if someone will always request material.

    I enjoyed your audio segment the other day too. Thanks for answering my questions, and have a good Monday :)

    (writerscanvas on Twitter)

  2. Elaine,

    This is a good point. I do think there is something I want to highlight in the comment you made. When you go into a pitch session, you should be believing they will want to see the whole thing and they want to see it now. This is one of those things I have talked about before. Coming in prepared. Although not the intent of this blog post, the thought did come up in my thinking this morning.


  3. I'm sorry- there are agents and editors who request fulls from every writer who queries them? Who are these angelic beings? I've never heard of an agent who wants to see a full from every writer who queries them. Please point me in their direction and I'll send my full MS off to them right away!

  4. Rachel,

    I think you missed the point I was making. I know it sounds exciting that there are agents and editors that always "request" fulls, but... the point I was making is that many request but may not actually have an interest.

    Think about it... You are in a group pitch session and everyone gets a request but none of you ever really pitch your story. You state your genre and that is about it?

    The simple point I was making is that if you get a request from me, it means there is something in the story that intrigued me. If I say no, it meant it wasn't for me. I'm not going to waste your time and money on a project that is a "less than maybe" chance.


  5. Scott, I got your point. I was being sarcastic because I've never heard of agents like that. I've been working on my book for over a year and researching agents and editors for almost as long and on my first small round of queries only got one bite- from you actually (so thanks!)- but no further interest. It's just frustrating that no one out there wants to read it and the entire process is designed to make you lose faith and give up. I want my book out there, but the query process has me so damn scared and frustrated that I can't work up the courage to send more queries out! It would be nice to hear of agents who would request your full no matter what, even if they don't have genuine interest, because then there's a slim possibility that someone in the publishing industry might read it! (and yes, I realize it is very slim)