Querying too soon...even for a good reason

Miss Snark,

Is it appropriate for a writer to query an agent if her manuscript is in revision?

I am about half way through the final revision on my manuscript, and am considering querying a particular agent with the pages requested in her guidelines. If I am fortunate enough to receive interest from her in reading the full manuscript, am I breaching a rule of querying etiquette if I tell her it will be done in a few months? I am considering querying now because she is a new agent whose interests seem a good match for my book, and I thought there may be some benefit to contacting her before her client list gets full.

What do you think?

I think you should finish the manuscript before you start querying.
Even a new agency isn't going to fill her client list in a couple months.
I reject, unread, any novel that is "almost done"; a "first draft"; or, "nearly done" .

Non fiction is different but novels need to be finished if you are a first time author. This is virtually a universal rule.


~Nancy said...

Every writer and agent site I've read has said time and time again that your ms. must be completed when you query.

What if your query elicits such a tremendous demand from the agent that said agent requests the entire ms? That doesn't mean the agent wants to wait two months to hear from you; he/she wants to hear from you ASAP (which is the same as yesterday, as it's understood in the corporate world ;-)). A week or two probably isn't a bad thing, but if this agent expressed such big-time interest, wouldn't you want to get it out to him/her soon after she asked?

Listen to Miss Snark, snarkling. She speaketh the truth.

And good luck to you!


archer said...

This coment is nearly done. I hope you will consider it when I

Anonymous said...

Oh, archer.... Aren't you the clever one!

I also fight the urge not to query even though I'm almost finished with my second draft. (I do have a "finished" version I could send, if I had to, afterall.) I guess based on what I read here, I'm expecting to get nothing but rejections - so why not let them begin? Still, I work on, trying to get it "just so" before I submit those first 10 pages that have been reworked so much that I'd sooner torch my hair than edit again.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, that I have done the unthinkable. I recently wrote a query for a book idea that I thought may be too absurd to garner interest. So I wrote the query before ever writing a page and sent it out to 10-15 respected agents as an experiment. I recieved 3 partial requests.

So I quickly wrote 40 pages in about two weeks. Very stressful, I felt like I was school again. (especially because it was my first attempt ever at a novel)

One sent a form rejection. The other, sent a detailed rejection saying many good things, and some bad.

And the third agent really liked it, and he requested the full MS. I was in a panic, because I only had 40 pages, but I didn't want to waste an opportunity so I wrote like a madman for the next five weeks. I finished and shipped out the full MS to the agent. That was about one week ago, so now I wait.

Those 5 weeks were some of the most creatively draining and stressful weeks of my life. I do NOT recommend doing this. Also: I have since found several aspects of the book I wish I could have changed before sending it to Mr. Bigtime Agent.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, what you have done is not 'right' but I have to say I admire it. It takes balls. Considering the amount of revisions a person must go through in order to get it to acceptable level (I have yet to get it there)it will be a miracle if you succeed--but if you do, I want to hear about it! good luck.

ORION said...

I cannot tell you how many people I met at conferences, pitching to agents whose books were not done. They were thrilled to send a partial (the only thing they really had) and didn't realize they were wasting a very valuable chance. An agent can lose enthusiasm when faced with reading the same manuscript more than twice.
I know how many edits and drafts I went through on my current novel and after my agent read it she suggested even more.
Anonymous two - it is a testament to your writing and premise that you got a full request.
What are you going to do next?

Anonymous said...

Actually, at the moment I am working on another novel. I have continued to query the first one, now that it is finished, and have a few more rejections on the partial But I did receive one phone call from an agent. She said she loved the book, but it wasn't her thing. She told me try a book in her genre and send along a few chapters as I finish them. So that's what I'm doing. I am also writing another novel with my brother, and several short stories. All while I try to wait as patiently as I can for a response from the few agents who have the full MS of my first novel.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, good luck with that.

I've sold three books now and it seems to me that if you turned in the perfect manuscript, you'd only be saying to the agent/editor that you have the ability to write a perfect manuscript. And then they'd accept you, and ask for tons of 180-degree plot changes. That's the second test - if you can do those quickly, without whining, then they'll ask you to write another book for them. And *that's* when you can start selling partials.

Or maybe that's just for commercial fiction, or maybe that's just my experience. But, it seems to me that when you send in an obvious unfinished ms, you're telling the agent that you don't have what it takes to be an author - that you like to sit around talking about being an author some day, and not actually doing the work.