Dear Agent Manners,
What should one do if they aren’t clear on the submission guidelines? I know that too much communication is annoying to agents who receive so much on a daily basis. I’m especially confused when people ask for a synopsis, but don’t specify length – or if it should be brief or detailed. There seems to be quite a range of what’s acceptable. I don’t want to send the wrong thing to any of these agents, but also don’t want to commite query-cide by asking too many questions.
Paralyzed in Seattle
You’re right. There does seem to be a proliferation of preferences among agents. And sometimes it can be difficult to tell how to proceed. In the case where the agent’s website (and that is the final authority, not one of the myriad sites around the web that lists agents) is not clear, Agent Manners always advises courtesy and common sense (or uncommonly good sense as has been her wont to call it). Extra communication, while individually brief, may very well add up to slowing an agent down when taken as a whole. Therefore, Agent Manners recommends applying a reasonable perspective to such things as a synopsis. In her ever-so-exalted opinion, anything from 5 to 10 pages is certainly not taxing. The important thing here is not length, however, but content. If the synopsis includes relevant points of character, plot and setting and the sample pages are polished, let the words do the talking. In that case, even one or two pages may be enough. Trust the agent to assess what they are given and if they are interested, they will, indeed, ask for more.