Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, April 6, 2009

Announcing the "Be An Agent for a Day" Contest

First off, many, many thanks to reader Jim Duncan for this idea. I take no credit for it. (I wish I could though.)

Here's the deal. The commenters who participated in Agentfail expressed quite a lot of angst about agents who don't respond to queries. Lots of people think we should respond to every single person who queries us.

So. Want to see what it's like to manage a slush pile for a day? Think you can spot the good queries from the bad? Wondering how the view looks from our side? Think it's easy to respond to everyone?

Here's how this will work.

1. If you'd like to volunteer a query for Be An Agent for a Day, please e-mail your entry to querycontest@gmail.com. It can be a real query or a fake query, but if it's a fake query, please at least make it a stab at a real query rather than a parody. When you e-mail your query to querycontest@gmail.com you consent to have it publicly posted on the blog. It's an opportunity for some valuable query feedback. (I probably won't be able to use every volunteer's query, so I apologize in advance.)

2. Published (or soon to be published) authors: I need you. I would love it if you would share some of your queries for your actually published books. Please tell me who you really are when you e-mail, but change your name and the title of the book in the query.

3. On Monday the 13th I will begin posting 50 queries throughout the day. (This is a light day. I'm letting you off easy.) I'll automate them in advance to post sporadically throughout the day, so there will be bursts of queries and then dead periods. It would probably be easiest to track the blog through Google Reader or another feed reader to simulate e-mails coming into your inbox.

4. This is where you come in. You will read and respond to as many queries as you can. You will have one week to respond to all 50 queries. You can draft your own rejection letter and manuscript request letter (personalized or non-personalized, your choice), which you will paste in the comments section of each query. You might even provide some specific feedback to try and help the author if you're feeling extra conscientious.

5. You may request no more than five manuscripts, because hey, you're not going to have time for your clients if you request more than five manuscripts for every 50 queries.

6. For the purposes of this contest you are looking for queries that demonstrate publishable potential, not necessarily your genres of interest.

7. Now the fun part: we'll see how good people are at requesting the queries for books that ended up being published. I'll post the requested/rejected stats for the actually published books on Monday the 20th, and crown the Superstar Agents who request all of the actually published books. The superstars may win a special prize (provided there are not 7,000 winners). Also, if you volunteered your query, you can track your response rate and feedback to see how your query fares.

8. If you subscribe to the blog via e-mail you will need to click through to the blog to participate. DO NOT E-MAIL ME YOUR RESPONSES. I mean it, e-mail subscribers. You must leave your responses on the actual blog. I'm afraid I'm also not able to offer tech support.

9. I thought about being extra mean and making you also do things like compare contracts and follow up on submissions, but I realize people have day jobs as well. So I decided to make it just slush.

10. Keep in mind that the quality of the queries will be far, far better on average than we agents actually receive, because anyone who volunteers their query reads agent blogs and is thus way ahead of at least 50% of the people who query me. And I realize that some of the test queries may be for books that will subsequently go on to be published books. But still: try and spot the already-published ones.

11. Please don't give it away when you see your query or if you recognize someone else's. Just respond with a standard rejection or request.

Also a note about this week: Tuesday and Wednesday the blog will be dark as I'm off to Oklahoma to meet the good people at the University of Tulsa. Thursday I will hopefully post This Week in Publishing, and I'm off again on Friday. I'll start posting the contest queries next Monday.

Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section! As always, rules and regulations subject to change without notice.






181 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

What fun. I'd love to 'play', but work won't let me see blogs.

Bane of Anubis said...

Great idea Jim!

Marilyn Peake said...

This is very cool.

T. Anne said...

Sounds entertaining and a bit stressful all at once. I can't wait to play.

John Baird said...

This is one of those rare ideas that's innovative as well as educational. I'm willing to read a mile in your shoes. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I normally lurk on this blog, but I just had to come out and say, What a great idea! Good Luck to everyone.

Bailey Thomas said...

You're coming to Tulsa? I'll have to investigate. It's only a short hour or so from OKC, and I must know what brings you to our side of the country, otherwise known as We're-Not-All-Rednecks-I-Swear!

This sounds like a fantastic idea. I may even send out a query of my own.

Diana said...

Oh, very cool! I will have to be an agent who reviews queries in the wee hours, since it would be frowned upon to do this at work.

Jen P said...

Great idea - do you have a deadline by when one must "e-mail your entry to querycontest@gmail.com" ?

Thanks.

Dana said...

Whoot! I'm definitely down. We'll see if I have a good eye though... not sure that my tastes always align with the masses'.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like fun and I'm interested in submitting. I'm just wondering if it will have a negative impact if I were to send a real query and then to subsequently send a revised version to your real slush pile based on responses.

My query is pretty distinctive, but I've no idea if that's in a good way or a bad way! :-)

Horserider said...

Sounds like fun! I think I'll play, even though I'll be gone for some of the day Monday.

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan,

Are we allowed to submit more than one query?

Bane of Anubis said...

PS - more Kudos to nathan, too - pulling double duty... Have fun in Tulsa.

Melissa said...

Woohoo! I'm in! Thanks, Nathan!

Though when I tried to do a home version of your first paragraph contest, I ended up curled up in a fetal position under my desk, so I know this will be tough.

