A slice of clue cake

When I was about half way through writing a novel a while ago, I wound up having a long conversation with an editor I'd known socially for many years.

I described my novel. He sounded interested.**

I said, "But your company mostly publishes X and Y. My novel is only a little X and is mostly Z."

"It's OK. Send it anyway when it's done."

As he's also been known to agent for people, I figured what the hell. Even if he couldn't buy it, perhaps he could point me towards an agent or editor who might be interested in it.

When I finished the novel the following March, I double-checked that he still wanted to read it, he said he did, so I sent it to him.

I know he had a very busy year. However, after eight months, I hadn't heard anything, so I dropped him a note and said I'd rewritten part of the novel - did he want to see the rewrites? He said sure so I sent it to him.

Nearly four more months have gone by.

I would really like an acceptance or rejection from him so I can move on and try to get an agent for this novel. Should I just say, "It's been a year and I need to know if you're planning to read it or not?"

Here is a slice of advice from a two layer clue cake for you:

1. NEVER ever ever stop querying until a project is accepted. You've wasted a year here. Start querying. Don't wait for him to respond because;

2. He was being nice. You don't have a sense of it cause you're on the other side of the equation and you think of editors and agents as being tough as nails. They aren't (Miss Snark of course, is) and many times people ask for things cause they don't have the intestinal fortitude to let the conversation lag when the natural next statement appears to to be "yes I'd like to read it".

Here is a bonus clue cause clues come in threes today: don't ever talk about your novel to anyone socially until it's published. Ever.

**he sounded alive


Just Me said...

"Don't ever talk about your novel to anyone socially until it's published. Ever.

Man oh man, oh man. Another perfect Snark Raving Truth.

Yes. Preach it, sister.

Anonymous said...

Hold on...are we calling this guy an editor, an agent, or both? Isn't "simultaneous submission" a no-no, if he's being queried as an editor?

Anonymous said...

Brings to mind Ruth Schwartz "All is Vanity."

And what's this business with agents being nice???

Anonymous said...

"Don't ever talk about your novel socially until it's published. Ever."

Damn, wish I'd heard this before.

Anonymous said...

Could someone explain this rule against discussing the novel socially before it's published? I'd appreciate it.

Kelly McCullough said...

Don't ever talk about your novel socially until it's published. Ever.

In general I'm in complete agreement with Miss Snark, but I'm not sure I buy this one for a number of reasons, some of which may be genre specific.

I'm an F&SF author, and making the rounds of cons and talking about your work in progress is a big part of career development.

I wrote full time for a while before selling a novel. If I hadn't talked about the novels I was writing I'd have had an awfully hard time explaining what I did during those years.

Much of my social circle is now made up of professional and aspiring novelists and English professors. Talking about unpublished novels is a huge part of the normal conversation. It was not always this way, but developed in part because of a willingness on my part to both talk about my work and to welcome other writers into my life.

My life wouldn't be nearly as rich if I hadn't always been willing to talk about my writing. Further, those aspiring novelist connections really helped me get through some rough times on the way to publication.

On the other hand, I don't think I talked about my first novel socially before it was finished, and that I would highly recommend because a lot of novel are never finished.

Anonymous said...

"Here is a bonus clue cause clues come in threes today: don't ever talk about your novel to anyone socially until it's published. Ever."

I'm having that tatooed on my forehead.

Anonymous said...

This editor hasn't gotten back to you in 8 months. It's his way of giving you a very nice "no." He's hoping you'll sell it elsewhere in the meantime. It's awkward because you know him socially, so he feels weird sending you a rejection slip. Just consider it a no and move on.

Lauren said...

Anon 2 - That confused me as well. Also, if someone told me he was an editor who occasionally did editing, my gut reaction would be to think that he's not particularly good at agenting or editing... or he would have chosen one over the other at some point. Red flags all over this one, novelist!

I agree that "don't talk about your novel socially until it's published" is very fine advice. I need to modify this for my husband: Don't bring up wife's (messy, unfinished) novel at parties and boast about its brilliance, then go to grab a beer, leaving wife to answer all questions about decidedly unbrilliant novel.

Anonymous said...

"Don't ever talk about your novel socially until it's published. Ever."

I've tried to obey this rule. But my loving husband told his mother before I could stop him, so now every time we talk, she asks about it. She also sends me magazine clippings of ads for vanity presses.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, you have a lot of great info here, but this is far and away the best clue you've ever delivered. Or at least my favorite: "Here is a bonus clue cause clues come in threes today: don't ever talk about your novel to anyone socially until it's published. Ever."

Any chance you could get the flipside out to the masses? I.e., that one should never ask about a writer's unpublished novel. If I felt at all capable of discussing stories over coffee I'd probably be an agent. Or better, a screenwriter.

EGP said...

I don't understand the reasoning behind not discussing an unpublished novel socially. I can understand not mischaracterizing yourself, and not mentioning a "not-ready-to-submit" work to someone who is in the industry. But unless I don't want to talk about it, why wouldn't I mention it?

Anonymous said...

To the original poster: Miss Snark has said this time and again, and it bears repeating: Query wide. Query often. Query again. Don't stop querying. Etc. It's terrific advice!

The sooner you prepare a few other query letters (along with a few pages) and get them out the door, the quicker your anxiety about this guy will dissipate. He's just one guy. The wider you cast your net, the more likely you are to snag an agent. Keep writing too. Take a deep breath, don't be angry at his lazy ass, and do something to be positive and proactive about the situation. Continue to write. Continue to query. And good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Miss Snark, for the best advice ever.

My opinions on why you shouldn't talk about your novel socially until it's published, for those who want reasons:

1. It's annoying.

2. It makes it that much more disappointing and embarrassing if you don't ever get it published.

3. Because every clueless wannabe constantly does this, and you don't want people to confuse you with clueless wannabes. Seriously, it's right up there with people who say, "I never read books, because I don't want to subconciously copy another writer's style!"

4. If people really cared to know what you were writing about, they'd buy your books. But you don't have books for them to buy. So... hush. Just please, for the love of God, quit telling me all about the book that you're working on, or that you might write, or that you're thinking about maybe writing some day. I don't care. Go home and write. Put your keyboard where you mouth is.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm still not getting it (why not to talk about one's unpublished novel), so I think the only thing to do is ask Miss Snark directly. I get that it's annoying to have people ask about it if it's become a hopeless cause, but I'm not sure that's what MS meant. Here I go to ask her.