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View Full Version : Why e-mail a partial? Why not e-mail full MS???



peterghsd
04-17-2009, 06:06 AM
First post, so please forgive mistakes.

I've had some encouraging responses to e-mailed query letters and short book proposals but most agents ask me to e-mail a partial only. Requests range from one sample chapter to 40 pages or 50 pages. A 50 page double-spaced Word file runs 150 to 160k. My full 112,000 manuscript in the same Word format runs 850k.

It is easy to understand the purpose of a partial when one is printing and mailing sample chapters (costs of printing or copying, extra postage, piles of papers in agent's office, etc.), but none of this applies to e-mailed partials. A full MS at 850k takes up less digital space than a color photo! If the e-mailed MS is read on a computer, it is never printed out. Etc.

I am tempted to always send the full MS by e-mail and to suggest the agent delete or ignore anything he or she does not wish to read. Is this a breach of etiquette or somehow wrong?

Thanks for any advice on this subject.

DeadlyAccurate
04-17-2009, 06:16 AM
I am tempted to always send the full MS by e-mail and to suggest the agent delete or ignore anything he or she does not wish to read. Is this a breach of etiquette or somehow wrong?

Thanks for any advice on this subject.

Yeah, it's a breach of etiquette. Part of the process of getting an agent is showing you understand the importance of following guidelines. So, if an agent asks for a partial, you send a partial. Annoying, but there it is.

But I agree that, with hard drive space being so cheap and plentiful, it makes little sense to make it a three-step process. I think my agent recently went to the method you're suggesting.

scarletpeaches
04-17-2009, 06:21 AM
It takes just as long to read an e-manuscript as it does a paper one.

It's nothing to do with hard drive space and everything to do with time, a commodity many agents lack.

If they ask for a partial, you send a partial. If they want more, they'll ask for more.

ChaosTitan
04-17-2009, 06:23 AM
Even though many agents request material via email, some still print it out in order to read it. Hence, partial requests. Others could still request partials out of habit, I dunno.

But as DA said, only send what the agent wants. They want to know you can follow simple directions.

Cyia
04-17-2009, 06:26 AM
Don't kill your chances by starting off difficult. If they ask you for a partial, it's because they want to see if your MS is worth reading. It doesn't take many pages for them to figure that out.

If it holds attention for 50 pages, then they'll ask for more to see if you can follow through (because a lot of people can't).

Following simple instructions isn't much to ask.

Mac H.
04-17-2009, 06:35 AM
It also makes sense for reducing their liability to lawsuits.

Everyday there are crackpots who are convinced that they have been plagiarised, simply because the latest blockbuster has dialog, story or scenes that are similar to the work that they haven't had published yet.

By receiving the entire manuscript, the agent is basically inviting the headache of people threatening lawsuits, who are convinced that their golden words in Chapter 8 were stolen. By limiting who they receive entire manuscripts from, they are limiting the downside to a manageable level.

If they don't intend to read the entire work at that point, they are giving themselves a downside for no possible upside. I'm assuming that if they emailed and requested a full, you'd give it to them in a heartbeat!

Mac

NeuroFizz
04-17-2009, 07:22 AM
Follow the agent's submission directions to a "T." Each agent will have personal reasons for doing it the way he/she wants it. End of story.

Stijn Hommes
04-17-2009, 11:56 AM
I've read plenty of agent blogs to know that some of them print out e-submissions to read. That would also explain a double-spaced request. It leaves more space for notes.

I agree with everyone else. Send what the agent asks for. In the few short story submissions I read, I came across people who flat out ignored guidelines. I picked them up when I was in need of material in the beginning, but as soon as I had enough stories floating around, I simply rejected anything that didn't follow the rules. Agents are no different.

Linda Adams
04-17-2009, 02:25 PM
Plus, the first fifty pages often tell the agent if the rest of the book is worth reading.

Willowmound
04-17-2009, 02:41 PM
I think the guy's point is, the agent can read as much as she wants -- if she wants to stop at fifty, fine. If she wants to read on, hey she can.