Jen C said...

Gosh, I love games and such. This is pretty much one of the best ideas ever. I am so all over it like the proverbial fat kid on cupcake.

Solvang Sherrie said...

What a fun idea! Although I don't think I could read 50 queries in a day!

Sarah said...

Hi Nathan,

Sounds like a great idea - unsure if I'll be able to participate as work is cracking down on blogs.
However, something seems slightly confusing (or it could just be I'm getting through my first cup of coffee) -- you will be posting 50 queries a day for seven days, if I have understood correctly, of which the participants can only request five per day, for a sum total of 30 queries per participant maximum?

Oh yes, and um... what if, hypothetically, someone is just about to start thinking about writing a query letter and would love to receive all those emails, see how they fare, but won't be able to take part? Could she still subscribe? *cough*

Thanks in advance, and sorry for any presumption.

Sarah

Elaine said...

When my divorce gets finalised my husband will cite this 'game' as the final straw - writing being the other one!
I don't think I'm going to be able to resist the lure of it though.
Now I get it!

knight_tour said...

Nathan, you mentioned genres of interest. I noticed that my genre - fantasy - is not listed for you. Does that mean it is a waste of time querying you for a fantasy novel? I have had this question in my mind for awhile, since I am finishing up a fantasy novel, but I haven't gotten around to asking it.

Soratian said...

Coming out of the woodwork to say, wow, this sounds like fun! I'll do my best to take part (if work allows, that is)! Are we allowed to fall behind and try to catch up?

Elaine said...

Nathan
Our 24 hour periods don't mesh well either
Set a start time so I'll be sure to work US (San Francisco-style) time

Joy said...

Coming to Tulsa? Yay! Just found the info. I'll be there ready to be inspired :)

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

Nathan - do you have anyone to simulate a really annoying querier who repeatedly resubmits? :)

Anyway, this is fab. I suspect you'll get far more than 50 queries, given this blog's popularity, but I'll go ahead and throw one in the pot.

John said...

Should we include the first five pages of the work, the way you request for real queries, or should we stick to just the query, or is it up to us? Thanks.

Justus M. Bowman said...

Interesting, but I'm going to pass on the opportunity. Ha ha. I know it wouldn't be fun to reject queries all day.

Luisa Perkins said...

Cool idea!

Cory said...

This seems like such a great way to get feedback on queries. I'd love to send in my query, but I have a few questions:

Are these queries basically pitches, or do we need to go all the way and add in a bio section, publications, personalise it to you, etc.? Does the genre need to be something you rep, or can it be anything?

Thanks!

Sophie Beal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sophie Beal said...

I don't have anything against agents (haven't queried for anything yet), but...
How about getting some agents to write queries for books that are about to be published?
As with most others writing on this blog over your night time difference is going to be a problem, but I'd love to take part.

David Eric Tomlinson said...

Nathan, I think you should just give up on the idea of being an agent and go into social media marketing. It's obviously your true calling ... there's no way your agenting skills could compare.

Sophie Beal said...

Sorry, a comma between night and time in my first post would have been helpful.

bookshop said...

I love this idea, I can't wait to feedback the list of queries! :D

Julia Weston said...

I love this. Good thinking Jim. I'm bummed I don't have time to participate (small children, hour-long commute to day-job, etc.) but I'm going to love watching from the sidelines.

k-macfarlane said...

I think the contest is a great idea. I'm looking forward to using it as a learning experience, though as you said, I'm sure the queries will be much better than the ones you receive daily in your inbox.

Rick Daley said...

Jim,
Great idea!

Nathan,
Thanks for sponsoring it. Is it a query only, or are sample pages allowed as well? I would encourage sample pages, because most writers prefer to submit 5 pages to show their true voice. It will give the virtual agent an example of the extra work / reading time, and hopefully the tough decision to narrow the 50 down to 5.

Rick Daley said...

Hi Sophie,

"How about getting some agents to write queries for books that are about to be published?"

I think this would violate confidentiality agreements between the authors, agents, and publishers.

Even if the agents were to write queries for books that have been published, I'm not sure how fruitful of an exercise it would be. I think that would be like asking a bunch of food critics to swap places with a chef.

It's easier for the chef to take place of a food critic, because chefs eat, too.

Eva Ulian said...

I have yet no idea how I will manage it but I am determined to be an Agent for a day. May I also make a suggestion that the "agent" for the day should reject his/her own query if it comes up- that's only fair.

Robert A Meacham said...

I would like to be agent for a day. Count me in.

You got mail!

terri said...

Have fun at TU - my alma mater for law school. I live about 3 hours north of there now in the great (dagnabbit) state of Kansas. Please tell us about the jaunt, we okies would love to know!

Robert Treskillard said...

This is really creative. Wish I had time to participate!

How you do much more than this every day is beyond me.

Samantha Tonge said...

Not sure i'll have time - but i suppose in a way, that's the point - to show how much agents have to wade through every day, on top of their other work.

Hats off to ya...

BookEnds, LLC said...

ohmygod Nathan! You and Jim Duncan are absolutely brilliant! I LOVE this.

--jessica

Mira said...

How fun! What a great idea, Jim. And how cool that you're doing it Nathan.

