How Much of Your Submission Did the Agent Read

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jan 27 2022

Back in the days of snail mail submissions, authors used to put a piece of string toward the end of the manuscript so they could see if agents really read that far. I guess they never accounted for the dropping the manuscript all over the subway moments, but I digress. It’s pretty common in author forums to see authors question how much of the submission the agent read. The answer is, enough.

Enough to know it wasn’t for them.

Enough to know it wasn’t working

If an agent doesn’t offer representation you can probably assume they did not read the full manuscript. It’s usually only those books we offer on that we’ll finish. It’s the ones we love enough to read all the way through that make us want to work on them.

Reading a submission isn’t all that different from reading any book. We’re looking for something we can lose ourselves in and we know pretty early on if we’re losing interest. It might be the perfect book for someone else. I have the same experience with bestselling books. Sometimes I don’t finish them. I am not interested enough to. It doesn’t mean it’s not a great book, it just means it’s not the book for me.

5 responses to “How Much of Your Submission Did the Agent Read”

  1. Avatar Yessi Robles Holm says:

    Does this include picture books as well?

    • James McGowan James McGowan says:

      Good question. I’d say that really depends. I can get a sense of whether the voice is working within a few lines. Mostly, if I request submissions, I do read them all the way through, though.

  2. Avatar Marc Teatum says:

    Thanks for this reminder that if the agent isn’t interested in my story, chances are most reviewers (and they’re the ones who push readers to books anyway, right?) won’t be interested either. Submitting a manuscript to an agent is akin to shooting an arrow at a target in the dark; you never know if it hits the bullseye or misses completely.

  3. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    If we all had the same taste in books the world would be pretty boring. I have to remind myself of that after a rejection. Doesn’t mean the book isn’t any good, just that it wasn’t right for that agent (although a lot of rejections might be an indicator there’s an issue with the book, but that’s a whole other post 😉 )