Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Brilliant! Just Brilliant!

STATUS: Just another crazy Monday disguised as a Tuesday!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? VOLCANO by Damien Rice

As you folks know, we agents receive deluges of queries and sample pages from aspiring writers. One of the industry’s laments is that everyone seemingly wants to be a writer but when we compare that number to the statistics on the number of Americans actually reading books, well, according to studies, the average person only reads 2-3 books a year.

Then I read this tidbit in Shelf Awareness (source Galley Cat), that Tin House Books will require that any writer wanting to submit to them must also include a copy of a receipt that proves the writer has purchased a book recently from a bookstore.

I love it! I wonder. If we required same, would that drop the number of queries we receive? Better yet, could we have the writer prove that he/she actually read the book for said receipt?

I know. Impossible but there’s something about this idea…


103 Responses

  1. Kristan said:

    Ooo, me likey!

    I probably should have done it sooner, but in January of this year I made a resolution to buy at least one NEW book every month. I try to pick ones I want to read, of course, but I think buying a book as a gift counts as well. I also try to avoid blockbusters and instead support lesser known authors, but sometimes you just want Book 3 in that killer trilogy, you know?!

    Point is: Support the dream you want to be a part of.

    I think it’s cool that Tin House is pushing this a bit. (And in fact think it’s great that they’re not asking for a receipt proving you bought THEIR magazine. They just want you to read!)

  2. Anonymous said:

    If only you could require a receipt that showed the wannabe author read his/her own manuscript…

  3. M. Rose said:

    You could always request the reader to also mention a book or two that inspired them to write the book they’re trying to sell. I had a creative writing teacher that’s final project was a piece of creative wring accompanied by an essay of at least 3 pieces of published work that you drew inspiration from. It was a fun, and daunting, project.

  4. kimysworld said:

    I read at least 20 books per year, and I purchase them all because I love fresh new books! And nothing helps our writing better than reading a lot. My newest purchase, the nook, makes it very easy to spend lots of my hard earned money on books. I can’t imagine living without great stories written by great people! It’s such a great escape.

  5. Lisa said:

    I love this idea, but as one who has been out of work since December, might I suggest asking for a receipt from the library in lieu of the ability to purchase books? I do make book purchase referrals to the library fairly often and am pleased to see that they actually go out and buy the books even when I can’t.

    P.S. When I am employed, a large ratio of my discretionary funds do go to the purchase of books for our family of 5.

  6. piscesmuse said:

    Oh my. It is a wonderfully wicked idea. If one could prove how many books they have read in a year, and then they could be at the top of the query pile. With that would be time consuming to you. I buy books both in hard copy and for my e-reader and am an avid library goer. Plus I also keep a book review blog. I would not want to write if I had not yet fallen in love first.

  7. Jessica said:

    I like this idea, but I can’t be buying books every time I turn around. No source of steady income= not very many new books outside what’s given. I really wish I could, but it’s just not happening right now.

  8. Kerrie said:

    A book report–that is what you should ask for a book report (with the receipt). Just like the ones we had to do in elementary school. It would definitely weed out the less serious folks.

  9. Dawn Embers said:

    Interesting idea. The problem, for me, is that buying a book doesn’t guarantee reading will occur. Though, I guess it doesn’t matter to the industry if the books are read if at least they are purchased since that’s how they get money. I buy books all the time but didn’t do much reading the past few years. I’m starting to read more but still have to find time and often will choose writing over reading.

  10. Anonymous said:

    What about those who buy their books online? I buy mine through amazon and never get receipts, just the statement on my bank account at the end of the month.

  11. Heather said:

    Last year I read over 60 books but since I’m on a limited income I got most from the library. It’s hard enough to get an agent, so what’s next? A book report on the last book you’ve read?

  12. Amanda said:

    Holy cow! I read like 12-15 books a year. Asking a writer to buy a book in order to query is a great idea! When I signed with my agency, I bought a book by every one of their clients. It was a win-win: great research and entertaining!

  13. Gilbert J. Avila said:

    I order from Amazon several times a month because I’m practically house-bound. Would the invoice from the package suffice? Or maybe a book report? (Remember those?)

  14. Stella Telleria said:

    The average person reads 2-3 books a year? What?? That is so sad, even though it’s probably true. I probably read 30-50 a year and I buy them all. Got to support the authors out there. 😉

  15. Lydia Sharp said:

    Only 2-3 books for a whole year? Yikes, that is totally foreign to me. My six year-old son reads more than that, and he just started reading on his own six months ago.

