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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.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.