Coffee, tea or synopis

Dear Miss Snark,

I am in need of some advice. During holiday travels, I met someone on an airplane who happens to be the husband of a senior editor at a decent size publishing house. We began to talk and it came up that I am in the middle of writing a novel. We started to talk about the premise and he said that his wife should hear this. After learning who she is and what she does, I wanted to cry, because the next words out of his mouth went like this, "YOU HAVE TO EMAIL THIS TO HER!"

I explained to him that I am still in the first draft stages of the book. But he pushed the issue and I didn't. So, in order not to let the contact go cold, I emailed her. She was happy to hear from me and explained that her husband had told her about the book. She said that she would be delighted to take a look, send the pitch, synopsis and first few.

I then edited the hell out of the first few and tried to get the synopsis in order and sent it out. I know that I broke the cardinal rule of not showing anyone your first draft, but I thoroughly explained to her that I am still in the first draft, but she wanted to see it anyway..my guess is that she likes the premise that I sent her in the first email.

Now I am nauseated at what I have done and hope I didn't screw up! What do you think.

My publishing history has been limited to a few literary journals with short stories..

Thanks for your help and despite what others say, I enjoy your comments and find them extremely helpful (people say they don't like my comments?? really??)

You did the right thing. When someone asks to see something like that, you work your asterisk off to polish up and send.

Now, you try your hardest to forget about this, and go back to work on the novel. The most important thing now is to finish. If La Aviatrix wants to see it all, you'll be ready. If she doesn't you'll have used the time wisely and can start anew on your search.

It always kills me when people pitch me on ideas I really like and never follow up. I'm never going to track them down and berate them, but I always wonder what the hell happened.


The Rejected Writer said...

Many kudos to the writer. You obviously explained the premise very clearly (which means you actually know what your novel is about!). You've sparked interest. Now work your asterisk off and get it done. All the best to you!

PS: Miss Snark, I like your comments. (excuse me while I go wipe the brownness off my nose)

writtenwyrdd said...

Meanwhile, be encouraged because this person was enthusiastic. Now you just have to write up to the level of your great premise.

Best wishes on this!

Kit Whitfield said...

Don't worry. You told her it was a first draft, which proves to her you're honest, and if she finds herself reading something a bit rough, she'll know that you know it needs polishing. You didn't approach her in a pushy or rude way: her husband is the one who suggested the whole idea. You've done the right thing all the way down the line.

Now forget about it. Tell yourself that your e-mails to her were lost in the welter of cyberspace, and that she couldn't have read them anyway because she was kidnapped by a mad alien the same day you sent them. Put it out of your mind and relax.

You've done nothing to embarrass yourself. You took an opportunity that you would have always regretted missing, acted honestly and diligently, and you can be proud of how you handled yourself no matter what the outcome is.

Good luck. And congratulations; you must have one heck of an engaging premise.

Anonymous said...

it's funny how so-called writers can't tell when somebody's just trying to politely brush someone else off while she can go off and tell her husband to stop flirting on airplanes at her expense.

Anonymous said...

If it works out, come back and give us a lesson on giving a good pitch, because it sounds like you have one!

Anonymous said...

Maybe people don't follow up because they're a bit intimidated and think you were only saying it to be kind.

Now, obviously, we snarklings know that kindness does not come easy to Miss Snark and not at all when it comes to the serious business of pitching a book. Maybe these others, "snarklettes" if you like, are so lacking in self confidence that they run and hide and persuade themselves that it's no point following up and then spend years in therapy wishing they'd sent you a few pages...

Anonymous said...

oh puhlease.

they were just being nice-

its called , making conversation.

they say that to everyone. what ELSE can the guy say?

his wife will give it the obligatory browse and reject it with some nice comments- meanwhile her husband is in the doghouse.

rams said...

And before buying into the negative comments here, please note they're both anonymous.

writtenwyrdd said...

it's funny how so-called writers can't tell when somebody's just trying to politely brush someone else off

Of course we only have the writer's say-so; but assuming that this statement is true and not self-delusion, how can you say this is a brush off? The editor REQUESTED A PARTIAL.

That's not a brush off.

ORION said...

Now I would go about this another way.
I would get busy and polish and use this to get an agent.
I would send a polite letter to the editor thanking her for her interest and explain as soon as I find representation I will have my agent submit to her.
I think it is a big mistake to go straight to a publisher (without an agent) and it is a mistake to waste publisher interest before you are ready.
When I see all the work my agent did to prepare my manuscript for submission...well I am even more firmly convinced this is the way to go.

Inez said...

Dear Anonymi
The poster said the agent
I don't see how that could possibly
translate into
brush off
or just being nice.

Which brand of grapes are you sucking on anyway?!

Brava/bravo writer!

