Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Monday, December 01, 2014

Query Question: two manuscripts on submission

I started querying a manuscript (YA Urban Fantasy) a couple months ago, and I expect to begin querying a new manuscript (YA Sci-Fi) early next year. Since the query/submission process takes time, I figure there's a good chance I'll end up querying both manuscripts at once. (But of course, I won't query the same agent with a second manuscript until a decision's been made on the first. And on a side note, any suggestions as to how long I should wait between a rejection and sending a new manuscript?)

It occurs to me that the Sci-Fi manuscript may grab an agent for me before, or instead of, the UF manuscript. I mean (1) the Sci-Fi is being written with more experience under my belt, and (2) it's in a slightly less tough market, I think. So what happens if I get an agent with the Sci-Fi, where that same agent has already declined to represent the UF?

In that case, is the UF dead in the water, or might the agent still consider submitting it? Or will this just depend on the agent? And out of curiosity, how would you handle a situation like this?

You writers really like to worry ahead of yourselves.  What-if questions like this are your rodent wheel minds whirring in the middle of the night, using up all that nervous energy that didn't get poured on the page that day.

If you're querying two manuscripts at the same time, one will get an offer before the other. Which manuscript that will be is a crapshoot and SOMETHING YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER.

The agent making the offer may love your other novel like her own, or may feel about it as Travis Erwin feels about lettuce:

Neither of those things are something you have control over.

And my opinion is absolutely irrelevant unless I'm the agent doing the offering.

Thus, when this happy situation arises, you tell the offering agent about The Other Book. Together you will decide the course of action.

I mentioned yesterday that the book I've signed clients for is sometimes not the book I sell first. I always ask about "inventory" when talking to a prospective client. Even if it's a very different book, I'd rather have more inventory than less.

So, stop fretting about this.
Get back to working on the ONE thing you do have control over: your novel.


french sojourn said...

So I'm reading the question, thinking..."yes, what a great question." It so applies to me as welllll....then I thought.
"Rodent Power" too. Sounds like me.

" the donkey" (me)

I understand the question, it's about strategy. and you're right, it is something we have no control over... of mice and writers as it were.

Colin Smith said...

This is an interesting strategy, and it reminds me of the question from the other day about getting an agent for a book vs. getting an agent for a career. If I had two novels that were ready for querying, since I'm interested in an agent for a career, I would pick the book most likely to attract the agent I would like to work with and query that alone. Having two novels out in Queryland seems to me to be unnecessarily complicating things and, dare I say, comes across as a little desperate. A wise woman once said that writers are not the beggars at the publishing banquet, or words to that effect. :)

All the best to the questioner with querying! said...

I tend to agree with Colin, and think if I were this writer, I'd focus on the book they believe is their best work, the Sci-Fi story, for the exact reasons they list. The Urban Fantasy could always be a backlist book. And, if we venture down The Rodent Wheel Of Thought for another spin or two, I think publishing houses - can/will support an author writing under multiple genres if they land a two book contract. The thing is whether or not the publisher would even like the second book, and they may not, which means they'd have to write another. They could be writing another stellar Sci-Fi now while they run on the rodent wheel. Writing is good medicine for that - so I've found out.

Susan Bonifant said...

I like the writer's thinking. When we writer-chipmunks obsess over post-contract "what ifs" it means we're assuming success. Healthy, and WAY more fun than pre-contract worry that the manuscript will wind up under the bed, next to the summer shoes.


I'd much rather worry that when they make my book into a movie, the Boston accents will sound fake and I won't have ANY say at ALL.

Margo Owen said...

I've read a few dozen other agents who get seriously pissed at the idea of writers subbing 2 different manuscripts simultaneously. I didn't read that here. Anyone know the 'norm' for writers submitting: 1 vs 2 books? (Seems for the writer having 2 fishing lines vs. 1 is better odds) but pissing off the fish...also not a good idea.

Janet Reid said...

Margo, agents get annoyed at two ms subbed at the same time to the same agent. (I include myself there too)

But, one agent has no idea how many mss a writer is subbing at any given time to OTHER agents.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Here's two pieces of advice for the questioner.

First piece of advice:

Pick the best of the two, (I know it's a Sophie's choice kind of thing). Pick the one you feel will attract the most attention, the one which, in you humble opinion, has the best chance of being successful. Polish, scrub, clean it until it glistens and then query the piss out of it.
If you chose wisely, and the book is as good as you think it is, you will have an agent in no time and the discussion begins regarding "your inventory".

Second piece of advice:

Don't take advice from anybody. Do what you, in your heart, believe is the best course of action.
By your question and because you came here to ask it, you know exactly what to do. Oh yes you do, now go do it.

Oh yeah, don't forget to mention QOTKU in your acknowledgments. It's a Karma kind of thing.

G. V. Anderson said...

My mind goes in this direction FAR too often, and this post served as a good slap to the ego. :D Thanks, Janet!

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Worrying about something you have no control over is wasted energy. Focus on what you *can* control – writing a kick-ass novel, then anotehr and another.
As Mark Twain said, "I've had many worries in my life, and most of them never happened."

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Inventory the lettuce and head count the squirrels. Too much to fret over.

Congrats on your finished work.

Margo Owen said...

Janet--thanks for clearing that up.

Amy Schaefer said...

french sojourn, your comment had me humming: "You´re so vain / You probably think this song is about you." (In the nicest possible way, of course.)

