Now as a result of some family pressure, I got stuck into querying a novel for a family member. Query was mine, book is theirs, and has all sorts of problems. The query has been getting some interesting results with six requests for partials, but that isn't where this story is going.

Going to a site for agents, I started using it to send email queries to the agents listed there. One of the agents (who is relatively innocent in this story) apparently let the web site lapse. This caused the request to go to the site to wander, ending up at a form to send to an agent (notice the lack of the word "the" here -- it's intentional). I said to myself, "What the hell," and filled out the form.

Up to this point, this was seeming very legitimate, and the agent is legitimate. But withing a few hours of sending in the form, I received the following email:

Thank you for the information you have provided. I may have something for you. We have merged with a book marketing and publishing group and they have asked us to immediately send them authors that we believe meet their criteria. I will be forwarding this information to our sister book marketing company and publisher that likes situations like this (smaller and more focused), and can move quickly. (Their website is www.xxxxxxxx.com).

They are aggressively taking authors and their books into the international markets as well as the US. So far, the feedback is very good from writers we have sent to them. They have published over 1000 authors at this point and their marketing is going international. http://www.xxxxxxxxxxx.com/ shows our exhibit in Frankfurt where many relationships were built and deals are in process.

Please give them 2-5 days to get back to you. They will email you and request your manuscript if they want to see your work. They are very diligent about leads I send them. (Hint: Please start prepping your manuscript now, the odds are greater than 90% they will want to see it based on the fact that we sent you to them).

Please note that if your work is NOT FINISHED then please read below and we will continue. Our agency can deal with an unfinished work. The publisher cannot.

If you would like to speak with someone, please call xxxx at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

**************
Also, as a side benefit, we will teach you as much about the publishing industry as we can. Over the last five or so years we have communicated with thousands of authors, been a part of publishing thousands of books, and our authors have collectively sold hundreds of thousands of books. We think we are uniquely qualified to help you grow your writing career. This information is given free and without obligation. We certainly hope you will choose to work with us but in the spirit of 'giving back' and helping as many people as we can, we pledge to give you 'straight talk' about the writing and publishing business circa 2010.
****************

Good luck!

The Acquisitions Team

---------------

Good things are happening! SEPTEMBER, 2009: China Partner is taking our authors to the Beijing Book Show. Here is a link to a page from their catalog. (Please don't ask what it says (smile))! http://www.xxxxxxx.com/ And, if you do not reach a deal with them, please let me know and we will continue to look for other publishers for you. Just email me back if that's the case, and I will drop you an email in a couple of weeks to see how things are going.

PLEASE NOTE: AT THE FRANKFURT BOOKFAIR IN GERMANY THE CHINESE ARE AGGRESSIVELY SEEKING BOOKS of all genres. We have meetings set for London in April. If you join us, you can be ready for the next book show. Depending on when you sign with us it could be next year (2010) in London/April 19-21, NY/May 25-27, Beijing/Aug 30-Sept 3, or Frankfurt/Oct. 6-10.

--------------
IF YOUR WORK IS NOT FINISHED PLEASE SEE THE INFORMATION BELOW.

Thank you for your query to the xxxxxxx Agency. Based on your query form information we would like to see your work.

This will be a long email. You might enjoy setting aside some time to really read it (grin). My goals are to 1) get the info we need to make a decision, 2) to let you know about how we think and how we approach the industry, and 3) to let you know what to expect.

If you would like to speak with someone, please call xxxx at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

1) Would you please send us an electronic copy of your work for further evaluation?

Please email your manuscript to manuscript@xxxxxxxxx.com

2) Would you please answer these 3 questions in the body of the SAME email? (Just copy and paste the questions). And don't stress or take too long simple answers are fine.

Q1) Think like a publisher/buyer? Pitch me/them. Who would buy this book? Why would they buy it? If you give seminars or talks, mention it here.

Q2) How long have you been writing, and what are your goals as a writer?

Q3) Do you consider your writing 'ready-to-go', or do you think it needs some polishing? If you have been through a formal editing process, please describe it in detail, ie. Name/company of editor(s) etc.