Of course, one should obviously always follow submission guidelines.

Thump
04-17-2009, 02:53 PM
Also, while one full MS doesn't take up that much space, the agent is receiving a lot of queries with partials and also some requested fulls. That adds up to a lot of memory space. So, while a full doesn't look like that much to you, it may be too much for the agent's inbox.

IceCreamEmpress
04-18-2009, 04:25 AM
I think the guy's point is, the agent can read as much as she wants -- if she wants to stop at fifty, fine. If she wants to read on, hey she can.

Yes, but perhaps she wants to save space on her hard drive by not downloading entire manuscripts she's not sure about. Or maybe she just wants to see if you're professional enough to follow directions.


Of course, one should obviously always follow submission guidelines.

This times ten million.

scope
04-18-2009, 06:37 AM
Agents and publishers post their guidelines so that writers will know exactly what to send--nothing more--and what not to send--nothing less. Our job is to follow their guidelines, not create new ones for them.

MacAllister
04-18-2009, 07:14 AM
I am reminded of AW's own Old Hack's recent blog post (http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2009/03/writers-should-know-better.html), where she says:

I should have known better.

The first clue came when he sent me his entire novel because (as he mentioned in his email) he didn't have time to mess about separating the first thousand words of it into a new file. This irritated me: not only did it imply that his time was more important than mine, it also clogged up my internet connection because, living out in the sticks as I do, we don't have access to broadband and so I rely on a very slow dial-up service to connect to the outside world. His book was over 750 pages long (single spaced...), and it took nearly forty minutes to download.

If he had been submitting to a publisher he would have earned himself a swift rejection right there for the tone of his email and for ignoring the submission guidelines which I had provided. But I had promised to look at his work, and so I kept my word...<snip>

I emailed him my thoughts, along with my annotations to his first chapter and my reasons for suggesting such changes: and in reply he told me I didn't know what I was doing and that rules are made to be broken. He made it quite clear that he disagreed with everything I had written, and would not be making any of my changes.

So I e-mailed him back just a few words: "I'm sorry I couldn't be more help." And he sent me back a long, detailed email in which he called me names, accused me of being a racist (even though I hadn't been aware of his colour until he made his accusation), and said that I’d completely missed the point of his book.

And that's why so many editors and agents are no longer prepared to give personalised rejections. <emphasis added>

maestrowork
04-18-2009, 09:16 PM
Always follow the instructions and submission guidelines. That's the #1 cause of rejection when the writer doesn't take the time or care about following simple instructions.

If the agent asks for a partial (3 chapters, 50 pages, etc.) then send 3 chapters or 50 pages. It doesn't matter if you can fit 300,000 words into a single email. That's not what the agent asks for. And to ask them to "simply ignore or delete what they don't need" is a smack in their faces -- like: "Heck, I am not doing the work; you are."

There's a reason why an agent or editor asks for a partial instead of the full. They just want a quick look to see if you can indeed write. They want to see just the beginning of your story. Or whatever other reasons they have. You don't have to understand. All you have to do is give them what they want.

Besides, it's also a file size and email size matter. It's a difference between a 10K file and 300K. Some .RTF or .PDF documents can go up to a few megabytes. Not all agents have high-speed Internet and not all the time if they do. Maybe they're on a business trip and only has dial up? Maybe they're on their iPhones? DO NOT clog up the agent's email system with something they didn't ask for. (Plus like Chaos said, they may still want to print it out to read it -- don't make them do the work to cut and paste or print the right number of pages!)

But the most important thing is: FOLLOW the guidelines and instructions. Unless you want instant rejections.

Fulk
04-18-2009, 11:42 PM
I am reminded of AW's own Old Hack's recent blog post (http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2009/03/writers-should-know-better.html), where she says:

Wowza. If that isn't the most ungrateful response a person could give to someone trying to help. I feel sorry for Old Hack.

StephanieWeippert
04-19-2009, 01:08 AM
I am reminded of AW's own Old Hack's recent blog post (http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2009/03/writers-should-know-better.html),

OMG! How rude of that writer. I especially love the guy playing the race card. Does have a clue about the race/religion/etc. of the person he just slammed? I doubt it.

