Articles Tagged with submissions

Submissions Update

It’s the Season of the Witch, and pumpkins abound. As do, unfortunately, book bans. Penguin Random House has created a wonderful resource for anyone interested in joining the resistance to these bans, click here.

For those of you following my submission stats, I’ve officially narrowed the inbox down to full requests. I opened to submissions for three months this past spring and had 1,850 submissions. I ended up requesting 19 full manuscripts and so far have made 3 offers of representation.

Now that I’ve caught up on queries, I’m opening to submissions for the remainder of the year and will likely close again in the new year to catch up, as settling in at the new agency and this little one is keeping me busy.

Mary C. MooreSeptember 11, 2023

One of my favorite independent publishers is hosting an auction. Levine Querido is doing amazing work in the kidlit publishing space, so I’m happy to support them with a donation of two query letter + five page critique. To bid on one of my critiques click here! (If I have already reviewed a submission of yours, you can still bid.)

Or check out the rest of their amazing offerings at the auction here.

Wonking Out on Query Stats

I will be closing to submissions at the end of the month to catch up. For those of you who like to wonk out on #querystats (thank you Patrick for the easy to access stats on QueryManager), this post is for you.

I opened at the end of March and have already received nearly 1500 queries. Although the largest amount came in on the first few days of opening, it’s since averaged out to about 20 a day. If the trend continues, when I shut down my query box on May 31, I will have received over 2,000 queries.

Rainbow’s ploy to get me to stop working.
  • I’m usually able to filter out about eighty percent within a few days:
    • Most aren’t ready for me, about 10-14 or ~sixty percent of daily submissions
      • Often the pitch is not focused. It relies on vague rhetorical questions for tension or makes grandiose statements like “this will be an instant bestseller” or it’s just confusing. Whether it’s due to a lack of resources, inexperience, or laziness, I know these authors aren’t in a place for me to partner with, and when I give the sample a quick glance, this is confirmed. But as these authors are often vulnerable first-timers, any feedback I give may do unintentional harm, so these get a form pass.
      • Sometimes the pitch is fine or even great, but the sample isn’t quite there. These will get a note that says the concept intrigued me, but the sample didn’t pull me in as I had hoped. The tricky thing about this response, is I hope it inspires the writer to keep going, polishing and honing their craft, not discourage them. So I try to use it when I think the writer can handle the response, i.e. has a bit of experience, they are about to level up, or would appreciate knowing their sample isn’t quite working.
    • 2 to 4 are not my taste or not in my wheelhouse, ~fifteen percent of daily submissions
      • These are most often picture books (PB). There is understandably confusion about this, as I do represent authors who write PBs. But I only sign projects in the upper age range, and sometimes said clients also write picture books. So 99% of PBs will be quickly passed on.
      • Sometimes these are nonfiction proposals. I’m newly exploring the idea of representing nonfiction, again because I have clients who write in the fiction space and are crossing over. But I’m extremely selective and will either pass the submission on to one of the agents at KC&A who do a lot of nonfiction, or will send a form rejection as I’m not comfortable enough in the genre to give feedback.
      • Sometimes the sub is simply something I’m not interested in. There is no way for the submitting author to know this, and if I state it, an author may interpret it as a professional take, i.e. how the market is leaning. But I don’t represent the entire market and there are other agents that will feel differently, so these get a quick form pass from me as well.
    • 1 or 2 are inauthentic, ~five percent of daily submissions
      • Writers who exaggerate their resume to an extreme, falsely claiming to have had best-sellers, big name support for their book, film and multiple agents interested. They are more interested in being famous than writing. Form pass.
      • Market chasers, writing in a genre because they think it’s easy money, not because they love and know the genre. Form pass.
      • Writers attempting a take that requires nuanced experience they don’t have, i.e. someone writing magical realism without understanding the cultural significance behind the genre. These are tricky and tend to take more time to review, but they also get a form pass.
  • That leaves twenty percent that stay in my inbox, which at this point is 250 submissions and if things stay on track, 400 submissions when I close at the end of the month. This is not yet my maybe pile even. For now I’ve kept them for one of the following reasons:
    • the writer intrigued me
    • the concept/pitch intrigued me
    • the sample writing caught me
  • A submission has to hit all three of those factors to go into the maybe pile, and the rest will be passed on, hopefully with an encouraging note, but not guaranteed (timing-wise, on average, one of these passes requires the same amount of time filtering the ~14 quick passes does). This stage will leave about ten percent of the submissions in my inbox, ~200. Half of these will be further narrowed down:
    • Too close to something I already represent
    • Passed on to colleagues
    • Upon further reading the sample doesn’t hold up as well as it did in the beginning
    • The promise of the pitch ultimately isn’t met in the actual manuscript
    • I know the manuscript needs work, but have no vision on how to steer the editorial
    • I don’t have a clear picture on who the target audience is, comp titles, how to pitch it to publishers, and it didn’t gut-punch me enough to take a chance on it anyway
    • The author gets an offer of representation, I tend to step aside on those because I don’t want to rush my decision
    • The author gets an offer of publication from a smaller press, I tend to step aside on those or pass them on to my colleagues
  • That still leaves ~5 percent, which in this case is around 100 submissions, whew. Wish me luck!