You may send either 3-5 chapters or the entire manuscript, whichever you are more comfortable sending. Your manuscript is completely safe within our company. We take care to properly manage all access and if we don't end up working together, we delete all files.

Please DO NOT include any questions with your manuscript submission. If you have a question, please send it to xxxxxxxxxxxx where the proper people may address your question. Most of the questions you may have are answered on the website and at the bottom of this email. Please see the FAQs below.

Our preference for receiving your manuscript is via email.
============================================
If the file size is greater than 5 megabytes you can mail it to us on CD, but please only send it once, either by email or snail mail (we prefer email).

If you simply must mail your work or a CD, please email our question email and request a mailing code and address. Please explain thoroughly why you feel that you must mail the work. (Can you tell by now that we really want to make it difficult to mail? We hate mail. It costs money to ship, buyers don't want hardcopy, etc, etc.) Mailed manuscripts may take up to 6 weeks to reply/process. Emailed manuscripts are processed much more quickly. Please note: Due to the volume of material that we receive we cannot return anything you send us. Please do not send us anything that you can't replace.

We believe we are very different than other agencies.
================================================== ========
We believe that we are unique in that we are willing to develop an author and their talent. We like the metaphor of a "business incubator" as a description of how we will take time to bring an author's work to the proper quality level, even if it takes months to do so.

We take pride in the fact that we answer every email personally within 2-3 days. Please, watch your spam filters!

Our job is to find a buyer for you, period. You may understand how a Literary Agency works, but many authors don't. As your Literary Agent, our mission is to assist you in finding a publisher and to coach you along the way in various options available to you. We don't edit your work. Our mission is to sell for you. Your mission is to meet or exceed industry quality standards.

As for compensation, we get paid on success only. Typically we will receive 10% of what you receive. We do not charge fees, so our compensation is based on success only.

Important: We never promise a sale, but we can tell you that we have a model that works.

We look forward to receiving your materials.

Best regards,
xxxxxxx - V.P. Acquisitions

P.s. You might as well get used to these long emails. Part of our filtering process is to see if you actually read them <grin>. Why the long emails? If you will read them you will actually get a decent view of the agency business and what we see from our side. We try to explain as much as we can along the way and I am always pleased when authors tell me that they enjoyed learning from these emails.

Please don't be upset because we use forms and long emails. I spend my time doing two basic tasks, 1) managing submissions and evaluations, and 2) answering questions. If I can answer your question BEFORE you ask it, then the entire process will proceed much more efficiently.

As a corollary to that, if you want long-winded, personalized emails you will probably not enjoy our process. If you are as busy as we are, and you pride yourself on operating efficiently (it is a business after all), then you will enjoy how efficiently we focus on the point, and that is, whether we can work together based on your writing and attitude.

This is the biggest complaint that we get and I wish I could spend oodles of time with each of you. I just can't. Sometimes it's like drinking from a firehose over here. So, please rest assured I am a real person, and I do look at every email. After that we have some pretty sophisticated tools for managing emails.

Typical Frequently Asked Questions
=============================
Q) Do you return manuscripts?
A) Sorry for the inconvenience however, WE DO NOT RETURN MANUSCRIPTS or MATERIALS due to the volume of submissions we receive. Please do not send us anything that you can't replace easily. And if you do send something, please don't tell me that you are going to sue me if I don't send it back... Egads.. If you only knew.

Q) Would you prefer me to email or mail my manuscript?
A) WE MUCH PREFER EMAILED MANUSCRIPTS.

Q) How should I attach my manuscript?
A) PLEASE DO NOT PASTE YOUR MANUSCRIPT INTO THE BODY OF THE EMAIL. Please send it to us as an attachment, otherwise it hangs up the mail system. If you can't create an attachment, please get a friend to help you do so. I think we have every software program known to man. However everything works easier if you have a .pdf, .rtf, or .doc filetype. We also support Word Perfect and MS Works.