So, I have two questions. The first is how will you count people's five choices? Should people number them?

The second question is: what do you mean you're going out of town and the site will be dark? How will I avoid my life this week?
Did you not consider me at all when you made decisions about your life? Well, please try to be more considerate in the future, Mr. I have important trips to take.

Ahem.

Mira said...

Oh. Since we're talking about queries, I did a terrible job with plugging Rick Daley's blog on Sat.

I didn't post a link. Of course I know how to post a link. I just don't know how to make it all fancy, like Mariyln does.

Here's the link:

http://openquery.blogspot.com/

This is a place where you can get peer feedback on your queries. Good practice prior to the contest!

It's very helpful.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Absolutely brilliant.

Nathan Bransford said...

jen-

You can submit queries for the contest until Sunday.

Marilyn-

You're allowed to submit more than one query, but I'm going to be picking and choosing and can't guarantee that one or more will be chosen.

everyone-

Keep in mind that you'll have a week to respond to the queries. You don't have to do it in one day (although you can try).

Nathan Bransford said...

sarah-

I'm posting 50 queries total. Everyone has a week to respond. I know it's called "Be an Agent for a Day..." it's just one day's worth of queries. You don't have to do it in a single day.

Nathan Bransford said...

Re: 5 pages. I've intentionally been vague about what queries I want to see and whether I'm requesting 5 sample pages as well because I'm hoping to post a range of approaches.

Lady Glamis said...

Sounds like a great contest! I probably won't participate, but it sure will be fun to watch!

Sarah said...

Thanks Nathan, now that is quite possibly doable!

I thought I was seeing things when thought it was 350 queries.

Thank you so much!

Chris Eldin said...

Oh, this sounds like a LOT of fun!!
Thanks for sponsoring this event!!
:-)

bukarella said...

I'm game! How fun!
(Who needs to work anyway, eh?)


-Lyudmyla

Anna said...

enjoy your travels! looking forward to next week's entries...

jnantz said...

I'm in. Query is on the way and I will be trying to respond to all 50 if I can.

ElanaJ said...

What a fantabulous idea! I'm in!

Dara said...

This sounds fun and stressful :P I'd like to play! Looking forward to next Monday!

PurpleClover said...

Well I guess I should feel obligated to play since I was one of the *gulp* complainers.

But lord knows I'm already feeling inept.

I will get my form rejection typed up right away! lol.

PurpleClover said...

Do we have set time frames we need to have the comments posted? Because I'm going to be in school two of the days with no access to blogger so I could get to them in the evening? Is that acceptable or does it have to be done 8-5?

Maya said...

I'm excited to participate! I just discovered this blog and LOVE it... I submitted my query already and discovered that writing a query when I HAVEN'T finished a novel is a great exercise. (Haha... not that I tell you I haven't finished in my fake query letter... and not that I would ever ACTUALLY query without finishing and revising the novel, so please don't blacklist me, Nathan. :)

Maya

abc said...

I am very sorry that you have to go to Oklahoma. Singing the songs from the musical might cheer you up, though.

Renee Collins said...

Ha! I love that idea! Can't wait to give it a try. :)

Anonymous said...

Nathan -

Quick question. I'm considering submitting to this but my manuscript is not yet completed.

What's your thought here? Could it do more harm than good or could the potential feedback/exposure help?

Serena C. said...

I don't usually comment here, as I am a lurker/learner, but this is such a great idea, I had to speak up and say so. I might have to try it, assuming I can find the time. May even submit a query of my own. At the very least, it will be a blast to watch!

Litgirl01 said...

Clever! ;-)

JuJu said...

Nathan, a question:

Can we use our blog personas as our names in our queries if they're fake?
I want to do that but I'm not sure whether that will be a source of criticism or not.

Nathan Bransford said...

juju-

I'm redacting all names. And besides, if you used your blog persona people would be able to easily tell if it's published or not.

Endless Secrets said...

Hello Nathan,
So I was wondering if I should submit my real query into the mix, because I was planning on submitting it to your actual slush pile. So would it be unwise to toss it in?

Nathan Bransford said...

I think it would probably be most useful for people who either are submitting the query for a work in progress or who haven't yet begun the query process. You'll get some instant feedback on your query and see if it generates any "requests".

DeadlyAccurate said...

Are you only posting one day's worth of queries, or will you be posting 50 a day for a week? Because if it's the latter, I'm going to work on my "closed to submissions" form letter. :-)

I want to play, and I might even work on a pitch paragraph for the book I'm getting ready to hand off to my agent.

Nathan Bransford said...

deadlyaccurate-

50 total, you'll have a week to respond. I added a sentence to the main post which hopefully clarifies this.

Dorset Girl said...

Nathan,

Er, for the published or soon to be published books, pasting pages might be tricky. It will give away the published ones and I'm not sure about the rights situation of pages being posted on the blog.

Any suggestions?

Nathan Bransford said...

dorset-

People don't have to send pages.

Jaime Theler said...

What a *fabulous* idea!

Heidi C. Vlach said...

Wow, this is a great idea. I'll dig around and see if I have a saved copy of my first query letter somewhere!

Juliana Stone said...

Sounds delicious Nathan!

