Dear Miss Snark,

First, I can't tell you how much I enjoy the blog. In the vast, shark- filled ocean of dis-, mis-, and half-baked information about agents, your site is a verdant island oasis, replete with shady palm trees, cozy hammocks, and friendly monkey butlers serving margaritas.

Obligatory bowing and scraping aside, I have a question about a novel (no pun intended) submission technique.

I have posted the first fifty pages of my unagented novel, (title), as a PDF file on a website I registered for the book (http:// yadda yadda yadda.com). I thought this could be a good idea for a couple of reasons. First, it makes it easy for a potential agent that I've queried to take an immediate look at the work, without having to request a partial. I include the URL in the initial query letter, whether it's on paper or via email. Since the file is a PDF, properly formatted, the agent can print it out or forward it to an associate.

Do you think this is an appropriate way to go? Are there any drawbacks you can see? My goal is to speed up the query process, provide an convenient way for the agent to evaluate my writing, and to facilitate access to the properly formatted, readily printable manuscript.

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Well, if you send me a cover letter and a link to a URL with pages of your novel I can tell you that you're getting a form letter back from me that says "not quite right for me" and I won't have read any of it.

First, I don't always read query letters sitting next to my computer.

Second, I tend to read query letters fast, and if you've sent pages I'll read them, and if you haven't I'll say no. My website is pretty clear about sending pages, cause that's how I like to get stuff.

Thus what I think you've got here is yet another novel way to shoot yourself in the font. Other agents may disagree, but almost everyone I know won't click to read much of anything.


Dave Kuzminski said...

Third, you're trying to foist some of your expense of querying onto the agents.

Those guidelines are there to help the agent get through massive slush piles. It's up to us writers to follow the guidelines instead of trying to twist them all into how we think it ought to work so we won't be inconvenienced.

Sherry Decker said...

Even small press editors won't click to read material on private websites. Get a clue; you MUST conform to the rules of manuscript submission. This email submission idea is just plain laziness, and it probably shows in your writing.

pjd said...

While I agree that posting pages on a web site appears to make the process more convenient... consider the question, "convenient for whom?" Convenient for the author is the only answer, for the reasons Her Snarkoliciousness already presented.

In addition, doing the work to print out and mail pages is, in some sense, a statement of sincerity. I think if everyone were doing the URL thing, it would be OK, but if you're the only one, then it just makes you look lazy. It says to the agent, "This author is not willing to do the work everyone else does. How easy will they be to work with if I sign them up?"

Your reasons have logic behind them, for sure... it's just that there are other, more powerful reasons working against the idea.

Anonymous said...

If ur thinking that using the URL to speed up the latter of unpubbed to pubbed, bad idea.

I learned the hard way, do the work, do it the way they (agent or publishers)want it and get it done.

There isn't a sure fire way of speeding up the process, theres just a process.

But, if you happen to stumble upon one can you post your URL? (just kidding, that was a test. Only a test)

HiltonRC said...

Sounds like spam to me, anyhow. Not that it is spam but it could be. The agent doesn't know what she's getting on her computer if she enters that URL. You say it's a PDF file. Good, it probably is . . . but that's the tack a lot of spammers take, too. Were I an agent and I got an email that had a URL in the body, I'd delete the email. I wouldn't even reply because that simply lets a spammer know this is a valid e-address.

Agents set things up their way for a reason. They deal in tons of mail from strangers, virtually all of it unasked for. No doubt the vast majority are decent, imaginative, sincere people but you just never know.

Cynthia Bronco said...

I only post stuff on my site that I am not submitting anywhere because I don't want to give away for free what I want to sell. Still, I long for a butler monkey, but can't decide on which genus. Perhaps spider monkey; I can't decide.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Spammers know when an email address is good when the email doesn't bounce back. Of course, when they use a zombie email account, they don't know since the bounces go somewhere else.

WitLiz Today said...

Friend, let's you and I take certain commenters and chill them out with your first paragraph.

Although, I have to confess I didn't get past the first paragraph. And yet you had me HOOKED! If you write like that first paragraph you are totally on your way.

