Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Question: querying after an extended time away

It's been a few years since I last queried my manuscript. I sent out a handful and participated in some blog contests before my (now-ex) fiancé left. I'm happy now, but at the time, it sent my life into a crazy spiral of bad times and I stopped writing/querying altogether. Now that I'm back on my feet, I'm wondering what to do about some of the contacts I made during that time. Obviously the "thanks, but not for me" agents should be taken off my list--even though it's been a few years, they probably don't want to hear about the same manuscript again--but there is one situation I'm not sure about.

I participated in a query critique on an author's blog, and that author's editor (at a Big Six--or is it Big Five now?) contacted me and asked to see the ms. She said to send it whenever it was ready, but I don't know if "whenever" spans years. I figure I can of course just ask her and explain the situation, but I'm wondering what kind of response I might expect. Is it still worth it to try? Or did I blow that potential opportunity?

What's the downside of querying? None.

If it's a no, no loss.

If it's a yes, it's a plus.

Here's the caution though: don't go in to all the details about why you're querying now rather than then. Certainly not the level of detail in your first paragraph.

Simply say: Life happens, and boy did it happen to me, but I'm here now.

We've all had these situations happen. Acknowledge that it's been awhile, then get to the good stuff: your book.


Kitty said...

Life happens sounds like a good subject for a contest....maybe?

Kalli said...

Yes, I hate to be harsh, but going into exhaustive detail about your own backstory may put an agent off, thinking perhaps you display the same tendency in your novel. And an agent is looking at not just your MS, but you as a potential client. Do they really want to spend the next few years listening to you go on about it every time some real life crisis gets in the way of a deadline? No. Be succinct, be professional. It will serve you much better than long, rambling explanations.

Craig F said...

Baggage is baggage and we all have some. The best thing to do is out you underwear back in the drawer and cram the baggage into the closet.

It is possible that you might end up befriending an agent. It is also possible to win a lottery and the odds are about the same. At this point agents are looking at the money potential and not much else.

Forget about what happened years ago and start over again. Things change and agents outlooks do the same. Write a query that will make an agent spew their morning coffee all over their keyboard and send it to everyone. Do not write off those who said no years ago. They don't remember you or your query. It was forgotten three minutes after the form letter macro took it away.

Take a big sip of coffee and start over.

Anonymous said...

I fifth those who say do not explain why you've been out of the loop for a few years.

LynnRodz said...

I agree with everyone, your personal life should be kept separate from your professional life.

You could say something like: Two years ago you asked to read my ms whenever it was ready. Life got in the way, but here's the manuscript you asked for.

Good luck!

Craig F said...


I don't think that I would even say that.

Editors, even more than agents, want to find writers that can pump out two or three novels a year.

Turn the page and start all over. If you don't give them a reason to look they won't and they will not remember a two year old promise anyway.

Kevin Lee Swaim said...

I won't comment on your personal life except to say, good for you for being in a better place.

As for your work, don't ever give up. Seriously. Not ever.

Never ever.

I can't emphasize that point enough.

Elissa M said...

My feeling is similar to the others here, but I'm wondering a bit about this years-old manuscript. Have you gone over it recently? Does it still hold up? Do you have no urge to tweak it here and there?

Most writers I know wish they could go back and change things in their published novels, let alone old manuscripts. I think you should turn an unbiased eye to your manuscript and make sure it's truly ready for publication. Then write a new, lapel-grabbing, sox-knocking query and send it out.

If the editor who asked to see the manuscript is actually still working for the same publisher and you still have the correct contact information for her, I suggest you send the new query with a reminder that she had asked to see the manuscript once-upon-a-time and is she still interested?

Odds are that lead won't go anywhere-- and wouldn't have even if you'd followed up originally. Don't fret about it. Move on. Kind of like life in general.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I'd just lay the facts out:

"Dear Editor,
AFter a critique query on Author's blog, you contacted me and asked to see the ms when it was ready. Here 'tis. Enjoy.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Regards, Me."

I don't think a timeline explanation is necessary. *IF* she remembers, and *IF* she asks, "why'd it take so long to deliver a ms?" Then you can simply say, "My now ex-fiancee and I had some issues. Those are cleared up and I'm looking forward to my writing career."

Otherwise, I'm pretty sure she'll look at this ms, love it, and not care that you've got an ex in your history (you, me, and everyone else in the world. Except the Amish. They seem to have their act together).

I know these things, because I've had a very similar situation happen to me. You pick up where you left off and keep going, letting the hiccup in your life become a faded memory in your past. It happens to more people than we realise.

TwoPinaColadas said...

I was in the same situation, sent the manuscript in with a placating--one might even say, groveling--note. The agent called me the moment she opened it and harangued me for about 5 minutes, and then said she'd read it "eventually."

Had I not had my terrier at my side, I might have cried.