Sunday, October 25, 2015

Following Directions

It's really simple.  Just follow the directions.

So, in our last post we looked at the query letter heard round the world.  Ok, it wasn't that big of a deal and little did I know at the time it was going to be "the one".  But 15 days after sending out the email (and through the holiday season no less) I received a response.  It said: 

Send me three chapters.

Wait a tick, you think.  That query you sent.  You didn't attach a sample?  Three chapters is kind of standard.  Even if the agent didn't ask for sample pages, what's the harm in including them, right?  If they don't like your query they can just ignore them and if they do like it they can get right to the good stuff.

Well,the point is, the agent didn't ask for sample pages in their submission guidelines.  It was very clear: send a query letter only.  These were the instructions put out into the world by the person you are hoping will be impressed enough by your writing to take you on as a client.  Kind of a first interaction between author and agent.  The agent is saying "I have a certain way of doing things.  My methods may not be understood by you, but I have stated them clearly.  Can you respect my time and profession and respond in kind?"

And my answer was, "Yes.  Here is specifically what you asked for.  No more, no less."

I think it is critical to research your agent before querying.  Not just for an indication of what kind of work they want to represent, but for how they want to do the dance we call querying.  Dragging someone into a Tango that's trying to Foxtrot is only going to result in bruised shins and broken toes.  If your first impression on an agent is that of a.) Someone who doesn't do a minimum amount of research into a very important process in their professional career or b.) Someone who doesn't respect a potential business partner enough to comply with a simple request before the relationship is even formed, then I think it's unlikely the relationship will even get off the ground.

It's also entirely possible that something as innocuous as asking that the query letter be sent without a sample could be a simple test to weed out the serious queries from the spammers.

So off go my first three chapters.  I've entered a new chapter in the process with this particular agent:

The request for a partial.

Tune in next time for the next step.  I'll give you a hint: It's not a request for chapters 4 through 6.

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