Thank you AJ Blythe for following Janet Reid's direction and emailing me on this subject. I actually like this back and forth blogging that Janet and I have going and would like to issue a directive. If you ever read a post either of us has done, or in my case any agent has done, that would you would like a second opinion on, please email me. I'd be happy to post my thoughts on the same subject.
For those who didn't read Jane't original blog post here's the gist:
Janet received a question on how she prioritizes referrals. The author wanted to know the difference between a referral by an agent or an author and she explained her process in great and impressive detail. I'll do my best to do the same.
For a long while I was open to submissions by referral only. Then for a while I was open to submissions for various types of mysteries and everything else by referral only. I think now I'm more or less open to everything. More or less.
Believe it or not referrals don't happen very often. I know from experience that most of my clients are very cautious about passing someone my way. I think they feel like I'm busy and they don't want to add to my piles and don't want to be judged on something they might or might not have read. What if they refer something and I think it's absolute crap for example? And I think most agents feel the same. We all have a lot on our plate and we hate to just pass things off to other people, unless of course we really feel it has potential, but needs someone who has a different or better vision for it.
Believe it or not, most frequently I get "referrals" from people I don't even know or have even ever heard of. I'm not sure if its confusion on the author's part or someone really trying to snow me. Those, obviously, I don't consider real referrals.
In Janet's original post the author implied that any agent who didn't respond quickly to a referral from a client was problematic. I'm not so sure. For me a referral usually means that I'll automatically request to read the material. How quickly I read the material however depends on a variety of things and who the referral is from is just one of those things, but not everything.
Remember, I'm a strong believer that an agent should never be judged on the speed she reads submissions because presumably, if she's slow at submissions, it's because she's spending her time where she should be spending her time, with her clients.
So how do I prioritize? Usually by what excites me first. Sometimes I'll just start at the bottom of the pile (those that came in first) and read up, but many times I'll go through, evaluate the queries, and read what I want to read. It's the same way I prioritize the reading pile next to my bed.
That being said, a referral from another agent will often peek my interest enough to move it pretty near the top of the pile. After all, what did my trusted colleague see in this project that they thought warranted a referral? I also tend to move client referrals up a bit and treat them more delicately (you might get a more detailed rejection than normal). In my mind it's a matter of helping the client out. If she went so far to refer someone to me I want the person she referred to have real appreciation for her efforts.
In a nutshell, I would say that referrals from editors or agents probably move to the top of my pile the fastest, clients next and lastly referrals from friends, family, or the random person on the street. In the end however, it's all about the book and whether it works for me.
I sent a query, synopsis and 10 pages to a popular agent who is no reply = no. Two weeks later, I received an amazingly sweet letter in which she gave compliments, made suggestions and then told me she'd already sent an email to a colleague of hers (the VP of their agency) and really thought she'd like it so would I send it to the colleague as well, with the referring agent's name in the subject header. Firstly, wow - because this was based on the 10 pages and synopsis, which I know because she referred to plot points. That was in [6-8 weeks ago]. My first assumption is that a referral will at least garner a rejection letter, even from an agency that doesn't reply if not interested. (Is this a bad assumption?) I don't intend to nudge, since it's just a query, but I also think it was awesome for the first agent to go through the trouble and would hate to not be diligent about the opportunity she sort of created. After getting writer feedback that insists I should nudge, I thought I'd better ask an agent (I trust). :)
This is really exciting. Congratulations!
According to the dates you are giving me the agent has had the material, which I assume is a full manuscript, for 6-8 weeks. At this point you're probably on the early edge of hearing back on a full submission, even if the material was requested. My suggestion is give it about 10 weeks or so (while some agents are really fast, it's not uncommon for agents to take an average of three months to respond to full submissions), and then I would send an email to check the status.
I agree that you should definitely receive a response on requested material, but I don't have insight to this agency's exact policy either.
To Market, To Market
Find yourself doing more marketing lately? Me, too. With the publishing layoffs in December and the market skittish, we need to market smarter. Here are some articles I’ve found interesting:
And, in the upheaval, several former book publishing professionals are seizing the opportunity to move to independent book publishing professionals, looking at the opportunities and the silver lining in all that’s happened lately:
- Kara LaReau, former editor at Scholastic and before that, Candlewick, opens a creative consulting firm and has this advice on keeping a writer’s journal.
- Former publicists at Harcourt Children’s Books, Sarah Shealy and Barbara Fisch have opened a publicity and promotional company, Blue Slip Media. What talent! They were creative and efficient in everything they did for Oliver K. Woodman.
Post from: Revision Notes
Revise Your Novel!
Copyright 2009. Darcy Pattison. All Rights Reserved.
- Press kits and book covers
- Writing v. marketing
In my post A Different Way of Doing Business, a lot of discussion occurred in the comments section about the referring author’s responsibility and how I dealt with my client if a “bad” referral came in (for lack of a better word).
The minute you get a book deal, heck, the minute you get an agent, people are going to come from everywhere asking you to get them in the door with your agent. It’s natural, it’s normal, and good for them. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the business world it’s that the phrase “it’s not what you know, but who you know” really is true. Almost inevitably this means a client will come to me to say that Author J wants an introduction, she’s never read her work, but passed along my name. What I always say is that’s fine. No author, no family member, and no friend should be responsible for weeding out my submissions and I don’t judge my authors on the referrals they send or the number of authors who come to me using their names because they are in critique groups together or met at a conference.
I’ve gained a number of great clients through referrals, just signed one up as I’m writing this, in fact. I’ve also passed on a lot of material. You never know what will hit and I appreciate that my clients respect me enough and have enjoyed working with me enough to think my name is worthy of passing on. In my experience, clients will sometimes ask what happened with that other author, but rarely are they invested enough to get upset if I pass and never do I volunteer the information to the client.
What it comes down to is no one is responsible for your work, your career, and the way you present yourself but you. Once the introduction is made it’s up to the author who received the referral to close the deal, so to speak. No one else can do that for her.