in honor of this blog’s fifth anniversary, Agent Manners is in….

This blog turned five yesterday! (You can see the very first entry here.) In honor of that (and getting below 150 queries in the queue this weekend – even though that only lasted until I opened my email program this morning), I bring you…..

Agent Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior

Welcome to this week’s column hosted by Agent Manners. Today, readers can submit questions regarding etiquette when dealing with agents, whether it be the query process or meeting them face to face at a conference. In the spirit of it, they should be submitted in letter form beginning with “Dear Agent Manners” and signed with such things as “Confused in Alabama.” Here are some examples from a previous Agent Manners column.

Only one letter per person, please. They should be posted in comments on this entry and may be submitted up until 10pm tonight EST. I will attempt to answer as many as my schedule allows (perhaps over the course of several days) but I reserve the right to pick and choose. I do not promise to be as pithy as the original Miss Manners (see below). Sense of humor required.

Dear Miss Manners:
Last night I ran into a classmate of mine whom I haven’t seen in ten years. I know he’s a writer now, but I didn’t feel I could say anything about his new book because I haven’t read it and he would be sure to find that out if I tried to talk about it. And yet I feel I should have said something, if only because he didn’t mention what he was doing and seemed to be waiting for me to acknowledge that I knew, if you know what I mean. What is the right thing to say to an author when you honestly can’t say “I loved your book” ?

Gentle Reader:
Few people, and no writers, have such high standards about compliments as to accept only those that will pass a rigourous test for veracity. Miss Manners experience is that an author will accept with joy any remark except “How many have you sold?” or “Did you know it’s being remaindered now?” or “I’d love to read it–please send me a copy.”

From Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin (Warner Books Trade Paper edition, p. 616)

31 responses to “in honor of this blog’s fifth anniversary, Agent Manners is in….

  1. Happy anniversary!

  2. And a charming and informative five years it’s been. Happy anniversary!

  3. Congratulations on such a long blogging career!
    *Dear Miss Manners:*
    While I am persevering with an earlier manuscript (which has had quite a rough to chip away from the diamond) I have been continuing to write, as always. Highly motivated by not inflicting such a burden of Revision upon myself or anyone else again, I have been writing better, as well.
    I have a newer project I think will be much less long in the Cutting Lab. If I begin to query around for this project, would it be too much of a headache to start querying for the other project as well, if it ever happens to shape up into a gem?
    I would, of course, follow all protocol for “simultaneous” submissions, in case of any interest.
    Distracted Gemologist

  4. Agent Manners
    Dear Agent Manners:
    I split (amicably) from my agent. She shopped my thriller over a two-year period. We did receive an offer from Dorchester but after discussing it with my agent we both decided to decline the offer thinking we could get a better offer elsewhere. After two more submissions, my agent seemed to lose interest. The book was shopped to a total of seven publishers including Dorchester. The book was last rejected more than two years ago. I think it’s a strong book and would like to shop it around. However, is this feasible? Can I query agents with this book when seeking representation and if so, at what point do I reveal it was previously shopped and an offer was made and declined? Or is all that irrelevant now? Do I just give up on this book and move on with another?
    Inquiring and Confused In Houston

  5. Dear Miss Manners,
    I’ve been working on the same story for an embarrassingly long period of time, and since put it on the backburner to start something fresh and new.
    The new project is coming along wonderfully, but my one reservation is this: it is designed to be the first story in a series (the kind with indefinite endings, like Anita Blake or the Boxcar Children – though hopefully more tasteful and emotionally poignant than either).
    I’ve heard the best way to go about pitching series is to, well, not. To sell a standalone project first and then, once one has clout and representation, to make an attempt.
    Is this a path you’d advocate? Is there no hope for series writers out of the gate?
    There’s More Where That Came From in Delhi, India

  6. Dear Agent Manners,
    A delicate question, here–just how many truly painful manuscripts do you have to slog through before you find one worth requesting? I see your weekly tally and wonder; and I don’t mean manuscripts that don’t fit your particular market or need a bit of tweaking, I’m talking about full on disasters. 50%? 70%? 90%?
    Just how big IS the competition out there for every publishing slot?
    Most Sincerely,
    The Boggled Bogwitch (who is neither a witch nor does she live in a bog, even if she is somewhat flummoxed.)

