The Muse 2014 | Manuscript Mart Instructions

We are pleased to offer our 12th annual Manuscript Mart, in which an established literary agent or editor will read 20 pages of your work in advance and meet with you at the conference to provide direct feedback. This one-on-one, 20-minute session will be scheduled for you during the conference. Manuscript Mart sessions do not overlap with other sessions and panels, and are allocated before the conference on a first-come, first-served basis.

WE ARE NOW CLOSED FOR SUBMISSIONS, AS OF 5:00PM ON MONDAY, APRIL 7TH.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.) Why should I participate in the Manuscript Mart?
Most of us are used to getting feedback on our work from fellow writers, friends, and other people who know the craft but not necessarily the business of writing. The Manuscript Mart is a rare opportunity to receive meaningful feedback on your work from an experienced industry professional who's "in the publishing game" on a daily basis. While a good number of agents and editors do go on to represent clients they meet, the Manuscript Mart is not only about making a potential match with an agent or an editor, but about using their feedback to make your work stronger and more marketable. We want to be clear that GrubStreet can not guarantee that the person you meet will ultimately be the right fit for you. What we try very hard to ensure is that the agent or editor you meet will have read your work, considered it thoughtfully, and offered you the best advice s/he can give. For a good overview on the Manuscript Mart experience, check out the article that appeared in our Free Press newspaper: Making the Most of Your Manuscript Mart Session.


2.) Will I get a book deal from the Manuscript Mart?
No writer should expect an agent or editor to immediately sign them or agree to publish their work during the Manuscript Mart. We strongly suggest that your focus be on receiving direct feedback on your work from an active industry professional, which is an elusive and valuable opportunity in itself. That said, every year a small but significant percentage of participating writers do sign on with agents and editors they meet through the Manuscript Mart, and/or, more likely, initiate relationships that eventually end in book deals. Your best bet at making this happen is to choose your agent or editor carefully and-- most important of all-- ensure that your manuscript sample and query letter (if applicable) are as strong and as polished as they can possibly be.


3.) Should I choose an agent or an editor?
There are arguments on both sides. These days, agents edit their clients’ manuscripts quite extensively, and therefore have a lot of experience with big-picture structural issues as well as more “local” issues, such as word-choice and voice. Therefore, an agent is familiar with the industry as well as the craft, and can guide you responsibly in both areas. Also, an agent is a “gateway” to an editor.

While the role of the editor has in recent years become more about the marketing and positioning of books, editors do still edit -- especially the ones we've invited to this conference! -- and it is likely to be their greatest strength. An editor’s eye is trained to notice red flags, redundancies, “easy” writing and will have unique knowledge about the “state of the market” for your work. Also: if you get an editor excited about your book, an agent may be more likely to give it a more serious look.

What is most important is that you choose an editor or agent who, based on your research, is most likely to "get" your work and appreciate your sensibility and/or your argument and/or the urgency of the tale you want to tell.


4.) How do I know if the agent or editor represents the type of book I’m writing?
The agent’s or editor’s bio will give you a strong indication what kinds of books they are looking for and which they have represented recently. You will also want to do some online research and try to read as many of the books by their clients as you can.

As importantly, beneath each agent or editor bio, we have listed the genres s/he considers, does not consider or in which s/he specializes. These lists are extremely useful in helping you determine which agent or editor to select. Use the search fields we've created to help narrow down the list according to genre.


5.) What are the benefits of meeting with a magazine editor?
Meeting with a magazine editor is an excellent choice for writers of short stories, non-fiction personal essays, and authors putting together full-length short-story or essay collections. Please be aware that these magazine editors do not work for publishing houses. They will give you feedback on the craft of your submission and consider that submission for their publication. They may also be able to suggest another journal or publication that would be a good fit for your story or non-fiction article.

