Pub Rants

I Think I Missed Again?

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STATUS: It’s so early in the day, I can’t really tell yet. So far so good. No major fire—yet.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? PETER GUNN by Henry Mancini

I’m positive that I’ve mentioned these two issues before but it probably bears repeating.

Two Query Snafus.

1. Don’t query for a work you haven’t completed if you write fiction. (Obviously, if you write nonfiction, all you need is a proposal and sample chapters—not the complete manuscript.)

Why? Because if an editor or an agent requests a full, you need to be able to send it.

And I know many writers are tempted by the “it’s almost complete and the query process can take so long.” I get that. But when we ask for full manuscripts, we want to see it now—not in six months when the writer may have completed it. Not to mention, the writer is now under pressure to complete and that might not take into consideration the needed revising time.

2. If you’re querying, you should be ready to submit sample pages. Period. There’s shouldn’t be any requests such as “can you discard what I previously sent you because I just had an epiphany and I’m rewriting.”

It’s either ready or it’s not.

Sara and I just had someone ask for the SECOND time whether we would discard what was sent and let the writer submit a new version one last time (or so the writer promises).

Sara now regrets allowing the first discard but hey, everyone is human (and to err is human and all that). We try to be considerate and to relate but I just have to point out that the writer’s request is unprofessional.

Submit once. That’s it. If you choose to revise later, great. You’ll need to target some new agents. So make sure your queried version is as final as you can make it before starting the process. In general, you’ll not be getting a second chance.

24 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    As Kristin explains in this blog, agents want writers to send a requested ms pronto. The problem is that, in most instances, the ms then sits in the agents’ office, perhaps on the assistant’s desk, for months.

  2. Ena said:

    I can assure you, given the normal 30-second warning, I’m ready to send a partial or full. Hint, hint.

  3. green ray said:

    I’m always ready when I query. But after six months or a year, as anonymous points out, I usually have a new version by that time, as I’m always improving, revising. I have been known to request that they see the new version if they’ve had it six months to a year, which has happened more times than I can say. In fact, recently, this prompted the agent to read the revised version – and she then requested the full! So sometimes it works, but I generally agree with Kristin.

  4. Anonymous said:

    Having it ready is understable but I had an editor that wanted only a partial and preferred it that way b/c if there were any changes or fixes it would be easier to incorporate than having to redo the entire thing.

  5. Anonymous said:

    I’m one who has often queried before completion — but when you’re a fast writer, I suppose you can get away with that. It hasn’t hurt me so far 😉 However, I know exactly at which point I can query — I always have the entire story plotted out, and the first thirty-fifty pages as perfect as I can make them (in case of partial requests). Every time I’ve been asked for a partial, I have the full completed by the time that request comes along 😉

    BUT, I don’t say this to encourage others to do anything foolish…just stating a different opinion, that’s all. find what works for you, that’s what I say!

  6. Twill said:

    Given that you are requesting *anything* as an agent or publisher, you must believe that the work has merit.

    Why would you take it as a negative that the work has been improved past that point? Unless you are saying you would *never* request a rewrite…. (snicker).

  7. LadyBronco said:

    Oh my…

    I made the mistake early on (BEFORE I had done enough research) to send out a query letter to an agent.

    Bummer. I burned that bridge but good! :0(

  8. B.E. Sanderson said:

    Heh. I never even considered trying to contact an agent about rewrites on queried material. I query when I think I’m finished. I rewrite, if necessary, after getting my SASEs back. Then I try again. IMO, doing the things mentioned in this post seem extremely unprofessional, and when you’re trying to avoid rejection, why give any agent another reason to say ‘No’?

  9. Anonymous said:

    You know, it’s not uncommon for an agent to skip the partial stage. I’ve been agent hunting for almost a year and the last three agents have requested a FULL from my query, not a partial. If I only had fifty pages, I never could’ve written the rest in time.

    I believe it was Miss Snark who said to get your manuscript as ready as it can be and once you start querying, stop revising and MOVE ON TO SOMETHING NEW. That’s what I do and I am moments away from being offered representation (not making that up) and I have 2 completed novels and one a few weeks from being done. If I’d been revising the first one for the last year then I’d have nothing new.

  10. Bernita said:

    I, too, have had fulls requested straight off a query – which may mean simply I write a good query letter – but I’d have been deep in elephant dung if I had not had the MS completed and ready.

  11. Anonymous said:

    and then you have writers who have an idea, haven’t written more than twenty pages and then query an editor or agent to “test” the idea and see if it’s worth finishing. i know a guy who’s done this several times to several agents. problem is, he gets requests for fulls and then never writes the story and of course the agents are probably putting his name on a never read list. i’ve told mutual friends that this guys isn’t really a writer if he plays games like this and wastes agents time like that. people do a lot of stupid things.

