Sunday, July 15, 2012

This is my fault but I'm going to yell at you

I received a query letter for a book I was familiar with from one of the several contests I've been part of this year.  I was glad to read the full manuscript and requested it.

It arrived with a nice email which I didn't pay much attention to. I simply downloaded the manuscript  to my Kindle, emailed the author that it was in the pending file, and not to expect to hear from me for a while.

(as I said, what happens next was my fault.)

As it happened I had some free time. I picked up my Kindle and looked at the table of contents. There was The Book.  I remembered it being fun and romantic, just the ticket for what I wanted to read. So I read it.

And was deeply perplexed when it ended very abruptly with several unresolved plot lines.  And it seemed REALLY short.

So I went back to my laptop and checked the word count. Sure enough it was way south of where it needed to be. So I checked the email exchange. The first email said the book was being considered by other agents but the author also wanted to query me. No problem.

The second email, the one that arrived with the manuscript mentioned in the second paragraph that she was only sending 100 pages.


Like I said, this is my fault.  I didn't read the email closely.  I should have sent it back to her with "send only the FULL."  But I didn't.  I was expecting a full and when it came I didn't verify it was a full. I just downloaded it to the Kindle and treated it like it was ready to go.

Which brings me to why you are hearing this rant: NEVER EVER query on an unfinished novel and never EVER send a partial if a full is requested.  Because other agencies were considering the book I was sure it was ready to go.  What happened (I think) is the author decided to do revisions. And the revisions weren't ready cause I replied to her query too quickly.

So, I'm annoyed as hell with no one to blame but myself but one of my Rules for Writers is to BE READY!

Be Ready for an agent to request a full.
Be Ready for the agent to read it THAT DAY.

If it doesn't happen, no worries, but if it does you're READY.


Sandra Cormier said...

Sometimes I query and get a response, "Sure, send it to me."

I err on the side of full.

Alec Breton said...

Mental Note: Another reason to hire a freelance developmental or copy editor before querying a project. It is a sanity check to make sure a project is properly polished already.

Keisha Martin Romance Writer said...

Hi Janet,

Although you realized your error I think the majority of the ownership of ensuring a manuscript is complete and ready is on the writer, its not an assumption when agents want the FULL it is clear what that means, so my question in lieu of the situation what will you do in regards to this situation?

BTW I loved your title:This is my fault but I'm going to yell at you

Hope it all works out=o)Now I will prove that L am not a robot.

Elissa M said...

Would it have been appropriate for the writer to respond to your request for a full by sending an email explaining that the manuscript is currently under revision, and she'll send it out as soon as she finishes?

I think many writers are afraid to admit they've been caught with their pants down (so to speak) when they get a request they aren't prepared to fulfill. Of course one shouldn't query until the manuscript is ready, but sometimes it's hard not to go back and tweak this or that. Then inspiration strikes and tweaking becomes a full revision, and, well, I can see how a writer who thought she was ready for agents' interest suddenly finds herself woefully unprepared.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I guess this means I better cross a few more T's and dot a few more Is just in case.
I'm always ready even if I'm not ready.

Janet Reid said...

Elissa, yes. If the ms isn't ready to go, don't send it. Of course, don't query before the ms is ready.

I understand that writers want to get started querying cause the process can take a long time, but as this writer discovered, sometimes the query process takes 15 minutes.

Paula Stokes said...

What about certain agents from at least one well-known reputable agency that sell tons of projects on partials?

I've heard Lauren Oliver say BEFORE I FALL was sold on 80 pages. Sure, she was an industry insider but I know of other authors who were not NY editor-types who sold their debut novels as multi-book deals based only on high-concept proposals.

I'm not saying this is how it should be, because if I were an editor I'd be too scared to do this with an unproven entity. Just wondering if stories like what I've heard are making people think they can sub partials.

Janet Reid said...

I've sold projects on partials.I've sold projects on cocktail napkins.
It's absolutely not the norm. It's also NOT the way I like to do things. There are LOTS of problems with selling things that way that don't arise when everyone has read the full manuscript before the deal is struck

But, my point here was I was expecting a full and didn't get it.

Unknown said...

Right after one of those contests I found a great manuscript analyzer. I promised I would run my manuscript through it before sending it to any more agents. Then, a full was requested. No rejection yet (almost two months).

Last week, I started the manuscript analyzer program on it, and intend to send an update to the agent in questions, and decide on querying anyone else after her response. It's mostly minor changes, something a good edit should have found. And two novels ran through the program turned out a few thousand words shorter and tighter.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Oh dear. Were there minions involved? Your snarly-toothed, novel-seeking minions are terrifying to find pouncing from one's inbox when there aren't any ready pages to feed them. O-o

AimeeLSalter said...

@April - Is the analyzer a person or a program?

BP said...

Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln; you've sold projects on cocktail napkins (to sober people, nonetheless)‽‽‽

Unknown said...

This is exactly what I wrote about last night to your "A new wrinkle in the query game" post. I'm so glad I hesitated on the trigger.

Unknown said...

If you realize you've jumped the gun on querying and sent out a ms with some mistakes in it, is it unprofessional/annoying to resend a cleaner copy?

Anonymous said...

If something is as we expect, we deem it "good." When it's less, there's a negative experience. We can't impress anyone and fail to meet expectations.

Elissa M said...

Sam-- As I understand it, "some" mistakes aren't going to be a problem for most agents, especially if they're minor and not on the first page.

However, the tendency to query too soon is one reason writers are cautioned to sit on a newly finished manuscript for a few months before attempting to query it. Work on your next project during that time. When you pull the first one out again, you'll see it with a fresh perspective. Problems and mistakes you missed before you put it away will be much easier to spot and fix, and you'll be able to send a "clean" copy out the first time you're asked for pages.

Anonymous said...

I always assumed the sending of partials was a holdover from the days (which I'm old enough to have participated in) when we had to pay double postage-- after all, we wanted our typed manuscript pages back, 'cause we'd put a dime into the library xerox machine for every page-- and each 5 or 6 pages meant another two stamps.

Lynn(e) Schmidt said...

Your blog actually taught me to be ready, be prepared, and all of those other awesome tid-bits of advice. You're a rockstar, thank you for your blog!

Kay Camden said...

I'm stumped on this one. If I got a request for a full, I'd send the full manuscript along with my firstborn child.

Maybe she's playing hard to get. I should try that.

Rori Shay said...

Janet, do all writers read a query on the first day? And is the tagline that they'll get back to authors in 3-4 months just a line?

Julie said...

Two years late and two dollars short:
Oh, dear.