Monday, November 17, 2008

What are people thinking when they submit proposals?


I’m back home after 2 great but tiring conferences. I’m buckling down trying to dig out of the stack. Our agency is very upfront about what we want to see in a proposal. Tamela and I say right on the submission guidelines that we don’t want hard copy submissions, but people still send them. The guidelines say specifically what should be in the proposals, but it’s amazing how seldom we get it.

A proposal is a single document. When people bring one to show you at a conference they do that, so why do they send it in an email and it is a dozen different files? Nobody wants to have to dig through files trying to find what they want to know, plus if I wanted to represent it I’d have to take all those files and try to make one nice looking document out of them. Why? Because a proposal is a single document and an editor would laugh me out of the business if I sent it to him in a dozen different files.

I also say I don’t want an unsolicited manuscript. That means unless I’ve read a query or proposal and invited it to be sent I don’t want it. But people send them. I go back and say I won’t look at it without looking at a proposal and inviting it and they argue with me about why I should just go ahead and read the manuscript. Do they think that’s going to endear me to them?

I just got one that was so generic it might as well have said dear occupant. Agents know people are submitting to more than one, we expect it. But one that is clearly mass-mailing without a doubt says people are not even making a pretense of looking at individual submission guidelines.

I tell somebody in very nice terms that something just doesn’t work for me. They write back and state their case again, sometimes several times. Like on the 4th email I’m going to say “What am I thinking, of course I need to represent this?” Actually I have a little code I put on my log sheet if they send me another one to give them a very curt no as they would definitely be a difficult client if I took one, and they will keep taking up my time if I’m too nice.

I’m told I give some of the nicest responses in the business, maybe that’s the problem. Even if I can’t handle someone I still want to be an encourager. I suppose today I’m just getting a lot of frustrating ones. It isn’t hard. Take the time to check the guidelines and follow them. The pros do that whether it is an author submitting to an agent or an agent submitting to an editor.

The final blow was the one that just said, “I read your submission guidelines, but . . . “

It doesn’t matter what goes behind that ‘but’ I’m sure to not like it, and I didn’t. It’s one thing to disregard guidelines but quite another to blatantly tell someone you have no intention of doing them. I fear my response was not one of my trademark encouraging ones.

Thanks for letting me rant.

1 comment:

old guy rambling said...

Geeze—I just sent the first two books of my Christian cowboy romance vampire fantasy trilogy to you. Guess this means I will get a nice but no letter—just kidding, good information for all.