  7. Dear Agent Manners,
    I have a book on contract. The writing is going well, joy all around, but my publisher suggested to me that I get blurbs for the project. Oh, dear. There are a lot of problems for me here. One: the book is erotic romance, which I hardly read and have never done any work in before. I have no contacts in this genre whatsoever. Two: It isn’t finished.
    So, how does one go about politely asking total strangers to read a manuscript and offer a blurb? Do I wait until I’ve turned it in to the publisher and can wrangle a formatted e-copy from them to send out? Actually, when asking for a blurb, do you even send a whole manuscript along or just a section? I’m drawing a complete blank.
    Publicity is Not My Thing in Kentucky

  8. Is it better to have been published “questionably” or never have been published at all?
    Dear Agent Manners,
    In recent months a particular problem has vexed me. While I think anyone who is being honest about the matter will admit that publishing has a definite hierarchy (large press, small press, epress, vanity press and any number of further hierarchies within each of those) it seems to be a matter of some debate among those of my acquaintance as to where the line should be drawn when presenting oneself as a writer with some experience in publishing.
    While presenting oneself as a fabulously talented and experienced author based on one’s ability to operate Lulu seems ill-advised, I do often wonder where the line should be drawn. How important is said experience to a query letter? In the privacy of her own office, might even the most well-mannered agent roll her eyes when an author proudly asserts that they were the bestseller at No Name Pub? And if so, how does one decide when a short paragraph about the author might best be served by leaving out the details of one’s early publishing adventures?
    Yours in Eternal Curiosity,
    Possibly Published in Penobscot

  9. Dear Agent Manners:
    Here’s something that’s always stumped me, and I hope you’ll have the answer.
    Why is it that fiction writers are supposed to approach agents/publishers with completed stories but non-fiction writers can approach agents/publishers with an outline and a dream? Seems kinda unfair to me.
    Stumped in Stumptown

  10. Dear Miss Manners,
    I’ve been invited to submit to some agents. Is it rude to submit to others as well as the ones I met?
    Baffled in Buffalo

  11. Dear Agent Manners,
    I have found my dream agent. She represents some of my favorite authors and my manuscripts is right in line with her client list. We have very similar tastes in everything, right down to music and tv shows. Our personalities match up and heck, we even look a bit alike. I’m going to give her first crack at my novel and want her to know that this is an exclusive submission. What’s the best way to do this?
    In love in Delaware

  12. Dear Agent Manners:
    I have often wondered something. If a unpublished writer has a rapport with an agent online, would that writer be more likely to get a request from the friendly agent, or is said writer subject to the query pile ‘o death like everyone else? 🙂
    ~Hopeful in WIPland

  13. Dear Agent Manners,
    A couple of years ago, I submitted a query to my first choice of agency and never receievd a response. Since then, my manuscript was accepted and published by a small press.
    Now that one of my books has been published, I would like to begin querying for agents again in the hopes of finding a publisher with larger distribution for future projects. Should I query the same agency with my new project, or look elsewhere?
    Mystified in Minnesota

  14. Wow five years! Happy Anniversary!
    Thanks for all the priceless information!

  15. Yay! Five years! Happy anniversary, Jennifer! May you have many, many more! 😀

  16. Conference Etiquette
    Dear Agent Manners:
    I hear that going to conferences is a great way to meet agents and other authors, but I’m a little confused about how I should approach an agent. Should I tap dance my way to them and declare myself the new Stephen King of J.K. Rowling material, dazzle them with slideshows from my laptop, throw queries and synopses in their faces, babble while pretending to be timid and sweaty?
    Befuddled Arkansan (with no shoes or shirt, obviously)

  17. Congratulations
    Five years is a long time. Great job!
    I’ve been awful about blogging…

  18. partials and recommendations
    Dear Agent Manners,
    I queried Agent A and received a polite rejection, with no request for a partial. Then I queried Agent B. Agent B read a lengthy partial, said she liked the work, that it was publishable material, and that I definitely had talent, however, it was not what she was looking for right now. She highly recommended I send it to Agent A as it should be right up her alley. So, the question is, is there any point in resubmitting my query to Agent A with Agent B’s recommendation? Or would I just be wasting Agent B’s time?
    (If you answered this question in an earlier post, I apologize. I try to keep up with your blog, but occasionally get behind and miss an entry or two.)
    Trying desperately not to offend anyone –Florida.