Sally Apokedak said...

sounds like fun!

two things:

1) To be a superstar agent you have to request the five pubbed, or soon to be pubbed, books. That suggests that what is being published is better than what is being rejected. Not always the case. Some great stuff is rejected.

2) since the quality of queries for this contest are going to be far better than what you get, the reading and sifting of them is going to be far harder than what it would be for a normal agent day. you can reject maybe 90% right off the top.

So I'm game, and I'll try to pick the pubbed books, but I think you should throw a lot of dogs into the mix, too, so we can reject them fast.

Sally (whose form rejection finger is itching for a good workout)

Nathan Bransford said...

sally-

Being an agent is not about making value judgments. What is selling is what is publishable in today's industry. That's the job of the agent, and that's what people are looking for in the contest.

Also, there will be less than five published queries in there, so you won't have to go 100% to be a superstar agent.

And yes, there will be some dogs.

Madison said...

I would LOVE to do this! I've always wanted to be a literary agent because it's a very hard and rewarding job, so yeah, I think I'll join in on this. :D

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan,

Are you interested in queries for books that got a reputable agent but which haven't yet sold?

Sally Apokedak said...

Thanks for the response.

I know successful agents have to pick what sells. I just really want to pick what I like best. Unfortunately I'm a dinosaur, and I usually don't like what the rest of the world likes.

=0)

Rachel said...

What a wonderful idea, Jim! Nathan, from reading the post and comments, I couldn't quite tell...is there a deadline on submitting a query? My apologies if I missed that info. Thanks.

Casey McGill said...

This sounds like an interesting contest! Best of luck to everyone out there with the huevos to pursue this endeavor. I go to the University of Tulsa (home of the Hurricanes...because we have those at landlocked states...) and can't wait 'til Tuesday/Wednesday! Hope you have fun on our campus (and with our parking). See you uh...here?

Laura said...

This is awesome. Can't wait!

Furious D said...

Cool contest idea, and very educational for writers.

And enjoy Tulsa. I read somewhere that it has a lot of interesting Art-Deco architecture.

Marilyn Peake said...

Mira,

Here's how you make a link active...(Hope I can post this; sometimes all the instructions become an active link, just from typing in the commands):

First you write:
< a href=
...BUT DON'T LEAVE A SPACE BETWEEN < AND a.

Then you attach the actual link to that, leaving no space after the =.

Then, with no space after the link, you put in whatever name you want to appear, e.g. Come in Character Blog.

Then, with no space after the name, you add: < /a> ... BUT WITH NO SPACE AFTER < .

And that's it!

Anonymous said...

Nathan:

For 'about to be published authors' (contracted but not yet published), can we ssubmit our query but without wanting to read the queries? Sorry, but I just don't have time to read the slush, but I wouldn't mind submitting my query under fake name/title if you would like.

Thanks,
Author guy

Hilabeans said...

Excellent contest!

Thanks for reading our posts and creating fun interaction opportunities. Also, thank you for providing a great example of how to build our platforms.

Have a safe trip to OK,

hhs

PS- Can the special prize be an internship and/or having you critique our completed mss?

Jen P said...

Now showing on MediaBistro : GalleyCat - Agent for a week contest there goes any hope of you having a quiet week Nathan, good luck, safe travels.

MzMannerz said...

LOL - sounds like a fun contest. I'm not doing it, though. :P I already have a job and am trying to write to boot, so I will trust that there are enough agents who know what they are doing (including you) that I don't need to prove I could do it better. I am the reigning princess of enough territories. :D

But it sounds fun and I can't wait to see how everyone else does!

Rick Chesler said...

Publishing industry article on CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/04/06/print.on.demand.publishing/index.html?iref=t2test_techmon

Marilyn Peake said...

Mira,

Darn! I left out one of the computer commands in my previous post about how to make links active. Here goes, second try:

First you write:
< a href=
...BUT DON'T LEAVE A SPACE BETWEEN < AND a.

Then you attach the actual link to that, leaving no space after the =.

Then, with no space after the link, you type: >

Then, with no space after that, you put in whatever name you want to appear, e.g. Come in Character Blog ... Spaces between words in your title are O.K.

Then, with no space after the name, you add: < /a> ... BUT WITH NO SPACE AFTER < .

And that's it ... I think. :)

Kristi said...

What a cool idea...I would love feedback on my query so this will motivate me to finish it. Enjoy your time away this week.

Oh, thanks Nathan for sharing how to hyperlink a few weeks ago...I am so technologically impaired and was actually able to do it in my blog. I felt really smart for about 3 minutes! :)

Anonymous said...

Here's the above link enabled:

CNN Publishing Industry Article

Mira said...

Marilyn -

Wow, thanks. I appreciate it - I'll copy and paste is so I can use it.

Always wanted to know how to do that. :-)

wickerman said...

Sounds good.

Can;t wait to participate. However, if i do well, Nathan has to write a publishable book by Christmas to get the inverse experience :)

PurpleClover said...

So Nathan - If it's a success are you going to use this as a gateway tool for all your queries?? You know cut down on your inbox and let your readers make the decisions? haha.

Shannon Gugarty said...

Very very interesting idea. Will get me some experience with writing my query (FORGIVE ME FOR MY SUCKY ONE NATHAN), but I can't really do this. I... kind of have school and crap. Good luck to those actually playing, though! You will need it.

