Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Querying a new novel while old novel still out

In June I received a full request for my novel. In October, the agent's assistant checked in with me, asking if my novel was still available and informing me that the agent was now reviewing (just a guess here, but I think s/he's reading it, not writing a review) it.
In the meantime, I've finished and polished a new novel, and I'd like to start querying it. I know that I should inform  the agent who has my manuscript that I'm querying a new project (1); my question is, what is the appropriate amount of time to wait before querying this new novel? (2)
My current plan (assuming I don't get a response beforehand) is to wait one more month, then send an email nudging her about the manuscript (3)  she has and informing her of my new project, and begin querying the new novel shortly after. Is three months from a check-in (and seven months from a full request) ample time? (4) Or have I already waited a sufficient amount of time to do it now? (5) Several agents whom I'd like to query with the new novel have indicated they'll be closing to queries soon; I don't want to miss an opportunity to query them (especially if the agent rejects me),(6)  but I also don't want to make a bad impression by nudging the agent too soon.(7)

(1) No, you shouldn't.

(2) Negative five seconds

(3) No
(4) yes
(5) yes

(6) exactly
(7) stop worrying about that

Your first obligation is to your career. Query until you have an offer for representation in hand. You are not responsible for the glacial pace of an agent's reading schedule.

It took this agent four months to start on your novel. The only thing that means is you've had four months to sit around and wait.  KEEP QUERYING.

You don't have to keep her posted on this new novel either. She doesn't have first dibs on you or your work. If (when!) she gets in touch with you cause she love love loved your novel, then you can tell her the good news about Book #2.

It's not rude to do this.
It's not unprofessional to do this.
It won't leave a bad impression.

You need to keep writing and keep querying till you get an agent. Your time is NOT less valuable than the agent's. If anything it's MORE valuable. Only you can write your novels. Any one of us can sell it.

The parameters of politeness at the query stage are simple:

1. Follow the agent's guidelines

2. Follow up on a query after 30 days; a requested full after 90days OF SENDING (that's when the clock starts, NOT when the agent starts reading). Be polite in the followups.

3. If you get an offer, email any agent reading your full. (You don't need to email those rejected at the query stage or didn't answer at the query stage.)

4. Don't vent in public (twitter, facebook et al) about publishing.

That's all you have to do.

If you tippytoe around trying not to offend anyone, you'll spend too much time worrying and not enough time writing.

Got it?



Donnaeve said...

Ooooh, this gave me the "shibbers:"

"Your time is NOT less valuable than the agents. If anything it's MORE valuable. Only you can write your novels. Any one of us can sell it."

I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that's the first time any one of us out here has ever heard that.

It's interesting though, b/c yes, any one of you could sell it, except there's the love of the writer's work, and then, let's not forget an agent's art of persuasion, their list of contacts, and the ever important relationships with those contacts at publishing houses. All of these soft skills makes a HUGE difference.

Donnaeve said...

Sure is lonely out here.

Donnaeve said...

Clarification on "out here." Not out here as in this blog. "Out here" as in the realm of The Wee Woodland Creature Forest of navigating publishing world.


DLM said...

"Your first obligation is to your career."

It is so easy to forget that this whole process isn't magic, supplication, masochism of the most extreme degree, or heedless gambling. This is a career, and it's ours, not any agent's who hasn't signed us and begun the process of selling our work.

"Only you can write your novel." Now there is an affirmation for my day!

(BTW Janet, "than the AGENT'S")

*Joins Donna "out here"*

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I think that's one of the things I struggle with, the concept of "your career." I associate a career with earning a living from it, enough to afford a roof over our head, food in our bellies, and a couple of pets. As well as having time automatically carved out to devote to the career and the payment of continuing education to be current in that career.

But writing does not do that. Not at first, if ever. So there's a need on my part to separate "career" from "job." Or perhaps, better yet, to separate it from money. Writing a story is an art. For many, if not all of us, wanting to get our story out to the public is a calling.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Querying too novels at once? Elka says facepalm (if I've learned appropriately from Madame Sharque).

Querying kinda sucks. Waiting reallllllllly sucks. Especially waiting on a full. But...good things come to those who wait? And you can listen to Tom Petty while you do if, if you'd like (take that earworm from me with compliments ;)

And Donna, you'd be less lonely if you slept in a little!

Donnaeve said...

Slept in...I call it sleeping in when I don't get up until 6:30 a.m.


Beautiful Elka.

Laura Mary said...

See it's posts like this I need to pin to my desk - I always feel that niggling need to explain and apologise to people who have most likely forgotten who I am, much less remember what I'm talking about.
Agent etiquette definitely seems to be a case of less is more!