  19. Agent Manners
    Dear Agent Manners
    I reside on the ‘Downunder’ side of the planet and as such, my ability to meet and greet agents at conferences is severely hampered. Through contests and one conference this year though, I’ve managed to receive two requests for my full manuscript.
    Said manuscript was sent with all formatting requirements met for each party. I am now in the midst of the waiting game.
    My question is this: At what point does follow up become appropriate? I rather suspect a phone call will go unreturned due to the hassle of juggling international time differences, but would an email be acceptable? I understand a full manuscript can take some 8 – 12 weeks to be read but once this period has expired should I take the silence as a ‘thanks but no’ or is a follow up email appropriate? Or would said email find my manuscript flung to the depths of the recycling bin for having encroached too far?
    I should add, one of the parties to request my manuscript was a senior editor. Does this alter the process or time frames at all?
    Sincerely (and desperately)
    Tearing my hair out – Sydney

  20. Meeting In Person
    Dear Miss Manners,
    I live near Denver, which seems to be a small hub for various agents in my genres. I know better than to drop by their office unannounced as this contains no small quantity of the stench of a stalker. However, if they offer representation based off of their criteria, would it be a bad thing to request a meeting in person before I choose to join their family of writers?
    Thank you,
    A Colorado writer in his basement.

  21. Exclusives
    Dear Agent Manners,
    If a writer has agreed to an exclusive with an agent while they read their full, and at the end of the period the writer has still not heard from the agent, what is the appropriate response on the part of the confused writer.
    On the one hand, it’s a short time to get through a full and the writer would hate to seem impatient. On the other hand, the writer feels it would be rude to just start querying again without contacting the agent.
    And then again, the writer would really like to know if the agent is still considering the manuscript, especially if this is an agent that the author is really excited to potentially work with.
    On the other hand… well, we’ll leave it at that.
    An author with too many hands to know what to do with.

  22. Submitting during the holidays?
    Dear Agent Manners,
    A published writer and friend offered to read and refer my manuscript to his agent. But my timing seems to be terrible between the publishing industry meltdown of last month and the holiday season coming up.
    Should I just proceed without regard to this timing? Or wait until January? Do agents read during this extended holiday season? And, do editors?
    Thank you,
    Curiously Watching the Calendar

  23. Dear Agent Manners,
    If I sent a query to an agent several months ago and their web site or profile doesn’t say anything about their timeframe for getting back to queries or whether or not they respond at all if not interested, is it okay to re-query at some point?
    Some agents make it clear they don’t reply unless interested or say you can try again after X amount of time, but this one doesn’t. They also don’t have a blog like this to update people. I’m just wondering if it’s bad form to re-query with the same project in such a case. One always wonders if the query got lost in cyber space and trying again would be worth it.
    Thank you,
    Patiently waiting in SC

  24. Congratulations on five years. Check the mail room for the cake!
    What no cake? Those scoundrels. It was beautiful and delicious.
    Happy anniversary anyway.

  25. I hear that going to conferences is a great way to meet agents and other authors, but I’m a little confused about how I should approach an agent. Should I tap dance my way to them and declare myself the new Stephen King of J.K. Rowling material, dazzle them with slideshows from my laptop, throw queries and synopses in their faces, babble while pretending to be timid and sweaty?
    I’m not Miss Manners, but I am a sweaty writer who recently attended the Surrey Conference. I decided to just be myself and have fun. So, I showed up in boots and hat and had a blast. I recognized several agents and spoke to them in a friendly manner as I would like to be spoken to. I didn’t pitch my work, we just visited like friends. By the end of the conference I had two agents request the query and pages and one editor.
    My advice is just be yourself and treat the agents and authors like you want to be treated. I figure if they want to talk about publishing, they will bring it up. Otherwise we can discuss anything else that comes up.
    Good luck with your conference.

  26. Five?
    Happy blogiversary, Jen! Five years is a lifetime in blogging land – they key to staying power seems to be balance and moderation – you are an example for all of us to follow.

  27. Too late to ask a question, just wanted to add my congratulations. Five years’ blogging is a LOT of blogging.
    (And I also want to say that Yours Truly excepted, I’ve always thought you have some of the *best* commenters on a blog of this type.)

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