.I've edited my 115,000-word fiction manuscript enough that I can probably begin querying agents. I keep hesitating, though, mostly because I've only received feedback from critique partners and contest judges. They pretty much unanimously say the manuscript is ready to go, but I still keep dithering about it.

Over the last six months, I've been researching independent editors and book doctors, and my list is now down to one person, whose credentials and references are stellar, who has excellent industry connections, and whose own writing is exemplary.

Should I pay this person to do a read-through of my manuscript? Or should I just start submitting it to agents and use their responses as a guide to whether or not the book is publishable?

Suck it up.
Send out a query.
If you get a lot of rejections that say "not right for us"
THEN drop the dough to have a pro look at it.


LJCohen said...

"If you get a lot of rejections that say "not right for us". . ."

Miss Snark,

How many rejections is 'a lot'? I've gotten a half dozen of the 'not right for us' type of responses for my epic fantasy novel, querying agents who represent fantasy. I've heard stories of authors getting several dozen rejections before successfully obtaining representation and publication. Do you know what the typical number of rejections a successful first time author gets?

So far, I haven't gotten past the query letter hurdle, so perhaps that letter isn't up to snuff. But assuming the letter itself isn't the problem, when do you "drop the dough to have a pro look at it"?

Rich | Championable said...

You know, I totally spaced that "indecisive behavior" was a meaning for "dither." Instead, I always think of the computer term for making lots of colors (perceptually) out of few.

Rock on.

Sal said...

I added the new Blogger Web Comments for Firefox today. The app is annoying, a bit, when it pops up when I really don't give a hooey who's commenting on someone's blog. The app is entertaining, a lot, when I find that Miss Snark's blog is getting written up in Frank Wilson's Book Inq. (Wilson is The Philadelphia Inquirer's Book Review Editor.) (Specifically, this entry referring to this post.)

Comment also from Mark Pritchard at Too Beautiful, the blog, who sez Miss Snark is one of the "few online sites and blogs writers should read all the time."

... and more and more ...

Sandra Ruttan said...

Read interviews with your favourite authors and find out how many rejections they had. I've heard of many best-selling agents who had up to 100 rejection letters before signing.

If the query isn't getting nibbles, then I suggest you play with it a bit. If you go to my blog, there's a link on the side to Shots magazine, and there's a link there to Harrogate 2005, which has a link to audio files from some of the sessions. One is How to Get Published in the Crime Fiction World (or something like that). Even beyond 'crime fiction' there's a lot of practical advice from agents and book publishers on that panel.

But if you tweak the query, send out a few, look for any differences in the responses. Are you getting more personalized replies? Have you moved beyond form letters? Is there any comment at all regarding an interesting element in your work? That will help you figure out if your query is more effective but maybe not quite there.

The query needs to do what a movie does in the first few minutes - walk up and bop you on the nose. You've got to get their interest. Easier said than done...

Just remember that the editorial services people have no vested interest in you selling your work. They want people to keep paying for them to read revisions. You want to choose your source, if you're having it looked at, very carefully.

I chose to have someone look at one piece of work before I started querying - actually, at the first draft stage. I'm glad I did - it really helped me work through the edits and revisions. But I also chose my person carefully - a published author in the genre I write in, who offers this service. She had nothing to gain in having me come back again and again, because she takes this on selectively and obviously is rather busy with her full-time writing career. So I felt I got the straight goods from her - she told me what fell short, she told me what was good, she told me the mistakes I was making.

I'm glad I made that choice. For me, it helped. But it isn't for everyone.

And besides, different editors have different viewpoints. The editors of one press might have very strict rules about style, while another press might be more relaxed. If you aspire to be published by St. Martin's then you want to make sure you get editorial feedback from someone who reads in that vein.

I mean, I had one teacher in a writing class I took tell me not to even think about writing a series. She said publishers wouldn't be interested in a series. Uh, every mystery writer I read writes a series. I'm reluctant to buy books if the author isn't doing a series.

She clearly didn't understand the mystery genre.

Janet McConnaughey said...

ljcohen -

I know one writer who had a hundred rejections before her first acceptance. I know another who had three. Three hundred, that is.

Granted, I know them both on my home computer turf, rather than in person. I don't see any reason to doubt them, though.


Anonymous said...

From the nitwit who posted the question: Thanks for the stiletto kick to the ass, Miss Snark. :-)

Sandra, I haven't sent out any queries, because I'm a total chickenshit. I'm a ::gasp:: query virgin. The editor in question is a successful published author and doesn't take on many clients. (For all I know, we may be talking about the same person!)

Sal said...

John Creasy received 743 rejection slips before his first book was published and then went on to sell over 560 books published under his own name and 28 pseudonyms. Sure, that was then, this is now, but can you imagine the perseverance needed to handle that many rejections? Whoa.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Anonymous, track me down if you want to and ask. I don't bite! I have two huskies that think they're lap dogs, but I won't even let them try to lick your face off.

LJCohen said...

Thanks for the responses, snarklings! I have my query letter up at absolute write for a crit and I'll keep on keeping on. :)


M. G. Tarquini said...

Whoa! Sal! I hit that last link of yours and found myself at the top of that list dithering about Synopsis and Miss Snark.

It was eerie.