Sadly, this isn't the first time I've heard this. I don't get it at all...

Seriously, how could you not be grateful that some published author gave you advice, FOR FREE??!??!??!??

Old Hack
04-19-2009, 12:57 PM
Wowza. If that isn't the most ungrateful response a person could give to someone trying to help. I feel sorry for Old Hack.

Why, thank you, Fulk: it's most kind of you. But there's no need, because right now I'm just really pleased to discover that Mac reads my blog!

The writer I described in my blog post was by no means the most badly-behaved writer I've ever encountered: one of the writers I rejected in my editing days ended up stalking me, as I've described here on Absolute Write (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3035462&postcount=224). Sadly, there will always be people who behave oafishly.

It's easy to avoid turning yourself into an oaf: when you submit your work, follow all guidelines provided to the letter, otherwise you'll scupper your chances before you begin. While most editors and agents are pretty flexible and do ignore mistakes, anything which implies that a writer just couldn't be bothered to comply with those guidelines also implies that the writer is going to be a pain to work with--as I discovered to my cost, with the writer who inspired my blog post, who continues to complain about me on other writing message-boards (he wouldn't get away with it here): he calls me names and insists I know nothing; but his actions only discredit him, and he's still unpublished.

Fulk
04-21-2009, 01:05 PM
Why, thank you, Fulk: it's most kind of you. But there's no need, because right now I'm just really pleased to discover that Mac reads my blog!

The writer I described in my blog post was by no means the most badly-behaved writer I've ever encountered: one of the writers I rejected in my editing days ended up stalking me, as I've described here on Absolute Write (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3035462&postcount=224). Sadly, there will always be people who behave oafishly.

It's easy to avoid turning yourself into an oaf: when you submit your work, follow all guidelines provided to the letter, otherwise you'll scupper your chances before you begin. While most editors and agents are pretty flexible and do ignore mistakes, anything which implies that a writer just couldn't be bothered to comply with those guidelines also implies that the writer is going to be a pain to work with--as I discovered to my cost, with the writer who inspired my blog post, who continues to complain about me on other writing message-boards (he wouldn't get away with it here): he calls me names and insists I know nothing; but his actions only discredit him, and he's still unpublished.

Okay, the stalking definitely does top your experiences with this other writer.

Though I think it seems clear why the author is still unpublished. It's just a shame they weren't willing to take the advice when it was offered. Had they done so, maybe they would've wound up published. At the very least they would have carried away some wisdom concerning what they could do better in the future.

heyjude
04-21-2009, 06:54 PM
I read somewhere just recently where an agent said he requested partials instead of fulls b/c fulls required a more personalized rejection. So that's part of it for some of them.

scope
04-22-2009, 12:21 AM
I read somewhere just recently where an agent said he requested partials instead of fulls b/c fulls required a more personalized rejection. So that's part of it for some of them.

Never heard this before, but even if true, if the agent likes the partial s/he will probably request the full anyway.

Dollywagon
04-22-2009, 11:49 AM
Would it count as not obeying the rules and really miff an agent off if you included an additional 3 lines when being asked for partial pages?

Unimportant
04-22-2009, 12:48 PM
For most agents, a partial submission can be a simsub, but for full ms they want an exclusive. Sending a full ms when they didn't ask for it may put you into the implied position of not simsubbing elsewhere.

Nadia
04-22-2009, 01:04 PM
Always take time and care to give agents what they ask for. Don't give more. Don't give less.

If they say send your 1st 3 chapters in RTF, do it. Make sure everything's formatted correctly, double-check if you must, and run virus scan on it.

Don't send DOC if they want RTF and vice versa. Some agents will NOT open doc files.

If you're too special to follow submission guidelines, you're too special to get an agent.

Cassiopeia
04-22-2009, 01:12 PM
I think it is the height of arrogance to send more than the agent requests and it's rude. What happened to the day of following instructions?

