Thursday 15 November 2007

Authors or Agents? Picking the Shortest Queue

The Waiting Room on FacebookSo Sarah Megibow at the online friendly Nelson Literary Agency was carefully explaining manuscript submission rules to a Denver writer's conference when someone asked, "are those rules the same for all agents/editors?"
GULP! No, they aren’t. I’ve been thinking about that question a lot this month. There are so many rules and regulations that writers must feel overwhelmed. I mean, Nelson Agency only accepts email queries (no paper mail whatsoever), but other agents only want snail mail. Some agents want query letters and yet others want a query pitch and a synopsis. Others will want you to include the first ten pages of the work. Then there are the editors. Some will read unsolicited submissions and others won’t even look at them unless submitted by an agent. It’s enough to make any writer’s head spin. So while I don’t have a submission rule that’s true for all agents or editors, I can give this suggestion: Do your research online before submitting. Tips From the Slushpile, November 2007 issue
And sometimes online research doesn't do the trick.

If you checked out the website of Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury, the submission guidelines are clear:
Unfortunately, due to the enormous volume of material sent in to our Children's department, Bloomsbury can no longer accept unsolicited children's manuscripts.
But last week soft-spoken Emma Matthewson, Deputy Editorial Director of Bloomsbury Children's Books told a group of SCBWI authors that yes, submissions will be read.

Cause for celebration? Weeeell. Editors speaking at writer's events (and I can claim to have attended quite a few of these) very kindly always say they will look at your manuscript. My theory is that confronted with the fresh-from-the-garret faces of suffering writers, editors feel they just have to be nice.

And yes, they really do read the manuscripts. Now before you print off another copy of your 1700 page wizard fantasy, beware.

I asked Emma if agents had to wait as long as authors for their submissions to be looked at. She said, no, though agents had to wait a few weeks, they pretty much jumped the queue of direct author submissions. The authors submitting directly have to wait months. And the sad number of books from the slush pile that make it to publication (I think Emma said they published four in the past five years) just isn't funny.

So which queue — Editors or Agents?

At the end of the day, it's only time.
Are you a facebooker? Join our group The Waiting Room - for all writers and illustrators who are waiting, waiting, waiting for that call from a publisher or agent. Published people are welcome to join and mock. But please no spitting.

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