Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On Requests - Some things to consider...

Requests for more material is exactly what every writer wants to hear. Based on those words, " I would like to see more" you potentially have someone interested in your project. How you deal with that request could make or break your career.

I want to talk about two issues when it comes to requests today. The first is what you should be doing as a writer and the second is understanding what the editor/agent is really saying when he or she requests additional information. Let's start with the second point.

If an editor or agent requests additional information from you, it can mean one of several things.
THEY WANT MORE - This is the one you hope is connected to your manuscript. There was a spark of something in that submission that made them want to see more. It might be the premise, it might be the writing... who cares at this point. They saw something they liked. At Greyhaus, if I request a full, it means you really had something. If, however, I only request a partial, it means that there might be something there but I am still undecided.
THEY DON'T KNOW ENOUGH - You're not out of the running yet. Some editors/agents feel that the query just doesn't have enough material for them to make a decision. You have to really prove yourself here. At this point, the query didn't give them enough to work with. At Greyhaus, I do this if I really have no idea where the story is going, but, if the query is saying what I think it might be saying, then I need to see proof of this.
THEY REQUEST MATERIAL FROM EVERYONE - To begin with, Greyhaus Literary Agency NEVER does this. There are, however, editors and agents that request fulls and partials from everyone, even if they are not so much of a fan of the project. Some feel it is an obligation to look at a project even if the pitch didn't work well. Some do it because they feel they"owe it" to the writer to at least ask for it. Some even request because they don't want to say no right there and then.

Now let's move to the next level. What should you do as a writer.

Simply put, a request says to send more and send it NOW! Telling an editor or agent it isn't ready yet, or you have to run it past your critique group one more time tells us you are far from ready for this business. I have had people send me projects 1 year after I requested the material, as if there was not rush on the request. The author didn't ever think about the fact that I might have had a home for it when I requested the material. A year later? That slot is gone.

The simple answer is send the material the moment you get the request. No exceptions. You never know the reason the editor/agent asked for more material and frankly, this is a gamble I would not take.


  1. Thank you for this. I received a request today for the full ms and I was wondering whether I should ask someone this or that first. Instead I sent it in the format he wanted right away.

  2. I hate to say this, but this sounds so "DUH". I mean you get an email, phone call, smoke signal, carrier piegon from an agent with a note that says "I want more" and you don't respond now, Now, NOW.. HAVEN'T YOU PUSHED THE SEND BUTTON YET, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

    From my point of reference, this is a job offer from an employer and I'm not going to sit around lolly-gagging while Mr. Opportunity strolls on down the road.