  12. Anonymous said:

    Firebrand website states about YA author Lauren Barnholdt –

    “having set an unprecedented sale when she was signed for her first two book deal on just three chapters and a synopsis”

    I took this statement to mean that the rest of the book wasn’t finished. Why is this okay sometimes but not others?

  13. Anonymous said:

    >>Firebrand – Anonymous said… first two book deal on just three chapters and a synopsis
    That is probably why they posted it, because it is the exception to the rule. Firebrand prides itself on doing things a bit different.

    Plus, almost anything can happen ‘once’, but if you’re unpublished, I would suggest playing the odds. Do it correctly. Write the dang book like you’re supposed to before doing something silly/desperate.

    And remember, if lightning strikes and that miracle happens to you, be pleased, and realize that every other writer in the known world hates you. 🙂

  14. Anonymous said:

    The only time I ever mentioned a revised version was after I had an offer of representation and was informing the agents with outstanding fulls. I offered to send the most recent version if they were still interested.

  15. Kathleen Dante said:

    anonymous 1:49 PM said:
    >>Firebrand website states about YA author Lauren Barnholdt –

    “having set an unprecedented sale when she was signed for her first two book deal on just three chapters and a synopsis”

    I took this statement to mean that the rest of the book wasn’t finished. Why is this okay sometimes but not others?
    Not necessarily. It could just mean that Firebrand was so taken with the proposal that they made an offer without asking to see the entire manuscript.

  16. green ray said:

    I just wanted to clarify something, as I think this is an important issue. It seems like Kristin is pretty prompt in responding to partial requests; and I would never offer a revision before 3 months time. But sometimes, when checking in with them after 3 or 4 months, I think it’s appropriate to say that there is a revised version if they’d like to see it. I have had several responses in the affirmative on this. But I would never do it soon after submitting a request.

  17. Anonymous said:

    I’m usually so sick of my ms by the time I feel it’s ready to submit, I can’t imagine even wanting to revise it YET AGAIN before getting feedback from an agent or editor. But that’s just me!

  18. clarice s. said:

    Anonymi above: I read Lauren Barnholdt’s blog from time to time, and I believe what happened was that she DID have a finished YA novel, with which she originally queried, but the agent and editor asked about her other projects and liked the idea for her unfinished novel better. Her finished manuscript proved that she did have it in her to write and revise a full novel, but I guess the proposal for the other one (Reality Chick – came out last summer) was more marketable.

  19. Ryan Field said:

    I think it’s just a matter of self-control. Even when I send something to an editor, sometimes four or five days later, I think of something I should have added or changed or revised. Of course I never mention it…but even after it’s been published I’m often sorry what I wanted to change was never revised.

  20. Anonymous said:

    I would have to assume that if an agent read thirty or fifty pages and didn’t like it, they are not going to like it after a re-write.

    Be happy they liked the query enough to want to see the partial- it means your querying skills are up to snuff, and your idea isn’t completely hackneyed and lame. Do your re-write and go elsewhere, to someone who won’t have that preconceived notion in his head that they won’t like it the second time. I’d be surprised to see an agent take a second look at the same work, rewrite or no.

    If you aren’t ready with your materials, you just aren’t ready period. I’m sorry if anyone is offended. But if you are sitting around with a half-finished manuscript that’s never seen a re-write or an edit, you don’t have any place querying agents or publishers. I talk to young writers all the time (usually trying to break in with a short story sale to a major market), and every day I am stunned by the naivete demonstrated, followed closely by their anger at how difficult it is to have someone read what they’ve written.

    “I wrote it, and I’m the only guy I know who has written a novel; thus I am better than most joes and deserve money and fame, right now. Publish me for I am Novelist.”

  21. Anonymous said:

    “unprofessional” = “I don’t like it”

    What agent calls unprofessional, another calls chutzpah.

    Agenting is not a professional, it’s a business. Publishing is not a profession, it’s a business. Business people are not professionals, they are merchants.

    So when a business person calls a behavior “unprofessional,” they really mean, “a word I use when someone pisses me off.”

    What’s really unprofessional, btw, is mocking people publicly for their insecurities or worse, never responding to business letters, as is the case for a growing number of “professional” publishers.

  22. Deb said:

    I sold MS #3 on proposal. Does that mean I should never query unless I have the book done?

    I say, I’ll query when I’m good and ready, and if I can’t go the distance on that particular project, it’s my poor choice, nobody else’s.

    C’mon, peeps, we’re the authors here, not flunkies who must adhere to a rigid, cast in stone set of rules, lest they stray from the True & Righteous Path.

    Ask a pirate about the Code, and he’ll probably reply that they’re more in the nature of guidelines…


    PS, did you know this is the feast day of St Editorius de Stylus, patron of hopeful authors?