I'm guessing from your wishes on your query, I should include the first five pages. Sweet.

T. Anne said...

Rick Chesler, enjoyed the article thanx!

Tumblemoose said...

idea!

yet one more reason why you're the rockinest...

George

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

I'd love to play, Nathan, but I already get tons of queries each day as submissions editor.

Anonymous said...

The wave of the future: crowdsourcing your workload so you can hit the beach!

D. Michael Olive said...

Sounds very cool. Should be a great learning experience.

Emina said...

Nathan -
Are you taking the first 50 submitted, or are you picking and choosing out of all the ones submitted? If you're choosing, then is it random? How will you choose 50?
Thanks,
Emina

Nathan Bransford said...

emina-

I'm choosing somewhat randomly, but not totally randomly. My methods are secret, however.

Emina said...

Okay. In that case, I wish you luck in going through every query and choosing 50. I have a feeling you'll need a coffee. :)
Oh - and will you notify the people whose query you chose? Or will you let them wait in suspense until Monday to find out?

Nathan Bransford said...

No, I won't be able to notify anyone.

Anonymous said...

If I were an agent, I'd seriously question an author's commitment to writing if they spent their writing hours, which for most of us are very few, playing agent for a week.

Thanks, but no thanks on this contest. I'd rather use my precious "free" time writing.

Nathan Bransford said...

au contraire, anon. I would encourage everyone who aspires to be an author to spend some time managing slush. It's an invaluable experience.

There's a lot more to writing than just writing.

T. Anne said...

Nathan your right. There is a lot more to writing than just writing, how I wish it wasn't so.

Emina said...

Peer reviews are precious and definitely worth it.

bukarella said...

Anon,

What an interesting take on writing! I am a writer committed to writing. I am also a teacher committed to teaching and a partner committed to my beloved.

It does not mean that all day long I have to write. Nor does it mean that from dusk to dawn I have to teach, and it does not mean that all day long I have to spend with one person (If you only knew the number of projects I have going on on a daily basis! *giggle*).

For what it's worth, I find it to be a fun exercise directly related to my interest in writing. Since when does learning (work, life, you name it) has to be monotonous? Do we waste our time by reading as well? ;)

On a personal note, I am in a complete awe at the length an agent can go to connect with his potential clients. This is not a taken for granted!

Much thanks to you, Nathan, and the brilliant person that came up with the idea.

-Lyudmyla

AM Riley said...

As a person new to the industry, I read the Agentfail complaints with interest. It seemed that most of the writers weren't complaining about agents who failed to respond to queries. They were complaining about agents who REQUESTED full manuscripts and didn't respond. Or who took on the manuscript and then never did anything with it.

It sounded to me like a lot of agents have eyes bigger than their stomaches. Probably due to a lack of experience, a little fear, and maybe even a little greed.

I had an experience similar to the ones I read about. I got another agent. This one rocks. End of story.

Adam Heine said...

Anon 4:28 wrote: "If I were an agent, I'd seriously question an author's commitment to writing if they spent their writing hours... playing agent for a week.

I know for me, critiquing the queries of others like this has helped me immensely not only in writing my own query (which is a necessary part of becoming an author) but also in improving my novel writing.

OR

Don't knock it 'till you've tried it.

Bane of Anubis said...

To expand on Bryan's sports' analogy from the other day, imagine it like a b-ball tryout. Yeah, sure, maybe it seems more important to be scrimmaging, but when you're running drills, you can assess how you stack up to others in specific areas... yeah, you kick ass in the layup line, but you shoot free throws like Chris Dudley (i.e., worse than Shaq)... that being said, if you're a hands down, knock dead query writer, then perhaps there are other skills to work on (3-point shooting, currently for myself) or you could join the fray and provide magnanimous coaching.

PurpleClover said...

yikes. i just sent my query earlier today and now re-reading it I'm thinking I should have sat on it for a while. I'm not happy with it but I rushed thinking I needed it to be done today. now i realize we had until Sunday??

oh well. i guess i'll get my form reject ready...lol.

jnantz said...

bukarella -

As a fellow teacher I must ask, hasn't anyone told you we're not allowed to leave the school, let alone have any sort of personal life? We're TEACHERS, for God's sake. It's not as though we're PEOPLE or anything, right?

;D

Cass said...

What a great opportunity to either get feedback on your own query letter, or give input to others.

I love this writerly community I have found here.

Big thanks to Jim for the idea, and Nathan for putting it in motion.

Off to polish my query letter and read up on rejection or partial request letters...

Marilyn Peake said...

bukarella/Lyudmyla said:

On a personal note, I am in a complete awe at the length an agent can go to connect with his potential clients. This is not a taken for granted!

Much thanks to you, Nathan, and the brilliant person that came up with the idea.

I agree 100%. Thank you to Jim Duncan for coming up with the idea, and thank you so much to Nathan for devoting the time and energy to this completely awesome contest!

M. Dunham said...

What a wonderful idea. I wish I could play, but not with this week's work schedule. I'm going to enjoy watching.

If this works well, would you consider doing it again sometime in, say, July? You know you want to!

A Paperback Writer said...

