An eye on the bottom line

Miss Snark,

What's with so many agents asking for 50 to 100 pages included with a simple query letter?As someone who doesn't have hundreds of dollars to spend on mailing queries, is there any way to sidestep sending whole chapters before an agent has even shown an interest?

Agents do that? Boy, not me. What a waste. You can normally tell within five pages if you want to read more. 50-100 pages is a partial, not a query.

I don't know any way around sending what's asked for. Look for the folks that want e-queries. Make sure you only send a #10 SASE with 39cents postage, not an envelope to return the whole thing.

This is a biz, there are expenses.


Christa M. Miller said...

I've noticed that too, but to be honest, I was planning to bite the bullet on those 50-100 pages. Of the agents that request that number AND accept e-queries, not one accepts e-mail attachments. I'd rather they get to see my work than a single e-query.

Two agencies I can think of have online forms set up wherein you can send a whole package online... but it's pretty rare.

Elektra said...

I don't know--maybe they've been getting a lot of queries from people with only a first chapter and a good idea, and they want so many pages to be assured of a full ms.
But I can't imagine that those agents actually read all 50 pages of everyone who queries them. And frankly, I think it's a little rude for them to ask all the writers to foot the bill, just so they can skip the middle step of requesting a partial from those they're interested in.

Anonymous said...

Quite a few agents do ask for partials (usually first fifty pages or first three chapters) as part of your submission.

I imagine that they are trying to make certain that the aliens arriving on the farm don't do it even earlier than Chapter 14. Books like those written by Noah Lukeman ("The First Five Pages") seem to have confused some writers: They believe that the opening must be outstanding (true enough), but didn't get the message that quality must be maintained. I met a woman once who had workshopped her opening for years, and contended, with a know-it-all tone in her voice, that getting the opening right "is all that really matters."

I was always thrilled to find an agent who wanted first three/fifty. At the other end of the spectrum are the agents who don't even allow sample pages. Strikes me as nutty, but it's their biz...

Stephen said...

Judging by a browse through latest edition of The Writer's Handbook, three chapters and a synopsis is pretty standard for UK literary agents, although there are plenty of exceptions. Return postage is almost universally specified, though.

Lilactime said...

One of the most well-known agencies here in Canada (Bukowski) asks for a full manuscript with first-time queries. Fortunately it's Canada, and we have lots of trees, but still.

Lydia said...

A LOT of agents ask for partials--including top-level ones. I think it's a sneaky way of making sure you've at least written that much of the book. *g*

After my first ms, I sent only #10 SASEs and asked them to dispose of the ms if necessary. Ditto after I got burned by an agent and went straight to the publishers on my own. (I now have an agent again--a GOOD one.)