1.25.2006

Back under the bed!

You may have fielded this one before, Your Snarkliness, but should we mention the fact that this is our third/eighth/twentieth novel in our query to agents?I used to think agents wanted to discover phenoms, so I was all about "oooh publish my debut novel," but have recently given that up because hey! agents are people too and deserve the straight dope. Back to the question: Does copping to the manuscripts under the bed make you more credible in the eyes of an agent?


No.
Don't even mention them.
Don't even think of mentioning them.
Don't even remember you have them.
Put them away for a rainy day, and when it rains...put the boxes out in the rain and pray for a flood.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:

Is there any exception to this rule?

For instance, I have a senior editor who has expressed interest in one of my completed novels, but I'm q&sing a second novel (which she is also reviewing. She likes the first and has recommended it as a buy; she's reviewing the second full).

Do I not mention to the agent that I have that editor's interest?

As always, I'm in awe of your snarkness!

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty crazy to push several things in front of an agent's face when you aren't sure the agent wants even one of them.

The time to trot out your earlier work comes much later in the relationship--or when an agent says, "I can't sell this, but I'd love to see anything else you've written."

I certainly don't think you should, as Her Snarkiness suggests, throw your older stuff out. Yes, it's true that most writers start marketing things that aren't ready for prime time. Heck, most writers will never be ready for prime time. But history shows that there are many writers with not just 'publishable' but excellent material, stashed under their bed.

A publishing acquaintance wrote to me, "Agents tell everybody that you need to work, work, work... but they also want to believe that writers just sort of pop out like Athena--writers magically have this great book. And, oddly, nothing they've written before is any good."

Call me nitwit of the year, but I think you should hang on to what's under your bed--even if it needs to be rewritten.

Or, as Pulitzer-Prize-winning nitwit Richard Rhodes put it:

"My agent friends will kill me for saying so, but literary acumen ain’t their forte."

December Quinn said...

What about mentioning the books/ideas you're working on? I was told (unfortunately I can't remember where, but I seem to recall seeing it in more than one place) that mentoning in the last "About Me"-esque paragraph of your query that you have "ideas/synopses for two more" or "(are) currently at work on my next novel" or whatever, tells the agent you're serious and hard-working...but now I'm wondering if that wasn't really bad advice.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mention ideas for future novels in a query letter. When I signed with my agent, she called before the offer to see what I had in the works, where I thought my career was going, etc. Your query should grab the agent with the strength of the novel you're pitching. If the agent is interested, she will ask you about future projects. It's one way that some agents make their final decisions.

In my experience, at least.

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:

Perhaps the bio sheet is the place for it. My critique partner (CP) got her agent b/c of the strength of her submitted work ... She mentioned on her bio sheet her goals for the year and a blurb about her current WIP.

The agent LOVED her submitted work, but cautioned her that the submission was out of vogue at the moment. Could instead she see the project my CP was working on, as it seemed more marketable?

So my CP finished it up, sent it in, and the agent shopped it. Funny thing is, less than a month, the agent got an offer on the FIRST submission (which she sent after the publisher R'd the second, more marketable one) ... the second is causing some grief b/c of the broadness of the option clause the publisher wants. They don't want the second novel, but they do want a two-book contract with a broad option clause. Another house wants the second novel. Grief, grief, grief. An embarrassment in riches, I guess, like Lucy's curly hair.

That's ANOTHER reason for a kick-ass agent like this one or Miss Snark ... those pesky, pesky option clauses. Oh ... and making sure you can be bought on proposal alone ... a lot of houses will try to sneak in a clause that says you have to present the completed MS.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic Q: Miss Snark, can you talk about the significance of prepub reviews such as KIRKUS?

I am a newly published writer and am hitting the gin bucket hard while awaiting these damn things.

Thanks so much!!!

kitty said...

Mr. Sponge Worthy is in Cindy Adams’ column today.

Rhonda Stapleton said...

LOLOL kitty...I'm cracking up.

Sponge-worthy. heh.

Jarsto said...

Brilliant work Kitty! Uh... I mean good work taking such a totally true to the original screenshot.

In other news Ms. Winfrey seems to have changed her position on the subject of James Frey.

kitty said...

Here's the video of Oprah, in CYA mode, confronting Frey.

OH. MY. GOD. She says she fells "duped" by him.

Anonymous said...

I think most agents take it for granted you have unpublished novel attempts under your bed, so no, there's no reason to mention how many you have, in my opinion.

And Miss Snark can answer this herself, but I don't think she was serious that you should literally throw away your earlier works.

Speaking of, Miss Snark, have you ever sold one of these earlier novels for a client? After you sign her and she says, "What about this older novel that never got representation but I think is wonderful?" You ever read those? Do they ever sell?

I haven't tried this with my own agent, personally. I'd rather start fresh.

Anonymous said...

I spoke with a successful, well-known agent over the summer who said that he wants to know what the writer's future plans are. He said he wasn't interested in any "one-trick ponies." I would think that most agents would feel the same way, since selling the second novel is slightly easier than selling the first.

So, Miss Snark, do you assume that a writer is working on another project, and therefore we don't need to tell you?

Satya Pamarty said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mad Scientist Matt said...

I'm surprised nobody else had said this yet:

Putting all your unpublishable manuscripts out in the rain gives "slush" a whole new meaning.

Brooke said...

Great. Thank you, Miss Snark! And of course the Snarklings. Much obliged.