Let's see: 50 one-page papers where all I'd have to do is say ok or no? In a week? I wouldn't have to fix every spelling and grammar error? Wouldn't have to explain what went wrong in every paragraph? Wouldn't have to put a grade on it and then read it again when it came back re-done? And only 50 of them? Not 150 every week?
Easy.
Now, maybe the rest of being an agent is beyond me, but, heck, I'm an English teacher. Dealing with queries sounds pretty easy to me.

bukarella said...

jnantz,

Don't give me grief, I have report cards due to go out this Friday. My day is amazingly planned out to include America's Next Top Model, 1,000 words a day towards the novel, and correcting fourth grade science tests right after I update my blog, just before I reply to comments made on my Facebook profile. I give a new meaning to multitasking (or attention deficit disorder, not sure which one fits better in my case).

If I intend to make it to school tomorrow, I better drag myself to sleep this very moment.

Night!

-Lyudmyla

TecZ aka Dalton C Teczon - Writer said...

Wow, this sounds like a wonderful challenge! Thank you for the opportunity Nathan. I'm ready to get a taste... Good luck to all my fellow writers!

AstonWest said...

Lots of people think we should respond to every single person who queries us.

When a person has no way to verify whether a query was received or not, other than something coming from the agent saying so, then you can imagine that people might get upset when they're told "we won't respond unless we're interested." No response could mean either in that case.

It doesn't take that much to set up an auto-response...really.
:-)

Nathan Bransford said...

astonwest-

Auto-responders are an option, but people are a little sanguine about how easy they are to implement without our actual clients and day to day operations being affected. As Ginger Clark said in an interview, we don't want our clients to get our auto-replies when they send a subject line that says "quick query for you."

Bane of Anubis said...

Nathan, though I'm not too big into auto-responses (and hate read receipts), isn't it possible to implement filters that distinguish emailers (e.g., no query type auto-response receipts to clients)?

Nathan Bransford said...

bofa-

You'd have to add a whooole lot of people to a list in order to avoid snaring clients and editors. I e-mail a lot of people in a day. And it's always changing.

I think it's do-able, but I don't think people should underestimate what a pain it would be to manage.

It should be up to the agent. And let's be honest, the number of e-mails that don't reach an agent due to technical snafus is positively miniscule.

Jen C said...

People really seem to love autoresponders at the moment!

They're definitely not as cut and dry as people seem to think. Having to set up rules and functions and keep these updated would be quite tricky. The best way to have them work seamlessly would be to have a separate email address, and a blanket auto-response for it.

However, more than one email address becomes cumbersome and confusing. Take it from someone who has 5! I think agents should just do what works for them.

Onovello said...

Dynamite idea!

Anonymous said...

What an idea!

As someone who has a waist-high stack of rejected job applications in her office, I think I've got an idea of what it would take for an agent to respond to every query. I have no problem whatsoever with agents only responding to queries that generate interest.

Julie said...

Neat idea. I cross posted to my blog. I don't have time, or a deskjob or I'd participate. I'm also not bashing agents either ^^ we all have hard jobs and no one can know what another's job is like until they give it a try themselves.

Melissa said...

This is a great start, but I think there's more we can do to make the Agent for a Day contest more realistic.

1. I'll volunteer to stop by unannounced at a few lucky participants' homes, clutching a 500 page single-spaced manuscript in 8 pt. font that I'll insist is the next Harry Potter. When participants' slam the door in my face, I'll sneak around to their window and bounce up and down to get their attention.

2. While participants are out eating lunch with their families, I will spring out from behind a potted plant and ask them if they'd like to represent my 500 page masterpiece (the next Harry Potter!).

3. Each participant should be given a cardboard box of ramen and several cans of tuna fish to get a feel for what it's like to be a new agent working on commission. Points will be awarded for creative use of the cardboard box as either shelter or as a source of nourishment.

Jessica said...

Can we redact names from our letter, or should we just send as is and trust that you'll redact what should be? I know you said you'd redact our names, but I'm also wondering about things like the names of schools we teach at, the names of magazines or newspapers we work for, etc. Situations where one's employer may not want to pop up on a Google alert.

Perhaps I'm just being paranoid, but this is why I've never submitted a query for a public appearance.

That, and the query I'm thinking of sending is an old one, so I'm actually not working anymore at the places I say I am. I wouldn't want my previous employer to see it and think I was misrepresenting myself.

Becca the Promo Mami said...

What a great idea! I'm in!

MJRose said...

Totally brilliant!

Janny said...

I am in! Not sure if I'll actually submit a query, but I am SO all over that slush pile. After years of people telling me I "ought to be an agent," I'll finally get to prove them wrong. :-)

What fun this will be...tuna fish, ramen, cardboard boxes and all.

Janny

Ego said...

Fabulous idea - I can't wait! Good job there is a limit to MS requests, because going by my reaction to QueryShark etc I'd end up requesting about 40 otherwise.

Bet I'll pick all the 'dogs'.

Ego said...

Nathan,

Do you think that latecoming participants will be influenced by existing comments on queries? For example, if ten people have already commented on a query and six of them requested partials, I might be influenced by them?

I don't know if there is a solution to this but it could be an interesting phenomenon.

Looking forward to the competition!

Ego

Nathan Bransford said...