If you've ever sent your story or non-fiction article to a literary magazine and received either a standard rejection or a handwritten note saying "thanks, but no thanks, and, by the way, send us more stuff" you've known the sting of rejection and the hunger for more information. You've probably wondered why your story was really turned down, and what you could have done to make it better. The journal editors we've invited (Cara Blue Adams from The Southern Review, Ladette Randolph from Ploughshares , Benjamin Samuel from Electric Literature, and Rob Spillman from Tin House) have trained eyes and are eager to help you make your story or article as good as it can be. They will also consider it for their publications, which are nationally-recognized and prestigious. As we all know, it's very important for new writers to build publications in such magazines, and many agents and editors read those magazines to look for new clients.

Please read the bios of the magazine editors carefully before making your decision. It's also a good idea to check out a few copies of Ploughshares, Electric Literature, and Tin House beforehand.


6.) Now that I've picked my agent/editor and registered for the conference, how should I prepare for my meeting?
The best way to prepare is to make sure your 20-page writing sample, synopsis, and query letter (if applicable) are as strong as they can be, free of typographical errors, and the most accurate representation of your work as a whole. We suggest showing it to a trusted colleague, fellow writer, or consultant to give it the once-over and pick up on anything you might have missed. Then make sure you submit your manuscript online to GrubStreet by the deadline of April 7th, 2014 at 5:00pm. After the deadline, relax and remember that this entire process is subjective and now completely out of your hands. You may also want to read a book by an author that your agent/editor represents, especially one that shares a common theme or sensibility with your work. Being familiar with an agent or editor's client's book(s) is a good way both to have a point of reference during your 20-minute conference session and to help determine whether you might be the right long-term match. It also demonstrates your commitment to the process.


7.) What should I expect when I arrive at the Manuscript Mart?
Your registration packet, which you will pick up on the Mezzanine Level of the Park Plaza Hotel, will indicate the time of your meeting and in which room it will be held. (You will also know this information the week before the conference). Please arrive a few minutes early to the room and check in again with one of our volunteers, who will cross your name off the list. When the time comes for the meeting, the volunteers will lead you to the room, where you will sit at a 2-person table with your agent or editor. Other meetings will be going on around you simultaneously, but we have spread out the tables across many rooms to cut down on the noise.


8.) What's the meeting like? What should I say? What will the agent/editor say?
We expect the meetings to be warm, friendly and professional, not unlike a job interview. The agent/editor will "lead" the meeting and, given the time constraints, likely launch immediately into his/her feedback on your work. S/he may also begin by asking you questions. Throughout the meeting, you should expect to hear critical feedback that sometimes can be difficult to process or accept. Please remember that if an agent or editor does not respond glowingly to your work and does not offer you a book deal on the spot, that does NOT mean the work is not valuable or that you have no talent or chances for publication/success; nor does it mean that the critique can not be used constructively to improve your work.


9.) Should I bring anything to the session?
Because the conversation can be overwhelming, we suggest you take notes on a laptop or notebook or even bring a tape recorder with you. Most agents or editors will have made written comments that s/he will give you at the end of the session, but often these comments are just marginal notes that might not make sense if you haven't made notes on or remembered their context. Please do not bring your full manuscript. If the agent/editor would like to see more of your work, s/he will ask you to submit it at a later date.


Still have questions about the Manuscript Mart? You may direct them to Alison Murphy at alison@grubstreet.org.

How to Sign Up

1.) Research the available agents and editors.
We have provided their bios and an organized list of which genres they represent to help you choose a good match for your work. We also encourage you to look up the authors and books they have worked with for additional insight. With each name you will see the number of slots remaining with that agent or editor.


2.) Register and pay for the conference online.
During the registration process, select your first and second choice of person you'd like to meet. Please do NOT select the same agent/editor twice for any choice. You may reserve slots with up to 3 agents or editors during registration; to make additional appointments please email Alison Murphy at alison@grubstreet.org. The cost of the Manuscript Mart is $145 per appointment, and you must register for the conference as a one-day or full weekend participant in order to secure a Manuscript Mart appointment.

