October 22, 2019

Book Query, Synopsis, Manuscript Partial–Which Isn’t Working?

Seek the Potential Sources

Recently an author approached, somewhat frustrated. He has been sending out his query and synopsis to literary agents. Some have requested 5 pages, 10 pages, or 50 pages. He has also received many personal emails of encouragement from these agents–to keep searching for that right agent.

Sound familiar? If you are in this situation as well, then I suggest you use a website-traffic analogy to troubleshoot what is working or not working.

Website Analogy
Factor Website
Number Literary Agents Number
Initiations Visits 100 Submissions 25
Engagements Leads 5 (5% +) Partial Request 10 (40%)
Successes Clients 1 (20%+) Offers None yet





In this example, a website is getting visits from several different sources, such as organic or paid searches, social media, or referrals. A few of these visitors become engaged in the material discovered and will leave their names and email addresses in exchange for some information, such as a white paper. Most successful sites engage about 5 percent or more of visitors from all sources. These engagements are leads that the website company might send a thank you or additional offers. In this example, the website is able to convert 20 percent of its leads into clients.

For the author who approached, I suggested a similar type of analysis. He noted that he finds about 50 agents who seek titles in his fiction genre. When approaching literary agents, an author’s success is first determined by the quality of the list used. The author is initiating, not (as on a website) viewers who have found a site. This list seems to be solid.

So far–mailing just a few at a time–he has sent proposals to about half of these or 25 agents. Pacing submissions is prudent, in part because it allows any information back from agents to refine later submissions.

Of these engagements, he has had 10 requests for partials.This 40 percent response rate seems to be quite high. I take it that this rate of requests means his query and synopsis are doing their job of getting such requests.

Yet, no offers. Or even qualified offers, in which the author is asked to do specific rewrites. While it surely could be that one agent of the bunch might have extended a full or qualified offer. The odds, however, could question such an outcome.

I would re-examine the first 5 pages of the manuscript. Does it meet or exceed the promise displayed in the query and synopsis? It seems that there is where the problem is located.

Image #8399482 from 123rf.com

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