    My local library is only a block from my apartment, and my husband and I are continually putting items on reserve there through the website. God forbid we go a week without something new to read. And my local Borders is literally across the street from my “real” job (aka not writing). I spend a good percentage of my paycheck there almost immediately after depositing. I could provide a stack of receipts just from this past weekend alone… Fourth of July clearance sale. ‘Nuff said. 🙂

  16. Krista V. said:

    I’m with Anon 6:04 – library cards should count! I go through about a book a week. Thank goodness for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District!

  17. Anonymous said:

    Is there going to be a quiz after this?

    Seriously, it’s not unreasonable to ask, “What books have you read recently?” Any aspiring auther should be able to converse intelligently about that topic.

    I just finished Her Fearful Symmetry. I didn’t like it at all. Very unappealing and unsympathetic characters.(And she got a seven figure advance for this I believe.)

    What have any of you read recently?

  18. Anonymous said:

    Yes, library cards and online purchases also should count … and what about re-reading books already in one’s possession, or that one is only now getting around to reading despite owning it for years …

    I take the point, but it can’t be as black and white as what they seem to be requiring, unless they are strictly going for someone currently putting money into the system, which as others have stated, is unrealistic for many.

  19. Anonymous said:

    Seems kind of silly. A writer who doesn’t also read probably isn’t much of a writer…

  20. Sonia Ayoub said:

    Better yet make sure authors, aspiring or otherwise, have read books in their own genre.

    I recently went to a book signing where the author admitted she has never read a book in her own genre other than her own.

    Scary… and kinda sad.

  21. bettielee said:

    I read about 60 books a year. However, I can’t possibly buy that many books. I borrow, I get a lot online free from the Gutenburg project and now I’ve renewed my library card.This month there is real concern about having food all month long. So I get where they are coming from, and I have seen like thoughts expressed elsewhere, but I would hate for publishing to become Elitist. That you must buy full price books if you want to publish. I swear on my remaining-too-precious-to-sell-on-Amazone-books that are left: I will make up for it one day. Because I love to read and want to support the authors I love…. but I can’t do it right now.

  22. Kristi said:

    Wow…that statistic blew me away! Most people I know read WAY more than that each year. I never would have thought I was part of a reading-minority! 🙂

  23. Karen Schwabach said:

    Since I’m a full-time writer, I naturally can’t afford to buy books.

    Like other people mentioned they do, I also take them out of the library, and own far too many, most of them purchased at library book sales or taken from free piles… or bought new while I was still employed. I read, I don’t know– 100 a year? 200 a year? Who counts?

    But it seems like a fair assumption that a person who writes reads. If they don’t read, that will surely show in their writing. If Tin House Books is concerned with making sure writers are keeping them in the black, maybe they should require a receipt proving one’s bought a Tin House book?

  24. Kathryn said:

    I think that’s a great idea! You really think there’d be some aspiring writers who’d have nothing to offer?? Crazy!

  25. Simon Hay Soul Healer said:

    The statistic doesn’t surprise me. I’d like to see one on how many parents read to their children.

    I think it’s important for writers to read, and I like this idea. I read about 12 books per year, but I’m reading good articles online as well, and this has improved my writing.

  26. Anonymous said:

    Love it!! I read as if my life depended on it and it’s what spurred on my love for writing. How can anyone be a serious writer and not read at least occasionally? I agree with what someone said earlier- support the dream you want to be a part of!

    And if having such a requirement would cause the slush pile to lessen and my query to have more of a chance… then I’m good with that too. 😀

  27. Karen Burgess said:

    If I buy LOTS of books, will you represent me? (No, because I write mysteries.) But I do read a lot – not only do a buy several books a month, but I give my library card a real workout.

    What’s engaging about this idea is that many people who don’t read fiction think they can write fiction. And maybe they can. But generally, reading makes the writer… kind of lays down those tracks so you’ve got mental “muscle memory.”

    So I think you’d have a less onerous slush pile if you could limit your writers to readers only!

  28. Roza M said:

    I’d pass this test! well… my query maybe not so much, but reading and purchasing books yups! Target, probably doesn’t count, but that’s okay. I go to Books a Million a lot. In fact some of those people know me by name, that’s scary come to think of it.

    Most recently read novel is Infinity chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon. (Great book)

  29. pam.laux said:

    DO IT. DO IT. I love this idea. I always have 2 to 4 books I am reading at one time. I listen to books on my ipod when I run. I listen to books on CD in my car (free from the library). I read books every free minute. BUT I buy a lot of them at the half price store or check them out of the library. I check out 12 books at a time. Crazy I know. I don’t always read them, but at LEAST I always read the first and last chapters, .

  30. Elena Gleason said:

    Proving you’ve read books, okay, I’m on board with that, but I agree with those who brought up the myriad reasons why someone might not be buying books, or not buying them new, at any rate. Despite the fact that I read around 100 books per year, I probably only buy around 10, because a) I’m a grad student and money is tight, and b) I don’t do much rereading, and it seems wasteful to buy books just to have them sit around collecting dust after I read them. I visit my library practically every week though.