Query and move on - If the ball is in their court, do not chase the ball!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Lisa, it is so true about writing. I wish it would support me, my kid's college, my dog, and keep food in my belly. Maybe one day. My cousin has over a dozen published books and one that did very well, and it's not enough to support her and her family on its own. Maybe it does now but for first decade, not so much. I try not to think about that.

I do try and remind myself that writing is my career. My day job simply allows my pursuit of my dream. Although as long as I have pen and paper or even just blood and stone, I will write. I can't help it. I am a storyteller first.

This was such a timely post. I am well into my WIP. I need to go ahead a send out another round on my WUS (work under submission - thanks to Reider who came up with this) and gently follow up on my outstanding requests. Sometimes I think I contribute to the already glacial pace of this process.

I do wonder one thing. I am writing a series of 7 books in the same way that Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, and The Belgariad by David Eddings are series. When I finish book 2, if I still have no agent (like OP), do I query both books together or separately? I can see this happening. I am 65k words into my WIP. Both books share same setting, have common characters, but are entirely different stories. They could be read independently although book 1 enhances book 2 and vice versa. I suppose this might be putting cart before horse, but I am curious.

Dena Pawling said...

I am impressed by anyone who can finish and polish a new novel in four months. I usually let mine sit for that amount of time [or longer], probably because I'm still learning craft. When I come back to them, I see lots of ways to make them better. Then CPs and betas, and going thru their comments. But OP, congrats on your new novel! If it's ready, query away, and good luck!

DLM said...

Laura Mary, just on a housekeeping note, I use the original email communications with an agent and reply/forward so they can see right there what I'm talking about (MINUS any attachments of course!). It helps me keep things straight, and provides an agent all the reference points they need inline.

Lisa and E.M. - I just figure, it's possible to have two careers. Writing may not be my living, but it's my life and one of my professions. I have this fantasy it would pay for, say, a floor refinishing job - but not the house itself. For me, that is icing on the cake, and my writing work is the icing on the cake of my day job (which I also love, but in a very different way).

It was Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale who gave us WUS. I can't wait to be at the WUSsy stage again. But I shall!

Unknown said...

I love these clear lists. Makes things less confusing! Especially in a world where the etiquette is not intuitive for newbies.

Unknown said...

I was lucky enough to make the finals of PitchWars this year, along with 124 amazing writers. Seventeen percent of us have now found agents! (Not me - not yet. Excuse me for a moment while I go send one more query.)

Okay. I'm back. My PitchWars Finalist group keeps in touch, and I have learned many things, but this is the most interesting:

If an agent is interested in your work he or she will make that VERY clear! Agents know that other agents are reading our work. When they love a project, their enthusiasm is endless, and they worry about losing the project to someone else. As long as you let them know when you have an offer of rep, I wouldn't worry about offending anyone by querying your two books widely. It's expected.

Take Janet's good advice: You need to keep writing and keep querying till you get an agent.

Good luck!

LynnRodz said...

Only you can write your novels. Any one of us can sell it. Statements like this makes me happy I found this blog.

Laura Mary said...

Diane - it was more wider life issues that clog my brain rather than agent specific. We had an estimate for an extension on the house done 6 months ago, decided later it wasn't worth the money and that we'd move instead - I still keep thinking I should phone the extension guy and explain why we never called back - not only will he not care, he won't probably wont remember we ever spoke!!!

When I finally get around to querying I shall have to sit on my hands to stop me thanking them for their precious time then apologising for interrupting their day!

Suspect this may be a British thing! Colin?

DLM said...

Laura Mary, I just meant to address the practical aspect of the bit about explaining and forgetting, not the self-questioning dynamic. THAT is why we come to Janet in the first place! :)

Do thank agents for their time, but yeah - don't apologize for anything. "You are not a beggar at the banquet." Without you, and me, and all of us: an agent doesn't have a job at all. You have nothing to apologize for.

Oh, and it's not a British thing - I know all too many Americans (all of them women ...) who suffer this confidence handicap. One has the problem to such an extent that it turns upon itself and actually becomes passive aggression. While I know she doesn't know this, it's quite maddening at times to try to deal with her. Don't give yourself or others the agita, keep it simple, and remember you're damaging NO agents by querying them.

Colin Smith said...

I must say, I squirm a bit when Janet appears to belittle the amazing work she and other GOOD agents do. I'd be rubbish at all the telephone negotiating, client hand-holding (and sometimes client prodding), contract wrangling, and pitching she does. Not everyone can sell books. But... *sigh*... she's right that without our books, she has nothing to negotiate, wrangle over, or sell. I guess my take-away from this is we each have our part to play in publishing, and our primary responsibility is to the part we do best. As a writer, I do the writing. Which means if I end up writing a 5-novel series, three novellas, and twenty short stories while agents are still reading my first manuscript, then I'm doing my job. And until an agent says "Yes! I want to represent you!" my job is to keep writing and querying.

