Following Submission Guidelines
(Oops, technical difficulties, my blog didn’t post properly at the scheduled time. Sorry!)
If you’ve been reading agent blogs and you follow them on Twitter, you probably know by now that most agents want you to follow their posted submission guidelines when submitting. A significant proportion of rejections happen because the query doesn’t follow the guidelines. Are we all just control freaks? Are the guidelines all about power? I know some of you have wondered this.
But no. The guidelines ensure that each agent receives what she needs in order to make wise decisions as efficiently as possible. You already know we receive tons of queries. We want to make sure we find the projects we like amidst the many that won’t be right for us. And you increase your chances of being “found” if you give us what we need.
We also want to know that you’re interested in us as individual agents, not just “any old agent.” When you follow our guidelines, it lets us know you’ve checked us out and you believe we might be a good fit for you. It avoids us reading queries that aren’t anywhere near what we even represent in the first place. (Or it would, if more people actually read the guidelines.)
Somebody asked awhile back WHERE to find the submission guidelines, noting that different websites and listings contain conflicting information for some agents. The question refers to books like Guide to Literary Agents, and websites like AgentQuery.com, which list agents and contain information such as their guidelines and what they’re looking for. The question went on to suggest that agents should make sure their guidelines are correct everywhere they appear, so that writers can follow them without risking “doing it wrong.”
Sorry, no can do. You’re going to have to get our guidelines from our individual websites—that’s the only way you can be sure you have information that is correct and up to date.
Here’s why: Agents have no control over the numerous books and websites that list our information. Most of them don’t even contact agents to let them know they’re being listed, let alone ask agents what they’d like in their profiles. They go to our websites and get the information there. I learned this after I’d been an agent for a few short months. I was shocked to find myself listed on several agent-matching websites, none of whom I’d even known existed, let alone provided information for. Some of the information was inaccurate; and I can guarantee that even when we update information on our websites, those agent-listing services are not all keeping up. You have no way of knowing whether you’re reading something accurate or not.
There is no way an agent has time to keep track of all the sites and books that list our information. It would be impossible to find them all anyway—when I Google myself I get more than 20,000 results. It’s not like I can wade through all those and somehow identify the sites that are listing my information and verify it’s all correct… the thought boggles my mind.
That’s why we have our own websites! The unfortunate truth is that the only way you’ll know you have each agent’s accurate guidelines is to go to their individual sites.
Now I know that to a certain extent, this is a numbers game for writers just like it is for agents. You may feel your best chance of getting an agent is to query as many as possible, and the job of going to all those individual websites is daunting. I get that. But there’s nothing I can do about it. We list our guidelines on our websites; we update them occasionally; and that is where you’ll need to look to find out the real scoop about an agent.
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.