re: Can I Query Agents Before My Manuscript Is Done?

in Creative Process/Submissions by

Dear Editor…

Is it appropriate for an unpublished writer to query agents before her MG/YA manuscript is complete? Provided there is an outline and a synopsis of the work, is it okay to test the waters halfway through? Another thought: Agents are seasoned professionals and would know right away whether they like a manuscript or not. It makes more sense to have someone guide you along the way to completion before you finish the project than to take you through numerous revisions once you have. What say you?

Sincerely,
Rosie

Dear Rosie…

You’re barking up the wrong tree. Agents don’t have time to guide an untried writer through a first draft. They’ll carve out time for their current clients, who are published and proven, but not for someone who may not even stick with the manuscript to the end of that first draft, much less persevere to a polished submittable draft. Lots of people get halfway through manuscripts but never finish them. Life gets in the way. Passion fizzles. Writer’s block strikes. Other projects beckon. Even veteran authors will stuff half-cooked manuscripts into the drawer and then slam it shut forever. Seek guidance from freelance editors, writing instructors, and critique partners. Do not submit your half-written manuscript. Agents reject rickety early draft writing. What’s the hurry, anyway? Getting published should not be a race against the clock. Be patient and polish the manuscript, then step forward with your best foot. That’s how you’ll land an agent.

Happy writing!
The Editor

16 Comments

  1. “Even veteran authors will stuff half-cooked manuscripts into the drawer and then slam it shut forever.” OMG! You just made me feel so much better about my little “habit.” I must have 8 half-finished manuscripts stuffed away. So I’m off to edit now and get my latest project DONE! Thanks!

  2. Absolutely! And you may be brilliant at starting a story and lousy at ending one; if it’s not finished, how would an agent know? Thanks Deborah; agents will thank you for this advice. 🙂

  3. Rosie, it’s totally understandable for you to be excited to send your work, but you will get absolutely no constructive feedback from an agent, just a form rejection. That will only dent your enthusiasm. Keep writing! And join an online forum and go and talk to other writers, that’s the best advice anyone can give, and an agent will tell you the same. Here’s a list of the best sites around http://geniusborderinginsanity.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/best-social-networking-sites-for.html

  4. I knew the answer coming miles away, but still I get how Rosie feels, simply because it’s HARD to go from book to book, story to story, feeling like nothing you try gets the interest we all desire.

    ANYTHING positive to break up the bland and brutish landscape of form letters and “Silence meaning NO after X date or time period” and unless you’ve developed a pill that zaps all negative emotions, few of us are immune to the pain that comes with indifference.

    Be honest, T.E., you’re one of those “Fast Drafters” aren’t you?
    I really don’t think this is always an impatience issue, because if you’ve spent years on a project, and can’t place it, it’s not always easy or straightforward what your next story will be.
    Some of us are not fast drafters, and I know this isn’t a race, but some of us do struggle finding our next story, you can also make that case with Rosie’s question.

    But none of the agents I’ve queried (At the time I post this) have been interested.

    Since I am not yet able to self-publish the way I want, my only choice is to find a new story, and that’s proving to be harder than I hoped. Rosie, if you read this, all I can tell you is you’re not alone in your frustration, that’s the best I can give you.

    • A “pill that zaps all negative emotions” would be a bestseller with writers, that’s for sure. I wish I could claim to be a Fast Drafter, but my agent would call me a liar. It all depends on each project and circumstance. Sometimes I’m fast, other times… well, not so. I’d fork over good cash for a pill that helps conquers once and for all the time/workload balance.

  5. Everyone sympathizes with the It’s-only-half-done-but-can’t-I-query-now? feeling. That’s when an ms is still sparkling in your mind, alive with potential. After nine months of writing, rewriting, and revising — not so much. But the process is ESSENTIAL for you to learn and grow as a writer. Even if your ms never sees the light of day, you’ll learn tons while polishing it. Find a great crit group to help you on your journey. 🙂

  6. It’s important (albeit difficult at times) for all of us to remember the business side of publishing. I read somewhere that a “yes” from an editor is a $50,000 plus investment from the publishing house to turn the ms into a book. I don’t think sending a half baked manuscript is a wise idea considering the amount of money you are asking them to invest in you. Be excited, yes- show it to your friends, colleagues, family, etc. but don’t send it out until it’s ready. It’ll be worth it! Stay positive and lots of luck to you! 🙂

  7. Think of it has risk vs. return. If Agent X has a whole bunch of wonderful FINISHED manuscripts and a few half written ones that may be equally good, which would s/he choose? The finished ones because they’re ready to go. It’s simply less risky and the return is potentially just the same. There’s just too much finished product out there to compete with. When I started writing about 10 years ago, the published writers that I connected with all said one thing: FINISH your novel. It already puts you ahead of most others. So concentrate on that and don’t even think about selling now.

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