Over the last several months, since I posted about an agent requesting my full manuscript, perhaps the thing that has come up most in the google searches that bring people to my blog on my stats page is some variation of “what do you do when an agent requests a full manuscript?” In an attempt to be helpful, and as both a writer and someone who has worked inside literary agents offices, I have decided to share a bit of the wisdom I’ve gained on the topic.
So, you’ve polished your novel. You’ve tackled your query. You’ve researched agents and sent out personalized queries to each of them. You’ve waited. And now the day has come when all this has paid off–an agent is interested in reading your full manuscript. First of all stop and take a minute to congratulate yourself. Having managed the slush piles of two different agents, I can tell you that your novel has something special about it if you’ve gotten this far. Maybe you wrote a great query. Maybe you added the first three chapters of your novel to your query (depending on the agent’s guidelines of course!) and there was something captivating about it. In any case, you did something really right. Because an agent has requested a full manuscript, and that’s an accomplishment.
Okay, now what? Well, formatting is really important. You should do standard manuscript formatting—12 point Times New Roman, double spaced, one inch margins. You should have your name, email, address, and phone number listed in the top left of the first page, and a word count on the top right. Sometimes it’s appropriate to put the title and a page number on each page, but definitely at least put the page number. Acceptable formats tend to be Word or PDF. I personally like PDFs because they can’t accidentally be changed.
Next thing you’re probably wondering is, “Holy shit, what do I say?!?” I’ve seen a lot of responses to requests for fulls, and short and sweet tends to do the trick. Just remember to keep it businesslike. “Dear <Agent Name>, I would be delighted to provide the full manuscript. You will find it attached in PDF/Word format. I hope you enjoy it and await your response.”
The exception, of course, is if other agents or small presses are currently reading your manuscript. If they are, you should let the agent know in your letter. This may get you to the top of the reading pile, as the publishing business tends to move more quickly when confronted with the possibility of a great manuscript getting snatched up by someone else. In that case, add something like, “In the spirit of full disclosure, my manuscript is also being read by an agent at <such and such agency>/an editor at <insert small press>.” No need for names. Don’t be pushy about it and don’t lie about it if it’s not happening. But do let agents know if it is. You really don’t want to piss anybody off.
Hopefully at this point you’ll get offered representation. But I’ll leave suggestions for that for another blog post. The important thing to note here, however, is if you don’t, don’t write a nasty note telling the agent what they’re missing out on. Stay professional, courteous, and pleasant. You never know what’s going to happen down the road.
Well, that’s the best of the knowledge I’ve found both through my own experience in agents’ offices and the vast knowledge of the web. Hope it helps!