Novel #2, done, undone, finished, refinished, or just waxed...

Wonders a snarkling:

My first novel was published by a small press in 2003 (no, I didn't have to pay for the privilege!). It's gone into its second printing, and, considering that it's a niche novel (gay fiction), it's doing well.

If I approach an agent to represent me for novel #2, I assume I need a completed manuscript. Or do I? At what point in my career can I sell a novel on synopsis/outline + sample chapters alone?

The smart ass answer is: when you sell a two book deal. But that doesn't really answer your question. Most novels as you correctly point out have to be done done done before an agent looks at it or an editor will buy it. That rule applies to almost everyone.

If your career takes off and you become Philip Roth, John Irving, Janet Evanovich or John Grisham, you can write an idea on a matchbook and have a contract.

In fact, if you are a huge name author, your books are promised so far ahead you have to change publishers to write anything outside your "established" genre (Miss Evanovich) or change your name to start writing other things.

At this stage, you do have to be finished.
And for MOST novelists, you have to be finished. Second book deals require detailed outlines for a deal but those deals are subject to editorial acceptance so if they don't like what you write and think it sux...they can rescind if you don't have a smart agent who makes sure your contract protects you.

Besides you have to write it anyway, why not now?


Frankie said...

Yeah, sure, I'll answer that. I have to write it sometime, so why not now? Wellllll, because I'm tremendously motivated by someone saying, "Hey, yeah, I like your style, girl. Keep writing. No promises till you're done, but looks good now." Why? Cause maybe then I'd have the confidence to quit the damn day job and devote the time needed to complete the project. You know? 80 freaking thousand words is a damn lot to write with no one waiting for it. Hey, I'm a pubs editor in real life; I'm used to writing on assignment. I want someone to assign me the rest of my novel. [pout]

Miss Snark said...

Best words of advice you will ever get, and here tonight for you, free of charge. Ready?

Don't quit your day job.
Not cause you aren't a good writer.
You probably are.

Think: health insurance, regular paycheck, sick days and security.

If you listen to me on nothing else, listen to this:
Don't quit your day job.

Arrange a leave if you must, a sabbatical if you can, but do NOT quit.

Anonymous said...


After a few years of dreaming of quitting my job and leisurely writing my novel, I've now come to the understanding that I must write and work at the same time. But let's assume all goes well, and I publish it.....can't I quit then?

I want to do this for my life, but I also want to do this for my living. Don't need to live rich, but I do want to spend all my time doing this, not the other stuff. When and under what circumstances would you recommend quitting??

thanks, miss snark.

frankie said...

Aww, you party pooper (said in the most kindliest and respectliest tone). But see, all my writing buds quit their jobs long before they made it into honest-to-goodness publishing. And five are pubbed. Not rich-pubbed (well, maybe one is), but pubbed in fiction nonetheless. Damn, I'm jealous.

It's a tough gig, ya know? Someone slap me: I hafta go back to work now and quit dreaming of seeing my name listed on Miss Snark's (or equivalent -- wait -- IS there an equivalent?) client list.

Miss Snark said...

"I hafta go back to work now and quit dreaming of seeing my name listed on Miss Snark's (or equivalent -- wait -- IS there an equivalent?) client list."


frankie said...

Dint think so. And we just met.

Okay, since you're answering, how horrid is it to send a query on a partially written novel? (ducking and running) Honest, I know two authors who landed agents on partials,and it makes it darn hard to think you always have to play by the rules. Truth: if you found a new author with a few chapters of stellar writing and a well-defined synop of the rest, would you really care that it's not finished? Really? Honest?

Anonymous said...

A poster described his work as "gay fiction" and a "niche market"....but what if it is a gay mystery, thriller, paranormal or whatever?
Hasn't he increased his potential audience?
How do agents/editors react to that?
One reads about cross-genre novels (as opposed to cross-genre writers who leap out of their established mode) don't they give more bang for the buck? And booksellers can then put copies of the novel in more than one section.

Christine said...

See, now, I have a "day job" but it doesn't have benefits. I rely on the spouse person for that. My biggest job is being the Mommy.

And once my books out, I AM doing school visits. Woo Hee - there's some money in that!

Another Author said...

I read an established writer state that you shouldn't quit your day job until you are contracted for 150% of your current salary -- including health insurance, other benefits, etc., etc. (so if your current salary is $40K and your benefits would cost you $10K a year, you would need to be contracted for $75K before you could think about quitting).

I have a spouse who has health insurance, pension, etc., etc., so I don't have to pay that out of pocket, but I still waited until I reached the TWICE my current salary before I quit because we do need my income to cover all the bills--but I didn't have to ADD bills (i.e. health insurance) when I quit my day job. If that makes any sense. And I'm living on a frugal budget--no big expenditures for me just because I got a decent advance . . . that money needs to last.

Miss Snark said...

This is good specific advice.
Remember too, an advance is NOT a salary. What you get for this book, you may not get for the next books. And you need to eat and swill gin EVERY week, not just the weeks you have dough.

Miss Snark does not want to see your pretty face asking for spare change on the subway.