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Clarifying ABLA Submission Policies

Every conference I go to, I’m asked about the Andrea Brown Literary Agency rules and policies about submissions. Even though I think it’s all very clearly spelled out on our website’s Submissions page, I’ll take a crack at clarifying our instructions. These are the questions we usually get:

“Is a ‘no’ from one really a ‘no’ from all? Can I send my project to another ABLA agent?”

At ABLA, a “no” from one of us on a project is indeed a “no” from all. If you have chosen one of us — and I know it can be hard, with nine such wonderful agents — and we reject you, don’t send to another one of us just to be sure you chose the right agent in the first place. We are all looking for talent, whether debut or well-published, but we tend to pick only the top caliber submissions out of our slush. If you get no response or a rejection, assume that none of us is interested in the project as is.

You are, of course, welcome to submit a new project to us, whether you send to the same agent or a different one. You can also resubmit your original project six months (or more) after your first rejection, to the original or a different agent, if you can honestly say you’ve revised it and the work is different and stronger than it was the last time one of us saw it (be honest).

“Do you share projects of merit with your colleagues if the project doesn’t happen to be right for you?”

Yes. If I get a submission of very high caliber but it happens to be not quite right for me, I often pass it off to my colleagues for an additional read. We all do this. If someone else is interested, we connect the author to the agent and let the new agent take over the submission, if the author likes the idea.

If we do share your work, whether it ends up a pass or an offer of representation, you will most likely know that this level of enthusiasm exists. The agent who passes it around or the agent who ends up liking it will usually fill you in on the situation.

“Does no response after 6 to 8 weeks really mean rejection? Do you write personalized rejections?”

Our official agency policy is that we do not respond to queries unless interested and that no word after 6 to 8 weeks means, unfortunately, a rejection. The only email you should expect to receive from some of us is an automatic auto-response to confirm receipt of your query, and then an email expressing enthusiasm if we think your project is a good fit. Some of my colleagues do stick by the above guidelines. At this time, several of us, myself included, do still respond personally to every submission that follows our guidelines.

“Does my submission have to follow guidelines?”

When a submission doesn’t follow guidelines (is sent to every agent at the agency, has no sample pages, has an attachment, etc.), we delete them and don’t respond.

There are lots of other questions that querying writers ask — “Will you give me feedback?” or “Will you refer me to another agency that might be a better fit?” (my answer, here) — but the above are the more ABLA-specific and seem to come up the most. If you have any ABLA submission questions, in particular, now is the time to ask!


  1. Emily White’s avatar

    I sent my query to someone at your agency a couple months ago and have since completely rewritten the beginning *and* the query. I’m glad to see that you’re willing to give another chance after six months. Making a note of it now!

  2. Beth’s avatar

    Thanks for taking the time to clarify your submissions. Never hurts. Very helpful. : )

  3. Jean Ann Williams’s avatar

    I wondered how long one must wait to resubmit to you after a project has been worked over and extensive changes made. Good to know, Mary.

    Thank you!

  4. Cyndi’s avatar

    I’ve seen people ask about ABLit’s sub policies on the Blueboards too, and I’ve posted excerpts or links from the guidelines to try to help…but I think part of it is that we all agonize over our subs, that even when we’ve read the guidelines, we ask for clarification just to make sure our interpretation of them is correct.

    I think ABLA does a good job of having clear and concise instructions, but I’ve read other agencies’ guidelines that were much harder to figure out.

  5. Estee Wood’s avatar

    Thanks for the great post. I’m curious if you remember the slush. I mean, if someone submits something that isn’t good enough, revises it and re-submits it at least six months later, do you recognize them? I wouldn’t think so, but maybe agents have super all-remembering powers.

  6. Chelsea P.’s avatar

    Thanks for this info, Mary. I do have a follow up question, if you wouldn’t mind tackling it. I’m wondering if the “no response means no” applies to requested sample chapters as well – specifically chapters requested at a conference. I recently had the pleasure of pitching to Andrea at a conference and she requested material. I’m wondering if it’s ABLA’s policy to respond to each of these kinds of submissions or if “no response means no” applies here as well (due to the sheer volume of submissions one must receive after a conference). Or maybe it’s different for each agent at ABLA. Any insight into this matter would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again. As always, I very much appreciate the time you take to write these informative blogs!

  7. Cyndi’s avatar

    Good question, Estee. I’ve always wondered if you were resubmitting, if it would be prudent to let the agent know in the query that they’ve seen it before and that it’s new and shiny.

  8. Mary’s avatar

    Chelsea — I can’t speak for all of us but I think that, at least for me and a few others, chapters, partials, and fulls will always get a personal response, though it may take some time, depending on the particular agent’s workload. Thanks for asking!

  9. Nikki Smith’s avatar

    I think the ABLA website is very clear and helpful! I also appreciate your post. I do have two specific questions. 1.) When a submission comes from someone that attended a small workshop with an ABLA agent, is that agent more likely to respond, even with a no? 2.) After sending a submission, I had a long period of email problems and would have missed correspondence expressing interest. Would the agent call me if I didn’t respond to the email? Thanks for taking the time to answer our specific questions!

  10. Michelle Mason’s avatar

    Mary, what should we do if we followed the guidelines but didn’t receive an auto-response? I know there have been times it didn’t work in the past, so I don’t want to assume that means you didn’t receive the query. Thanks!


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