Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, July 5, 2007

How to Respond to a Request for a Partial

Thanks to everyone who has submitted an entry for the Ultimate Title Challenge. Due to the sheer awesomeness of the titles that have been submitted so far, I'm going to extend the contest until tonight. Submit as many entries as you'd like -- enter early and enter often!

Now, on another note, I've been receiving some really great (and personalized!) query letters lately, which means more partial requests. If you receive a partial request, congrats! You've beaten the odds and it's justifiable to celebrate. Go buy yourself that big cigar.

However, you'd be surprised at how many e-mailed partials I get that just say "Here it is" and attach 30 pages with no other info. Which means I have to spend 10 minutes trying to figure out what it is and then search through my e-mail files and, well, I like to be efficient.

So. If you receive a request for a partial, I'd humbly suggest you follow these steps:

- Most importantly: when you e-mail your partial, please please please please please include your original query at the bottom of the e-mail. Otherwise, when I sit down to read your partial a week to two weeks later I have to go hunting through my files to find your original e-mail to refresh my memory, and even though I keep them in one place sometimes they're hard to find, and it takes forever, and makes me Mr. Cranky McCrankyagent, and I'd rather be in a good mood when I'm reading your partial. So please: include the query. Please.
- Sending the partial is a great opportunity to include another very short personalized note. No pressure or anything, but it's another opportunity to present yourself as a very cool, awesome writer who so totally isn't stressing about whether or not I'll ask for a full. (I'm easily fooled)
- I usually ask for the first 30 pages. If a chapter ends at Page 32 I'm not going to kill you if you include 32 pages. Whatever makes for a natural break.
- Send the first 30 pages, not just any ole 30 pages
- Make sure your manuscript is formatted correctly.
- Please keep me apprised of any developments regarding your search for representation. I don't usually ask for an exclusive, which I feel is generous in this world of exclusive everythings, but if someone else offers you representation I'd sure like to hear about it.

That's just about it! In the meantime, keep those awesome titles coming, and we'll be crowning a winner tomorrow.


Luc2 said...

Thank you, Nathan. Useful as always.

I finally feel that query letters will not kill me, only cause severe headaches.

If you have time in the near future (or are in search for another topic), could you give some pointers on summaries and synopses?

Heidi the Hick said...

You know, I think this is the first time I've read specifics on how to send a partial.

Luckily for me I have yet to be asked for one.

but NOW I will know what to do when my turn comes!!!

Robert Henshaw said...

Good advice, Nathan. I've also heard (from other writers) it's a good idea to ask the requesting agent to send back a quick email acknowledging the recent of the attached partial. But I'd like to hear it from an agent...would something like that bug you? It would seem borderline irritating - akin to having to sign for a partial or full when you get it via USPS.

And, hey, I second luc's request for guidance on the dreaded synopsis. My 2-page synopsis is arguably one of the worst things I've written. Do agents assume/care that the synopsis is going to be crappily written?

Nathan Bransford said...

I don't mind if someone asks me to shoot back an e-mail letting them know it arrived, although I don't think it's usually necessary.

And I've hesitated to post synopsis advice because everyone in publishing has a different idea of what a synopsis should be, but I'll try and post on that soon.

green ray said...

I've been having an intense discussion with some friends about what contstitutes taking the high road versus the low road. And it inspired me to begin a new novel! So I'd like to enter the title in your contest, Nathan - a spiritual story of one man's quest for truth:


voice of experience said...

Robert, if you submit a partial to Nathan, there's no need to ask for an email back acknowledging receipt. You'll have an answer back from him on the submission itself long before you would even hope to get a simple acknowledgement of receipt from anyone else.

Loving you for that, Nathan! If you treat your clients like you treat your supplicants (and how could you not?), you're one awesome dude.

original bran fan said...

You mean the agent isn't sitting in his office, waiting impatiently for the mail, wondering when that partial he requested from that brilliant query is coming in, doing nothing else until it arrives and reading it as soon as it does????

All kidding aside, this makes perfect sense. When I meet someone for the second or third time, especially if some time has passed since I first met him/her, I re-introduce myself. I never assume that the person remembers my name. It is the same idea here. As much as we would wish for the above scenario, the more likely outcome is that it is now months later, the agent has looked at ten zillion pieces of paper (or electrons) in between your query and your partial. A reintroduction is a great idea.

