I recently received a query for an author’s debut novel. The author was incredibly confident, envisioning the novel as a future bestseller and hit movie, but that’s not what bothered me. What I found unsettling was when she wrote, “I am sending this proposal to several literary agents and have set a deadline for your reply as at July 31, 2010. If you believe you’re the right agent, please contact me. I require a list of your published titles and the publishers you’ve worked with, as well as your expected fee (commission). I look forward to hearing from you and hope to create a great working partnership.”
Ultimately I rejected the query, partly because I didn’t feel I was right for it, but also in part because I was put off by the author’s demands. Information on my sales, including publishers, is really easy to find with just a little bit of research. Heck, if you found my name it’s likely you also found that information. Certainly she’s right to want to know that information, but am I the one that needs to supply it and, maybe, it was the way her request was phrased that didn’t sit right?
When I submit to publishers I don’t need to ask what pay range they are in, what kind of royalties they offer, or who else they publish. I’ve done my research and I know that already. When negotiations start I will definitely have more questions specific to the book I’m selling. At that point I will most definitely want to know their vision for the book, including advance, royalties, marketing, etc. But does it sit wrong to demand that before someone has even read the book?
I give the author credit for being so confident. Her query was well written (although could have been a lot stronger), but I worry that with many agents this approach might backfire, that she appears to demand a lot without bothering to understand the business first. Of course, I might be reading too much into it.