Welcome again to another post about me, your favorite literary agent (jk.). This week I’d like to talk about my process of evaluation. This might end up being a long post so sit back and strap in. I’m going to go the route of a “pick your own adventure” workflow.
So you sent me a query. And now I’m looking at it. What am I looking for? Well, I am looking for writing and hook in that first sample. Does the writing grab me? Is the world building already apparent? Can I position this story in a sentence already? Do I want to know more?
These questions are why it is soooooooo important that the first 50 pages of your manuscript be the BEST you can make them. This is also where that all important fit first rears its head.
Side note: I tell any and all potential clients that you should think of me as your publishing best friend. That means I need to be the person who has your back and is your best advocate, even if we might not agree at times. So fit is a big deal to me. I can’t be the best advocate for you if I’m not chomping to call you on the phone early on.
So this it point, one of two things happens: I will either pass or I’ll request more. It is important to note (because I think a lot of people miss this) that a pass is not a permanent no on all your work. It is a pass on THIS project. Keep querying and keep trying. However, think about what the correspondence said and my tastes. Check on my anti-MSWL if it helps. Don’t be discouraged, but don’t just blindly continue on.
So say, I requested more. And you followed the upload instructions. Now, I’m reading your full manuscript. What might be running through my brain? At this point, I start to look closer. How is the pacing coming about? What character development is there and what work needs to be done? Is the plot engaging enough? If you are writing outside of your culture, what have you done to be authentic? A host of things are running through my brain.
And now comes to the hardest part: do I have the time for this? Sometimes, when I read a manuscript, I have to weigh the editorial needs against that of my schedule. If I love something 50-75% , but it needs an overhaul, is it worth it to ask for a revision before I offer a contract? Or do I offer a contract and hope the author can pull off all the editorial changes? The other thing to consider is that I don’t want to sign too many projects up right away. I need to pace myself and my acquiring, however much I may want to gorge on all the manuscripts.
At this point, I will either pass, ask for a revision and resubmit (R&R for short-hand), or I’ll set up a time to speak with you.
If I pass, again I point you back to the fact that it is not a permanent pass on all your work. But I may think that I might be a future reader, not the right one to take it to the next level. Or I might not connect with that particular manuscript, but I liked something else about it and I’m hoping to see more samples.
If I ask for an R&R, it means I like what I am seeing, but there is something holding me back. Sometimes, the story needs more work. Sometimes the writing needs more work. And, for me at least, this is also a test. I want to see what your revision process is like. It will tell me a lot. Whatever the reason, make sure you think about what I am asking for.
If I schedule a call, good news! The end of this process is almost in sight. Bad news! It means a ton of work is coming your way. The phone call is ALL about fit and resolving any questions I have. I want to know that we will work well together. And if I offer a contract, just know: you don’t have to take it. If our visions are different or you don’t think we will be a good fit, it is perfectly okay not to take it. You wouldn’t agree to date the first man to ask you on the street, now would you?
So say at this point, you decided you want to work with me and I send you the contract. After that bad boy is signed, we get to work. And that is when the real fun (and work) begins. Because I’m going to have Thoughts and they need to be addressed before I can go out with your project on submission.
And that, my dears, is my process in a condensed nutshell. Please don’t judge me.