11.20.2005

The Great Wait Debate

As an unpublished author working on their first book, I was wondering if you recommended finishing the book first or if you thought it was ok to query an agent if I found one I wanted to work with. This particular agent wants a one page query letter giving some info about my book and myself before they will decide to ask for a synopsis, etc. Since it takes time for everyone in the publishing world to do things is it ok to get the ball rolling even if I'm not done yet?

No. You have to finish it. Then you have to polish it. Then you can query.

17 comments:

AzGhostWriter said...

I can't add anything valuable except my personal experience. A couple weeks ago, I emailed an agent (who normally doesn't accept email queries) with a really cheesy letter. I included a sample of my wip and a blurb on the plot. But I was really inquiring about my completed novel that is in front of a few agents now.

Low and behold the agent requested sample chapters and synopsis for the wrong manuscript (I think it was the wording in cheesy letter that confused him -- my fault).

I had to send an apology and mentioned the confusion. Well the next day they graciously invited me to submit my completed work instead.

I sent the correct requested manuscript, with properly formated query letter, and synopsis as requested.

Well oppps does works sometimes in life, but I wouldn't make a habit of doing the unusual. The agent would be a little upset if I sent an uncompleted work because they can't sell that material in time for their christmas bonus.

Existential Man said...

Speaking of polishing, you may want to begin with your grammar. You start with this> "As an unpublished author working on their first book..." author, of course, is singular, "their" is plural. It should be "As an unpublished author working on his/her first book..." This kind of error is pretty obvious to agents and editors and is enough to take you down without even knowing what hit you.

Harry Connolly said...

author, of course, is singular, "their" is plural. It should be "As an unpublished author working on his/her first book..."

No, it shouldn't. Using "their" for a singular but gender-indeterminate noun is perfectly acceptable and has been for years.

If it was good enough for Jane Austen, Geoffrey Chaucer, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens and Edith Wharton, it's good enough for us.

Link.

Existential Man said...

thanks, harry, for that link, which explains (in more detail than anyone would ever care to know) how the "singular their" construction has become acceptable usage.

Suffice to say: no matter how far back it dates, or what literary luuminaries over the decades have used it, I still don't like how it looks on the page or how it sounds. But that's just how they were teaching what is correct way back when I was studying this stuff. But thanks for this interesting historical look at the "singular their" usage, as some of it came as a surprise to me.

Bernita said...

Seems to depend on whether the book is fiction or non-fiction.
If non-fiction, some agencies request a proposal but do not expect the work to be completed at that time.

Catja (green_knight) said...

Those of us with juvenalia under the bed cringe at the idea that it might have gotten published.

Miss Snark said...

Bernita, you're quite right. I leaped to the conclusion the author was working on a novel. A novel must be finished. Non fiction, no.

Miss Snark said...

As for Mr Ex, and Mr Connolly, you've both missed what I think is the flagrant mistake: As an author working on MY first book is what I think is correct, and even that construction makes me cringe.

Bernita said...

I once sold a non-fiction on a proposal, but betcha he IS referring to a novel and your conclusion is correct.

Luckywriter said...

I'm in the opposite situation and don't know what to do -- I couldn't get an agent so I finished my non-fiction book and just got a yes from a trade/academic press. Should I now look for an agent or will this upset the publishing company? What's the protocol when you submit without an agent and get accepted?

Harry Connolly said...

As an author working on MY first book is what I think is correct

Miss Snark, you are, of course, correct. I wasn't trying to throw stones at anyone's grammar, especially not from the porch of my glass house. I just wanted to make a defense for the "singular they," which I much prefer to "masculine by preference."

archer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
archer said...

Well,that's the trouble with seeking the mantle of authorship. Every time you type "Pass the salt" you exhibit your wares. And mix your metaphors.

Also, Miss Snark makes all the boys want to prance around on the fence with feathers on their noses making literary allusions and otherwise showing off. I think what she should do is post a realy homely photo and say, "This isn't me, guys, but if looking at it will relax you, help yourselves."

Beth said...

Sometimes there are exceptions to the wait-till-you're-finished rule. An agent asked me to query; I did, with an explanation that the novel wasn't finished yet and perhaps I should contact her again when it was. She asked for a partial and a synopsis (which I'm now scrambling to write) immediately. But the thing is, she knew up front it wasn't done; in fact, I told her I didn't know the word count either. She still wanted to see it.

Wouldn't recommend this as standard procedure, however.

THRILL said...

If we're going to get picky and pedantic..."As an unpublished author working on their first book..."

Doesn't "author" suggest published? Isn't "writer" correct here? And, please, let's stay away from the horrrrribly presumptuous "pre-published".

Linda Adams said...

Plus there's a huge chance that an unfinished novel may stay unfinished. In my writer's group, two of the writers--one of whom did query agents with an unfinished project--dropped their books after three chapters.

Anonymous said...

I queried when I was two thirds of the way through - the time it takes most agents to ask for chapters, and then read those chapters and ask for the whole thing - meant that my novel was finished AND polished in time for that second request.
The painful waits happening in parallel with the writing - and being all the less painful for it.
And the agent did agree to represent me.
That didn't go anywhere and I now have a new agent with another book, but still - query away so long as you're sure you're on schedule to finish within 6-8 weeks.