Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Question: polyamory querying?

I'm wondering, if both projects were written simultaneously, and are completed and polished, if it's bad etiquette to query two manuscripts at once? One agent may have some interest in one project I've already queried, and I've been itching to begin querying a second project to a different group of agents.

I can certainly understand why you'd want to do this. With the glacial pace of publishing it seems stupid to just wait around on one manuscript when you could be querying two! Or Three! Or SIX!

Here's why you shouldn't.

You only get to sign with one agent at a time.  Let's say you're querying two or ten manuscripts, and they're all publishable and they all get offers.

How do you compare offers?  My enthusiasm for "Everything I Know About Sex I Learned from Tawna Fenske's Blog" may be much higher than my enthusiasm for "Everything I Know About Vodka I Learned From Barbara Poelle's Trash Basket"

But if you sign with me for Sex, you're also going to expect me to rep Vodka. So you tell me about Vodka, and I ask for the proposal, meanwhile you've got Agent Impatient waiting for an answer for her offer on Vodka.

This is NOT the time for something that would look like the second act of Noises Off! (and I mean the play not the dreadful movie version.)

The other reason that is if you query me on three "finished, polished" projects in a given year, I stop taking you seriously.  I know darn good and well how long it takes to write a good novel. I have 45 people writing now and I know their every anguished scream and cry. 


Anonymous said...

This is similar advice - even after an agent is acquired...the difference being a freelance editor I work with, who once cautioned me about "spitting" out novels too fast. The first was out on submission, and less than a year later, I had a second book ready. The advice was "this is much too fast, no one wants to see another book from Donna Everhart just yet. They will remember they turned your first one down." (because the same batch of publishing editors would have seen the second) Not only does publishing move at a glacial pace, so does writing a good book.

Wendy Qualls said...

Your examples made me laugh :-D Pretty sure if Barbara Poelle is throwing out ANY vodka, she's doing it wrong . . .

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I didn't know you could only sign one agent at a time (not that I'm in the market for multiples).

So far as multiple "finished, polished" works, I think that's possible (Though I suppose how finished and polished is the question). Some people write for years, and polish for years, before it occurs to them to query. Granted, we sometimes jump the gun (as evidenced by yesterday's question).

NotaWarriorPrincess said...

Could it be that you know their every scream and cry because you elicit them? Or are they echoes of your own? And what does it say that your editor friends' vodka-bottle baskets teach you so very much?

Craig F said...

Donna, I have to say that I disagree with your editor. The first question most Agents will ask is "What else you got?"

If a publisher wants a writer to become a brand they want at least a book a year. If you wait too long they will have to build that brand again because the average reader will have forgotten your name.

I don't know where she got her information but I'd get a second opinion or two

LynnRodz said...

I don't see why you couldn't query two different agents if both projects are in a different genre, especially if the agents don't represent both. For example, the questioner has written an MG and a crime thriller. Wouldn't it be possible for you, Janet, to represent her crime fiction under her own name and an MG agent to represent her under a nom de plume? Or, am I completely out of water here? Hmm, I think the expression is, am I all wet? Anyway, you get the idea!

Unknown said...

Ok, I see what you are saying. But lets say for the sake of argument that I am a freak of nature that can in fact write multiple books a year. And they are a Bio, YA, and literary fiction. What then? What about pen names if they don't want to saturate the market? What if an agent (like Ms. Shark) is only interested in Crime novels and non-fiction? I just always thought that an agent would want to sell as many books as they could.

Anonymous said...

Hm, I am confused. Because I've always read that you should keep writing while you're shopping a manuscript... What if you write two or three? You should sit on them?

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

Now I'm wondering how long is sufficient time between querying one project and querying another.

About five years ago I went cold turkey on the Internet (for Very Good Reasons). Becuase I was not blogging/workshopping/timewasting,I was BIC and writing novels at an outstanding pace.

It's amazing how much time one has when one is not online (or watching television).

I wrote and polished a novel. Then another. I pulled out an old ms and polished that. I reconsidered my No Internet policy, decided I wasn't ready to go back to the Silicon World, so I wrote and polished another ms or three.

Finally, I drifted back online. I tossed several novels to beta-readers, who returned good feedback. I stalked agents once more and feel I'm ready to query.

So yeah. I've got a half-dozen polished novels, all ready to go. (I'm gonna make some agent very happy, if she doesn't keel over from concern first.)

Not every author pitches a novel as soon as the polishing rag leaves the desktop.

But how can I let an agent know my next few projects are polished and ready to go and that I'm not some over-eager apprentice writer pitching first drafts?

Suzan Teall Headley said...

Oh, come on, Janet. Noises Off! (the movie version) wasn't so bad...!