    I guess if your goal is to have writers who are actively supporting the publishing industry, maybe that system would be okay, but if your goal is to find writers who read, the system is very flawed.

    My vote would be to have everyone prove that they’ve read at least one book written by an author you represent. That way, they’re proving not only that they’re readers but that they’re willing to go the extra distance to research your agency and will up the chances that they’re actually querying for a project that falls within the bounds of what you represent. If they can’t make it through any books by your clients, chances are that they’re not someone you’d want as a client.

  31. Buffy Andrews said:

    I’m sorry. Don’t yell. Forgive me. But I just don’t get it. Are you assuming that because someone bought or borrowed or somehow acquired a book to read that that makes him or her a better writer? It seems logical that one who writes would read a lot. But they should not be judged on how many books they buy or what kind of books they read, but by the story they tell. And good writers read everything. The back of cereal boxes. Magazines. Billboards. etc. To require a writer to submit a receipt in order to submit, well, what is the purpose? What do you think you would accomplish by doing this? I must be totally missing the point.

  32. Polenth said:

    When I was younger, someone at school commented that I wasn’t as avid a reader as they were, because they always had a book on the go. I didn’t always have a book because we had no transport to get to the library and I couldn’t afford that many new books. I didn’t answer, because I was embarrassed and I knew they wouldn’t understand.

    It’s awkward to constantly have to explain poverty, especially to people who haven’t been in that situation. Those guidelines may not have meant it that way, but the result is the same: if you’re poor, you have to write a haiku to give them something to laugh about. It makes an already bad situation worse.

  33. Anonymous said:

    Yeah, there’s something to this idea… something condescending on one end and demeaning on the other.

  34. Lehcarjt said:

    I can’t help but wonder if the theory here isn’t backwards. Is it that people who don’t read are suddenly trying to become writers or (my pet theory) that a higher percentage of those that adore books are trying their hands at creating them.

    That is why I started writing. I love stories and journeys and the feeling of being in someone else’s head so much that I wanted to experience the creation side too.

    Technology has made writing a book so easy that all book lovers can give it a try. We may not all have the skill/talent to sell our creations though. (Sounds pretty much like all the other art forms to me.)

  35. annebingham said:

    Please amend this hypothetical requirement to include the checkout receipt from the library! (And if your local library is still in the dark ages and does not have checkout programmed to give receipts, at least print out a screenshot of your account from the electronic catalogue!)

  36. Anonymous said:

    The full Tin House story says their goal is to support authors and book stores: “In the spirit of discovering new talent as well as supporting established authors and the bookstores who support them, Tin House Books will accept unsolicited manuscripts dated between August 1 and November 30, 2010, as long as each submission is accompanied by a receipt for a book from a bookstore.”

  37. Anonymous said:

    Lol.

    Do I get extra credit for spending over $100 on books in the last month?

    I went to a writer’s conference and I couldn’t help myself. There were so many good books. And most of those were read in the first three days afterwards.

    And really? 2-3 books a year? I try to avoid reading because I have this problem–I can’t put a book down once I start it. Even not-so-good books. So with 3 small kids and my husband deployed, my house looks kind of scary when I’m done reading. But even when I try to avoid reading books, I still read more than 2-3 books a MONTH. That’s far too many people who aren’t reading ANYTHING to bring my average down to 2-3 books a year.

  38. Kristin Laughtin said:

    I’d be a bit annoyed by this, actually. Not just because I use the library or reread books on my shelves or hold off on buying new books after a couple of spending sprees have left me with literally shelves of to-be-read books, but because I feel like it’s too personal a way to check up on me. How recent is “recent”? Will the book matter, or is just a receipt necessary? I’d rather just be asked about books that I’ve enjoyed recently or that have inspired me, etc. I think that’s a good enough way to make sure I read.

    Besides, if I didn’t read, I probably wouldn’t write well, in which case my book wouldn’t (shouldn’t) be accepted for publication.

  39. Melody said:

    Whoa, I SO beat the 2-3 books a year average! I read 2-3 a month, if not more.

    Not sure I quite agree with the receipt idea. I mean, writers are, by stereotypical definition, poor. I know I pretty much never buy books full price at a bookstore (Amazon, half-price books), and most of the time I don’t buy them at all and get them from the library. (The only time I’ll buy a book is if I really liked it.) This idea would entail a lot of money spent…

  40. Noble M Standing said:

    Okay, I go and buy a book at a bookstore, send the reciept or a copy in with my MS and get a chance at an unsolicited submission? What’s the harm in that? They are literally asking for ONE book people.

