Friday, June 4, 2010

Next Step in the Process

I have some bad news this morning. I emailed Suzette Saxton three times this week to remind her of her upcoming blog post that we had scheduled for today. I have not heard back from her. I have Hilary Wagner lined up for next week but I did not want to bump her up because we just agreed on the post this Wednesday.

Suzette is usually very communicative and helpful so I certainly do hope she is all right. In fact she was the first friend who connected with me on Google friend connect. She introduced me to bloggers like Elana Johnson, LiLa and Michelle McLean and their blogs. Of course Suzette also contributes to the Query Tracker blog, writes books and is repped by Suzie Townsend of Fine Print Lit so I'm sure she's very busy. It is also possible I suppose that I got her email wrong but I'm pretty sure I replied to an earlier conversation.

Oh well, no big deal ... I'll just have to post one of my own "successful" queries and try my best to analyze it for you guys.

So here goes:

May 21st, 2009


I am writing to you seeking representation for my young adult novel, which has the working title WARRIOR-MONKS and is complete. Warrior-Monks is intended for young adult readers ages 13-17, but I am certain that once you read the manuscript you will find that it is mature enough and compelling enough to enthrall even the most discerning adult reader as well. I will not include any sample chapters because your website clearly states that you will request a manuscript if you have an interest.

This is not very good housekeeping. I am AMAZED that she requested further pages with no word count admitted to and no clear genre declared. The part about her guidelines is okay.

The book is about a young man named Lee, who is from a broken family and who eventually ends up being sent to a unique reform school in Northern Idaho after he is expelled from a normal boarding school and kicked out of his aunt and uncle's home. He is very worried about what will go on at this school but eventually discovers that he enjoys the curriculum. They teach him things like Aikido, Meditation and Calligraphy and take him and several other students camping and backpacking in the mountains in Montana as he grows and puts his self-conscious and shy tendencies behind him. It is an introspective and character driven novel in which the plot is not necessarily the focus but still has enough interesting occurrences to move the tale along as the reader comes to know and love the characters.

This is all very meh. I guess it worked for her in a sort of "here you go" business presentation "I'll just tell you some of what happens" kind of way but I really have no idea what hooked her. I can see maybe if she had allowed the first five pages this wouldn't matter but I honestly have no idea what she liked about this.

I have never been published but I am confident that many authors like Christopher Paolini and Brunonia Barry have proved that you do not have to be a highly experienced or best-selling author to write an incredibly entertaining book.

We've covered before how this is presented poorly.

Please feel free to reply to this email, or to call me on my mobile phone at any time at 206-555-1212, or even to write to me at home at:


Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Matthew M. Rush

Her reply:

Dear Matthew,

I want to thank you for considering REDACTED Literary Agency as a possible fit to represent Warrior Monks. Based on your initial pitch I would like to read more of your work to consider it for REDACTED representation. If you are still in need of a literary agent, please follow the submission guidelines listed below for us to review your work in-depth. Although this is not a guarantee, nor an informed review, this is the next step in the process—congratulations.

Please print out the first 100 pages, or the first five chapters, of your manuscript and mail it to:

REDACTED Literary Agency


You must also include:

1. A cover letter stating the title and one sentence theme of your manuscript.
2. A brief biography on yourself and specifically your writing experience.
3. A self addressed and stamped envelope sufficient to return your materials after our review.

I look forward to reviewing your work in more detail.

Literary Agent

REDACTED Literary Agency, LLC

I wrote back:


Thank you so much for your interest in my project but before I print and send my partial manuscript I want to make sure I format it to fit your preferences. It is my experience that some agents have very specific expectations when it comes to formatting of a manuscript. Currently my book is single-spaced and written in the Arial font at 11 point size. Switching it to 12 point and changing the paragraphs to double spacing would use a lot more paper but I understand that reading single spaced print can be tough on the eyes and I am perfectly willing to format the manuscript in just about any way that you would like. I am very much looking forward to having you review my novel but I want to make sure that it is the condition which is best suited for your needs. Please let me know whenever you have a moment and I will send you my work and the other requested items in the appropriate format.

Thank you,


That was so dumb. I mean it was polite and professional but I was such a greenhorn then I had no idea there was such a thing as an industry standard. Oops.

She was pretty cool about it though:

Thank you Matthew. Double spaced serif font is preferable.

All my best,


The hard part was going to be the bio and one line summary. I wish I still had those to share with you guys but if memory serves they were pretty bad.

Anyway I printed out the first hundred or so pages, double spaced, and paid to send them to her via media mail.

I heard nothing for a month so I emailed her one more time:


I certainly don't expect you to have finished reading my partial manuscript because I imagine you are very busy, but it has just occurred to me that I should check to make sure that you received it in the mail. Please drop me brief line whenever you have a moment and let me know whether you received the partial manuscript and other materials.

Again, thank you very much for taking the time to read and consider my project,


I never heard back from her. Still haven't. It wouldn't be that big a deal except that she made me print all that stuff out. I wrote in the cover letter that she could recycle it rather than send it back but a reply to say she had received it and was not interested would have been nice.

I mean yes, I was flattered that she liked the query or at least the premise for the story and at the time I was of course VERY excited but now knowing more I'm not surprised that she rejected it, just a little miffed that she didn't even reply. Oh well.


JE said...