I would also suggest that if you've written another novel while the first is being read, then at least 4, if not 6 months should have passed. Otherwise, I daresay it's not ready to query because it hasn't been thoroughly edited, proof-read, beta read, and left to sit in between times. You can't go through all that in less than 4 months--at least I can't. Maybe I'm generalizing too much.

Okay... sorry if I went over my word count. And sorry if I haven't been commenting enough. Or maybe you're all happy I've not been commenting enough, in which case, sorry for my prior verboseness, and I apologize for taking up your time. Thank you all so much for everything and...

... maybe it is a British thing, Laura! ;)

Panda in Chief said...

I also need to print this one out and tape it to my forehead. I am inwardly cringing because I didn't have this advice three years ago when I started querying Pandamorphosis. I was seduced by the request by an art director from one of my dream publishers that I quit querying on the project for more than a year.

This will NOT happen with my current WIP.

As God is my witness, I will query widely, as advised by TQOTKU!

John Frain said...

Like a good athlete, the Queen breaks it down so it seems so simple. Thanks for that.

Kudos to the writer for getting the next work finished so quickly. Whether it needs a little more polish or not, that's good production.

Quick note to an earlier post (I sprained my ankle on Sunday, which doesn't go well with a standup desk, so I've been on the Disabled List for a few days) Natural Reader has a free version of software that will read your novel to you. I tested quite a few bad ones before finding a decent one. Probably not the quality of Ivona, but comes at a better price.

BJ Muntain said...

Exactly. I couldn't see why OP wouldn't start querying novel #2 as soon as it was ready. An agent has the full of your first novel? Great! But that's by no means a done deal.

Even if this agent had an exclusive on this full (and we all know how Janet feels about those), they *don't* have an exclusive on novel #2.

EM: My thoughts are, if you don't get an agent beforehand with book 1, and if it doesn't matter which novel is read first, you could query book 2 separately. But you do not mention the other when you're querying one. Only one book per query. (If an agent specifically asks authors to include if it's part of a series, then yes, mention the series. I think I've seen 2 that do ask that, in the last 10 years...)

Laura May: This excessive politeness has also extended into Canada, I'm afraid.

Colin: I don't see Janet 'belittling' the work of a good agent. 'Belittling' would be saying, "We don't do anything useful". Belittling would be like an author saying, "My novel isn't worth your time". :)

Janet's just putting things into perspective - agents sell. They're good at selling, at the legal stuff involved in selling, and in herding cats. But if they have nothing to sell (and no cats to herd) then they can't sell, nor can they use their legal knowledge or their herding skills.

(And even if an agent says they want to represent you, your job is still to keep writing. The querying can be set aside, though.) :)

Colin Smith said...

BJ: To be fair, I did say "seems to belittle"--and then went on to state exactly why agents are valuable, pretty much along the lines you said.

Uh-oh. A second comment. I haven't done one of those in a while... :)

BJ Muntain said...

John Frain: A number of authors I know have been extolling the benefits of a treadmill desk. I've always said that, I'd probably fall and break my neck before I had a chance to type a word.

Didn't even think of the problems with sprains. I sprain my ankles a lot, because all my joints suck and ankles are so well-used. That's another good reason to stick to sitting, no matter how unhealthy it might be.

I know you're not talking about a treadmill desk, but as you mentioned, even standing is hard to do with a sprained ankle.

Anonymous said...

There are too many good comments to single them out for recognition, but y'all are on fire today.

I found this interesting:

"If you get an offer, email any agent reading your full. (You don't need to email those rejected at the query stage or didn't answer at the query stage.)"

I assumed I should contact any agent with the open query.

Terry Fallis was one of our keynote speakers at Surrey. He recounted how he self-published his book after failing to get an agent for it. Then he read about the Leacock Memorial Award and decided to submit his book. The entrants had to submit exactly ten books and tens books was exactly what he had left from his initial printing.

Long, and very interesting, story short, he won the Leacock against stiff competition.

He told us all to look at our name tags. Some had volunteer, coordinator, author, editor, etc. and some had nothing. He said in that blank space you get a Sharpie and fill in "writer". Hang it up on the wall above your desk or in your work area so you don't forget how important you are. You're a writer.

It was a remarkably uplifting speech as were all of them. I need to blog about Surrey. I've been sucked into real life and the blog posts I've written were crap, but the experience wasn't.

I tend to agree with Colin. While it's true writers are the only ones who can bring our stories to life, they are often so much more with the guidance of good agents and editors.

Patrick Rothfuss thanks his editor in his book. He says he might have held a book in his hand without the skilled help of Betsy Wollheim, but it wouldn't have been this book.

Someday I shall, with the sharque's permission, discuss our relationship over the past years. Being a good agent is so much more than just selling a book.