KTC
04-22-2009, 01:16 PM
I think it is the height of arrogance to send more than the agent requests and it's rude. What happened to the day of following instructions?

I think your question has been answered enough...I just wanted to quote Cass's response because it says it all. Even if you don't think it's arrogant to ignore the agent's request and send a full instead of a partial...the agent sure will. ALWAYS follow every guideline you are given when seeking publication. If they ask for 10 pages, send 10 pages. If they ask for the first 50, send the first 50. Etc, etc...

Dollywagon
04-22-2009, 01:19 PM
Okay, so the upshot is that you lot think I've blown it?

She asked for the next 50 pages and I included the additional 3 lines because they finished mid sentence ...

KTC
04-22-2009, 01:23 PM
Okay, so the upshot is that you lot think I've blown it?

She asked for the next 50 pages and I included the additional 3 lines because they finished mid sentence ...

To send to the end of a sentence is completely different. You would do that. I think you're only joking here to prove a point, but come on...of course you would include to the end of the sentence. Sending 3 lines over is a bit different than sending the entire manuscript.

Dollywagon
04-22-2009, 01:34 PM
... no I'm not, KTC, I'm not joking, honest!

Just worried that I did overstep the mark because if you read some of the comments on here, as in your own '50 means 50' I thought it really could offend some agents.

Plus, I am a little concerned about this sub because I read on another thread that she usually responds within a couple of hours and now I'm two days in ...

KTC
04-22-2009, 01:35 PM
... no I'm not, KTC, I'm not joking, honest!

Just worried that I did overstep the mark because if you read some of the comments on here, as in your own '50 means 50' I thought it really could offend some agents.

Plus, I am a little concerned about this sub because I read on another thread that she usually responds within a couple of hours and now I'm two days in ...


To be honest, I would have cut off the entire last sentence or made it fit somehow. But to catch the end of the sentence...I don't see that being an issue. Don't always go by the time line you hear about. I have 3 manuscripts out there...one is over 6 months with the agent. Patience is a virtue.

Cassiopeia
04-22-2009, 01:41 PM
Patience is a virtue.*giggles* one with which you are becoming very good at practicing.

I will chime in here and say that to include the rest of a sentence only makes sense. I'm sure it will be fine.

Dollywagon
04-22-2009, 01:42 PM
Patience might be a virtue but if I have to wait 6 months I'll be into self-harming ...


Okay, I'll be a good girl and go away and calm down ... it was just folks were saying she sent rejections quickly and I'd got myself set up for that.

KTC
04-22-2009, 01:43 PM
Patience might be a virtue but if I have to wait 6 months I'll be into self-harming ...

HA! I didn't say I wasn't. It's almost impossible to type this with one arm. I lost the other around the 4 month mark.

Cassiopeia
04-22-2009, 01:46 PM
Patience might be a virtue but if I have to wait 6 months I'll be into self-harming ...


Okay, I'll be a good girl and go away and calm down ... it was just folks were saying she sent rejections quickly and I'd got myself set up for that.well..somehow I think there's something good in not hearing from her soon. ;)


HA! I didn't say I wasn't. It's almost impossible to type this with one arm. I lost the other around the 4 month mark.oh and don't listen to KTC...he's typing with his toes now. :D

Cyia
04-22-2009, 02:45 PM
Okay, so the upshot is that you lot think I've blown it?

She asked for the next 50 pages and I included the additional 3 lines because they finished mid sentence ...

Most of the agents I've had requests from phrase it as "50 pages or the nearest complete chapter."

There's plenty of leeway there for finishing thoughts. It's not like they've got a counter up top that's going to set off red lights and alarms because you went on for an extra few words. ;)

aruna
04-22-2009, 03:44 PM
Most of the agents I've had requests from phrase it as "50 pages or the nearest complete chapter."

There's plenty of leeway there for finishing thoughts. It's not like they've got a counter up top that's going to set off red lights and alarms because you went on for an extra few words. ;)
Most agents here in the UK -- where normally you submit a partial and synopsis in the first instance - are very flexible, and ask for 30-50 pages or to the next natural break.