    While most of my books come from the library, I do buy books especially when I am at a conference. I also love spending hours at the local thrift stores and getting amazing books for a few bucks.

    I am a firm believer that if you write you should read and most of my reading is from the library. However if you are seriously interested in submitting to this house, why wouldn’t you go and but a new book for the “ticket”?

  41. Kate Larkindale said:

    2 -3 books a year? Really? I read 2 -3 books a week! And my reading has slowed dramatically since I had kids. What do people do with their time of they don’t read at least a little? It’s not like there’s ever anything good on TV….

  42. Anonymous said:

    The main way to get my writing juices flowing is to read. Frankly if you are writing then you should, by all means, be reading as well. If you are not, chances are whatever you are writing will be crap or is in fact crap. The whole receipt thing, I believe, is just Tin House’s method of saying if you don’t buy then you won’t be bought; basically supporting other writers. I understand not everyone can afford a book from the bookstore. I however can’t stand to part with or borrow books. So far my count for this year is 7 and a half. I do not keep my receipts and quite frankly, I wouldn’t send them as proof if I did. That’s just silly. The average person reading 2-3 books a year is so accurate it’s painful. I am a college student and all my professors know me as the kid who always lugs a novel around. However I live with people who I can swear on my manuscript haven’t even smelled the pages of a novel this year. I don’t even know where the local library is. I buy all my books from the Barnes and Noble store — new. I can’t stand the thought of someone else’s hands haven been on a novel I am about to read (sanitary wise of course. I’m not some Elitist). I see people stretching themselves on the sofas, literally trying to rip the covers off paperbacks, bending them so bloody far I swear I can hear the poor thing squealing. Seriously, I know it’s a bit off topic but SERIOUSLY: Respect The Book. Especially if you don’t plan on buying the fudging thing. They just set it back on the shelf for some poor schmuck to walk over and see the last copy has the edge of its front cover kissing its spine. Sheesh.

  43. Amanda said:

    True writers need to read a lot so that they know what is good writing. I’ve heard many writers say that.

    I’ve read more this year than I’ve ever read (recreationally that is, no textbooks here) because I’m on a quest to find the difference between good and bad writing.

  44. Lucy said:

    I think a requirement like that would annoy me. A lot. But I’m odd that way–you know, thinking it’s, um, absolutely nobody’s business.

    🙂

  45. K.M. Cruz said:

    Well if that’s what its going to take for me to get published… I purchased ten books last week. And that’s nothing I hover between five and twenty a month. Who wants my receipts first?? *Grin*

  46. Anonymous said:

    Lately I’ve been reading what can only be called an ungodly number of books. However I am not a receipt keeping person (though amazon might have some proof) and some of them were even borrowed from the YA bookshop where I worked, so my only way of proving that I’ve read anything recently would probably be a massive book report detailing the plots and themes of 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and Hunger Games, and Demon’s Lexion, and White Cat, and Heist Society and the Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Silent on the Moor and on and on, elementary school style.

  47. Tessa Quin said:

    Since I don’t live in America, the only thing I could produce would be Amazon receipts and library receipts. I buy a lot of books every year and recently discovered my new best friend: the library (they have English YA books there! Who would have thought).

    Did you also look at the number of foreigners who buy books from America?

    An essay/synopsis of the books would not be a problem, so bring it on 😉

  48. Noelle Pierce said:

    I like the idea, and plenty of people have suggested library receipts to offset the costs. I tend to write reviews of books on my blog after I finish them (when they’re in my genre, specifically), so something like that, or as others said, a book report, would show they’ve been read.

    Reading only 2-3 books a year is foreign to me, personally, but my husband *gasp* doesn’t read at all. It drives me crazy! I read with my kids, by myself, and spend sleepless nights writing my own novel (*ahem* You’ll be hearing from me soon, Kristin ). Last year, before I started writing my own, I started four new–to me–bestselling authors and cleared their book list. I read every single book from all four of them (and the one with the fewest number of books still had almost 20). I only started writing because an idea occurred to me and my favorite authors can’t publish fast enough to make me happy (not their fault, I just read fast).

    What I’d like to know is how long the 2-3 books a year statistic has been around. Is this a downward trend? And if so, yikes!

  49. Colette said:

    It truly is sad that the average person only reads 2-3 books a year. That said, I’m not sure why we would assume that the market for books (readers) is the people who write books. I know many non-writers who read (considerably more than 2-3 books a year), and honestly I don’t care if the person who writes a great book is an avid reader.

  50. Anonymous said:

    People are not reading the whole story and interpreting it as something more sinister than it is. Per the Tin House website: “We no longer read unsolicited submissions by authors with no representation. We will continue to accept submissions from agents.”

