Josh Getzler (and Danielle Burby)
So when I got back from vacation this past week, I found out that in my absence, the Marvelous HSG Associate Danielle had gone through several hundred queries, organized the Inbox, and interviewed a slew of intern candidates. She was quite pleased with her productivity (and with good reason), until she turned around two days later to find 130 queries in the To Be Read folder (the result of my clearing out my own inbox of ten days’ worth of correspondence).
But as we talked about what she'd been doing, she started to bring up trends in communications from folks we are dealing with—first-time querying authors, writers from whom we requested partial or full manuscripts to evaluate, and candidates for internships. We realized that we could do us both a service by talking about some dos and don’ts of the process. Some of these are instinctive (or ought to be) and some are the results of the quirks of the process. Danielle wrote down her most common points, and I’m going to comment occasionally.
Please realize, if you are reading this (um, which you are), that in exactly zero of these cases are we talking about one particular person. All of these are common points. If you find yourself nodding along, though, in the rueful realization that you’ve violated some of them…well good, now you know. Finally, the typical caveat: These are our particular feelings. Other agents may feel differently. I suspect, however, that we are not outliers at all.
OK, so here we go:
Make sure to state the genre of the book and the intended audience. (JG: “This is a Middle-grade historical mystery for girls.” Not “This is a sweeping epic that has such a broad audience that everyone from 9 to 90 will appreciate my tale of a wizard and his dwarf rabbit. It’s based on a true story.”)
Follow our guidelines--they are clearly stated on the website. (JG: This means email only, FIRST five pages (not the BEST five), and certain genres need not bother.)
Send queries from your own email address/don't have someone else send queries on your behalf. (JG: We get a TON of emails from a KELLOGSVC email address. They may do fine work, but they keep sending me queries for picture books, which I basically don’t represent. So their research isn’t up to date, and they are carpet-bombing the agency population.)
If you're in the process of self-publishing or submitting to indie publishers, don't query us.
Don't query us until you have a completed manuscript to share. (JG: This is HUGE, and, for the most part, folks are pretty good about it. We get the “almost done” queries more often when we meet authors in person at conferences.)
Response time is eight weeks. Do not check in before that time unless you've received an offer of representation. (JG: And this is a bottleneck zone for us, and we often are not done after 8 weeks, as hard as we try. After that point, though, it is fine to follow up. Really! But not daily, and please do understand that there are times that we have a bunch of client manuscripts that come in, and they need to jump the line. The exception is…)
Do not accept an offer of representation without alerting us and giving us a deadline to respond by. That's unprofessional. (JG…The exception is when you have an offer. Then we will make every effort to read right away. That way if we do like it, we can talk to you about the project and give you a real chance to think about your options (and choose us J). I lost a project just last week partly because I didn’t in fact read it in sufficient time, and the author (justifiably) went with the other agent rather than give me more time. I will kick myself for my own inefficiency when that book sells.)
Don't self-publish your book while we have your materials and you're waiting for our response.
Do reply to emails professionally and with a friendly tone. If we reject your manuscript, responding in anger will burn bridges. You may want to send us your next project so think of the impression you've left us with. (JG: Here’s the thing: we all talk to each other. And we all have that special group of colleagues all over the industry whom we will pass on particularly nasty responses with a “Wow, SOMEONE needs a hug.” And most of the time, we find that if a writer has written a nasty or snide response to us, he or she will have done so to other agents, and we’ll get a knowing response back from our friends.)
If we take the time to give you editorial feedback, even if it's in a rejection, it's polite to respond with at least a thank you. (JG: Not everything works. Sometimes we will give suggestions and spend time with you, and ultimately just not be able to pull the trigger. Often that will mean if we see something else from you down the road, we’ll be predisposed to like it. But not if you sulk.)
(JG: This is a HUGE mistake for a candidate!!! ENORMOUS!!) Don't mention your dreams of becoming a writer. This is a difficult industry to break into and we only take interns who actually have a goal of working in publishing. Wanting to make connections for your future writing career doesn't count.
Always send a thank you email and/or card after an internship interview and after you've completed our internship program. If you don't, we will take note. (JG: EVERY time I have lunch or a drink with an editor, the first thing I do when I get back to the office is shoot off a thank you email. It takes three minutes. We don’t need fancy stationary. But acknowledging that we met is good business, and it makes us think of you as appropriate and professional. This is, unfortunately, a common issue.)
We very clearly state in all intern postings that the email address to send applications to is email@example.com. This is a test. If you do any research on HSG at all you can figure out who that email address belongs to. If you send an email to that address and write To Whom It May Concern (or any variation of that), it shows that you haven't done your research on the company. (JG: And you really ought to know that you’d want to work for us if you apply to work for us. You should know what we do, you should know that if you are in love with high-tech fantasy picture books you’re likely in the wrong place, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, you should know that the D in Dburby is Danielle, and not Dave or Diane or To Whom It May Concern.)
There you have it. Hope this was helpful!