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

Piling on this love-fest: Mr. Nathan, this is one of the most useful blog posts I can remember reading in all of litblogdom.

I've always been insecure about the protocol for a partial. I wondered if I was supposed to take the opportunity to "talk up" my pages, or to just shut up and let them speak for themselves.

You are a prince among men.

Now get a haircut, hippy.

Heidi the Hick said...

Nooooo! No haircut.

Nathan Bransford said...

Actually -- already got a haircut about a month ago. It's shorter, but I would characterize it as "shaggy."

Writer, Rejected said...

Crazy love-fest indeed.

writtenwyrdd said...

This and the reminder about formatting is great info. Thank you.

However, have you read this post by copy editor Deanna Hoak?

Other Lisa said...


Oops. I'm definitely guilty of this. Red-faced apologies.


Wendy said...

Greeting Nathan,

You gave some really great information here in your topic
"How To Respond to a Request for a Partial".

I am wondering why someone would look for other agents. I would think they would want to find someone they work well with and have an understanding of one another.

Do people really have several agents or is it just a writer hunting for other reasons?

I. M. Bitter said...

Hey Wendy,

If you're checking back, ... Nathan is speaking directly to authors who haven't yet signed with an agent.

1- You're supposed to query widely and often until you sign a contract with an agent.

2- Once you've signed with an agent, you're exclusive, you stop querying, and hopefully the good understanding of each other you mentioned kicks in.


Patrick said...

Now that I've had a request for a partial, is it okay to continue shopping the project around? I had an agent request 100 pages (woo-hoo!), and I don't want to do anything impolite or unethical.

Priyantha said...

Hi Nathan, Thanks for the very useful advice. Your getting involved in "Maersk Alabama" story prompted me to contact you. I have a story which I shall submit to you observing formalities of e-query.

Pamela Jane said...

Thank you for the post about partials; it's very helpful. I thought I was all set with a polished memoir, well-written proposal and strong query letter, but recently I ws asked for a 5-page synopsis. The one thing I didn't think of! A root canal or, better yet, writing another memoir might be more relaxing. But, I'm buckling down manfully (or womanfully) to the job.

Johnny said...

Thank you, Nathan, for your post.

I have a couple of questions:

1. What is the best subject for the email so that it won't go to the spam folder? I'm thinking "Requested Material: Title"

2. Should I include the cover page? I was thinking of including it, but the cover page has the word count, and I don't want the agent to think I didn't pay attention and sent him the full manuscript.

3. So it's definitely ok to send as an attachment, right? It won't be blocked or go the spam folder?

Thank you very much. I read most of your posts. I love your writing style.

Nathan Bransford said...


1. Here's a post on e-mail subject lines.
2. Up to you.
3. If they asked for it as an attachment, then yes.

Margaret Fisher said...

Thank you for your informative (and funny! which is always a plus) articles. I'm currently in the long-suffering process of trying to get an agent, and like everyone else I've been dealt what seems like an endless sea of form rejections, and two requests for partials. One of those partials ended up becoming a request for a full, but the agent ultimately passed on the book (cry! lamentation!) On both ultimate rejections, I did, however, receive feedback suggesting that in my first chapter I told rather than showed too much. So taking that useful criticism, I've since added a prologue showing a great deal of what I'd previously only told via exposition in the first chapter, and was able to take said exposition out. My question is....since it's been months since those rejections, should I re-query those same two agents (and make sure to mention that I took their advice), or is it just a plain bad-form no no and I should keep trying other agents instead?

Nathan Bransford said...


Hope this helps:

NM Johnson said...

Hi Nathan,

I received the following:

Dear Ms. Johnson,

It is with kind thanks that I respond to your submission. Please feel free to send the next three chapters or fifty pages of your manuscript for further consideration. You may do so by replying to this email with the requested materials attached as Word documents.

I look forward to reading your work!

My question:
I originally sent the first 50 pages (word doc attachments which is what they asked for) as part of my submission (which is what they requested in their submission requirements along with a synopsis). Did they just miss this or are they requesting the next 50 pages? Do I respond and ask? Thanks so much for your help. Your blog rocks!

Nathan Bransford said...


Just respond and ask!

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