0

NeuroFizz
04-22-2009, 03:59 PM
It's also not typical to get a response to a partial manuscript request in hours or even in a few days. Weeks is more like it unless the writing is so crappy they CAN give an immediate rejection. Agents are swamped with submissions, and that's not even their first priority, which is selling the works of the clients already in their stables. Rejections to the initial queries are the quick ones (hours to days) although some of those can drag on for weeks as well. You do want the agent to give your partial careful consideration, don't you? If so, give the agent (and yourself) a break. The agent has to start making serious business decisions when they request materials from the stack of queries. Business decisions like that shouldn't be rushed.

Nadia
04-22-2009, 04:00 PM
If it's just 3 lines, don't worry. :)

DeadlyAccurate
04-22-2009, 05:29 PM
For most agents, a partial submission can be a simsub, but for full ms they want an exclusive. Sending a full ms when they didn't ask for it may put you into the implied position of not simsubbing elsewhere.

Not most, just some. And of those, many are flexible on the matter.

Dollywagon, though it sounds like a written-in-stone rule (if they ask for 50, send exactly 50, no matter what), it's not really that strict. Most agents understand if you send a page or two more or less, if that's where the chapter ends. (I believe the chapter of the book I last queried on ended on page 54, so I sent that).

But for a lot of people, if they aren't told how many pages to send, they'll send 75 or 17 or 104 or the full manuscript.

Let common sense dictate. If they ask for 50 pages, keep it as close to 50 as possible without cutting off a sentence, and if the chapter ends +/- ~4 pages, send the entire chapter.

maestrowork
04-22-2009, 06:01 PM
Okay, so the upshot is that you lot think I've blown it?

She asked for the next 50 pages and I included the additional 3 lines because they finished mid sentence ...

That's fine, and if the agent reads the entire 50p+3, he/she will ask for a full. Trust me, most only need a few pages to know if it's something they want to request.

In fact, personally I would send EXACTLY 50 pages even if it stops mid-sentence. I want the agent to read to the end (that means, he really likes it) and then go, "ARGH! What happens next?" Then I know I have him where I want him.

maestrowork
04-22-2009, 06:06 PM
Patience might be a virtue but if I have to wait 6 months I'll be into self-harming ...


Okay, I'll be a good girl and go away and calm down ... it was just folks were saying she sent rejections quickly and I'd got myself set up for that.


Seriously, if she's read it already and it's a rejection, you would have gotten that rejection.

If she hasn't read it yet, there's really nothing you can do but wait. A few weeks is very common. Sometimes people wait for a few months, if the agent is TOP -- meaning, he or she is BUSY actually selling manuscripts, not reading. Many top agents also use assistance, but they, too, have a long queue. And many only get to read submissions during the weekend.

Dollywagon
04-22-2009, 07:29 PM
Oh, we can all stop now because I got the rejection this afternoon!

Honestly, the relief is palpable ... nowhere in the email did she say, 'it's because you put an extra 3 lines in, you cheeky mare!'

The same ms is out as a full to another agent in hardcopy so we'll see what happens there ...

Phaeal
04-22-2009, 09:42 PM
If I were an agent, I'd ask for five pages with the query, as some agents do. In my experience of perusing both MSS and published books, one to five pages is enough for me to decide whether the writer interests me.

But I'm chronically befuddled about why a lot of books hit the bestseller lists. I take that as sufficient proof that I shouldn't be an agent, and therefore I'll just continue doing exactly what the agent and editor guidelines say. You want 17.75 pages? You got it. You want a thousand pages and my MS is only 500? Give me a couple days, and I'll bat you out another 500. You want hellebore-ivory paper with an indigo border? Not a problem. I'm on the way to the stationers. ;)

ChaosTitan
04-24-2009, 02:46 AM
In the comments section of this blog post, one agent succinctly expresses his reason reason for requesting, via email, thirty pages v. the entire manuscript. And yep, it's file size.

http://lyonsliterary.blogspot.com/2009/04/new-query-policy.html