So, you’ve been to a conference. You pitched your manuscript and you didn’t vomit on the agent’s shoes! You actually delivered a decent pitch. Then the agent looks at you and says, “This is an awesome concept. I ‘d like you to send me the whole manuscript.” What do you do?

Celebrate...then be realistic.

Celebrate…then be realistic.

Do you walk out in a dignified manner, acting as though you expected that response or do you throw yourself over the table at the agent, kissing her hand repeatedly, thanking her for a chance and promising her you won’t let her down like those contestants on American Idol who’ve made it through the first round and act as though they’ve won the whole contest? Do you wait until you’ve nearly reached the door and break into a little “I did it” jig? I’m just saying, I may or may not have done a combination of your first and third options. I sort of forgot that old football motto,

“Just hand the ball to the official and  act like you’ve been there before.”

Then as I sat in the waiting room, I watched others as they came out. A few were dejected, others were indifferent and still others were sporting the same look I had minutes ago. Throughout the day at the conference, I asked about the response others had received from certain agents. There were quite a few that were asked to send partials of their manuscripts to the agents. This got me to thinking, are my chances here the same as any slush pile my manuscript has landed in?

dont hold your breath

I probably shouldn’t be holding my breath here.

I started to question everything. What was the point of coming here and the months of rehearsing, stressing out and whitening my teeth..MY SENSITIVE TEETH- I shriek internally every time I inhale! I started doing research on how much value these request actually held.

Don’t stress just yet.


But then again, don’t start taking out loans based on your book sales either. I read a wonderful blog by Wendy Lawton called Books&Such where this situation is put into perspective from the agents point of view. I’ve read articles that speak of agents in a less than positive light about the way they lead authors on by asking for samples when they may not be as eager to represent the author as one might think. The Books&Such article clarifies why agents might ask for a manuscript sample and then not give you the gleaming results you are awaiting OR they may take much longer to respond than you had anticipated.

Here are 5 reasons she noted:

  • It’s most likely a serious request based on liking the initial pitch and being interested in the writer. Whether the agent is being realistic about his ability to manage the additional work he is agreeing to evaluate is the unknown element here.
  • Or it could just be the general giddiness and I-can-do-it-all feeling that comes from letting an overworked agent out of the office. At a writer’s conference we are predisposed to falling in love with ideas and writers. We’re talking with colleagues and brainstorming possibilities. Heady stuff.
  • It can mean the agent has been meeting with writer after writer in fifteen-minute blocks all day long and has finally admitted he is braindead and cannot evaluate anything and the best thing is to just see the work and evaluate later.The danger here is that he knows he is loading himself up with work, not taking into consideration the already critically backed-up workload at the office.
  • It might mean the agent knows he can’t evaluate fiction based on a query. He has to evaluate the writing. Some agents and editors ask to see anything that may hold promise based on the pitch. (Sadly some writers pitch like big leaguers while their writing isn’t even ready for the farm team.)
  • It might mean the agent is drawn to the writer himself and, regardless of the writing, wants to continue to explore. This is the power of meeting in person. These are the not-quite-ready writers that agents sometimes decide to sign, even earlier than normal, in order to mentor them. It’s one of the values of a writing conference–the inexplicable connection that sometimes happens.

So if you’ve received a face to face request CELEBRATE! Then revise as requested, send your manuscript and if you feel comfortable ask about a time frame in your query. Then wait but Heavens to Mergatroid QUERY WHILE YOU WAIT. Don’t put all your tofu in one recycled plastic tote (sorry, I’m vegan.) Keep sending out those queries just as you would, had you never gone to the conference at all. 

Have any of you received partial requests at a conference? How about a full? I received both this weekend and I’d love to hear the outcomes of your requests to give me something to ponder while I wait for my own response!


  1. First off, congratulations! Now, to the question… I received a request for a partial at the London Book fair a couple of weeks ago. I can add another response to your list, as I kind of mumbled, stumbled, shook his hand and rushed slowly (if that’s possible) away from the table. Then I re-read the first three chapters, decided they were in no way ready for an agent and frantically re-edited them! About to submit them this week, so I’ll keep you posted over at the blog ( Needless to say, I’ll be following your posts with baited breath to see how things pan out for you. Best of luck with it, hope the agent jumps at your MS!!

    • THank you! About how long has it been since you’ve spoken to the agent? I’m having SO much trouble committing to my edits and just sending. I’m moving through at a turtles pace but I really want to strike while I’m fresh in their memory. PLEASE keep me posted on the response and how long it takes for them to get back to you. Are you going to gently ask what the agents response time frame will be in your query?