Writers live and die by "what if" questions. That is where ideas come from. The trick is keeping the what ifs in the appropriate arena - writing.

That is my advice. Save the what ifs for story ideas, and keep them out of the business side of publishing. You´ll lose less sleep that way.

Elissa M said...

I have to point out, writers and artists rarely know which is their "best" work. I used to manage galleries for two different art associations. Trust me, I know all about rodent wheels (whether they're mine or a gallery full of other peoples').

I'm a slow writer, so I doubt I'll ever have letter writer's problem. I'll be working on novel 2 while novel 1 is being queried, and I'll be lucky if 2 is ready to go by the time 1 has completed its rounds.

french sojourn said...

So I'm out attacking the huge wood pile with a chain saw and that song in my head. Thanks.

At least it wasn't that song with the chorus....
"Ear-lie in the morning, way way and up she rises."

Hopefully you're to young to know or get that %$*# song in your head.

cheers Hank

Stephanie said...

Since an agent essentially represents a book- not necessarily the author, if you write a book that your current agent does not represent, or is not interested in, is it then okay to seek out another agent who represents book two's genre and have two separate agents? It's not as though the books would be competing against one another.

Elissa M said...


This should be covered in the contract with your agent. In any case, you should discuss it with your agent. Some agents represent a single book while others represent the author.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

First off, great advice, as always from Her Sharquiness.

One thing that kind of caught my eye though, is how quickly you're getting ready to query the second manuscript. Obviously, I write epic fantasy so I plod along, building worlds and killing gods. Then I set the thing aside for a month. Then it's time to print it out, highlight the crap out of it ala Margie Lawson's edit system and see what shape it's in, break each scene down on a card to see if the scene is even needed (or needed elsewhere), rewrite, send chunks off to beta readers, rewrite some more, send more chunks off to beta readers, rewrite more, go through again highlighting, revise and polish again, get a beta reader to read the whole thing at one time, think about querying.

The reason I send chunks to beta readers is we swap our work. Here's my 15,000 words. Read, line edit, thorough comments, send back, possible rewrite, resend, more comments, put that baby to bed.

I realize not everyone does what I do and I also realize some authors put out six books a year.

I just wonder if the second novel has really had time to breathe before querying. It's entirely possible it's been breathing under the bed for ten years, who knows?

Back in a previous life, I wrote children's books for my youngest son to entertain him. I also wrote a suspense novel about champion cutting horses being killed for insurance money and a farm manager who suspects too much disappearing into the rodeo circuit to get away.

I was going to query the suspense and decided, what the heck,I'll query the children's books, too. These two were so wildly divergent I didn't think many agents would be attracted to both. Obviously, not a lot of agents rep the same categories anyway, so I queried separately at the same time. Now, urban fantasy and sci-fi is fairly similar, so a lot of agents rep both, so the author here doesn't have that problem.

I agree, for now, I'd just focus on writing and polishing whatever you're working on and continuing to query. Maybe you can put a bit more focus on agents who rep both categories.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

So here is my story:

Once upon a time I wrote a kickass fantasy (Like Julie.M.Weathers said, building worlds and killing gods). I live-pitched the novel (okay, trilogy) to a good agent at a con, who requested pages. She declined, but asked to see my next project.

So I worked on another novel. Mothballed it to age and wrote a third novel. Went back to the first, edited it, declared it done, and pitched to the agent, who immediately requested pages.

While I was at it, I subbed it to a handful of other good agents, because one never knows.

Original agent says, Sooo close, but no banana. Another agent says, Sooo close, R&R.

I R&R. A few other agents request fulls.

And then I sit. And wait. And wait.

Meanwhile, having done the R&R, I see where I went wrong with the first ms. No wonder she rejected it. I give it an editing pass based on my newfound knowledge. (I apply the same to the other novels I wrote.)

So yeah. Here I am with one novel on sub, and another ready to pitch and a completed trilogy, also ready to go.

Oh, how tempting it is to want to pitch these other novels. But much advice (including one directly from Her Sharkness to a question I asked) advises against pitching more than one novel at the same time, especially when they are related genres.

So here I wait, bated, until either an agent signs the first novel, or all fulls are requested.

Lucky the agent who gets me, with five ready-to-go novels in my inventory and a couple more on the burner.

Meanwhile, I've had some luck pitching novellas to small presses.

Am I publishable? Absolutely. I'm just waiting for some agent to agree with me.

Alicia W. said...

This is the OP here. First off, a huge thank you to Janet for answering my question. And thanks to all commenters!

An update:

As of a month or so ago, I snagged an agent with the second manuscript, the YA Sci-Fi I mentioned in my original question to Janet. YAY! This blog was immensely helpful in that snagging. And Janet's advice was--no surprise--spot on.

I discovered my amazing agent while querying for the second manuscript, so she never even saw the first one. Plus, by the time I signed with her, I'd decided to rewrite the first manuscript almost completely, so if/when she finally sees it, it won't be an old manuscript at all. It'll be shiny and new. I was fretting over nothing; such wasted energy!

K. L. Hallam said...

I'm querying two books since my MG book was cancelled after being with the publisher a year. I had a YA on the ready and entered a #PITMAD contest, and there were 6 agent stars for it the following day.
So I sent subs out to the agents who represent both YA & &MG. We will see. Thanks for this post.