Nathan Bransford, a literary agent at the San Francisco office of Curtis Brown, Ltd., a ninety-five-year-old agency based in New York City, launched on Sunday the "Be an Agent for the Day" Contest. In response to the familiar complaint that some agents don't even bother to respond to author queries ("Lots of people think we should respond to every single person who queries us," he wrote on his blog), Bransford decided to give readers the first-hand experience of managing a slush pile for a day. "Think you can spot the good queries from the bad? Wondering how the view looks from our side? Think it's easy to respond to everyone?" he challenged.
Bransford invited readers of his blog, nathanbransford.blogspot.com, to send him a query, either genuine or fake, to fill the contest slush pile. He also asked published authors to send him the successful queries that led to their published books, directing them to change the names and titles in their queries, so that he can plant them in the slush.
On Monday, Bransford plans to post fifty queries from the slush pile on his blog. "This is a light day," he wrote. "I'm letting you off easy." Readers who want to participate in the contest will then have to read all fifty queries throughout the week and draft their own rejection letters and manuscript request letters, which can be posted in the comments section of each query. "You may request no more than five manuscripts, because hey, you're not going to have time for your clients if you request more than five manuscripts for every fifty queries."
On April 20, Bransford will post the requested/rejected statistics for the queries that actually led to published books and "crown the Superstar Agents who requested all of the actually published books." The winners "may win a special prize."
The idea for the contest, Bransford says, came from author Jim Duncan. "I thought about being extra mean and making you also do things like compare contracts and follow up on submissions, but I realize people have day jobs as well," Bransford wrote.
Full details of the contest can be found on the agent's blog .