Nathan Bransford, Author

Monday, April 30, 2007

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

A couple of different blogging agents have posted recently about the taboo of calling a prospective agent, and I'd like to chime in with my own endorsement of the "You probably shouldn't call" policy. Clients should feel free to call their agents (really, I'm happy to talk, ohmigod did you see Lost the other night?? Do you think it's purgatory or are they trying to trick us?), but most of the time prospective clients should not.

Here's the thing about calling a prospective agent (and I get an average of five of these a day, sometimes more): it takes up time, and it seriously adds up. Most of the time people are inquiring about submission policies, and I respect that a lot of times submission policies are murky and not easy to research online. But here's what you should do instead of calling when you don't know an agency's submission policies: Just guess.

Unless you see somewhere that an agent is definitely NOT taking submissions, you can assume that they are taking queries. You can assume that they want a query letter, you can assume that if you can't specifically find that an agent takes e-queries you should send it in via the mail, and no one is going to kill you for sending a few sample pages. Just guess. No agent ever rejected a great manuscript because the author sent 15 pages when their submission guidelines calls for 10.

Oh, and if you're calling up to pitch a project to me, you should know that I am a visual learner and when I hear a plot summary it goes in one ear, sails right through the tangled, dark miasma that is my brain, slaps high five with the portion of my brain devoted to sports, and goes right out the other ear. I need to read it if I'm going to make a decision, so no need to tell it to me over the phone.

Times when it's ok to call: if you're telling me I won the lottery and you work for the State Lotto Commission, if you are the general manager of the Sacramento Kings and you'd like to consult with me on a trade or draft pick, if you have appeared or will appear in an episode of The Hills and you are calling my homeboy phone, or if you're a client or work in publishing.

Other than that, the post office and email are your friends!


Jillian said...

Oh, and if you're calling up to pitch a project to me, you should know that I am a visual learner and when I hear a plot summary it goes in one ear, sails right through the tangled, dark miasma that is my brain, slaps high five with the portion of my brain devoted to sports, and goes right out the other ear.

Yep, that's a well written tidbit, that is. Especially the "sails right through the tangled, dark miasma that is my brain" part.

I'm a visual learner, too. I can't listen to "books on tape;" I zone out during sermons; the margins of my college notebooks are cluttered with oddly intricate doodles.

And I hate telephones.

A quick question: Miss Snark has declared that it's a good idea to include up to 5 manuscript pages with your query, since "it's all about the writing" -- even if the guidelines say "query only." I've had success with this, so I tend to agree. What's your take?

Nathan Bransford said...


I definitely think it's smart to send some sample pages. If I like a query I go straight for the sample pages, and if I'm hooked I'll ask for a partial.

Oh, and I'm with you on audiobooks. I can't listen to them while driving because I concentrate so hard on following the plot I forget to drive.

Jillian said...


The only thing I was ever able to listen to while driving was Patrick Stewart's rendition of A Christmas Carol. But that's probably because I already knew the plot.

brian_ohio said...

You don't have a screener or office administation specialist to make sure these types of calls don't get through? Just curious.

Not sure if you follow football, The Browns had a good draft. Finally. Won't mean squat when the season rolls around.

What's up with the bridges burning in your town?

Nathan Bransford said...


We do have a receptionist, but they still get through. Someone has to talk to them.

I do follow football, and I thought the 49ers (my team) did well on draft day. Finally that team is on the rise, it's been forever since they've been good. Of course, as a Browns fan, I think you have a pretty good idea of what forever REALLY feels like.

Len said...


thanks for the five-page sample tip. I like that. I really need to call Nathan and read him the first five pages of my future bestseller. While he's driving.

Len said...

And just for the record, lifelong Niner fan.

Anonymous said...

I hope you did not just include a spoiler for this season of Lost in your post. I really, really hope you didn't. Some of us only watch the show once it's out on DVD.

Nathan Bransford said...


No, that wasn't a spoiler, don't worry.

Although the next time I mention Lost in my blog you might want to cover your ears and say "blah blah blah" really loudly so you don't hear anything.

Jillian said...

Len -- You're welcome. I've learned a lot from Miss Snark. I hold the dubious honor of being her Very First Crapometer Victim.

She ripped the first page of my first novel apart -- which is exactly what it needed. That was the turning part in my journey as a writer. I've never looked back.

Maybe you could podcast your pages. :)

Nathan Bransford said...

2:50 PDT, just received my first post-blog phone call about our submission policy. That didn't take long.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, what if you have agents looking at partials and fulls, and one makes an offer of representation? Can you call the other agents on the phone?

Nathan Bransford said...


That's one of the exceptions. In that case, yes, it's ok to call.

Jillian said...

It wasn't me! (checking post time...)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Bransford,

First off, thank you so much for this blog. It's been a huge help during my first venture into the Petrifying Pursuit of Publishing.

Second, I was wondring if you could please answer a quick question for me. I queried an agent who, in response, requested a partial of my manuscript. This agent's website states that all requested submissions will be responded to within 12 weeks. However, 12 weeks have come and gone, and I have yet to receive a reply.

I understand that under the vast majority of circumstances, I should not bother agents. However, would it be out of order to send this agent an email, checking on the status of my partial?

Thank you so much for your time and help.

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