Wednesday, March 14, 2018

When is my book new enough to query again?

So let’s say you wrote a book and it made the rounds, but it was rejected. You got some feedback, rewrote it, but it was still rejected. Then you got some more (but more extensive) feedback from a publisher and suddenly you had a light bulb moment and figured out how to take elements from the old novel and reimagine it completely, would this still be considered the same book? So basically what I’m asking is, at what point (if any) does a previously shopped manuscript become a new novel - i.e. if you write a new book based on elements from an old book that made the rounds, is this still considered a previously shopped work and would you have to disclose it as such when querying agents? I know if you make some rewrites it would be considered the same book, but what if you reimagined the book so extensively, it becomes a new product?

Here's the bottom line: it's not illegal or unethical or immoral to repurpose your work, slap on a new title (that's key) and send it out in the world again to find gainful employment. There's no magical makeover number that makes it "new" and it doesn't need to be all new to go out.

My ONLY concern when you query is whether I like and think I can sell this project you're now querying.

If that project started life as something else, well, we all grow and change as we figure stuff out!

If you queried me on the previous iteration, and I passed, you'd do well to not start by requerying me (or others who have passed.)  Start fresh. Give your ms a chance to find friends.

Your unspoken assumption here is you don't want to end up on some sort of agent blacklist.  You are in ZERO danger of that if you query politely, even for a novel with hand me down elements.

There are a couple ways to be irrevocably banned from my query inbox.  In case you're wondering, they are:

1. Be rude or condescending about my assistants/interns.

2. Be snotty about my clients or their work

3. Tell me I lack taste and refinement. You're free to ignore books that have garnered starred reviews and positive critical attention but if you think I'm a dodohead, why did you query me at all? Oh wait, YOUR book is the gold standard for taste... how could I not have realized that. Perhaps I am a dunderhead.

4. Query for the same project over and over. No title change, no revision, no change at all.

Notice you're not even close to #4 here.

You now must worry about something else, cause this concern is off your list. World peace, rising sea levels and what would happen if sharks disappeared are always choices for fretting.


Meg Leader said...

World peace. Check. On my list.

Rising sea levels. Double check. Fer-shure on the list.

Disappearing sharks. Che-- Wait. What??? Sharks might disappear??

YIKES! Say it ain't so!!!

Kathy Joyce said...

Amazing that items 1, 2, and 3 are even a thing. Someone who wants you to represent their book is rude, condescending, snotty, and critical? Poison. Makes more room at the table for the rest of us, I guess.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I am worried about sharks going the way of dragons. We need dragons. Why are there no dragons? This is my worry. Querying makes me uneasy from the get go just cause lots of rejection no matter what you write.

I wish the real world would stop bothering me.

Anonymous said...

@E.M. Goldsmith - Don't worry, the dragons are out there. They're just sleeping until the time is right. Unless you believe in those shape-shifter dragon/humans?

Can I worry about imaginary things instead of real world things?

valda organ said...

At some point in the back and forth business of revision with agents, a writer must decide when enough is enough and trust their own vision of the work. The input of a professional is priceless but because of the differing tastes of each agent queried, the potential for a writer to lose perspective is always there. Querying can be quite scary for any author but if the material is personally important to you, specifically if it is a memoir, the process is a struggle.

Steve Stubbs said...

Reading OP's question, I get the impression s/he is saying, "On some level I know the answer is bury it, but please tell me I am wrong and it is OK to query it again."

Ms. Reid gave OP a great answer to the question, but what comes to my mind when I read this is, "Why not just write another book?"

A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, and an MS is just an MS.

If OP wrote one book, s/he can write another. I wrote four learning experiences masqueraded as novels and have no use for any of them anymore. They are all gone. The learning remains.

Amy Johnson said...

So behave decently, use common sense, and write a likable, salable book. I think I'm good on the first two. I'm working on the last one.

Elise: The way I figure, not every space on the ground or in the sky that's big enough to contain a dragon is being viewed by human eyes at the same time. So there's no proving that dragons don't exist. Believe! :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Amy I agree. And dragons are highly magical and leave no evidence of their existence. They can disguise themselves as a mountain or volcano. They are deep sleepers so those men climbing them don’t much bother them. And their remains turn to ash when they leave this realm. Sadly, I think this world annoys them and so most of them went elsewhere.

Beth Carpenter said...

Isn't it amazing, OP, when you look at your WIP from a different angle and suddenly everything shifts into place? Best of luck on your new round of queries.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

I'm very much with valda organ and unable to agree with Steve, sorry.

My book is also personally very important to me (it's fiction but in secret it's also a fictionalized biography about how hard it is to fight against a nasty part of myself (OCD)).

And I believe that a lot of writers will feel that the time and effort that went into their works are important to them.