      • It was two weeks between seeing the agent and emailing the partial MS. Like you, I wanted to strike while the iron was hot, but had to be certain that what I was sending was the best I could possibly produce. It’s a minefield isn’t it?! I figure that, if they like the way you write, that would probably overcome a longer gap between seeing and sending. I did consider asking a timeframe, but the chap I met was a rather… feisty… character and I suspect his response would have been “Who the %^&* do you think you are sunshine?” He may then have burnt the MS on the spot. So I refrained 😀

  2. Hey Margie. thanks for stopping by my site and ‘liking’ my post. I wish you well with your next step!! I’m at a different, although still anxious, stage compared with you. I have an agent. I have had 2 novels published, but then went away and earned a living / set about raising a family for 12 years. Two years ago I sent a manuscript to my agent, did the revisions she suggested, but got no bites from publishers. Some encouraging rejections – but often those were the most confusing. They praise the writing but decline to take it on. I rewrote and tried again. Nothing. At that point, ‘flogging a dead horse’ seemed an apt description of persisting with that manuscript. So I set to work on a new story – shorter, more familiar characters, familiar setting, current day, topical themes. And, since 12 years out of the game meant no one knew who I was (or, those who did were wondering why I had so little faith / courage to have disappeared for 12 years), I decided I’d blog the story as an overt demonstration of my commitment. (There’s a whole other long discussions about whether blogging fiction is a good idea). I’m now 3 posts and a week and a half from completing the blogging of the new story. I have sent a completed draft to my agent and have a meeting with her on Friday. She may tell me it’s crap – I have to be prepared for that. Or, she may not. Gulp!

    • Wow Mick! That sounds like a story you should write about in itself! I commend you for putting family first for those twelve years. I believed that is a bit of character that opens you up for blessings letter. EXPECT THEM! Please, please, please respond after your meeting on Friday to let us know how it went – good or bad! I suspect there is a potential though if the agent wants to meet. Otherwise a short, polite email would suffice. Good luck!!!!

  3. Hey–thanks for this advice! And also? Thanks for visiting my blog and even liking some of it, though I suspect you’re a little more sympathetic to literary agents than I have shown myself to be . . . :-/


  4. Congrats on getting a request!!! That’s awesome. I’ve had requests for full and partial readings so I’m thrilled for you!!! Looking forward to hearing the results.

    • So how did the request go? Were they results of query letters or face to face meetings. I’ve read so much about how the queries sometimes hold more value because they are based on the actual writing and not a well polished pitch or a pretty face. I’m interested in your results!

      • Margie, they were the results of queries. One agent finally said the manuscript wasn’t quite right for her, but at least gave me a personal, warm response. So I know I’m close on this, since she liked the query. I rewrote the first three chapters. I’ve received a couple of contracts as a result of querying.

      • That’s awesome! I’m thrilled for you and hope I’m close behind! I’ve yet to send this manuscript out to agents. I’m going to start this week. I’ve sent out others though so I can empathize with the pain of rejections. Good luck!

  5. Thanks for liking my A Hunger in the Eye Margie- much appreciated- what a great site you have. Incredibly helpful and insightful for aspiring writers.

    Thanks again.


  6. Your self-deprecating humor helps take the sting out of this nerve wracking problem we writers face. Congratulations on the request from the agent! Just remember, you got this far because of the hard work you’ve done and the ability that agent saw, so don’t panic – and please let us know how it goes – for those of us without a request from an agent – we may have to live vicariously through you!

  7. What about self-publishing? I Am signed up with Createspace [ Amazon] and have my three assigned ISBNs for the three book titles, the first of which I’m working on in between schoolwork at college [ planning to transfer to SUNY Potsdam this fall for Creative Writing BA]. Having been to a lecture hosted by a businesswoman representing a large publisher [ Harper I think?] five years ago at the Wallingford, Connecticut Public Library, I was not in the least impressed. Rather, both my friend, James K. Buchanan [ a published author who self-published three novels so far but is struggling/working at Walmart] and I found this woman to be a snob with a “big corporate executive” attitude problem. Factoring in that neither he nor I care for yuppie professionals, we both saw her as a ” professional” phony.

    • I don’t know a lot about self publishing. I’m seeking the traditional route so most my post relate to that method. I’m sorry you had a bad experience networking with authors. The fact is, authors are people too and we may not like the approach everyone is using to publishing. We just need to find our “niche” and that’s where we will find our success. I’m not sure there is a right or wrong way to publish.

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