Anonymous said...

anons #1 & #2 (if you aren't the same person): Yes, initially there was a possibility that the husband was out of line in speaking for his wife. Although, I suspect the spouse of an editor or agent would learn not to do that PDQ.

However, did you miss the part about the exchange of emails--the editor asked to see the submission? A "senior editor at a decent size publishing house" has plenty of experience in brushing people off and saying no. She didn't need to ask for it unless she wanted to. Knowing it was unfinished gave her a perfect out.

Furthermore, how can you be so sure the husband was flirting? Nowhere does it say the OP is female.

Anonymous said...

I don't think he was trying to get into your pants. I think there was real interest. And that doesn't happen often.

Ollie Ollie said...

rams said...
And before buying into the negative comments here, please note they're both anonymous.


anonymous and jealous.

Brady Westwater said...

How can anyone think the man was flirting with the person when he asked the write to e-mail his wife? That makes zero sense.

And when the writer made a point of saying it was an unpolished first draft, the editor had an easy way out if she did not wish to read it.

Anonymous said...

". . . it came up that I am in the middle of writing a novel."

That reminds me of the time a fellow teacher told me "it came up" in class that it was his birthday so his students got him a gift. -JTC

Anonymous said...

Assuming, of course, that the dearly married couple didn't meet just, like, you know, yesterday, I'm fairly certian that hubs would know not to be taking pitches for wifey.

And if they were just two strangers on a plane, he sure as hell didn't need to say what wifey did for a living, unless-- the conversational pitch he was hearing sparked such interest hubs knew it was the sort of project wifey would want to read.

Anons, you're too jaded. When author sitting next to him starts pitching her book, he could have easily said my wifey likes to read, too. Done. After landing, they'd go off being strangers.

Isn't Miss Snark always saying that it's all about the writing? So now author must sit tight and hope that even through the rough draft, editor wife can see the writing stands up to an outstanding pitch/concept. One doesn't always mean the other, as we've witnessed on the crap-o-meter.

Also, jaded anons, Keep in mind, wonderful things can happen when least expected, even on an airplane. Or sitting in a cafe. Or riding in an elevator. Or passing TP beneath the stall-wall to the woman next to you (ladies, we've been on both ends of this, haven't we?) And I've seen novel contracts come out of all of these situations before. (This may be the first plane story, though)

Author good luck, and keep drafting and revising and polishing.

Anonymous said...

Good for you. What a wonderful opportunity! Remember, she asked you for pages. A senior editor certainly knows how to say, "No, thanks."

Kate Thornton said...

Way to go, author - this could be a wonderful opportunity for you. Please keep us posted on what happens. I would have the jitters about my writing just about now.

PS: Miss Snark, I too like your comments. They are the reason I return.

Anonymous said...

uh, dude, i've requested full MSS from people just to get them to leave me alone. i have no interest in them or in their work.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, people don't ask to see a novel they aren't interested in.

They don't have time, and no, they don't feel obligated out of politeness to request work they don't want to read. Most people have a spine.

Good luck author!

Kit Whitfield said...

Orion makes an excellent suggestion. This sounds like a very good way to get an agent's attention: 'So-and-so of X Publishers has requested a partial based on a pitch, and is currently reading it...' It wouldn't be a guarantee, but while she's reading it, there's a window of opportunity here you might consider exploiting. It could well get your work looked at faster.

I've never worked in an agency, so this isn't expert advice from me (I've been an editor and a published novelist, but my experience of agents is limited to having one). But it sounds worth trying. Any agents reading this have an opinion on Orion's idea?

Anonymous said...

What do you mean people don't like Miss Snark's comments? She likes Goats! That makes her an honorary Goat and her word Goat-Gospel, especially for we aspiring Carpine Authors.

William E. Goat, III, esq.

Anonymous said...

Okay... To those of you who are questioning... I am a female, and no I did not feel that there was any kind of flirting going on as I had my child in the seat next to me.

Will let you all know what comes of it, as the editor has emailed me a few times.

Premise, premise, premise.... And yes I gave this editor an out twice by explaining in very detailed wording that this was still a first draft and not complete. It was still requested. Who cares if it gets anywhere, I am just glad that the premise got me an email from this editor.

And yes, I have an agent that I have been in contact with about the book. He said to send the synop and leave it up to her.

I don't care either way as I am still in the burn your asterick off stages of writing this. Thanks for the asterick phrase, rejectedwriter!

Anonymous said...

How come the only people I ever sit next to on planes are moms with screaming toddlers and conspiracy theory guys?

ORION said...