    With this temporary requirement of a receipt with submission, a writer gets the chance to submit to them without an agent while supporting a writer — any writer, not a Tin house writer — and a book store. Why is this so terrible? What am I missing?

  51. Anonymous said:

    Here’s anon 7:10am again — I’d like to add, even if you’re broke, you can usually find a new $3-4 book on the remainder table at the book store. Think of it as the money you saved by waiting until now to seek publication, rather than 10 years ago when the postage to mail your ms. would have been more than that. Put aside a 10-15 cents a day and at the end of the month, you can buy a remaindered book and get an agent-free read if Tin House is a good match for your ms.

  52. K Simmons said:

    Instead of a receipt, ask what the author learned from the last book they read. The responses will tell you a lot about the type of person the author is and how easy they’ll be to work with. 🙂

  53. Nicole Chardenet said:

    I’ll provide proof that I’ve bought a book in a bookstore if Tin House Books will provide proof they actually read my query letter & sample pages, LOL!

  54. Beth said:

    I don’t have a lot of spare cash, but I read about 70 books per year. I could never do it if I had to purchase them– the library is such a fantastic resource.

  55. tospinayarn said:

    2-3 books in a year? My goodness, I read that in a week!! I can’t imagine people who read so little. Even my husband who works insane hours reads at least a few books a month. What a depressing thought for people who want to be published writers.

  56. Anonymous said:

    The statistic is that about billion new books are sold in the US through bricks and mortar stores every year. And most people’s reaction is ‘sounds like a lot’, but it averages to about three per person.

    That doesn’t include books you get online, from the library, buy second hand or a friend lends you. Or, going the other way, books you buy but never get around to. There aren’t surveys of that, and if they were, they wouldn’t come up with a meaningful number.

  57. Anonymous said:

    I was offended when I read it on Galley Cat yesterday. Today I find it to be incredibly stupid. The library angle has been pointed repeatedly and is something I feel very strongly about. The exclusion of online booksellers like Amazon is ludicrous given the volume of books they sell. And the need to justify the purchase of an ebook is personally offensive. I don’t need to justify any of my purchases, whether it be edition type, genre, discount or whatever.

    It is preposterous to think that the group to target to encourage book sales is writers. As everyone in this comment field has testified, writers read a lot more than two to three books a year. My last two books read were from the library, the two before that I already owned, the one before that was an ARC and the one before that was SHIFTER on your recommendation, which I purchased as an ebook. Why? None of their business. Ask me politely and I’ll gladly tell.

    For each agent who has said this is a good idea (and there have been many), I look forward to seeing scans of your receipts for book purchases in your blog posts.

  58. Angela Korra'ti said:

    See, now I read about that thing Tin House is doing, and my immediate reaction, I have to admit, was annoyance.

    Why? Because they were favoring print over digital, and requiring digital readers to provide special explanation as to why they can’t go to a physical bookstore.

    My second reaction was resignation, because it doesn’t look like Tin House publishes the genres I want to write; I looked over the catalog of books they have listed on their site, and there was a distinct lack of SF/F there. So even if I sent them one of my manuscripts with a receipt from one of my many book purchases this year, I’d get rejected anyway.

    Overall I appreciate what they’re trying to do, I really do, but I think this particular implementation of it rubbed me the wrong way. I agree with the anon commenter who said that one shouldn’t have to justify what types of books one purchases in order to get in on this particular action. If the point is to prove that you support publishing, evidence of ANY book purchase should be sufficient.

  59. Anonymous said:

    I understand tight budgets, but this is a valid point — if you want to work in an industry, you should support it. People find money for the things they want and need. If you want to be a writer, then you need to buy books. If you don’t buy books, then who will be able to afford to buy yours?

    Buy books. Either from an independent (if you have one), Amazon, BN, whoever. Just buy books.

  60. Anonymous said:

    I think you should require it. Honestly, it’s like someone who wants to be a musician that never listens to music.

    I know I’d pass the test so I’m not too worried about it.

  61. Anonymous said:

    I don’t know…something doesn’t seem right with this. Some people are readers and some people are writers. That’s that.

    I don’t read another story while I’m in writing mode. (this might be a few weeks or a few months) I would never get my writing done if I picked up another novel or two to read while in the middle of my story.

    As a writer, I do read though, when I can. I shouldn’t have to prove it. Ask me what I’ve read in the past year, yes, but don’t ask me to show you a receipt. I pass most books on once they’ve been read and I get some them this way. No receipt. I would feel like all the parents who at the beginning of the school year must (send) buy a box of tissue for five extra points for your kid.

    I wonder how many people would buy a book from the pub house they are trying to get into?

