“Ask an Editor” is a forum wherein SCBWI members submit questions that are answered as part of our quarterly Kite Tales blog.
Dear Editor – How many pages will I submit to an agent?
—Lim, Los Angeles
As with many things on the road to publication, the answer is “it depends.” If you’re writing a picture book, then often you may send the entire manuscript—though sometimes there are word-count maximums, such as a cap of 1,000 words.
SUBMITTING PAGES: Check the agency’s submission guidelines. For middle grade, young adult, and new adult, it may be the first ten, fifteen, or twenty-five pages. Carefully read the agency’s submission requirements. Some agents accept only snail mail, but many prefer electronic submissions: writing them an e-mail wherein you paste your query letter in the message, or using their online submissions service. These can be a fill-in-the-blanks form directly on their site, or you may be directed to a service they use (such as Submittable). Remember to keep a specific agent in mind when submitting. Try to connect with something their site or bio says. If you’ve heard this agent speak at a conference, listened to their webinar, or have another kind of link with them, mentioning this may keep you out of the slush pile—or, at least, may get you a bit further through the initial screening process.
In either case, you will need to tailor your content to the agency’s specifications. Some sites will ask you questions, such as: Why are you the best person to write this book? Why are you submitting to this agency/agent? Type your responses in a Word document first; think about your answers, use spellcheck, and save your work. If you are contacted by that agency, you can easily reference what you submitted. Otherwise, on some sites, once you hit “send,” you cannot retrieve your answers.
WEBINARS: Some webinars include agent critique. Those, again, will include specific criteria for submission. Perhaps you will be asked to send a three-line summary, a three-page synopsis, and the first two pages of the manuscript—agents have widely varying specifications.
TRACKING SUBMISSIONS: Once you begin submitting to various agencies, it’s easy to get confused. Start out by clearly tracking your queries and submissions in whatever form works for you. There are services that you can subscribe to, but basically all it takes is a dedicated notepad, Word, or Excel document updated accurately each time you submit. Include an agent’s name, agency name, date submitted, project submitted, and any notes that are important to you including their commissions, turnaround times, and whether they accept exclusive or simultaneous submissions.
To ask a question which may be answered in an upcoming Kite Tales, please follow this link and fill in the form. You must be logged in to your SCBWI account to access this feature: http://losangeles.scbwi.org/ask-an-editor/.
Answers by Christine Van Zandt, professional freelance editor and owner of Write for Success Editing Services, www.Write-for-Success.com