Skimming vs Deep Reading Submissions

I quietly opened to queries ten days ago for the first time in over two years. I was closed for so long mainly because my clients were turning in multiple manuscripts regularly. It was averaging 30 manuscripts a year, which meant there was no time nor room in my head for deep-reading fulls in my submission pile. And the idea of opening up to queries was daunting, I’d been hearing from others how there’s been a surge in submissions since lockdown. But a few things aligned that pushed me forward. Most important, I caught up with my clients. On top of that my baby is now posed to enter toddlerhood, so the newborn days are a foggy memory. And lastly we revamped the website at the agency (check out the new Kimberley Cameron & Associates site, it is lovely, professional, and friendly in my totally biased opinion).

My cat Rainbow has a sixth sense for when I’m reading on my tablet.

Once I made the decision to seek new clients, I realized I was ready, keen even, to read subs. When over a hundred submissions rolled in that first weekend, I was surprised, but not overwhelmed, jumping in late at night, as the baby slept curled against me. I tweaked my submission form a few days later to find the quickest way to work through them thoughtfully, and plowed on in the odd hour I could find here or there. I skimmed through some fantastic pitches and lovely samples, all of them had potential, but only a few I set aside for further consideration. This is the easy part, the scanning, skimming, flicking through text. If this was all there was to it, writers would never have to wait long for a response.

But of course that’s not how it works. Many of you probably have partials or fulls that have been with an agent for months, even a year. Sure enough, five hundred submissions later, I’m slowing down. The maybe pile is growing. As eager as I am to find a new client or two, I’m not going to rush this part. Although I can enjoy a quick read, see potential in a few sentences, I’ve learned from experience that I have to truly sit with and deeply read a manuscript in order to absorb it, to have an editorial vision for it, to know if the connection I feel will be enough to champion it through the ups and downs. And that is a must before I take on that manuscript for representation. To find that vision, I have to be in that “Deep Reading” space. There’s a fantastic interview by Ezra Klein with literary scholar Maryanne Wolf on the difference between scanning and deep reading.

Both methods are valid, and indeed necessary when I’m considering submissions, but a deep read is the final step before I would offer representation, and it’s the most difficult to achieve. The research done by Wolf and others of the neuroscience behind the different ways we absorb information, is fascinating and enlightening and helped me further define how I want to work. It has also meant clarifying something I had already sensed, that I was going to take longer than ever to read and consider fulls for representation. But I have to be okay with that, and I hope after reading this, writers will choose to query me (or not) with this deeper understanding of my process.

A Day In The Life of a Literary Agent (Or The Reason They Haven’t Read Your Submission Yet)

Beginning of day. The sun is up, kid is dropped off at school. Time for work.

The plan:

  • Answer emails.
  • Finish reading the last quarter of a client’s latest manuscript, it’s so good, but have some feedback before it goes out to editors.
  • Take another look at that intriguing submission in the inbox.

What actually happened:

  • The final version of that major contract that has been under negotiations for months lands. It needs a last pass before the author can sign it.
  • The first version of an audio contract for another project comes in. Needs to be looked over.
  • An editor expresses interest in a submission. It’s too early to tell, but must nudge everyone else who has it!
  • The cover of a different project has been finalized. It’s super beautiful and there’s all kinds of buzz. Time to alert the subagents and pitch it to audio!
  • A revise and resubmit from a year ago drops into the inbox. And it’s already got 3 other agents reading the full! Read a few chapters, it’s really really good and lands the wishlist. Shit.
  • An audio offer comes in already from the finalized cover project. Inform the client of the happy news and negotiate the deal memo.
  • A client is having a meltdown, need to talk to them asap.
  • Foreign rights sub-agent is asking about the book sales.
  • Did I have coffee yet?
  • An editor responds to a submission. It’s a rejection. Ugh. Have to tell the client.
  • Another editor requests a different submission. Exciting!
  • Another client sends their final manuscript. It’s ready to go out on submission. Have to develop the pitch.
  • Really need to finish the final quarter of that other client’s manuscript and write up my feedback.

End of day. Picked up kid from school, sun is down, still working through emails.

Wait, I was going to read that submission…

Open To Submissions!

Happy 2019 everyone! New year, new start. I am pleased that I have reduced the number of submissions in my inbox to under 5. In part thanks to to the help of my wonderful assistant, Amber, who is an excellent reader. In 2018, I received over a thousand queries while I was open to submissions during Aug-Nov. Of those I ended up signing two clients. Both in the adult literary speculative space, Veronica Henry and Yume Kitasei. Very excited to introduce their amazing projects to the world in 2019. Both were cold queries, but both had done careful research and knew their projects were exactly to my taste. For neither was this project the first they’d written. So their persistence and research paid off. The query trenches are difficult, but it is where the majority of authors are picked up by agents, despite rumors to the contrary. So don’t give up! Cheers, and I look forward to reading.