Ego-

That's an interesting question, and I think it will actually make it realistic. We face bandwagon pressure too, whether that's a trend or existing offers of representation and we have to make our own decisions without being led astray.

Nathan Bransford said...

Ego-

That's an interesting question, and I think it will actually make it realistic. We face bandwagon pressure too, whether that's a trend or existing offers of representation and we have to make our own decisions without being led astray.

Anonymous said...

Awesome idea for a contest! I'll be slogging through the slush with the rest of you.

I thought about sending a query, but since it's been on Evil Editor's site and it's rather distinctive, anyone who reads both sites would recognize it.

You have the funnest site, Nathan!

That writer chic... said...

They don't make enough aspirin in all the world to handle that task. ;)

Bill said...

I submitted my query and I'm expecting Nathan is going to get inundated with queries. I don't know how he's going to choose just 50 of them.

I decided not to include the first pages of the book, because I though each post would just get way too long if everyone did that. I can't imagine 50 posts, each of them having part of the first chapter. Not every agent requests that as part of the query, so I left mine off.

Something did occur to me, though. If my query becomes one of the fifty, I should't participate in responding to queries. You think I'm nuts and am not going to recommend a partial for my own submission? If I'm going to play agent with my own submission, I'm going to request a full manuscript, already have an editor and publisher in mind, and have decided I'm not settling for anything other than a huge advance. :)

Cheryl Barker said...

Hope you enjoy your visit to the University of Tulsa, Nathan. Both my daughter and son-in-law graduated from there -- it's a great university. Enjoy!

allison said...

50 queries all week? That is light . . . you should post 50 queries a day for five days . . . more in tune to what you probably receive, right? :)

Anon said...

Let me get this straight: I pretend to do your job and the trick is to pick the queries that were from published works? The problem is that assumes that the works in question should have been published over the ones that weren't. Sorry, rigged game.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Your comment cracked me up.

Just in case it wasn't clear: this IS a game. So yes, it is rigged (by me). If you want to experience the iron clad reality of being an agent you'll have to become one.

Nathan Bransford said...

(which you're welcome to do, by the way.)

Jen C said...

Ego said...

Nathan,

Do you think that latecoming participants will be influenced by existing comments on queries? For example, if ten people have already commented on a query and six of them requested partials, I might be influenced by them?

I don't know if there is a solution to this but it could be an interesting phenomenon.


I had this thought too. I don't know about everyone else, but I resolved not to read anyone else's comments before I have made my decision and posted my request/rejection.

Nixy Valentine said...

Nathan:

You said we should come up with a form rejection letter, but I'm wondering if a response that said something like this would work as well:

This would get a form rejection because 1, 2, 3...

Or

I would request to see more because A, B, C...

I ask because I think I'd feel a bit of a jackass doing the actual roleplaying. Or is that the point? We're getting judged on WHAT we pick and not on HOW we word our replies. Or is being diplomatic and/or responsive part of the game?

I'm not certain if I'm going to play or not. Although it sounds educational, on the other hand I'm really burned out on the whole #fail experience.

Joy said...

Nathan, do we pretend like we're addressing the queries to you? I'm wondering because if we're adding a personal touch or connection, should we make it specific to you or just make something up?

Kenny Celican said...

I'm playing, and I'll also be re-sending you my query; maybe I'll get some good feedback from it!

Marilyn Peake said...

Hi, Nathan,

Are you going to allow Anonymous comments? I suddenly realized that, if Anonymous comments are allowed, the same person could leave multiple comments about one query, and that might be confusing to the people who submitted queries in hope of analyzing responses from a variety of readers.

Jenn said...

Ooh, Marilyn brings up a good point. I think posting anonymously should be removed for those that want to participate. I think that way it keeps it more professional (for those few that like to abuse it).

Besides how can you win the game if you don't say who you are?

Anonymous said...

Jenn,

Well, I shall simply claim that whichever "Anonymous" wins is me! Clever, no?

My best,
Bryan

Oh, I mean, um, Anonymous. That's me. Anonymous. (Future winner!)

Abigail Rieley said...

What a great idea! Over the years I've sent out a great many queries but it would be fun to try out the other side. I currently have a full manuscript with an agent so this'll take my mind of waiting for her response for a week!

Bukash said...

Nathan,

I'm curious how many queries you have received for this game so far?

*munching on popcorn*

PurpleClover said...

Shove over Bukash, you're hoggin' all the popcorn.

*waits impatiently*

Anonymous said...

Before I go any further with my query, Nathan, can you say what genres or categories (fiction or nonfiction) will NOT be considered?

Christine H said...

I'll send mine. It will be one of the dogs. But that's okay.

I think.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

Submission sent for the game that isn't a game.
I am feeling more nervous now than I have felt at any point in the writing experience.
Ain't life grand!

Donna said...

You rock Nathan. I don't know if I'm going to submit or play, but I'll be watching either way! :)

terri said...

I would like to join the bandwagon and offer you all the chance to play lawyer-for-a-day. Anyone who wants can have one of my plea dockets for a day and do plea bargains with the prosecutor!

Can't wait to play. I'm thinking of a query for my latest idea. If it gets picked, the feedback would be invaluable.

verify word: uncesto (just too many possibilities to comtemplate)

Christine H said...