  62. Krista said:

    I can’t imagine a writer not being a reader. However, some people can’t afford to buy books and are forced to use public libraries and such. Requiring a receipt would exclude the less financially-able from submitting, which doesn’t seem fair.

    Maybe forcing them to do book reviews on a blog or on sites like Goodreads would be a reasonable alternative? It would prove they’re reading, regardless of whether or not they actually purchased the book.

  63. Rowenna said:

    I can see the wisdom in asking those who want to be supported by the publishing industry to support the industry in return, but aren’t there other ways of doing that? Patronizing and supporting your local library, reviewing books on your blog, recommending books to friends and family, just generally talking about books and getting the converstation out there–in addition to purchasing books. In my current financial situation, I probably do only purchase a half-dozen books a year. But if you want to know how many I read…I read far more than what I personally purchase, through the library, through loans from friends, through rereading old favorites or using Google Books to read classics. I’m actually very put off by a requirement like this, even though I could easily fulfill it–there are plenty who could not and may support the industry through other means more than I do. Feels like “pay to play” to me.

  64. Anonymous said:

    And will Tin House look more favorably on those who purchase books published by them?
    This is ridiculous; proving you’ve read a book has nothing to do with the quality of your manuscript; perhaps this is nothing more than an attempt to boost book store sales.
    If other agents decide to adopt this requirement, I believe it will not lower the number of queries, but just add a pile of inky receipts to their already cluttered desks. Writers are not going to stop submitting if they are serious; they will comply with anything that agents request; even if means a gift card for a mani-pedi.

  65. Anonymous said:

    Well, hell, they’re going to reject probably 100 per cent of the ms anyway, whatt’s the big deal? Since I’ve never heard of them, it’s definitely brought them onto my radar.

    I recently filled out the online submission form for Prospect Agency and was amused to no end.

    Before I could upload my query and some sample pages, I had to answer a questionaire, including — what my favorite line from the MS I was submitting was, what the last book I read was, and what writer has infulenced me most — and this was just to query them.

    Kudos, I say.

    Because how many people can ANSWER what the last book they read was? From the looks of it, everyone on THIS thread, but probably not many others.

  66. Ted Cross said:

    That’s a bit unfair to those like me who live in foreign countries without English-language book stores. I buy lots of books from Amazon, but I can’t walk into a book store and buy anything here in Azerbaijan.

  67. Gregory K. said:

    Kristin – you ask “If we required same, would that drop the number of queries we receive?”

    Wouldn’t a better question be “If we required same, would we get better submissions”? Or is it truly about volume not quality?

    In other words, can you show a single study ANYWHERE that shows that book purchasing makes better writers? I cannot. I appreciate Tin House wanting to support bookstores, but that’s a very different idea than reduction in quantity.

  68. Joseph L. Selby said:

    I think Prospect Agency is on to something. That is a great idea that doesn’t create artificial hurdles to submission but still offers a glimpse of the person submitting

  69. Francis said:

    Dear Author,

    Here are our new submission guidelines: in order for us to consider your well thought-out query, we now require you attach a receipt of a recent book purchase in ONE (1) of the following format:
    -iPad PDF
    -iPad eBook
    -iPad Audio
    -Audiobook
    -Kindle PDF
    -Kindle eBook
    -Kindle Audio
    -Audiobook (3CD-7CD only)
    -Paperback
    -Mass paperback
    -Hardcover
    -Used, any format (must scan frontcover with invoice)
    -Nook
    -We do not accept REGULAR PDF purchases (don’t ask what it means, we just know we don’t accept them).
    -Boom must have cost between 1$ and 26.74$ exactly. Any more than that and you got screwed.

    The invoice must absolutely appear in the body of the e-mail. NO ATTACHMENT. But if you must attach it, please scan according to the following guidelines:
    -Scan horizontally @ 200dpi, maximum resolution of 1680×1050 pixels unless the paper is less than 1mm thick at which point you must scan VERTICALLY @ 231dpi exactly with a maximum resolution of 1280×786 pixels.
    -Make sure the scanner window or your camera sensor is properly cleaned. Dust artifacts will void your eligibility.
    -Make sure to properly crop your scan. Any image received with too much negative space (25%+) will be form rejected faster than Lindsay Lohan piles up court orders
    -JPEG of 10 quality only. No more, no less.
    -No GIF, PNG, DNG, PSD, TIFF allowed
    -No filesize over 551 KB
    -Query with an image between the size of 231 and 325KB will receive priority

    As always, please remember that these guidelines exist for your benefit as well. We thank you for your cooperation as we strive to keep this process as simple as possible.

    Nelson Agency LLC

  70. Anonymous said:

    Scanning a document isn’t any easy task for everyone, and I would bet 95% of all writers read (and not just a little bit).

