Dear Mrs. Snarkarita Clooney,
In response to a query, I received the following (redacted to protect the not so innocent) reply:
Sounds like insanity, what say you?
On behalf of xxxx., I am writing to respond to your email (below) and to thank you for considering our agency. Your book does look promising. Towards that end, we are prepared to ease into a proper and full evaluation by reading material on the conditions as follows - and please note that we do not charge you for this service.
By e-mail, please send us:
1. The 1st 20 pages and the last 20 pages, double spaced, your name and page number on each page, MS Word doc or Mac rtf format, as attachments,
2. A synopsis,
3. Your bio,
4. The history of your submission (what other agents, publishers or editors you have submitted your work to and their responses in full, if possible),
5. Your written guarantee that you will refrain from showing or otherwise soliciting other opinions and/or agency agreements while we look at your work (approx. 3 weeks).
Over to you,
uhhh...they want to read the first and the last but not the middle?
ok, it's a strategy I guess, but not one I've ever used.
And telling you they don't charge?
Why would you think they did? No reputable agent does. Why do they feel the need to mention it?
Calling their evaluation a service is a bizarre turn of phrase. It's not a service. You aren't getting a critique. You're getting a yes/no. Here at Snark Central we call that "a decision".
The history of the submission? With responses? Geeze. Who cares? I mean, unless this project has been seriously shopped by an agent who repped you, who cares what form letters you got previously?
And of course, exclusives stink, even three week ones.
Just for some perspective, I was ratting around in my slush pile this weekend and found six things I wanted partials on. I emailed the writers and asked to see more pages. I asked if anyone else was reading the material. Most of them, DUUUUUHHHHH!!, had more than one response for a partial. Duh because if I think it's good, chances are those clever imps over at Jane's and Paige's, and Kristin's and Kate's will too.
My response? Read those first, get back to the writers promptly. If I get and like the full, my NEXT response is to talk to the client about all the other stuff while inserting clever little wooing phrases about why Snark Central is the place to be.
I'm fully prepared to compete against other agencies by telling you why I'm a good match for you. I win some of those; I lose some. Making someone sign on the dotted line before they've queried widely, or before they've affirmatively chosen the agency is short signted. I only want clients who KNOW I'm the right choice for them because they've looked around and talked to other people.
This agent could be solid and effective and do a good job for you.
This response however doesn't do much to convey that.