Monday, July 14, 2014

Query Question: submission detritus

Dear Queen of the Known Universe (ballot write in, FTW):

As a querying writer, I now have a few literary bodies littering my wake. I've clawed my way up from silence and "Dear Author" forms to the coveted "I liked this and even smiled on occasion, but..." I didn't query my most recent book as hard as I should have. I could probably send another round or two, but I'm really close to being ready to query another project (stronger, better, faster than before). I have fulls out on my current manuscript.

My questions:

I'm ready to query the next novel VERY soon. How do I handle the fulls that are out on the previous manuscript now that I'm about ready to query the next? Patiently wait unless there's an offer of rep on the next book? (1)

I know everyone says to query one book at a time, but one of the fulls came in from a query that was six months old (Yes, really, six months on a query; my record is 18 months for a response). I don't want to rush the agent (unless there's an offer of rep, that is), but I think the agent would like my new work as well--or at least, I hope. Is there special "I've started querying a new book" protocol? (2)

In general, because the responses from queries can stretch into the distant future, what time gap do you recommend between books? Or are you a line-in-the-sand kind of gal--query one book until the day you start querying the next?

(1) No

(2) No

There are no hard and fast rules for this, BUT:

You really don't want the glacial speed of agent reading and response time setting YOUR timeline. This is your career car and you need to keep the ball rolling.

Thus, contact the agents reading the novel you have out on submission now. Say you've got a new, better, faster, stronger novel that has been known to eat agents for breakfast make strong men weep. Would they prefer to keep reading, or receive a query on the new one: that puts the ball in their court.

When I get these kinds of emails, I generally want to see the novel (or at least the query) for the better, faster, stronger work. I'm ALWAYS interested in the strongest novel you have.

Here's the pitfall with having a lot of work circulating: You don't want to query one agent for multiple novels in a short period of time. I have several clients who write VERY quickly and they can do maybe two good books a year. If you query me for more than that in a given year, I'm not impressed--I'm leery. Whether that is justified is not my concern. That I am leery is information you can use to your advantage.

I'm assuming here that all your novels are in roughly the same category. They're all crime, or all romance, or all SFF, etc.

IF you query me for six novels in six categories, I'm not leery of them. I'm blatantly put off.  I'm absolutely sure that an author can't write six good, fresh and new novels, in six categories in six years.  The reading alone precludes it.  (By reading, I mean reading enough of a given category to know the tropes, the history, what's old hat, what's hot stuff etc.)


Anonymous said...

This is a great answer. I'm a novel in reserve at the moment with my querying because I'm one of those that writes fast. I dedicate a stupid amount of hours a day to it, while I'm lucky enough to be allowed to!

What about genres that are linked? For instance, I have an adult crime novel, and my current WIP is a YA crime novel. the research for the adult one has helped tons in the YA one, and i read both genres a lot, usually one book of each genre on the go at once. would that put a potential agent off, as they are two very different genres and audiences?

Janet Reid said...

They're both crime novels. It's the one romance, one SF, one steampunk, one western that makes my eyebrows do the Spock.

Anita Saxena said...

Good to know. I've always wondered what to do in this situation.

Christine said...

Great information.

DLM said...

"Do the Spock" is my next new bumper sticker. And the next new dorky dance I shall invent to randomly embarrass my friends.

Lance said...

Writing, revising, editing, and polishing to query-ready for two novels a year? That's really moving out. Especially if each is stand-alone.

DLM: and you have to compose music for the theremin. I can't think any other instrument could accompany when you Do the Spock.

DLM said...

Lance: Hee, and OH MY YES.

Standback said...

Why is there an assumption that the new work is significantly stronger than the older one?

If I've, say, written two crime novels, each solid but with entirely different settings and characters, then I might think that (A) they're both equally strong, and (B) some agents might like one and not the other, and I can't necessarily guess which.

That's what isn't clear to me about the "query only one novel" advice: if I'm not done querying Novel A, and meanwhile I've finished Novel B, then why is it that I'm putting Novel A out to pasture?