By gosh and by golly, you had me swinging from my tree of great knowledge, that Miss Snark's blog is more like Paradise Lost, or Dante's Inferno, than Paradise Found. I will reconsider my POV.

Great Job!
Andy Yeta Gain No@Milton.com, Contact immediately for play date.

Anonymous said...

" . . . monkey butlers serving margaritas."

That is a great line, it should be in someone's book. -JTC

Anonymous said...

Well...today's the day I send my agent "the letter", the AX so to speak, severing what has been a very dead, disappointing agent-client relationship.

I'm doing this on the sturdy advice I recieved from this column and the courage of good friends.

I wonder if she'll even have the courtesy to respond (I asked her to) professionally.

Just so you know, I even sent a note of apology this week -- as a last ditch effort, just in case I was in the wrong somehow...no, I still didn't hear from her...sad.

Michael Hughes said...

Points all taken (says the snarkling who wrote the question, i.e. me).

But maybe I didn't phrase my question clearly enough, as I think some of you have misinterpreted it.

I only include the link to the PDF in a query letter in which the agent does not specifically request partial content. I always follow the guidelines to a T.

But many of the agents I've queried want a letter -- that's it. No first fifty pages, no synopsis, just a letter.

So pointing them to a pdf file that they can choose to view, or not, would give them the option of taking a closer look at the material -- if they're interested.

It's not "plain laziness" at all. My goal was to make it easier on a potential agent to check out my writing. If they are intrigued by the query letter, why not give them the option to read the beginning of the novel?

Again, I always follow the guidelines for each agent, and would never ignore them. This is a solution that seems to fit one type of query -- an agent who requests a letter, and nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Nope nope nope. Don't you understand--there's a reason they call it a submission. Part of the process of submitting your writing to an agent or an editor is that you are submitting to their taste, their mood, their decision to take you on as a client or not. There is a power structure there. You are the submittor. You take the material to them. You do not ask them to come to you. Especially when they haven't even asked to see your work yet.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to beginning writers' paranoia about having their idea stolen? I'd think they'd run screaming from the idea of posting a first chapter which should contain a broad hint about their plot and characters.

Just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

If the agent doesn't want pages or sample chapters, just a letter, what makes you think that she has time to read your work online? I bet this method produces a lot of negative responses.

Anonymous said...


You have a great idea here, provided you are doing it in addition to the guidelines, as you've stated.

The drawback is that it makes you seem high-maintainence. (Forgive my spelling.)

Sloppy analogy: If you were going to babysit, would you prefer a kid who blindly follows the rules, or one who shows you how the rules should change? If you're just hanging out, of course you want the precocious kid, but agents aren't paid to hang out with authors.

I'm conservative; I advise following the rules, and only the stated rules, until you gain some clout. Write, publish, and sell. Then you can introduce your fantastic plan.

It really is a good idea; I just don't want you to suffer for having it.

Lincoln Crisler said...

I'm pretty sure the Snarky One has answered a question like this before... why would you expect the agent to spend their paper and ink on printing your partial?

Michael Hughes said...

Yikes! Have I wandered into a Luddite convocation? Are some of you folks still hammering out your potential bestsellers in cuneiform on clay tablets?

I am offering a link to a properly-formatted, virus-free fifty pages of a novel that the agent might request if he or she is sufficiently intrigued by the query letter or email.

And that's high maintenance? WTF?

If anything, it shows an agent that I respect his or her time. If my query does its job, the agent can click, read a few pages, and make a decision to request more. Or not. Imagine that -- offering a choice to read something without having to expend precious carpal elasticity on a reply!

And to Lincoln Crisler: It may surprise you, but some people actually read documents on the screen! What a crazy world we live in!

Lincoln Crisler said...

Mr. Hughes,

The idea sounds good on paper, but in exectution, is actually quite different. Like Socialism.

Who wants to sit in front of the computer and read a 50 page partial manuscript? If I was an agent, I'd probably be reading partials on the bus, kicked back on my patio (with a whiskey bucket, probably) and on the shitter.

The digital version leaves nothing for the agent to make notes on or, perhaps more importantly, wipe their ass on.