Dear Miss Snark,
Should I be careful about how many manuscripts of my book I have out with agents?
After a dreary and discouraging winter, suddenly--ahem--suddenl y-- following a just-shy-of-major rewrite and heeding your advice about sending the first chapter rather than the prologue as sample pages--I find myself with five fulls out, and pleasantly perplexed about whether or notI should continue my current querying pace.
My cynical self--I call her Reggie, and Reggie says: "If all these agents reject you, there's definitely something wrong with the book. Better to see how it goes with them, and if, as is likely, they pass, you‚ll know you need to revise, and you won't have any more copies of the same flawed MS out than you do now. Not that anyone, anywhere is going to ask to see
it ever again, of course."
Flo, who's rather indulgent, jumps in with: "You finished a book! I'm so proud of you! And you've been so diligent in querying! With all these manuscripts out, you definitely deserve a break, and that new project you've got going could use the extra attention."
And sensible Barbara points out: "You could finish up that Visa balance with what you've been spending in postage and 24 lb. paper."
Then, Susie: "You know what's going to be icky? When three different agents call you up and you have to figure out how to choose, and how to let the others down. Very awkward!"
Now, Susie, I beat her back down into her rabbit hole whenever she bobs her naive little head, having learned to cope with this agent-hunting process by expecting rejection and letting everything else be a pleasant surprise.
But those other ones, I'm tempted to listen to, at least until I get some further feedback. What do you think, Miss Snark? Because there's this other girl, and she's got a whip, and she's saying, "Like hell! Having a few manuscripts out means nothing. Do you hear me? Nothing! You get those queries, you get those samples, you get whatever you can before as many eyes as you can, and you never, never let up."
I didn't even know this girl existed until a few months ago.
So, five fulls out: What's the smart thing to do now? Awaiting your wise advice.
Many sincere thanks,
Sybil & Friends
PS: Your advice about chapter one versus prologue really was like magic! (Miss Snark sees an acknowledgments page listing in her future!)
Your bevy of beauties raise good points. With five full manuscripts out, if all five come back saying something like "I liked it up to chapter 14 and then you took a nosedive to Rabbitania" you're going to want to readjust the novel's GPS.
The likeliehood that five agents will say the same thing is of course nil. They'll probably all say different things and Reggie will have a nervous breakdown. I think Reggie spent too much time in the convent anyway though; she needs a bikini and a cabana boy.
What you want to do here is adjust your timing. Count forward thirty days from the day you mailed off your last full. Send queries that day. You'll get some requests then, and you spend the next 30 days sending things off. By that time (Send + 60) you'll have started to hear from people. Just keep the process in motion. Keep going. Don't stop. Momentum is more important here than quantity. As long as you've got queries, partials and fulls out, you're fine.
And when an agent calls you can gush "you like me, you really like me".