Friday, August 31, 2012

Please Go To The Source Before Submitting Or Pitching

It is an unfortunate part of this business when I have to tell an author no to a project either during a pitch or after submitting a query to me. Yes, the simple no is tough, but it becomes worse when the author clearly had not done his or her research before submitting.

You know one of my biggest rants here on the blog is to do your research. Not only should you know where your story fits, but also who your story should go to. But the problems I am talking about here extend beyond that. These issues come down to a simple matter of reading.

Many authors out there rely on a host of outside sources to get their contacts for their projects. Querytracker is one of those sites. We can also add in Guide to Literary Agents and the other publications out there. While these are certainly a good start, too often, these sites are giving you the wrong information. Don't get me wrong. The intent is great, but, many agents and editors do shift what they are looking for during the year. Some of these sites simply have someone going to a website once a year, and then post what they found at that time. Feel free to use these sites, but take it a step further and go to the actual source. Go to their website and see if it is accurate.

I bring this up because recently I had someone submit a YA to me. Of course I passed on the project because I don't rep YA. They responded that Querytracker said I rep YA and "I should be the one to go to Querytracker and change it."

I have tried to do my best to tell many of these sites to simply go and visit my website before submitting. Still, many feel their approach is the best.

Let's try this one (Guess what? The solution will be the same). Conferences will often post a grid stating exactly what the editors and agents are looking for. Despite all efforts to make sure the details are great, there are sometimes mistakes. But again, more often than not, the writers are simply not reading the grid AND THEN going to the website to confirm the information. How often does this happen? The last three conferences I attended during the summer had these results:
  • Pacific Northwest Writing Conference: Over 1/2 submitted projects that weren't even being marketed at romance or women's fiction. I should also note this was AFTER the 90 minute session where all of the agents sat in front of a crowded ballroom and stated individually what they want and what they don't want.
  • RWA Nationals: 1/3 submitted projects in genres I am very clear I don't represent as well as 2 who hadn't even finished their projects.
  • Willamette Writer's Conference: Like PNWA over 1/2 again. In this case, I even had two non-fiction projects.
The point of this is simple. If we don't represent it, we will reject it. No, we will not change our minds. It means a flat out "no". But you can control it. Do your own research and don't trust these other sites that claim they are making your life easier. More often then not, they are leading you straight into a rejection letter.


1 comment:

  1. I agree research is important.

    However, it's also important that agents clarify on their website or blog what they actually represent.

    I've seen more than a few agents whose sites state they represent fiction or nonfiction, and then complain on Twitter that no one reads their guidelines, and writers keep submitting projects they don't represent. Those seem awfully broad categories to me. Once you only represent fiction or nonfiction, or both, how does the author play the guessing game as to what the agent intends?

    Sometimes, their published clients are listed. However, unless you know every single author known, guessing their genre by title, unless a picture book, is highly unlikely.

    How are writers supposed to mind read the guessing game agents often leave on their websites?

    My advice to agents: Ask someone who is not in your agency, or a family member to read your website and recite your submission guidelines to you. You might be surprised what isn't picked up by the average reader. It's easy for anyone to add those few extra words in our head, and forget they need to be on the page as well.

    Thanks so much for your wonderful advice, as usual. Now, if I ever learn to read minds, perhaps I can find an agent who is interested in my novels (which may or may not be termed by others as young adult.)