Pub Rants

Name Dropping—the Editor Request (part three)

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STATUS: Not so lovely. Email is currently down. How did agents do this job before the internet, email, and FedEx? I’m lost in the dark. Without email, I’m nothing. I’m, I’m, I’m being way melodramatic. Still, frustrating. Blogspot is working though.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? THRILLER by Michael Jackson (appropriate ain’t it?)

The editor name dropping actually doesn’t bother me that much—but it all depends on how the writer handles it in the query letter.

Often writers will include the information that their manuscript has been requested by Ms. Hot Shot Editor at Hot Shot Publishing House. (This tends to happen more in the romance and the SF & F genres because these editors will often still consider unsolicited material and will look at queries. They also attend more conferences etc. because good material is hard to find and not a ton of agents rep it.)

Okay. You’ve name dropped the editor’s name.

My question is this: Why are you telling me this information? There are actually two intentions you could have.

Intention 1: You’re feeling pretty proud of the fact that you got a full manuscript request from an editor and you are hoping it will be impressive if you start your query letter with that information.

First, I’m thrilled for you that this editor requested your full. I’m positive it feels like a big milestone on the road to publishing. You should be proud. It’s a great first step.

But here’s my view. I know Ms. Hot Editor personally. I know she requests a lot of fulls when she attends conferences and such. She’s actively building her list. She may or may not actually be the person to read it. Her assistant or an outside reader might do the first read. She takes over a year to respond to these requests. She… and the list could go on.

If the intention is to impress, I’m not that impressed.

Intention 2: You are simply providing me with all the information about the current status of your manuscript.

I actually like that.

Now, I can always tell the difference between the intention by how this information is presented and where it goes in the query letter.

If Intention 1, it’s always in the beginning and the tone is off.

If Intention 2, the info is always part of the concluding paragraph and stated matter-of-factly (as in “The manuscript is also currently being reviewed by Ms. Hot Shot Editor at Hot Shot Publishing House).

No frills. Just the facts Ma’am.

12 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Okay, I can stop sweating now. I dropped names/or houses of those publishers and agencies who are reading it but all in the closing paragraph, matter of factly, just before I gave my profuse thanks.

    Thanks for the clarification!

  2. kis said:

    Would you (or agents in general) be more or less inclined to request a full if a MS had been requested by an editor? This has always worried me. I have been tempted to send my full to Tor or Bain, but have always wondered if an agent would consider it a nail in my coffin.

    Would an agent think, “There may be issues with the MS that need work, and I’d be willing to help the author in an edit–whoops, what’s this? She sent the whole thing to Tor six months ago? Heck, even if we fix this and make it great, there’s ONE editor I can no longer submit it to.”

    Or would an agent be able to go to Tor and say, “You rejected this when you found it in your slush pile, but it’s been substantially reworked, and I know you’re going to LOVE the new version.”

    If an agent might believe I’ve spoiled one of my chances before I am even represented, how willing is she going to be to take me on? Or is this even a consideration?

    Just wondering…

  3. eleora said:

    Ditto what kis said…I have been fretting over the same thing myself. It is nice to have a head start in subbing to Tor and Baen and others since they take subs and it could take years to send to one at a time. On the other hand, the agent won’t have a fresh shot to market the material and suggest crucial edits.

  4. Anonymous said:

    What about name-dropping of Known Authors? As in: “Best-selling author Jane Doe has offered to write a cover blurb for my book.” I once mentioned that to an editor at a conference, kind of as an afterthought, and she said, “You should’ve said that first!”

    Anyway,I know you don’t answer questions here in the comment cafe, but if you could address this in your blog, it’d be terrific.

  5. Cindy Procter-King said:

    Always such interesting posts, Kristin. For me, it’s always #2. I wouldn’t want to query an agent without letting her or him know if the partial or full is with an editor, because I believe an agent should have as much information at her disposal about my query as possible. Some agents (one in particular comes to mind) aren’t interested in seeing work that’s currently with a publisher. If I *don’t* tell the agent that my work is with a certain editor or publisher, I feel like I’m misleading him/her.

    Can’t recall where in my agent QLs I tend to put this information!


  6. kyler said:

    Kristin, thanks so much for that. My intention is #2, (well, maybe a little of #1!)- but I’m afraid if I wait till the last paragraph they might not read that far. In the future, however, I’ll rethink this strategy.

    Thanks again.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Sorry for the “anonymous”…

    I’m convinced it’s the part in my query letter where I namedropped authors who’d already agreed to blurb that got my full manuscript in front of most agents. I know because that’s the part they replied to with exclamation points.

    I’m almost relieved that the agent I went with didn’t have any idea about the blurbing. Namedropping feels dirty, but, hey, you’ve gotta be just a little ambitious, you know? 🙂

  8. the green ray said:

    That’s true, anon. When a famous author had my MS, which I mentioned in the first paragraph of my query, my request rate was soaring; but when his assistant emailed me, saying that the author didn’t have time to read it after all – and I dropped his name from the query (how’s that for “name-dropping?”)- the request rate went way, way down. Same exact query otherwise.

  9. Kalen Hughes said:

    When May Chen at AVON had a requested full of my MS my response time from agents went way down and my requests for partials and fulls went WAY up. So maybe it wouldn’t have worked with Kristen, but it sure works with other agents.

  10. Anonymous said:

    Same anon here, still apologizing:

    That’s SO true about response time going way down with namedropping. It made me wonder how some agents actually sort through their inboxes.

    I put my list of authors in the third paragraph, after biographical information.