I did not say send it to the publisher.
You misunderstood.
You use it in your queries to say you are seeking representation because an editor (GIVE NAME) from XXX publishing company has expressed interest in getting the submission.
Let me explain why I say this. While I was querying LOTTERY a BIG publisher happened to see my pages on a website for a writers conference and asked to see the manuscript. I almost hit SEND and then I took the opportunity to stop and think. I called my top agent picks. I actually spoke on the phone to the agent who ultimately signed me and she suggested I wait - let her read it- make sure it was READY (you only have one chance with this) and then let her submit it. She offered to sign me two weeks later. Rather than submit right away we tweaked for 4 months and then submitted. My novel went to auction and was sold to another publisher.

Elektra said...

Carpine? Sounds kinda fishy to me. Can we petition for a change to Billine?

Simon Haynes said...

Well done to the OP. Sounds like you handled it well. (The WRONG way would be to pick the husband's pocket for his wife's business card, or spend the whole flight trying to get her name.)

orion has a good suggestion, though. You could use the interest from the editor to find an agent, who can then work with you to get a result from the interest.

"Coffee, tea or synopis"

Miss Snark, I'm afraid I miss a lot of your title gags/cultural references because I live in Australia - not because that makes me dim, just because we have a different culture to refer to. Got that one though. Must be famous enough to cross border ;-)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Elektra,

Bill can't spell worth beans. He meant Caprine. ... As in Capricorn, goats, you know little behorned (and horny) guys with attitude.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies, Queen of Goats

Georgiana said...

uh, dude, i've requested full MSS from people just to get them to leave me alone. i have no interest in them or in their work.

So have you also had one night stands with your dates to let them know you don't want to see them again?

A simple no is quite a bit easier. I'm just sayin'

Anonymous said...

Whether to go directly to the editor also depends a bit on genre -- in both science-fiction/fantasy and children's lit it's common to submit without an agent.

But good luck either way.


That's is one of those lucky moments in life. To meet someone like that doesn't happen often, if at all. Good luck with the writing.

Anonymous said...

I'd send it to the editor and query agents at the same time, mentioning it's currently under consideration. Then, if an agent is interested, she can still contact the editor you sent the mss to to see if they're still interested and, if it seems the best course (it may or may not), send it to other editors at the same time. You lose little by submitting to editors and querying agents at the same time.

Diana Peterfreund said...

I disagree with Orion. I would send it to the publisher, AND contact agents. Most agents won't jump at a request, but should the publisher make an offer, they will jump, and then you can have your pick of agents and the agent can decide whether to take the offer or to keep shopping.

Anonymous said...

"uh, dude, i've requested full MSS from people just to get them to leave me alone. i have no interest in them or in their work."

Wow. Seems like you create a lot of work for yourself by not being brave enough to say, "No thanks."

As a writer, I'd rather hear "No" than have to go through the trouble and expense to mail a submission to someone who's not interested in my work. I'd rather use my energy working toward a real possibility.

To be afraid to say "No" is disrespectful of the writer, and of yourself.

Anonymous said...

I'm just a bit surprised that no one asked yet some valuable details about the plane. Like where was it flying from, and where was it flying to. Not that I'm interested in any way to go and book a ticket...LOL.

Keep us posted about the result.

Anonymous said...

You lose little by submitting to editors and querying agents at the same time.

In this specific scenario, that may be okay -- you submit to only the one editor in question. But out of context, this statement wouldn't make good advice. Most agents don't want to consider work you've already shopped, and who can blame them?

Kit Whitfield said...

Hi Orion,

You say: 'You use it in your queries to say you are seeking representation because an editor (GIVE NAME) from XXX publishing company has expressed interest in getting the submission.

I'm from England and the whole query/submission system is different here from in the States, so you've lost me a bit. However, if I've misunderstood you, I beg your pardon. I withdraw whatever it was I accidentally said. Anyway, let's hope that a good result comes out of this situation ... :-)

ORION said...

Oh kit I get easily excited! I am not offended at all and I sincerely hope I did not offend you -but I obviously did not make myself clear in my first post (there fore the no no no's to me not you!)
My agent said you muddy the waters when you send your submission directly to the the publisher rather than wait and submit to agents and let THEM submit to the publisher - Of course it's great if they picked you up but what if an agent could have gotten other publishers interested and an auction going? OR even worse by sending it before it is ready the publisher declines and you never know whether you could have sent it after more tweaking.
Yes - certain genres go straight to publishers but diana I think most agents would want to tweak a bit and control the submission process to start with. They may even know an editor that they feel is a better fit...

Anonymous said...

Most agents don't want to consider work you've already shopped, and who can blame them?

But given how long it takes to hear back from a given house ... if you query agents the same time as you start submitting, you're not likely to have send your book to more than 2-4 places (if that) by the time you hear from any agent who might be interested, and that leaves more than enough houses over for it not to be a dealbreaker.

Not, if the book has already been 10 or 15 or 20 places by the time the agent is queried, that might be another story.