I could NOT JUST write another book! Not without trying all I can. I am currently making my book better (by the way: Just a little big THANKS to Colin here who's helping/advising me on making it better!!!).

A kiss is not just a kiss. I don't know who you are kissing but I don't just kiss anyone. A sigh is not just a sigh - I care if my boyfriend sighs.
And a manuscript is no way JUST a manuscript!

Julie Weathers said...

I don't know who Steve is kissing, but when it takes me thirty minutes to uncurl my toes it's not because my boots are too small. There's a reason that bet I wouldn't kiss that cowboy turned into six months of dating.

If a manuscript is just a manuscript, why bother writing it? If it doesn't have a bit of your soul in it, it might as well be a term paper.

Adele said...

This post reminds me of the book on which the 1996 movie "The Spitfire Grill" was based - the author said it might surprise some people that the original MS was a romance featuring two college students in Arizona. Lightbulb moment. Rethinking. Huge changes. Totally different story. There's no reason why you couldn't submit a novel that has been rethought to such an extent. But yeah, change the title.

Steve Stubbs said...

One Of Us Has To Go said...
A kiss is not just a kiss. I don't know who you are kissing but I don't just kiss anyone. A sigh is not just a sigh ﷓ I care if my boyfriend sighs.

Hi One,

I am surprised you did not get the allusion. That's a lyric from a song that was sung, I believe, in the movie Casablanca. Carly Simon sang it on one of her albums.

As a happily divorced man of 24 years I do not kiss anybody and nobody cares whether I sigh or not. I like it that way. My toes curl for no one, although before I abandoned the dating world my lip curled frequently.

OCD is an anxiety based disorder. It is possible to banish anxiety permanently, but with OCD I think you would need assistance. That is not a DIY project. I wish you the very best. Sadly, you would have to find someone competent to work with, and "competent" is not a word usually used in the same sentence with "mental health professional." Good luck to you. I'm rooting for you.

You can write a book and get it out of your system and self-manufacture a copy for your bookshelf if you want, thereby freeing yourself to write something more commercial. Having options is very empowering.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Steve, you may think that I don't know what OCD is. You may think I've only had it since yesterday. You may think I've not had any professional advice/therapy. And you may think my book is a DIY project and I am writing it for self-therapy.

You're wrong with everything!

And, I am a happy person - I like it that way.

Timothy Lowe said...

As someone who is enmeshed in the rewriting/re-envisioning process, I can empathize. Rewriting a manuscript is a ton of work. But I totally get what Adelle is saying in her post. Figuring out new action, new angles only makes the work better. An agent I deeply respect once wrote me an email with the line "some of the best writing happens in revision, more or less." Even though he ultimately rejected the revision, I have utmost respect for him, and for that statement.

Onward and upward. Write a new project? When I've exhausted the possibility of this one. I've done it a bunch of times, and know I can do it again.

BTW, now that I FINALLY finished 'Sunburn', might I say thank you, Ms. Lippman, for the master class. And thanks, reef-dwellers, for an outstanding recommendation.

AJ Blythe said...

As well as changing the title, if you have unusual character names it might pay to change them as well. Good luck with your new round of queries, OP.

OT: Did others here see Kristin Nelson's post on the new contract clause following the #metoo movement? Apparently a recent Penguin Random House contract had a new "morality" clause: if the author’s reputation materially changes, such changes could be cause for termination of the publishing agreement.

I wonder how much a material change is? It seems very wish washy. Not that I'm planning on ever having a reason for a clause like that to be invoked, but it's another reason I want a shark in my corner!

Julie Weathers said...


I did and I wondered how long it would take before that popped up. What frightens me about this movement is so many people are judged guilty without proof. Many times even when someone comes forward and says, that couldn't have happened, it doesn't matter. The damage is done. One actor was accused, I don't recall his name now, but he denied the allegations. The production company removed him anyway. He did prove the allegations were false and he was reinstated, but if he had not been able to prove where he was and that he couldn't have been with her, she could have destroyed his career.

Who determines what an author's reputation is and what standards they need to be held to?

Dorothy Parker commenting on someone who broke her wrist, "She was probably sliding down a barrister."

Does Katy Perry's American Idol kiss qualify as a Metoo moment? Some people think it does.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

OP, believe in your work.
I ain't giving up yet and I love, love, love my title. New batch of agents, heads up. Our esteemed Queen passed, regarding an earlier version. No worries because the book in not her kind of chum BUT she did say my "...query was lovely."
Made my day.

AJ Blythe said...

Julie, it's both the being judged guilty then having to prove innocence and exactly where is the line that bothers me too (it's happening here in Oz as well). I'm a very huggy person, so it worries me when hugs are being frowned upon.

2Ns, wow, that's the gold star of compliments. Well done =)