Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writing Wednesdays: When In Doubt, Ask An Agent

Every Thursday (well, most Thursdays), literary agent Meredith Barnes of Lowenstein Associates holds a forum on her blog, La Vie en Prose (isn't that a great title?), where you can ask a real live agent any question you have about publishing. Even if you don't have questions to ask, reading other people's questions - and Meredith's answers - is still extremely useful. Last week, I asked how quickly requested materials need to be sent to an agent. This question arose from having read about several people who queried while they were still doing revisions, and then waited up to six months before sending their manuscript. Anne Mini also says there's no rush to send materials. But I wondered how true that was from an agent's perspective.

Here was Meredith's answer:

"If you're querying, I assume that you think the book should go to print the next day. It's PERFECT. (It won't be, but that's ok.) It should be written, edited, read by beta readers, re-edited, and copy/line edited. Ready. And, of course COMPLETE.
So, if I request your book and never hear back, two things will happen:
1. I probably will forget that I requested it, since I'm requesting 10 other things that day.
2. When I do remember "Hey...where was that one thing..." I'll feel grrrr because 1. you queried when you didn't mean it; you faked me out or 2. you signed with someone else and didn't have the courtesy to let me know. I won't know which...but those are the most common scenarios and I'll feel negatively.
There are cases, though, where you've queried multiple agents (totally fine) and someone wrote you a nice fat editorial letter that you're working on right as my slow a$$ requests, too.
So you might think "Oh, can't sub to her until I'm finished!" But then I'm in NYC thinking "Damn. She 1. faked me out or 2. signed elsewhere." And I'm in a bad mood!
What you should do, if you're caught in this scenario, is email me back and let me know what's going on. You're revising, here's the gist of what's changing, and what should you do.
I might come back and say "oh sounds good, let me know when you're finished" or "Oh, no, I think it's fine as is, send me the original." OR I might say "Send me the Frankenstein manuscript." Just tack on the original for whatever you haven't revised and explain anything that needs it.
But either way, you've got to let me know what's up or I'll get all cranky. 
And if you've just queried an unfinished book, shame on you."

Pretty thorough, right? In response to her answer, I mentioned that it was sometimes difficult to know when your manuscript is really "perfect," especially when you're getting different feedback from beta readers. This prompted two separate blog posts regarding the subject. Talk about thorough! The first post talks about knowing when it's time to query. The second discusses what to do when you're getting different feedback from beta readers. Both were extremely helpful to me. I hope they'll be helpful to you too!

And just for fun... Some of you will recall our Christmas tree from last year, Custer. John and I hiked through Custer National Forest (in Montana) and chopped him down ourselves, with baby Jack in tow, in the snow, and we were quite proud of him. There were some haters on Facebook who made fun of Custer, but we loved him just the same.

Custer, naked.
This year I asked John if we could please just get a nice little tree, maybe even a tabletop tree, so that we (meaning I) wouldn't have to deal with Jack pulling off the ornaments and potentially trying to drink the water out of the tree stand. But no, no, we had to have a REAL tree, a BIG tree, a tree that smelled good and would take up roughly one third of our house. We had to have, in other words, the anti-Custer.

This year's monstrosity.
"This tree is massive," I said to John as we attempted to squeeze him into a corner of the living room.
"He's the anti-Custer," John said. "We'll have to name him Sitting Bull."
And so there you have it. Our tree, Sitting Bull, is REAL, he's BIG, he smells good and takes up roughly one third of our house. So far we have had one ornament casualty and no attempts at drinking out of the tree stand. But it's early days. I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

Jenny S. Morris said...

Wow, that was all really great stuff. Thanks!!

Oh, and Custer is so cute and Sitting Bull looks like a ton of work. We did fake for the same reasons when my first son was young. Dude, he should not be drinking out of that bowl. LOL. Oh and pine needles. I hated cleaning up the pine needles.