Do you think that latecoming participants will be influenced by existing comments on queries? For example, if ten people have already commented on a query and six of them requested partials, I might be influenced by them?

I'm not planning to participate, but I would think that regardless of what anyone else said, you should be able to form your own opinion. You have to know your own mind to be either an author or an agent.

I might even be tempted to buck the trend, just because maybe the pack is heading the wrong way.

And perhaps there will be some unusual ones there that actually are published that you wouldn't expect. The old "red herring" trick.

Hmmmmmm????????

Just a thought.

Sun Up said...

Awesome, I'm in.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it--if you submit a Q, are you saying that you want to read slush?

what if you want to submit Q but not read slush?

What if you want to read sluch but not submit?

Signed,

Confused in LitLand

Nathan Bransford said...

Hi everyone, sorry it took me a while to respond to some of these questions. Things have been crazy.

joy-

Either way. Some are addressed to me, some generally.

Marilyn and others-

People will need to either choose a screenname or otherwise leave their name. Monday morning I'm going to post a list of suggestions, and that will be one of them.

bukash-

I've received hundreds and hundreds of query volunteers.

anon-

Just stick around, all will be clear.

Anonymous said...

By Muckraker:

This should be an interesting exercise. It would also be interesting to see how many agents and editors could successfully pick out great books from previous years. One writer for instance, conducted the following experiment with Jerzy Kosinski's National Book Award winning novel "Steps:"

(excerpted from Wikipedia)
"Steps (1968), a novel comprising scores of loosely connected vignettes, won the National Book Award in 1969.[11]
In 1975, Chuck Ross, a Los Angeles freelance writer, conducted an experiment with Steps by sending 21 pages of the book to four publishers under the pseudonym Erik Demos. The book was turned down by all of them, including Random House (which originally published Steps) and Houghton Mifflin (which published three of Kosinski’s other novels). Ross revealed his findings in New West magazine four years later. His article includes Kosinski's advice that next time he should offer the entire text. Ross repeated his experiment by submitting the entire text of Steps to literary agents in 1981, with equally dismal results.[12] American novelist David Foster Wallace described Steps as a "collection of unbelievably creepy little allegorical tableaux done in a terse elegant voice that's like nothing else anywhere ever". Foster Wallace continued in praise: "Only Kafka's fragments get anywhere close to where Kosinski goes in this book, which is better than everything else he ever did combined." [13] Samuel Coale, in a 1974 discussion of Kosinski's fiction, wrote that "the narrator of Steps for instance, seems to be nothing more than a disembodied voice howling in some surrealistic wilderness."[14]

A screenwriter conducted a similar experiment with movie studios and Hollywood agents with a retitled script of Casablanca. It was rejected by everyone, and only one reader said it was "too close to Casablanca."

Nathan Bransford said...

muckracker-

I'm going to blog about that in the future, because it's something we discussed on the panel in Tulsa. Sometimes a moment in time passes. If MOBY DICK were submitted to me, I'd say it was horribly dated and needs a lot of trimming in order to satisfy today's marketplace, and I'd be right.

It doesn't mean it's not deservedly a classic or a great work, but cultural moments pass increasingly quickly. Something can feel behind the times and thus unfit for first publication in a matter of a couple of years.

Anonymous said...

"A screenwriter conducted a similar experiment with movie studios and Hollywood agents with a retitled script of Casablanca. It was rejected by everyone, and only one reader said it was "too close to Casablanca.""

Some of the rejections in these kinds of experiments, however, can perhaps be attributed to editors who know what it is, but just don't comment. "Oh they're trying to play a trick on me--reject, no time to write a note."

Anonymous said...

From Muckraker:
Nathan, very good and understandable point. And certainly right in the case of Moby Dick. In this particular instance, however, pub date was 1969 and the experiment in 1974 -- so just about 5 years later. Figure the shelf life of a National Book Award winner has to be at least a few years, so it couldn't have been that out of style by 1974!

ai-hua said...

I'm not submitting my query (my novel is incomplete), but I just wanted to ask a question about becoming an agent--how does one become an agent when one's all the way in another country and doesn't speak the local language? I'm guessing lots of e-mailing back and forth...

Saundra Mitchell said...

Do requests for partials count toward our five? Or are we allowed to request five fulls and any number of samples?

Nathan Bransford said...

saundra-

Partials and fulls count the same. You get five requests.

M. K. Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M.K. Clarke said...

I'm a pre-published writer, but I'll play! This experience will REALLY give me something to prime my YA and other novels for prior to submitting. Thank you for the venue and the contest (you've also given me a blog update post idea, too. *smiles). Wicked idea, Jim!

Sharon Ervin said...

I would request partials from:
#17 because of the writer's style;
#18 because the book sounds quirky;
#21 because the writer has great credentials;
#31 because I found the clipped style of the query letter engaging, and
#35 because of the great title.

The Things We Carried said...

I am simply here to learn!

pdbecht said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Liz said...

Well, I messed up. I haven't kept track of how many full's I've requested. Aaargh. But I'm enjoying this anyway. Thanks for doing it. Sorry my usually rule-obsessed self dropped the ball. Hopefully you'll do this again next year, and then I'll get it right.

robmerrera said...

This is a fantastic idea!

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