Yes, I am judging you on your "here's my manuscript" note.

And, in all fairness, you can totally judge me for not posting in forever. Bad GK.

So.

As a general rule, every line of communication between you and an agent can affect how that agent thinks of you. Last week, I was very much enjoying a manuscript--but then got a check-in with more than three excruciating abuses of the English language (the writer didn't even bother to capitalize his name). I haven't yet returned to that MS. I will--but not until the effects of that note wear off.

So if I get your manuscript with a grudging, feet-dragging, "I hate publishing but I guess I might as well send this" and/or "Here goes nothing" note, you're not going to get bumped to the head of the pile. In fact, your lack of enthusiasm usually translates to a lack of enthusiasm on my part, too.

Other possible outcomes from lackluster notes: I assume you have a huge group of agents clamoring for your work already, and they work in skyscrapers and have already promised you a column ad in the NY Times; you only submitted to me on a whim because my business card says "agent"; you don't actually know who I am.

It's like the pop psychologists say: smiles are contagious (except in New York at rush hour). Enthusiasm is, too.

That said, all of these are better than no note, and/or just putting all of the materials into an email and hitting Send.

So, here we go (and, as always, keep in mind that there are many kinds of agents out there, and some prefer a more stoic response--you'll probably be able to make an educated guess based on their interviews and online presence):

You say potato, I say meh: 
Dear GK,
Here is the manuscript you requested.
Signed,
[Author]


Better:
Dear GK,
Thank you for your interest. Here is the manuscript you requested.
Signed,
[Author]


Best:
Dear GK,
I'm so glad to get your request! Here's my manuscript, with synopsis attached.


I look forward to hearing from you!


All best,
[Author]


Bestest (not a word, but hey, I work in publishing; I'll stretch rules):
Dear GK,
So glad to hear from you. I [something personal that proves you know who I am here].


I look forward to hearing from you!
All best,
[Author]


Now, the six-figure question: where's the line between enthusiasm and sucking up?

I think that usually boils down to two factors: genuine feeling (it's always better to only say things that are unstretched truth, even if it puts you into "best" versus "bestest" territory) and quirkiness. I still remember one of my favorite responses, which involved a happy dance in a grocery store.

And I believe that was more than a year ago.

So, no. You do not have to drive yourself to the grocery store (or, since it's been taken already, the pet store, Chuck E. Cheese's, the movie theatre, or your local amusement park), embarrass yourself in front of strangers (or if, like me, you're from a small town--friends of friends and their mothers), and burn a few great story-earning calories, all in the interest of a really neat "here's my manuscript."

But if you did--and if you put it on YouTube--I'd bake you a gold star cake and send it to you.*

Cake stolen from myrecipes.com.
It looks a little like it's made of cheese, doesn't it? That could be delicious.

Hope this finds you well and enjoying your holiday season.

___________________________________
* First person to do this only. And if you live in the US, leave the video up on YouTube, and let me post it.
** As always, other agents may feel differently 

10 comments:

:) said...

Someone is totes going to call you on the cake offer.*

:)

* someone much less shy than :)

Agency Gatekeeper said...

I sure hope so!

Agency Gatekeeper said...

If anyone is interested, yes, the cake can come in many flavors. Anything reasonably easy to create (ie, chocolate or rose, yes; saffron, no) could be yours...

Connie Keller said...

Glad you're back. We missed you.

Holly Dodson said...

A video response to a manuscript request...I hope we get to see one. That would be amazing. In fact, I can't stop giggling thinking about how much fun that video could be to make.

KHC said...

Thank you for this post. A couple of days after reading it, I got a request for a full, and expressed my enthusiasm. In the past I've always tried to be ultra-professional and authorial when someone asks for a full or partial. If I get an offer from this request, I will always remember how kind you were to share this advice. All the best and THANK YOU!~

Dana Sieders said...

It's nice for authors out there to know that we have permission, even encouragement, to express our enthusiasm!

Bear in mind, though, so much information out there on the web, on other agent and publishing business blogs/websites, and even in workshops encourage minimalism - as in "Don't overwhelm with too many words!" - as well as rigid professionalism - "Don't get too cutesy or informal!"

Perhaps this is the reason some of the responses to requests mask the enthusiasm on the author's end. I can't imagine anyone NOT being over the moon excited with a partial or full request.

At any rate, thanks for giving us all the green light to go ahead and squee!

Kathryn Elliott said...

I believe the line between enthusiasm and sucking up lies in the delivery: personal, spirited email, yes; exotic dancer working his way through med school, no.

Shari Green said...

I may be guilty of masking my excitement in hopes of looking "professional". Oops. In truth, requests always cause happy-dancing for me (it's not pretty, but it's definitely happy). I'll try to let a little more of that shine through next time. :)

Patricia Hamill said...

I added your blog to my favorites last year, when I reached the 3/4 mark in the book I've been writing with my mom. Today, I finally finished it.

I'm glad to know your blog is still running strong. I find it insightful, entertaining and illuminating.


The examples of good and bad correspondence, like you gave in this post, are extremely helpful. I remember reading a few posts about selecting agents and sending initial letters; hopefully I can find them again now that I'm ready to try them out.

Thank you!