I fully intend to start querying my new work as soon as it's done and been through the wringer several times. Time waits for no writer.

Anonymous said...

I may have missed something. I'm not sure the original questioner finished and polished a book in four months. If you query for a year and an agent asks for a full at the end of that year, that would certainly give some people time enough to write another book and polish it.

John Frain said...

Julie W said (among other great and wise things):
"Someday I shall, with the sharque's permission, discuss our relationship over the past years. Being a good agent is so much more than just selling a book."

I second the motion.

Any objections?

Seeing none, let's put this to a vote.

Oh wait, I forgot, this blog is not a democracy! That's okay, I'm staying anyway.

John Frain said...

BJ: You're right about a treadmill desk. I had to look up how to spell "coordinated," which was about the point I decided it wasn't for me.

Oh, but you shoulda seen my move when I sprained my ankle. Sweeeet. Now, whenever my wife asks me to dance, I'll say "You know I'd love to, but ..." [points to ankle.] "I could barely limp to the bar."

Donnaeve said...

John Frain - oucheroo! A sprain hurts much much much worse than a break. I speak from experience with both. (says the lady who ran a marathon with two stress fx on the tibia, yet couldn't walk one mile with a sprain) :)

Treadmill desk. As I type this comment, I am currently standing at my kitchen counter. Which sounds odd. But we have this long counter that's higher than the regular counter, with bar stools and it has this lower end where I have my computer, and the part where I'm standing is what's called a...slide through? A pass through? IDK. A lower part of the counter meant to pass along plates, etc. to the small dining nook a few feet away. Except I've turned it into my "office." Even though I have an "office" upstairs. It's the perfect height, and when I feel I've been sitting too long, I scoot the stool back and I can stand a while. Sometimes I realize I've been standing about two hours. I'm not walking as I type, but at least I'm upright.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Wait a minute, wait a minute.
It’s a career not a sideline.
It’s a career not a hobby.
It’s a career not a pastime.
It’s a career not a game.
It’s a career.
Got it.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Thanks Janet, for such a concise post - and all the Reiders whose thoughts I'd echo, but no-one needs to spend good writing time reading my redundant comment.

I *do * want to thank Julie.M.Weathers for her observation though: "Time waits for no writer." This is going above my writing desk when I get home. It's brilliant!

John Frain said...

As long as we're listing Julie Weathers' Greatest Hits, I'll nominate this from Tuesday's edition:

"Hopeful Writer thinks this querying thing is going to be over faster than a knife fight in a phone booth."

Holy armadillo (stole that one too!), that's a great line.

And it's a good thing math isn't my strong suit, because otherwise I'd realize that was my fourth comment today. Sorry, makin' up for lost time.

Lucie Witt said...

The comments today are full of things I want to scribble on post its and hang all around my desk at work. Good reminders all around.

Megan V said...

Congrats on the full and the new novel Opie! Best of luck as you query.

Debra Renée Byrd said...

We can handle the truth! lol

Unknown said...

This is a perspective I haven't heard! My CP has an ms out to several agents, but she has another one ready (yes, it's well edited and it's been many months) and she's seen many agents asking for something like it, so she's excited. Here's my question: is it okay to query other agents with a different ms when you already have one ms out on sub (it seems like you're totally fine with this in your post), and also, since it is in the same genre as the first, how long should you wait before querying agents with Book 2 that rejected Book 1?

Eve Messenger said...

Definitely what Kara Rigenbach said and...

"Your first obligation is to your career." Wow, that really spoke to me.

As a recovering woodland creature, I appreciate the advice and community of this blog so much.

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

I've been meaning to ask this question for a few months now. Thanks to Opie for asking before me.

I've got a few novels complete and ready to pitch. It's tempting to throw them all out there at the same time. But patience has served me well so far. I'll wait to see what the next fifty agents have to say over the next few months before I start peppering their inboxes again.

The glacially slow page of the Query Train means I tend to generate another novel or two by the time I get to the end of the journey.

Bad news: what do I query next?
Good newS: I have inventory. Some agent's gonna love me.

EM Goldsmith: I feel ya for a series.

I've got a couple of series in my inventory. One is very much an interconnected trilogy, but in the other series, the novels can stand alone, and could be sold thusly.

The question to ask yourself: Can each my novel stand completely alone?

If so, treat them as separate novels. Pitch the first as "standalone novel with series potential." Don't pitch them together. You're not selling two novels. You're selling the first of a series. Let the first novel do the talking, Cyrano. Wait for the agent to ask for the second one before pitching it.

Are your novels truly standalone? If you pitched (and sold) the second novel before the first, would that mess anything up?

If all clear, pitch away.

Meanwhile, plan on writing the third when the second is done. At they very, very least, you're practicing your craft and can only be a better writer for it.