Q) Is my manuscript safe with you?
A) Your materials are safe within our company. If you are uncomfortable sending your entire manuscript, please only send 3-5 chapters. If we do not end up working together we will destroy and delete any copies of your work that we have. Furthermore the idea of people stealing someone's work is a bit of 'urban legend'. It really doesn't happen.

Q) Do I need to copyright my work before I send it?
A) Not really. Your manuscript and creations are completely safe within our company. We take care to properly manage all access and if we don't end up working together, we delete all files. You may also want to copyright it, but we don't need it to be copyrighted to analyze it. Regarding copyright, there are two ways you can go. One way is to do it yourself at http://www.loc.gov/copyright/ . The other way is to let someone who does it all the time do it for you. We found a list of copyright services here. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Some of the services do books and some screenplays.

Q) How long does this review take?
A) About 7-10 days. We're faster than most other agencies.

Q) Do you work with minors?
A) It depends. We like that the author be 18 years or older. However, if the parent/legal guardian supports your work and is wiling to sign a contract on your behalf, then yes, we will accept the work. Please noted, we treat minors as adults in all our communications, no special consideration. If you are a parent and your child has written the work, we do know a publisher that is looking to create a division that publishes books written by children. If this is the case please email me and let me know that you might be interested in that referral.

Q) What about illustrations?
A) Illustrations can wait until later in the process. Why? Sometimes the publisher insists on choosing the illustrator, sometimes not. It's very subjective. When/if you meet your Agent, the Agent will decide about the illustrations that you have or need, as part of the pitch package that they will be working on. Another question we get is this? Doesn't the publisher choose the illustrator? The answer is 'sometimes'. The larger ones certainly have their pet illustrators. Mid-sized and smaller publishers are looking for more of a 'whole package' because it lessens their work. So, they are looking for new talent. So, all in all, let's wait and let the agent deal with illustration questions, whereas my department focuses on the writing.

Q) Why is there no phone number? I want to talk to someone...
A) Quite frankly, we are deluged with submissions. It is our policy to provide a contact number later in the process, assuming we would like to proceed with you. If you would like to talk with someone for the reassurance of hearing a voice, just email me and I'll connect you to the proper party.

Q) Where are you located?
A) Our agents headquarter in executive suites in New York, NY where we meet with buyers. Our admin team lives in Florida. Our review and editing teams headquarter in California. Our screenplay team has presence in Los Angeles. Other than that, we travel extensively and our employees have the good fortune to live in Florida, Connecticut, and California (and at least 10 other states) depending on the time of year. Sometimes we think that we live in airports.

Q) Why aren't you in the Yellow Pages? I can't find you listed anywhere?
A) Buyers certainly don't go to the Yellow Pages to find authors <grin>, just nervous authors go there. We use toll free phone numbers and cell phones. Those simply aren't in any phone directories. Yellow Pages are 'old technology', and they cost money. The Internet is a much better form of advertising. We haven't been in Yellow pages for 10 years.

Q) Are you a member of AAR, BBB, Alphabet Soup...?
A) We have chosen to belong to industry associations where the buyers are, We spend our money going to the big book tradeshows in the US, England, and Germany. BBB, AAR, and other organizations of that type mainly exist for nervous writers, and frankly, we have too many applicants already, so we choose not to spend time and money on those organizations. I hope that helps you understand why we belong to associations that help us sell your work, not organizations that help us recruit more writers. We prefer that you judge us on the professionalism of our communications and not whether we belong to an organization.

Q) Tell me more about your company.
A) We are bigger than a small agency and smaller than a large agency. We market to the larger and medium sized publishers and producers. At any one time we have 20+ books in serious review. That's an amazing number by the way. (fyi: most agencies only have 1 or 2 deals every couple of years, if that). We do NOT market to vanity presses. All told we probably have 20 people working in various capacities. We are proud that we are going to become an employee owned company and we treat our people well.

Q) Have you ever been sued or in legal action with your clients/authors?
A) We are very proud of the fact that we have NEVER been sued or a part of a legal action. We have instituted a defamation lawsuit against a number of very strange authors, but that's a different, and sad, story.