    I have a hundred year old scanner (slight exageration), but I have no idea if it works with the computer I use to write on. I guess I could photograph a reciept and attach a picture, but most agencies do not like attachments.

  71. Katrina said:

    To me this implies paying a not-so-hidden fee for submitting. Not to mention inserting yet another hoop to jump through in the intricate-to-navigate waters on the way to publication.

    I buy and read 40-60 books per year. Why do I need to prove this to an editor?

    I’m more than willing to pay my dues. But seriously. Submit book receipts? Really?

  72. Maya said:

    Yeah, I have to say that they are preaching to the choir. How many writers aren’t avid readers? The reason most of us want to write is because of the many books that have inspired us.

  73. Anonymous said:

    Why bother getting mad at this publisher, when most of us wouldn’t have queried them anyway?

    I get far more annoyed at agencies that accept email queries but THEN ask you to print out your first 50 pages and send it to them via post (when their website makes no mention of this policy). It wastes your time and money.

    At least Tin House is stating upfront that this is what they require.

  74. Natasha Fondren said:

    LOL! Clever and funny, at first, but I sorta have Katrina’s reaction. Very little flips my ego button to “cocky,” but this just makes me want to say, “Seriously? My writing should make it obvious that I’m well-read.”

  75. Anonymous said:

    Interesting idea. But let’s expand on it: How about some sort of system for authors to verify whether or not an agent has actually read the sample pages she requested before rejecting the novel. And while we’re at it, when an agent states that they are interested in “literary fiction” or “upmarket fiction,” is there a way to verify that the agent actually reads those categories herself. Or does she really only read books about faeries and werewolves?

  76. Victoria D Morris said:

    Well….when I’m not writing, I’m reading. And depending on the nature of the story or stories, that can lead to upwards of 5 books a week! A week, people!

    Barnes and Noble, and Borders love me. They know me by name here already, and I’ve lived in this town just shy of a year.

    I’ve got a Books-A-Million near me for the first time ever, and I have been known to haunt their aisles for hours. It’s very rare for me to be able to go into a store…any store (ie. Walmart last night!) and NOT walk out with at least one book.

    So, I’m totally cool with this idea! I love everything about books. Sometimes just looking at them (with a handful to bring home) all lined up is enough to resettle my over stressed stay at home mom of two mind. That…and bringing home that new adventure thats all mine to partake of between the covers of that world!

  77. Elizabeth West said:

    Ha ha, I love this idea. I wonder if a used bookstore would count; that’s where I get the majority of my library. Exceptions include Stephen King and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I can’t wait for paperback or used there. Must. Have. Now.

    In my genre (thriller), I also read Michael Palmer, Dan Brown, John Grisham and a couple of horror authors–Brian Keene and Bentley Little–that do great suspense. That’s all I have time for right now. Too busy writing. Last year, when I was working on my novel, I didn’t read anything but editing books for six months. I nearly died!

  78. abkeuser said:

    I love this idea. I buy more books than I really should. I have gotten to the point that I dont allow myself to buy more until I’ve read all that I’ve got at the moment. It just means I read more! Just got a new amazon order in last night! Can’t wait to dive back in.

  79. Anonymous said:

    How about you sum up *accurately* my ample pages and/or manuscript in my rejection letter?

    We are constantly reminded this is a *business*. Maybe that would sink in if everyone involved acted professionally.

    My writing is a business. Period. If you want to be cute and play games, Blues Clues is on at 2pm EST.

    Move along. The adults are working.

  80. Abby said:

    I agree library receipts should count…checking out books from the library supports the industry as well- the more books checked out = the more books the library buys. There are many aspiring authors who can’t afford to buy books all the time.

  81. Anonymous said:

    I think it’s quite telling that aspiring writers who want to break into this business claim they have no money to contribute to the very industry that they want to be a part of.

    You can’t afford not ONE $6.99 paperback? Not ONE? All year? I find that very hard to believe. Even trades at $12.99 or one hard back at $24.99 with a bookstore discount?

    I’m not saying all reading should be done with purchased books, but if you want this industry to survive long enough for you to break into it, maybe you should sacrifice a little and contribute to its success.

  82. Anonymous said:

    Amen to Anon 10:13. Libraries are great, but you will never earn out your advance, even a paltry one, on library sales alone. Then you’ll likely never get another book deal, and there’s goes your writing career. If we who believe a book is worth spending a year or more of our time to create, but we can’t manage to buy 2-3 new books a year, who else will possibly value the book, in any of its forms, enough to keep it alive? By not buying books, but seeking entry into the world of making them, we’re asking others to find more value in what we create than we do ourselves. And people can go on all day about value being other than monetary, but this is about publishing, not about writing. Publishing takes dollars, and if the producers aren’t willing to reinvest, how can we expect other consumers to?