It's a bummer that you never heard back from her. That's the worst, and even worse since you printed out and mailed her 100 pages! I mean, that's not cheap.

Thanks for sharing!


Anne Gallagher said...

Don't sweat the small stuff Matthew. Sometimes snail mail readings take over 3 months. Been there, done that. Just let it go. And they usually don't send you a confirmation stating they received your stuff, even if you ask.

And 100 pages, that's great!

Vicki Rocho said...

Bummer about Suzette...might be an email glitch thing. I've had problems with Yahoo not delivering messages in the past.

Also sucks that you haven't heard back. I think I'd be okay with a rejection as long as I KNEW. I suppose I'll just have to forget about everything the minute I send it out so I don't obsess. (ha, like that will happen!)

Unknown said...

And that's why I only query agents who want partials and fulls via email, especially since I live in Canada. The postage alone would be crazy.

Some agents (I know from experience) can take over 6 months to get back to you. One of my friends sent a full (printed) ms and never heard back from the agent, either. According to AW, that was a common problem with the individual.

That's too bad about Suzi. But I know she can get really busy and can be slow at responding at times, especially now that the kids are out of school. I do hope you will post her query eventually. I'd love to see it.

Candyland said...

Your sheer commitment to post your queries whether you think they're good or not makes you a rockstar:)

Christina Lee said...

Hmmm... NO response to your work? BIG Bummer. Shake it off Rushster (did you like my made-up kncikname?)

Slamdunk said...

Nice job with the late post change. I bet it is frustrating to have someone show interest in your hard work and then to never hear back from them.

Unknown said...

Aww, hopefully you'll hear back about your MS soon.

I can't imagine taking the time (and cost) to print and mail my MS and then never hear back. Ugh.

Thanks for sharing. Hope Suzette gets back to you soon. Have a great weekend!

Jaydee Morgan said...

I think not hearing back would be almost worse than receiving a rejection. At least with a rejection, you know.

Anonymous said...

Suzy has a lot going on personally & professionally right now. I'm sure a gentle nudge will get the appropriate response. We all love her and some support and patience is due.

Matthew MacNish said...

Anon, please let me clarify. I did not mean to imply that I am upset at all. She is doing me a kind favor by agreeing to participate and I am very thankful. If I gave the impression of being mad at her I did not mean to.

I'm sure she will get back in touch when she has the time - as I said she has always been really helpful and nice to me. I was simply trying to explain to readers what had happened.

If you're out there Suzette please don't feel bad at all! We understand things can get very busy at times and my little blog (or even your own) should certainly not be the priority. Best of luck with everything.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That sucks. The courtesy of some reply would've been fair.
Writing one's bio sucks, too.

Sarah Ahiers said...

ugh i am not looking forward to the bio part.
but once sentance? i try to get that down before i ever start the novel. It helps to clarify things as i go forward.

Tahereh said...

no worries, Matt - i'm sure Suzette is preoccupied with good reason, and with no disrespect to you. but in reference to Anon, i didn't think you were rude or offended in your explanation at all. you were simply apologizing to your readers who expected something you weren't able to provide. it makes sense that you would offer an explanation that would involve your efforts to contact her (so as not to disappoint your audience).

anywho. you're one of the nicest characters on the blogosphere. it's entirely out of character for you to be ungrateful or offensive.

best of luck with your queries! this process is an arduous one, indeed. big sigh.

have a fabulous weekend, friend!

Portia said...

Yes, the printed submission process is so slow! I submitted a few chapters to an agent in May 2009 and didn't receive word back until Feb. 2010. So you never know! :-)

Matthew MacNish said...

Not that it really matters - I'm totally over it - but this exchange took place in May of 2009. I'm pretty sure I would have heard something after a year, but Portia's right ... you NEVER know.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I would suggest that this is what hooked her:

They teach him things like Aikido, Meditation and Calligraphy and take him and several other students camping and backpacking in the mountains in Montana as he grows and puts his self-conscious and shy tendencies behind him. It is an introspective and character driven novel in which the plot is not necessarily the focus but still has enough interesting occurrences to move the tale along as the reader comes to know and love the characters.

It sounds intriguing and different. Kind of like Karate Kid meets Gary Paulsen. I would have requested a full myself if I'd gotten that query.

Frustrating for sure to not hear back! If she's behind on work and hasn't gotten to it yet, you might still be in the running. After 3 months, you might consider sending another email, but not before that.

K. M. Walton said...

This whole query deal can be a frustrating, and at the same time, exhilarating process, eh?

I am really appreciating your willingness to share.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Oh duh I just noticed in your comment that you said it was a year ago. well in that case possibly she's no longer with the agency? Someone went out of business? A year's a long time to go with no communication whatsoever.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I'm firstly going to dido Justine.

Secondly, every time I read these queries here my brain does flips. Some good points for one agent get you a request, while the same point is viewed as not so good from another. I just can't figure this query process out. Maybe that's my problem. I'm thinking.

Lindsay said...

You never know when you may hear from the agent. I've heard stories where agents got back in touch after a year via snail mail.
But it was a request, which is great. :)

DEZMOND said...

Oh, Matthew, if you would know how many query letters publishing houses and agents get every day, you really wouldn't expect answers on every mail you send to them. As someone who works in this industry I understand and sympathize with both you writers and with the publishers. People just have to be as objective as possible.