Here, I want to explain my philosophy on the full manuscript request. I only request full manuscripts for a novel submission, not partials. Part of it is the same rationale as why I say you should send 10 sample pages with every query, regardless of an agency’s submission guidelines: instant gratification. When I see an enticing query letter, I want to move on to a novel submission right away.
How Some Agents Handle a Full Manuscript Request
Imagine if I followed the partial request plan of some agents:
- Ask for the first 30 pages, evaluate
- As for the next 50/70 pages, evaluate
- Ask for the next 100/150 pages, evaluate
- Ask for the full manuscript … eventually
This is a bit extreme, but I have seen all sorts of iterations of this for a novel submission. Why bother? Well, here’s the rationale. An agent who asks for a lot of partials ultimately ends up rejecting fewer fulls, because their decision process is long and fewer manuscripts get all the way to the full request. On the other hand, there are also agents who request a full after reading only the query. They probably reject the vast majority (~99%) of their fulls, since the first time they see a writing sample is when they make a full manuscript request. I request a full after reading the query and the first 10 pages. I reject a vast majority of my full manuscripts, but not nearly as many as the person who reads only a query and asks for the full.
The one downside to asking for a full is that, to a writer, a full request is a Big Deal. It is More Serious and More Important than a partial request for a novel submission. I wish this wasn’t the case. I only request a full so that I can read through the first 30, 50, 70, 100, 150, etc. etc. etc. and keep reading until a) the quality of the writing takes a nosedive, b) the plot stops making sense, c) the story takes some kind of bizarre turn, d) the characters warp, e) I lose interest. All of these things, unfortunately, happen sometimes. However, sometimes they don’t!
Why a Literary Agent May Stop Reading a Novel Submission
There are a million reasons to stop reading a manuscript but there are also a million reasons to keep reading. With requesting a full and not a partial, I don’t have to stop, ask for more, stop, ask for more. I can read for as long as I’m riveted and, if that extends to the end of the manuscript, I’m a very happy agent. With a full at my disposal, I’m free to take my time, have my process, really dig in and mull things over without going back and forth with the writer.
I wouldn’t advocate sending a full when asked for a partial, like I’d suggest you send a writing sample anyway, but I just hope you understand a little bit more of what goes through my mind as a literary agent and exactly what a full request from me means.
If you want to make a literary agent read more, you’ll want the strongest possible manuscript. Hire me as your novel editor and we can increase your chances at success together.