Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sending a ms without an agent to an editor looking for exactly what you've got

Q: I have a burning question and feel free to change my name and use this on your blog because I’m sure I can’t be the only person who’s done this, but...

Back when I was repped, I heard about HQN opening up their teen line and asked agent to send them my ms, which he did (I would never presume to do an agent’s job for them but he had no idea about the line *cough*).

The submission outlasted our relationship, but ultimately was a pass. The editor asked me for future projects, a fact I filed away in my head, hoping to sign with someone new and shiny who would then send new shiny projects her way.

Then, the other day, aforementioned editor is doing a guest Q&A stint on an e-mail loop I’m on. Someone mentions she’s working on a (specific kind of) book and would editor be interested. Editor says “Sure I would. I have yet to get a YA (specific kind of book) submission”. So I promptly e-mailed her offloop and she now has a copy of my (title redacted) on her desk.

Uh, was this stupid of me? Does this cause complications down the road when I do sign with someone? Is this the kind of thing that makes agents want to publicly flog clients?

Janet, I do hope you don’t mind me asking. I trust you to be honest, even if I’ve done a bad, bad thing. I’m one of those entrepreneur types who believes in carving her own destiny and sometimes that kind of chutzpah gets away from me. I think it’s clear this is one of the reasons why I need a good partner in this biz.

Thank you for all you do. Really.

A: First, you're not stupid. Second, you're really not stupid.

Here's what you think: if I've sent this out already, no agent will sign this book because it's been shopped around.

Here's what I think: one editor has seen this and if she likes it I can get some of those other slacker girls overworked and underpaid (and under appreciated!) editors to take a quicker look.

Here's what you DIDN'T do: send it out all over town to anyone whose name you ever saw or heard.

Here's what you DID do: sent it to someone who expressed an interest in the book in general and yours in particular, and who has a history with you.

HQN also buys books from unagented authors I believe (although, if I'm wrong, please correct me in the comments section)

On the more general note: authors need to be proactive. When opportunity knocks, open the damn door. Don't wait for some slacker agent over worked and slow poke agent to open the door. If you hear the doorbell, answer!

You're the person with the most to lose in this endeavor. Even if I am your agent, and I care about your book passionately, my career doesn't rise and fall solely on your work. Yours does. A good agent is riding shotgun with you on the Publishing Stagecoach but you're the one holding the reins and wielding the whip.



Courtney Milan said...

Technically (not that it matters), the imprint is Harlequin Teen, and yes, they take unagented submissions.

HQN is the adult single-title imprint and only takes agented submissions.

SundaySoup said...

I had an editor interested in a manuscript and she asked me to revise it. She also suggested that I start looking for an agent, which I did. She even suggested a few! I mentioned this editor's interest in my queries and also that I was not shopping it around, but she had asked for it before I started agent hunting. Not one agent had a problem with this. Ironically, the manuscript got turned down and still has not sold, but I got an agent with the next book I was writing during all the querying and that will be my first book (not to that first editor either).