And you thought Miss Snark was fierce!

Dear Miss Snark,

Many of the "top" agencies say on their websites that they do not accept unsolicited materials. For example, ICM says that it has "a policy that neither it nor any of its agents or other employees shall accept or consider any unsolicited material, ideas or suggestions of any nature whatsoever ("Unsolicited Materials".)" My question is this: do query letters count as "unsolicited material"? Because if one includes a synopsis in the letter, then that's one's creative idea, unsolicited, right? Or is it just the actual manuscript that they want to avoid receiving? (I understand about the lawsuit possibilities.)

Forgive me if you've covered this topic before; I'e been an avid reader for a while now, and can't remember seeing this particular question addressed.

Wow. I just clicked on ICM's website and it would be hard to imagine a less welcoming place.

That leads me to think that ICM isn't exactly looking for authors the way the rest of us do. I could be wrong but that notice sure is discouraging.

Then I surfed over to Publishers Marketplace and cross referenced ICM. There are definately some agents over there making mid size and smaller deals. Those agents must get their clients somewhere.

I know one author specifically who queried Esther Newberg without invitation, and she signed him and sold the book.

Maybe it's like entering a cloistered order: you have to ask three times before they let you in.


Mary Louisa said...

Thanks for your thoughts on my question and ICM. You rock. (Or teeter. It's the gin and the heels, I suspect.)

Enjoy your vacation. I'll miss you!

Anonymous said...

I recently queried one of the agents at ICM and received a very prompt and polite rejection. A rejection, yes -- but my email message was opened and read. Maybe it depends upon the individual you're querying.

W. S. Cross said...

I agree with anonymous above: I was receiving form letters from ICM telling me they couldn't even OPEN my letter while getting correspondence from agents at ICM asking to see a sample chapter. The biggies don't want to get sued by some disgruntled writer. And given how writers get treated by big agencies, who's surprised they get sued???

Anonymous said...

I have a (semi) related question... I would like to query X Agency and, through tools such as Writer's Market, learned the names of several agents there. When I checked the X Agency Web site, however, I learned that all queries are to be directed to Submissions, c/o X Agency, etc., etc. Do I lose my shot at a personal hit with an agent and bow to the site's "Submissions" directive? How does one address a letter to "Submissions?" Or do I say, screw dat and send my query on to the agent anyway? Your thoughts?

Miss Snark said...

I think one of the biggest rules is ALWAYS sending a query letter to someone specific. Make sure you spell their name right and they are still there, but a query with a name has a better shot at being read.

I know I always reject people who write to "Mr Snark" because it's clear they are cretins.

Anonymous said...

I just spent a lot of time at ICM's West Coast office last week, working on a Hollywood deal. Trust me, unless you're the next big thing out there-as in really big and agents are lining up at your door--you don't want to go with them as someone new to the business. Sure people have small deals with them, but you can count on it that these authors fall between the cracks. And they have deeper cracks than most places.

Anonymous said...

Deeper cracks than most places! Bahahaha!

Peter L. Winkler said...

When I was agent shopping, I came across the name of Sloan Harris (at ICM) in the acknowledgement page of one of Sandra Tsing Loh's books. I found his email address online and queried him. He responded and asked to see my proposal.

Anonymous said...

As an unpublished writer, it's tough to feel like you hold *any* cards but you know something? We do. I've not yet sold my novel but I've had some short story credits and nonfiction article sales, and that is progress.

We can *choose* to refrain from submitting to agents whose websites are so curt, terse and unfriendly that you can't imagine actually *working* with these people. There were certainly more than one agency I skipped on querying just because the entire snotty vibe of their website or agency marketplace listing was much too 'bow down to me and I may deign to read your letter'. Phuck that.

We all have choices. We can choose to educate ourselves about the business of publishing, whether we like the state of the business or not; or we can bumble about cluelessly, and unsucessfully.

I think the publishing business is *really* going to change over the next five years in the same way the music business is changing now. Artists like Aimee Mann are taking their product directly to their buyers and cutting out the unwieldy record company bureaucracy along the way. As the Internet continues to change how people receive *and prefer* to get their news and entertainment, writers may choose to offer their products direct to consumers.

Change is blowin' in the wind.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I see a lot of agent websites that are curt and unfriendly. It's like they hate you. Some want you to jump through a hoop of fire before submitting a proposal. Then there are the agents that lecture you about properly addressing them, as if they are royalty. Then they send you a rejection notice and don’t mention you by name or sign it. Ugh, I’m getting tried of these people. I keep going through this process and thinking...there has to be a better way.


Rufus said...

I think it's probably time for publishing to change. You hear all the time about independent filmmakers selling their wares on-line, bands who start their own record labels, cable access shows that have cult followings- but, for some reason, self-publishers are still generally considered hacks. From the way it sounds here, many of them would be much better off printing their own books and staging readings, or simply selling them on-line.

Anonymous said...

The vast majority of books are sold in physical stores that won't touch s/p books, and only a tiny minority are sold online. Until that situation reverses itself, s/p is going to continue to be the preserve of poor deluded fools. Only imo, of course :D.

Having been a slush reader for a print magazine, I can confirm that 90% of what is submitted really IS crap, and would be of no benefit to anyone if it were published all the same.