Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Question: Cat's got your manuscript?

I had a successful consultation with an agent over the phone after a missed conference appointment. The agent was excited about my ideas, especially one I hadn't written yet, and asked for a synopsis of it. I sent one, but no response.

The MS is now first-draft finished and the synopsis is significantly tighter. I'm debating on sending what I have so far (synopsis + 10 pages) per the sub guidelines, or waiting until the MS is polished and mentioning in my query that we spoke on the phone long ago.

My inclination is to wait, since I'm not overly concerned about speed, and I want the MS to be as ready as possible when I query. But am wondering if others have run into this same sort of tangle, and if there might be more than one way to skin this particular cat. 

Under no circumstances do you send anything before it is revised, polished, revised, honed, revised, perfected, revised, reconsidered, sweated on, bled on, revised and then finished.

An agent is NOT looking for a manuscript to edit or help you develop.

An agent is looking for a manuscript to SELL.  The closer your manuscript is to sales-ready, the better your chances of getting an agent's close attention.

But the gist of what you're asking here is not "do I send something that's not ready" because you already have the correct inclination.

What you're wondering is how to make sure the agent remembers you if it takes awhile to RPRHRPRRS(on)B(on) and R your manuscript.

There are a couple good ways available to you now that weren't several years ago:

1. Drop a VERY short email to the agent, letting her know that you are RPRHRPRRS(on)B(on) and Ring your ms before you send it.  This email is about three lines and might included "no reply needed just FYI" in the closing line. It will also include a reminder of the telephone call.

2. Follow the agent on Twitter and engage with her/him when you can.

3. Like her/his Facebook page and again, engage when you can.

4. If the fates align, attend a conference the agent will be attending and introduce yourself. This is more expensive and less efficacious than the first three options.


Jennifer R. Donohue said...

But if you do meet the agent at a conference, don't follow the agent to the bathroom in order to hand over your MS. Who was it that happened to?

(of course, I'm also assuming this only happened once in the history of ever. Hoping this only happened once.)

Anonymous said...

And if you meet the agent at a conference, don't follow him/her around, and then if/when you make eye contact, scurry away in fear. Better to blunder your way through...I think most agents understand how hard it is to grab that moment, and make the best of it.

Lance said...

Thank you for this reinforcement. It helps. Is the cat aware that it's supposed to have fur and misses it, or does it believe that wearing a purple velour housecoat is normal?

Elissa M said...


It is a cat. It is aware that it is already purrfect. The purple velour is just a fashion statement.

Unknown said...

I understand your concern, however, let me share my experience and there are similarities.

About twelve months ago, I was speaking to an agent (online) about a WIP I'd just started working on. This agent and I had formed a friendship via FB & Twitter, though I'd not submitted anything to her.

She said she loved the premise and when it was ready, would I please offer it to her.

Over the next 12 months, about every 6-8 weeks I'd let her know how I was going with the WIP. As write F/T I was able to finish it in September 2013. I sent the MS to her. Though she was closed to subs. she was very happy to receive it.

She took only 8 weeks to get back to me. She told me I had real talent and the voice and the character build up were excellent, yet she passed, because, in her own words, there was something she could not put her finger on that told her she wasn't the right fit.

However, she passed with AWESOME feedback, pinpointing where I did an excellent job and where, if she'd offered to rep. me, she'd have asked for some revisions. This alone is worth gold.

I was so thankful for her (pages of) feedback I wrote back straight away to thank her.

She replied that she wanted me to know I had talent and to please not stop writing. She also asked if I was working on anything new, which I was, and sent her a 2-page overview of a new Hist-Fict I'd started.

The reply came within 24 hours to again please offer it to her first as in her own words, "you can write and write well but just as importantly, you take feedback so well and are lovely to work with."

I happen to think a lot of this agent also. Aside from being really good at her job, I'd have her over for dinner any day of the week, if there wasn't an ocean or two between us.

My point is, agents are happy to wait, and if they have offered you to submit, seem happy to get the odd update. The relationship grows and strengthens & even if its a no, the feedback is beyond anything you could hope for and the door remains open.

Best of luck

Anonymous said...

Let me share my experience, as I think I have done before in response to a similar question.

Back when I was still unpublished, an editor approached me after she heard me give a talk at a conference. She said she'd love to read my manuscript. She was very enthusiastic. I sent it, of course.


I nudged after a couple months. I nudged again somewhere around the one-year mark.

Meanwhile, I'd been submitting the manuscript elsewhere. It sold.

Somewhere between my third book and fifth book, I saw that that enthusiastic editor had moved to another publisher, where I hope she is still happily enthusing.

But I'm kind of glad I don't have to work with her. I think it would have been a little frustrating.

So, to give the questioner a writer's rather than an agent's perspective: Sure, pursue this agent, but don't fix your heart on her. Because an agent who responds to you in a reasonable amount of time is probably what you're looking for.

Or to paraphrase Sirius Black: If you want to know what an agent's like, take a good look at how she treats her queriers, not (just) her signed writers.

It's also reasonable to assume that if your manuscript is good enough for one agent, it is good enough for others.