    Believe me — I know broke, and I use the library a lot. But I’m also in the writing *business* (which has the lowest overhead of any small business I know), so I consider buying new books one of the few costs of doing business.
    If every one of the hundreds of thousands seeking publishing paid for 2-3 new books a year, we’d probably quiet the publishing doomsayers for good.

  83. Anonymous said:

    If people are reading less, it’s not because of the advent of new technology or other media; it’s because most of what’s on the shelf today is godawful. Speaking as a young adult, I read about twenty books a year, and the number has been rapidly decreasing as the amount of decent material is exhausted. Someone please alert the publishing industry that if they want young adults to buy their books, quit treating us like burbling idiots and pushing the latest vampire-wizard-ghost-angel-i’m-so-bad-because-i-wear-Docs-and-dye-my-hair-purple-romance like it’s the biggest frigging thing since E. Nesbit. Thank you, Twilight, for killing the good thing Harry Potter might have started.

    /end righteous anger

  84. AJ said:

    Gosh, if I had all the receipts from the books I’ve purchased . . . Should I have added that in my query? LOL Quite funny, but I don’t see how reading a book means that you can necessarily write one!

  85. randine said:

    Are you serious? 2-3 books a year?? Hopefully those aren’t the same people that are submitting queries. Scary. I would read that in a week!

  86. Anonymous said:

    As a professional photographer, I’m at the top of my game right now. I’m booked two months out, and I often keep a waiting list. But as much as I might be in demand at the moment, I would never, ever alienate my future clients by writing on my public blog about what a nuisance they are.

    I’m new to the publishing industry, and it has been such a disappointment to see the way literary agents conduct themselves. While I’m not going to be the next Stephanie Meyer or Stephen King, one of us will be. And I hope to God that next superstar reads the agent’s blog before she signs.

    We all, every one of us, have insider gripes about the people we deal with, or aspects of our work that make us crazy. But you won’t catch me talking about bridezillas or overbearing mothers on my photography blog. Because the people who read it are my future clients. The writers who read this blog are yours.

    It’s unprofessional, and it’s bad for business.

  87. Anonymous said:

    I do understand what they’re going for, but a receipt does nothing to prove that a person has actually read a book.

    And, honestly, unless they amend their policy to include library check-out receipts, this has the effect on me of ensuring I not only won’t submit a work to them, but also won’t buy a book published by them.

    The fact is not everyone can afford to buy books, especially with so many out of work right now. Checking out books from a library is doable, but buying books from a bookstore may not be doable for a family that is struggling just to feed their children or keep their house out of foreclosure right now.

    To deny a potential author – even a potentially great author – the chance to submit their work because they can’t afford to buy a new book (no matter how much they might like to buy a book and support fellow authors) is akin to the many employers out there right now who are refusing to look at/accept applications from anyone who is not currently employed.

    It is a practice that potentially prevents the publisher from considering the best work that might be submitted to them (bad for the publisher) and potentially prevents the best writer out there from being considered (bad for the writer). It’s just not good business and is arbitrarily discriminatory to those who are facing tougher financial times.

    Honestly, although I am fortunate to be able to go out and buy a book today if I want to, I wouldn’t consider an agent who endorsed this kind of policy (unless it also included library receipts). I also don’t give any business to employers who are adopting this practice with the unemployed and thus lengthening and potentially worsening the current recession.

    That’s just me – I play in an equal opportunity regardless of economic status world.

  88. Anonymous said:

    Call me old-fashioned, but I think that idea is embarrassing. Is the book business that bad? Sounds like a dog eating a dog for lack of hunting skills, or rather, cannibalistic. I am probably very naive, but man oh man. That’s embarrassing.

  89. Cynthia Vespia said:

    I don’t necessarily agree with that idea especially now with ebooks. The majority of books I read I get from other sources (gifts, referrals from friends, etc)
    Any writer worth their salt needs to be reading. Stephen King said it best: If you can’t find the time to read then you’re not a writer.

  90. Liana Brooks said:

    I read voraciously. On average, I read a new book every day of the year. I love the idea of switching to this system. Especially if I get extra points for reading more books!

  91. Maggie said:

    I think that’s an odd proposal. A writer who doesn’t read regularly seems like an oxymoron to me. I’ve read 18 books so far this month. Half were purchased, half were borrowed from the library (hey, I’m broke, people!)

    I don’t know why, but I kind of got offended by the whole “show us your receipts” thing. First of all, I never even keep them, and to be accused of not supporting an industry that I love and am dying to be a part of, is definitely hurtful.

    I know this is sort of an overblown reaction, but it’s the truth.

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