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An Agent’s Frustration with Submissions

Now that we are accepting submissions through Query Manager instead of email, I have a more concrete way of tracking how many queries I’m getting, how much I request, how much I reject, and how often authors never actually send the material I request.

There are endless frustrations when it comes to submissions, but failing to ever send the submission is one of the worst. Especially now that I see the query sitting there and sitting there for weeks, sometimes months, with no submission attachment. When an agent requests material, either from a query or a conference, she does so because you’ve piqued her interest and she’s excited. I want to read that book and I’m excited to do so. Sooner rather than later. I get that sometimes you’ve learned something (at a conference for example) and want to make some changes, but there are also times when I think an author goes ahead and pitches something to “test the waters” which is annoying and ridiculous.

Testing the water months before you have anything ready doesn’t do anyone any good. In publishing the currents are strong and waters change pretty quickly. You might have five requests today, but in six months, when the material is finally ready, the market will have changed and so will an agent’s interests.

It seems like not sending submissions is becoming more of a trend, even after conferences. It’s a shame since it makes me not want to take pitches as often as I used to.

Thanks for the rant.

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10 comments

  1. Now maybe you have some sense of the frustration involved when agents ask for fulls, and then disappear… ha. Seriously though, people do this? I wonder why?

  2. Wait, okay. They do this because they’re lazy. They want to see if there’s interest before they write anything. Holy moly. I had no idea this was a thing!

  3. Speaking as a ‘writer’ (can’t associate the word with myself yet), who is guilty of this very thing, I had to offer as explanation from the other side.
    I can only speak for myself, but the agent I spoke with at the conference I attended (my first conference and first pitch) was excited to read more and asked me to submit additional material. I was thrilled, and after speaking with more seasoned conference goers, they told me that agents almost always ask for more, unless you are incredibly bad. So, I went and sat in the waiting chairs near the agent I spoke with and listened. As a writer who had never shown her work publicly before (high school doesn’t count), I was crushed at so many people leaving with the agent’s card. Perhaps there was some amazing talent there that day which was great, but it was enough to undermine what little confidence I’d gained, and became convinced my writing wasn’t good enough, and have been revising ever since. I may submit, but I may not. I’m not lazy, and it’s not intended as an insult to the agent. Perhaps for others, there are mitigating circumstances as well. Please don’t judge us all unless you know. Thank you.

    1. Ah, I was thinking of querying by email, Kymbra, not conferences. I’ve never been to a conference and am surprised to hear this is going on. Maybe it was just that particular agent. I’m sure Jessica can speak more to that.

  4. Question: If the waters change so quickly, why does it take agents so loooooooong (and sometimes never) to get back on full requests? Not talking about you. In fact, you may not even know, not being that type of agent. But it’s just as frustrating. We writers are just as excited when asked for a full as agents are when they want to read something. And then… nada. And yes I’m talking about even after nudging them. I’m talking five, six months….

  5. It’s incredible to me, too. I thought the book industry is just that – an industry, business, even if it involves such passion and love and more pleasure than other fields. If a contractor fails to show up after I signed him on renovating my apartment, I’m pretty sure I’ll see him on the bankruptcy list pretty soon, and I’m certain it’s no different in the publishing business. But hey, I may be wrong. Still, I haven’t heard of big name authors failing to send their submissions, you know what I mean…

  6. I know there have been times when I haven’t submitted after a request. The reasons have been: I didn’t feel the agent was right for me (and yes, that judgement just from the pitch, but her body language and tone of voice were very off-putting), two days after conference we found we had to uproot the family and move 1600km away (sell house, buy house, change schools, find job) and the last was when I fell very ill (and it wasn’t just the submission that fell by the wayside in this instance, I also lost my job).

    There has only been one instance where I have failed to send when I should have – but that was plain newbie ignorance. I was chatting to an agent at a conference cocktail party and she asked about my book. I told the agent my book wasn’t finished but she asked for details so I told her. She gave me her business card and said to send it to her. I thought she was just being polite *forehead slap*. Was many months before I discovered she would never have done that ‘just to be nice’.

    But I will confess that sometimes it takes longer to send the submission than I hoped. I think this harks back to a post a few days ago where Jessica talked about fear. I hang on, with the justification I’m still editing, but to be honest, I think deep inside I’m worried it will fail. Working on turning that around this year!

    1. Realise I should have clarified – this is only after pitching at conference. I have always submitted requested material after querying!!

  7. I recently got my first request from an editor (AAAAHHH!) after pitching. I was excited. I did some last-minute edits after the request, but I started to get a nervous feeling of “Oh no, my manuscript isn’t good enough! I have to eternally edit it! This could take years! Oh noooooo….” I just had to take a breath and understand that, yes, my manuscript was ready, and I couldn’t let sudden fear stop me from submitting. So I submitted! I wonder if the authors who withhold their manuscript have that same fear? Personally, if I’d waited a long time, the thought would haunt me until I sent the darn thing.

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