Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Send no monies

I have just finished a 126,000 word novel (set in NZ) which I am confident is a very good story and novel. In 2006 I sent my first 30,000 words to the UK Writers' Workshop where (for a fee) an editor analysed and advised on my work. Taking his advice I re-wrote the 30,000 words and in 2008 resent him (to read on a friendly "mentor" basis) 20,000 words. He praised my work saying he enjoyed it immensely, and that I was "on the right track". I say all this only to point out that I have strived to gain objective comment on my novel and so far it's all been good.

My problem now of course is to interest an agent! My question to you is this: Would it work / be acceptable to send a cheque for say $300 with my submission and say: Please read my first 60,000 words and here's something in recognition of your valuable time? I'm not wealthy but I believe an agent ought to be paid to spend say 5 hours reading my first 60,000 words and I'd be happy to pay just to get SOMEONE to read my damn book that I slaved over for five years! What say you?

What a tempting notion, to be paid to read submissions ... But it's ethically dicey and, for that reason, any agent who is conducting business properly does not accept fees to read submissions. Yes, it would make our business model more feasible, particularly in our small Antipodean market of smallish advances and less books published than elsewhere, but if I accepted a fee for reading a submission the author would (quite reasonably) expect to get a result in their favour - and I don't sign up many new clients. I don't think many authors would take kindly to sending money for an agent to read the submission only to be told that the agent isn't interested. Paying a fee creates an expectation that in most cases we can't fulfil.

An agent's existing clients pay for their time, and it's those existing clients who are, technically, paying for the submission-reading time. Except for this fact: the reading of submissions tends to happen in our private time. So, yes, we're doing it for free, but to do it for fee is not just unwise but unethical. If we choose to take on a client they need to know we're doing it because we love their work, not because they've paid us to read their submission.

In other words: don't send money. Not only won't it be accepted (unless the agency is dodgy) but it's likely it won't win you any friends.


Anonymous said...

Some agents are more likely to consider your work if you've had a positive manuscript assessment. Many writers centres offer assessments at a reasonable price --- perhaps a better way to spend your $$?

Zara Penney said...

The professional agent/editor doesn't need $300. Not even $1. They don't need to read more than one page to know that they will gladly proceed and assess what could be their next blockbuster.

As far as a professional assessor. I wouldn't do it. IF they are so good why aren't they out there doing it themselves.

Once had an art teacher who said:

Thems what can, do. Thems what can't teach.

I think the best way to get feedback is a support group. Online or a group who meet for the specific purpose of helping each other. They exist.

And most importantly, the genre you are writing, you should know it.

The best rule is write for yourself. Write what makes you happy. Don't write it if you hate the subject but it earns a lot of money. That is the best path for rejection.

Believe in yourself.

My worry on pondering this is that if you pay money for an assessment, what if the advice is such that you then are confident it is a perfect m/s and get rejected? No ifs nor buts - just rejection. What will you think? It could be as dangerous as walking a tightrope with vertigo.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about $300, but $5 or $20 might be a good idea. For one thing, it might make people think twice before sending out their work. And, for another thing, it might stop various editors bitching endlessly about their slush pile on blogs. It could simply be expected as a fee for a letter stating that the book has been received/rejected. This idea should be investigated.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'll correct what I said and add "$20 or $50 to take a look at it and send back a reject/receipt letter" not to read the first 60,000 words.