Fess up early

Dear Miss Snark,

At what point in the query process should the author disclose prior representation of a manuscript? I fear it'd be the kiss of death on an initial query, yet waiting until the agent says they wish to represent the author seems unethical.

If you let me invest hours of my time reading something and THEN disclose it's been shopped till it dropped, I'm going to auction off your nether regions on ebay...before I remove Killer Yapp's delicate pink snout from your left ankle.

If you've been represented before you gotta tell me. Early. You don't have to give me all the prurient details but the more along the lines of "my former agent was abducted by aliens and left publishing for a lucrative speaking career" the better. In other words, I'm not going to be all that eager to look at something that's made the rounds and hasn't sold.

On the other hand I just came from a dinner engagement with a colleague where we toasted her success just today in selling a book that had been shopped extensively by someone else. She had a few tricks up her sleeve that no one else did. The key however was the author was SMART and revealed all, early. My pal knew the stakes and was willing to get fired up.

I think I compared this to dating after a divorce. I don't want to hear about your ex wife and how she took you to the cleaners but I do want to know she left you with six kids and psychotic golden retriever.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad this came up. I was represented for two years by an agent who said he was sending various manuscripts of mine to big-name publishers. However, he rarely named which editor had received what, and the pitiful few rejection letters he passed on(after much begging on my part) were very generic. Which leaves me wondering who saw what. How should I disclose this to a new agent with whom I've started waltzing? "I think Ballantine considered this manuscript, but I can't prove it?"

P.S. Said agent and I parted ways a year ago.

kathryn magendie said...

Lawd! so much to think about when querying.
I had a "part time agent" for two months--more a friend who dabbled in agenting, I suppose. My ms was sent to one Big Publishing Editor and editor didn't take it, although she had some really good things to say about it, it wasn't "for her" --friend/agent and I decided after a short two months that friends and part time agenting don't mix. And as far as I know, ms or query from "agent" didn't go anywhere else but the one editor. Seems too messy to mention unless another agent is interested - doesn't seem a thing to put in query letter, but now I wonder. *sigh*

And, alas, alack, forlorn, I screwed up by sending out five query letters yesterday, and in two of them I accidentally left a sentence meant for another query. *sigh* I don't mass mail, and I'm careful to check the websites and see what they are representing, and put a "related" kind of note to show I'm not mass mailing, but going through their submissions guidelines and reading their websites and books rep'ed. But there you go, I sent out two letters with a wayward sentence.

Sometimes I imagine all of New Yawk -agents, editors, publishers -at lunch and one says, "that Kathryn Magendie is a flake!" and another says, "Oh! You've heard of her! haw haw! she's kind of nuts..." and they have a good laugh at me....however, this would imply they actually know who I am among the masses of other writers who fark up! *laughing*

I carry on so again...*sigh*

Eika said...

Relax Kathryn. As Miss. Snark says, we obsess over word choice too much. Unless the sentence was about dragons in a novel about the cheerleading team, it probably won't effect your chances much.

Of course, I spent 30 seconds stressing over whether 'affect' or 'effect' was right in that sentence, so what do I know?

Existential Man said...

Snark Tongue says: "I think I compared this to dating after a divorce. I don't want to hear about your ex wife and how she took you to the cleaners but I do want to know she left you with six kids and psychotic golden retriever."

I understand you're just trying to make a distinction here between what is relevant info and what isn't. But, think about it a minute. Do you really not want to know about his ex-wife and whether she took him to the cleaners? Of course, you do!

If you are interested in this guy, this info is pretty important in not only his emotional availability to start a new relationship and meet your needs but also to what you are likely to encounter as his anger and resentment begin to poison his new relationship with you.

Not to mention his financial status will be oh-so-relevant as to how many times per year you are able to enjoy your beloved cabanna boys on his nickel.

All we are saaaaying is don't toss aside relevant info as if it isn't. Even if you don't want to listen to him kvetch, this is still info that hip, sassy, and smart women who kick ass in stiletto heels need to know.

Elektra said...

'affect' is a verb, as in, "Your query will affect your chances at getting an agent."

'effect' is a noun. "The effect of your query was a partial request"

Val Tear said...

And why wouldn't the golden retriever be psychotic?

Bernita said...

Perhaps if the agent requests a full would be the proper time?
In the cover letter?

andrea said...

Effect can be a verb too, but it means "to cause," not "to change or leave an impression on."

"The new policy will effect great changes in client services" v.
"The new policy will affect all client services from here on out." It's a hard distinction, but important.


Janny said...

I have a variation on this problem...in that I have books that, in other versions, have made the rounds of specific publishers "on my own." Now, years and years later and with an entirely different story (in effect), I'm pitching agents with the same stuff...only it's not really the same, because key elements in the books have changed. In one, for example, I added a paranormal element. In another, I've taken what was a traditional romance and added inspirational elements and a spiritual thread to it. In effect, then, it's a different book from the one Felicia First Reader saw twelve or thirteen years ago.

So the question is...how much of a submission history (if I can even remember half of it, what with e-submissions and the like that disappear into the ether at times) do I reveal on a book that has basically changed into a different book, although retaining elements of the first one? Anyone have any thoughts on this?


Saundra Mitchell said...

Thank goodness, a new agent I queried after leaving my last asked specifically who'd seen it when she requested the first three chapters. Saved me a lot of sleepless nights wondering when to say what!

Anonymous said...

Elektra said:
'affect' is a verb, as in, "Your query will affect your chances at getting an agent."
'effect' is a noun. "The effect of your query was a partial request"

I agree and you're correct. However, we can take it one step further (beyond the most common uses you've supplied). Effect, while most often a noun as you said, can be used as a verb: "to cause something to happen" as in "Secretary of State Rice effected change in the Middle East." She caused something to happen. Of course, either spelling (depending on intent) could be used in that sentence. Rice could affect/persuade the generic outcome by her input into the situation or Rice could effect/cause the i.e. specific treaty signing that took place.

Affect as a verb is more about influence. "All of these italics in this post affected my eyesight." Effect as a verb is more along the lines of specific, concrete cause and effect.

Gambling Analogy: Kissing the dice may affect the outcome of the roll; adding weights to the dice will effect a specific outcome.

(One step further: "affect" is most often a verb---those hamburgers affect my weight; the smelly guy on the bus affected my sense of hygiene; butterfly ballots affected the outcome---and it can also be a noun, usually in health or psychology: the child's affects were normal for her age.)

storyfraud said...

great topic. i've been "repped" by an agent for two years, and though his work is genuine (i.e., he really sent it to agents), i didn't sense he had many "tricks up his sleeve." i would like to try a new agent, and of course am reticent to mention i already have one, so thanks for bitch slapping me, miss snark, thanks...