Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Bit of Secret Agent Etiquette

It's funny; I've been all about rules of submission, rules of critiquing, and all that.  But it's recently come  to my attention that there's a bit of behind-the-scenes "Secret Agent Etiquette" that I should probably address publicly.  Since this month's contest will go live tomorrow, now's as good a time as any, yes?


  • Do not enter a Secret Agent Contest if your manuscript is not COMPLETE and QUERY-READY.  This means that you are one hundred percent comfortable with an agent's reading your work.  (Disclaimer: Yes. I've had one success story author who sort-of-sheepishly admitted, after the fact, that she'd entered the SA contest prior to finishing her manuscript.  This is not the norm. This is not the path you should attempt to tread. It's the exception, not the rule. This author was supremely lucky.)
  • If you win a Secret Agent Contest, PLEASE BE PROMPT ABOUT SENDING THE REQUESTED MATERIAL TO THE AGENT.  Assuming you've entered a complete, query-letter manuscript in the contest, then you should be prepared to send a partial or full as requested, within a day or two of having won.  In short, if you enter a SA contest, BE PREPARED TO WIN.  (A good approach to life at any rate!)
  • If you have sent requested materials to a Secret Agent, and then you receive an offer of representation from another agent, NOTIFY THE SECRET AGENT OF YOUR OFFER.  This will give the Secret Agent a chance to finish reading your work, and possibly make an offer as well.  THIS IS COMMON COURTESY in the querying process, inside or outside the context of a contest.  If an agent has invested time in your work, it's only fair to let him/her know if you've received an offer.  
  • If your success on this blog leads to an offer of representation or ultimate publication, please let me know! I would love to add your name to our arsenal of Success Stories.
Please ask questions below! I want to make sure we're all on the same page with this etiquette stuff.

(This blog has a reputation for high quality -- thanks to you! So let's extend that quality to our off-blog behavior, which I probably haven't given enough thought to.)



  1. Hello,
    I'm a first-time participant in the SA contest. My submission has been selected for February. But I don't know exactly what comes next. What does it mean that the contest will "go live" tomorrow? What will happen next and how long will we have to make our comments on five other submissions? Thanks for your help.

  2. The entries will post tomorrow morning, at which time you will be able to start leaving critiques.

  3. Being a first time participant I am so excited for this contest, and the outline of etiquette answered most of my lingering questions. Thanks :)

  4. Authoress, thank you for clarifying what needs to be done when entering these. Also, seems to be helpful advice if I submit my manuscript to multiple agents, as well. Now to complete my manuscript so I can enter the fray! ;)

    Thank you!!

  5. If we are fortunate enough to get our entry in the contest and people leave comments and questions, should we post any responses or just treat the questions as rhetorical?

  6. Good question! Treat them not as rhetorical, really, but as questions you should be asking YOURSELF as you edit. It's best to listen quietly while we're receiving feedback. :)