Boy was yesterday a bad day. I made a terrible discovery while trying to select a scene from my novel to rework. Somehow the changes I made to my manuscript last fall after a proofreader worked on it with me hadn't "taken." This resulted in "typos" where the original material still showed up even though I had deleted it, right next to anything I might have inserted. I figure there are about 100 such problems throughout the manuscript, the first on page 4. Here I was, thinking I had a super clean, proofread manuscript, from which I lifted samples to send with queries. Of course I didn't proof the samples, I'd proofed the entire manuscript! A reasonable assumption that I can lift a sample to accompany a query without proofreading IT?
These problems show up in many of the samples I sent along with queries. I remember finding a couple of these problems when I was reformatting samples to be embedded in emails to agents (shift from paragraph indents and double space to no indents, single spaced and a line space between paragraphs) but considered them anomalies. Tech glitch exceptions.
I estimate that 40 agents received samples with problems.
This is enough to drive me mad. I can't help but wonder how this has affected agent responses. In my business career, I was brutal with typos. A typo in your resume? Round file. I could make a case that this disaster is a "bad karma" consequence.
The cause turns out to be "user error." I've now figured out how to make the deletions go away permanently.
My question to you is, should I go back to those agents who received problem samples? Or, since I'm making substantial revisions, just wait until I have a new manuscript (after making double-extra-sure all deletions have been permanently eliminated)? If yes, then what would be the best way to pitch? I'm going to guess your answer:
For any agents that responded with any sort of comments (such as yourself), state that the novel has been substantially revised and present the new query.
For any agents that either declined or didn't respond at all, pitch as a "new" project.
(If I ever have to go back into the business world, I promise I will practice greater kindness toward job applicants with typos).
Yup, you and the pooch had a not-so-romantic interlude and neither of you intend to call each other again, right? RIGHT??
You are quite right to assume that agents will draw conclusions from what sounds like an unholy mess.
I've gotten mss with this kind of stuff from clients. I just send it back with "nope, not going to fix this; that's your job." In fact, a client had JUST this sort of problem only a few weeks back: edits he thought were there, including spell check, did not show up in the ms he sent me.
While I assumed an editing glitch with a client, queriers get no such leeway. It's a form rejection.
We all know stuff happens, even to nice undeserving writers. Thus you contact EVERY agent who got the unholy mess, and you say (much more briefly) what you told me here: due to some editing problems, the polished version did not get sent. You are requerying with the polished version.
JUST SEND THAT. Do not email to ask if you can, or if they want it. Don't give them a chance to say no.
Because we all understand the vagaries of editing software, most agents will at least give you a second glance. It may not be enough, but you will at least have tried, and not assumed no.
Your take away from all this: you proof EVERY SINGLE version.
I can hear some of you howling with laughter given my typos here on the blog but oh man, yes indeed, I do read those pitch letters and spell check before sending every single time.
And yes, I learned that the hard way just like you did.