Q) You're not a vanity publisher or a self-publisher are you?
A) No we're NOT A VANITY OR SELF-publisher in any way, shape or form. We DO NOT sell to vanity or self-publishers. Our mission is to sell your work to TRADITIONAL publishers who will pay you (and us). And, that's how we get paid. If we sell your work to a publisher, then and only then do we get paid (usually 10% which is the industry standard for Literary Agencies).

Q) What are you looking for during your evaluation?
A) We mainly look for COMMERCIAL VIABILITY in the work coupled with good solid writing skills. "Is it something that will sell?" is of paramount importance to us. (We ARE NOT scrutinizing every word, spelling, and grammar usage. There's plenty of time later for that.) We believe that great writers are made, not born at least 99% of the time. But if a work doesn't have commercial potential, then we want to let you know as quickly as possible. Being willing to grow talent, we believe in the old adage, "luck is when opportunity meets preparation and hard work".

Q) How can you evaluate work so quickly?
A) Our mission in the Acquisitions Department is clear. We answer 3 questions:

1. Will the subject matter sell? Is it commercially viable?

2. Is the writing good enough, or would it be good enough with some degree of assistance?

3. Did you as the evaluator like the work and would you believe in it if you were selling it?

If we get the "3 yes" designation then you pass. The next item we look for in our filtering process is your willingness to listen or whether you are a prima donna who wants it 'their way'. We will very quickly wash out a great writer with a bad attitude. Life's too short for drama and overly demanding writers.

Q) What if you find errors or problems with my manuscript? Should I spend time revising now, or later?
A) We receive very few 'ready-to-go' manuscripts. We believe we are unique in that we are willing to work with our authors along the way. Most manuscripts that we receive need some level of polishing before we can submit them to buyers. Some need very little polishing. Some need a lot. Over the years, we've learned that it is worth our time and effort to do what it takes to develop new talent. We've learned that incubating new talent makes good business sense.

Q) My manuscript isn't finished....
A) As long as there is enough finished to determine your skills as a writer we are willing to look at your work. As mentioned previously, we take a long term view and we are willing to develop talent. Also, we understand that sometimes life gets in the way, and we are willing to wait for you.

Q) Who are some of the authors you represent? Why aren't they on your
website?
A) Every time we've placed the names of our writers, our agents, or our sales on the website, they are deluged with very weird emails from some very weird people, so we just don't post them anymore. We'd rather lose a new author applicant, than an existing client or buyer. We don't post our deals. It's not worth the risk to try to impress an applicant and lose a buyer.

I can tell you though, that if accepted, you will be among a very diverse and elite group. We are proud to represent a very diverse group of authors. Our roster of authors includes authors with the following occupations:

* Doctors
* Lawyers
* Entrepreneurs
* Journalists
* Professors and teachers from universities, high-schools, and elementary schools
* Coaches
* Accountants and bankers
* Advertising Executives
* Stay at home moms... Students, etc.

Here are just a few bios:

1. The author was born in xxxxxxxx, Maryland and is a Professor at a major university. She is an author and editor of 16 books and 12 proceedings and monographs. She has written 50 chapters and 100 papers, and given more than 150 presentations nationwide. She has graduate degrees in Music, Science, and Education. She and her husband are now living in the British Virgin Islands, where her time is spent sailing and writing. She has published scientific articles and written more than a hundred concert reviews as a freelance music critic.

2. The author is a Fellow of the xxxxx Colleges of Physicians, and of xxxxxx, and a Member of the American Societies of Hematology, Clinical Oncology, Blood and Marrow Transplantation and the International Society for Cellular Therapy. For the year 2004-5 he was a scientific advisor to the xxxxxxxxxxx Consortium. He was a past recipient of the xxxxxxxx Research Scholarship of the University of xxxxxxx.

