I have completed my second novel, and have hired a well-regarded editing team to copy edit and proofread the manuscript. The work they have done on the first 82 pages is invaluable, but quite expensive. I am determined to see this through (a remaining $3500) but due to my income I'm doing the editing job in increments, and it will probably take until the summer 2015.
My problem, the novel's theme and plot are germane to the 2016 election. Would it be a mistake to query about the manuscript before it is polished, even given my time frame constraint?
Publishing moves at a glacial speed until it doesn't. By that I mean I'm selling into the FALL 2015 catalog right now, and have books set for the 2016 catalogs too.
In other words, querying for book you think has timeliness in 2016 needs to happen NOW, not next year.
Look at it this way: under the BEST of circumstances:
-- you query in June of 2015,
-- an agent READS it right away (not likely)
-- offers immediately (very unlikely)
-- your manuscript is ready to go on submission that minute (not likely either)
your agent will be querying for Spring 2017. The Fall 2016 books will largely have been acquired in 2014 and the first half of 2015.
But that doesn't solve your problem (or one of them anyway) because obviously you don't want to query a manuscript you don't think is ready.
But here's the part where my jaw hit the ground: $3500 to copy edit and proof read a manuscript?? That seems stratospheric to me. I work with developmental editors and for that kind of work which is MUCH more time consuming, that's the kind of money people pay. Copyediting and proofing should be a lot less.
Let's throw it out to the commenters though. Is this price really out of whack? Let me know.
And if it is, that's good news because it means you can find someone to do it for less, which means you get done faster.
And the better news is that timeliness really only applies to non-fiction.