Once you have made your first and second choices for your Manuscript Mart agent and/or editor, we are not able to accommodate any changes to your requests. If you are attending the conference for 1 day only, we'll do our best to ensure that you meet with that agent or editor on that day. If that's not possible, we may ask you to come in briefly on a different day for your appointment.

Registration is conducted on a strictly first-come, first-served basis, so you are encouraged to register early and to research your choice fully. The Manuscript Mart has sold out every year it has been offered.

Please note that your registration for sessions and for the Manuscript Mart represents a series of your REQUESTS to be placed with a particular agent or editor, and NOT official placement. One week before the conference, we will email you a final itinerary of all your sessions and applicable Manuscript Mart/Lunch Table appointments, based on the preferences you submit here. While it's extremely likely that you will be placed with all your top choices if those choices are available at the time of registration, we cannot guarantee those placements. GrubStreet reserves the right to make changes to our conference offerings at any time due to unforeseen circumstances, but will always let you know in advance if we need to do so.

The Manuscript Mart fee of $145 is a fully tax-deductible donation to GrubStreet, NOT a reading fee. Participating editors and agents are donating their editorial services and do not get paid per appointment.


3.) Format and submit your manuscript.
See the Application Guidelines to correctly format your manuscript and submit it via our online form. WE ARE NOW CLOSED FOR SUBMISSIONS, AS OF 5:00PM ON MONDAY, APRIL 7TH.

Your manuscript is due by Monday, April 7th, 2014 at 5:00pm. By this time, you also must have fully completed registration and payment. Under no circumstances can we accept Manuscript Mart registrations or manuscripts after the deadline, and we cannot offer refunds or credits if you do not submit your manuscript on time.

4.) Relax and wait!
On Friday, April 25th, 2014, you will receive an email from GrubStreet with your full conference itinerary, including your official Manuscript Mart placements and appointment times.

Application Guidelines

1.) Your submission may consist of up to 20 pages of a single fiction or non-fiction manuscript AND a 1-page query letter. Your agent or editor will not read beyond 20 pages, so please keep your manuscript to this length. For book-length projects, you may also add an additional 1-page synopsis of the work as a whole.

2.) Your manuscript pages must be double-spaced, numbered, titled, in black 12-point Times New Roman font, on white 8 1/2 X 11-inch electronic pages, with a 1-inch minimum margin on all sides. Submissions that do not conform to this format will not be read. Your name and the genre in which you are submitting (fiction, non-fiction, memoir, etc.) must appear at the top of each page of your submission.

3.) Your 1-page query letter must be single-spaced. For suggestions on how to format an effective query letter, see this useful site. Address the letter with "Dear Editor" or "Dear Agent." 4.) Your 1-page synopsis must be single-spaced. For useful advice on writing a synopsis, click here.

5.) Compile your entire submission into a single Microsoft Word document-- that is, just one document should contain you 20 manuscript pages, query letter, and synopsis (if applicable). The name of the file MUST be your full name-- example: CharlesDickens.doc. Submissions without such a name will not be accepted. The file must end in a .doc, .docx, .txt, or .rtf extension. Fill out the online form, upload your document, and click "Submit." This form will be closed at 5:00pm on Monday, April 7th, 2014. After that date and time, we will no longer accept submissions.

To submit different manuscripts to different agents/editors (if you have registered for more than one appointment), please submit each manuscript and add the desired agent/editor’s name to the file name. Example: EmilyDickinson_Sweeney.doc. This example tells us that this is Emily Dickinson's manuscript and that it should be sent to the agent Emma Sweeney.

After submitting, you will receive an email from GrubStreet that your manuscript has been received. Remember, the absolute deadline is 5:00pm on Monday, April 7th! WE ARE NOW CLOSED FOR SUBMISSIONS, AS OF 5:00PM ON MONDAY, APRIL 7TH.