3. The author has also won numerous awards honoring him as one of the top sportscasters in the country. He has been richly honored as a professional speaker as well, thrilling audiences with his career highlights and inspiring messages. He has a rich history of being on the air in radio and TV for a quarter of a century, working in major markets such as xxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

4. This author started singing professionally with the singing group xxxxxxxx …

5. The author is a retired veterinarian living in xxxxxxx, South Africa. He was in rural private practice in various towns before settling down in xxxxxxxx where he practiced for 35 years. For ten years or more he had a monthly column in xxxxxxxxx. He also was the script-writer for the SuperSport TV series xxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

We DO NOT give out names or contact information except to qualified buyers. (If you'll think about it, if you were one of our authors, you'd feel the same way. There are a lot of wierdos on the Internet. Sometimes we think that there is a higher incidence of psychosis among writers than any other occupation.)


Q) Is this an automated email? Is there a real person out there?
A) Yes, and yes, and yes... We personally review each query form and email that we receive. Our company receives about 10,000 emails every 15 days. It's a busy world over here. Then, yes, we do use a form to provide these FAQs. Can you imagine typing this time and time again? We pride ourselves on using technology to be as efficient as possible. This allows us to work with authors from anywhere in the world. By automating certain elements of our communications we can spend more thoughtful time on your questions that are specific to you and your situation.


Q) Do you accept everyone?
A) Of course not. However, we accept more than most. Why is that you may wonder? Think about what we do for a minute... Our job is to contact a publisher and ask them, "what are you looking for now?" and then try to fill that request. One of our biggest frustrations is to have a publisher say, "is there any chance you have xxxx yyyyy?" and for us not to have that type of work. We want to be able to say "Yes, we have something just like that, or very close to that!" So, this is the core reason why we will accept previously unpublished authors that other agencies won't.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thank you again for your time in reading to the end of this email. I hope that you have a better feeling for our company and our acquisitions process.

I look forward to receiving your materials.

IF YOU EMAIL YOUR MATERIALS TO US WE WILL ALWAYS NOTIFY YOU WITHIN 2-3 DAYS OF RECEIPT. Please refrain from asking "did you get it?" for at least 3 business days. If you haven't been notified of receipt within 3 days, then by all means resend it (don't ask, just resend it to the email address above.

Also, please don't email me and say, "did you get it?" I also don't need emails that say, "I sent it".. I'm sorry to be so tough here, but every email has to be read and that takes time and costs money.

Also, if your email to our manuscript@ email won't go through, just 'reply' to this email and attach your manuscript.

Whew! Thanks again and we look forward to hearing from you and looking at your work.

Best regards,
xxxx - VP of Acquisitions

P.s. I get asked this so often, I'm repeating it. NO HARDCOPY We cannot accept hardcopy by mail. We have to pay to mail it around, the buyer doesn't want hardcopy.. And changes WILL occur.. I think you get the picture. Please figure out a way to email it. If your problem is attachments, get a friend to help you. If you must, then copy and paste it into the email. If you need to retype it, then that's what you have to do.

OPT OUT: When you filled out the form you elected to receive emails from our company. To be removed from receiving any further emails please reply or forward this email with your email address to optout@xxxx.com and you will be removed from any further emails.

----Original Message-----
From: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 7:23 PM
To: form@xxxxxxxxxxx.com
Subject: xxxxxxxx Submission Form

Bio: n/a
Genre: mystery
Previously published: No.
Name: xxxxxxxxxxxx
Email: xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Phone: xxx.xxx.xxxx
Title: Venom
Synopsis: Join me in a visit to Whitsville, New Hampshire, whose quiet, tree-lined streets peacefulness is shattered when a prominent town 'Whit' is scared 'Whitless' when he wakes up with a corpse in the room. Frank Whitcombe moved to Whitsville to get away from the big city and wants nothing more then to sell a few ads for the town's paper.

Now the State Police want to know how a dead body wandered into his bedroom. And even worse for Frank, the police discover the remains were murdered. Then the police realize whom Frank found. Famed in a song by the Kingston Trio, MTA Charlie was a Boston icon. And police figure Frank must know what happened to him.
Comments: 95,000 words

FormSource: WLWA
FormDate: n/a
Next installment maybe tomorrow depending on my schedule. Identification removed intentionally.


Best of luck,


Jim Clark-Dawe