Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dr. Frankenstein I presume?

I have shelved a project, then taken a couple bits and pieces I cut from it, and am writing a new book entirely. The book is still fantasy and similar to original project but with a different plot, different POV, different title. It's essentially a new project.

1. For the agents who kindly rejected me on the original project, is it ok to query them with new project when it is done? It is a new project, so that should be cool, right?

2. For the outstanding requests, do I need to formally withdraw the original project. With one of these agents, I would like to query the new project. Do I start over at step one and query her according to her guidelines as if this is first time querying her? Or do I mention the full request I withdrew. I met this agent at conference and full request came from partial request at conference. 

1. Yes
2. Yes.Yes. No.

Let's elaborate.

You're essentially asking when does an old project change enough that it's new.
I think different plot and different POV are the key.  A different title is good, but you can't just change the title on a book and call it "new."

You do need to withdraw the old manuscript if only for tidy record-keeping.  I only consider one project at a time for prospective clients. If I've got Kale by Mooonlight on my docket, I won't ask to see Carrots by Twilight.

Given the reading stack we all moan about at Agent Summer Camp, I think it's a fair assumption most agents operate that same way.  Thus: withdraw.

And yes, you ALWAYS start over. You query as though she's never heard of you.

It's incredibly annoying to get a half-assed query "hey you requested Foliage for Felix last year but passed, here's my new one."

It's much more efficient to query this new ms as a fresh start. You might mention you met at the conference. You don't need to mention the ms you withdrew.

Give yourself as clean a slate as possible.

I try very hard to read queries and fulls with the freshest eye possible, but it's really hard when a writer says "hey you passed on something else last year, now I have something new."

Now, this is one of those things that other less brilliant agents may differ on.  Keep an eye on the agent's tweet stream to see if s/he's one of those "I want your query history with me" type people.


Kae Ridwyn said...

As always, an insightful post, dear QOTKU. Thank you!
And may I just add, I love love LOVE your crossed out phrases! *grins then runs away*

Lisa Bodenheim said...

And here I thought the Shark's column title was making reference to a more recent QueryShark submission.

Thank you for this helpful information. But, some agents want a query history? Would I want to admit it, if I've submitted a couple projects that they've passed on? Oh wait. That's negative thinking as I'm writing my debut NYTBSS (NYT best-selling story, pronounced nitbis?)

Ha. Time for some more caffeine and wrestling with that wild WiP.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Thank you for answering my question so thoroughly. The new book is definitely entirely new now- different plot, characters, POV, title - so fresh slate it is. The old book is in a virtual desk drawer to be dusted off at a later date or to rot with the rest of my apocraphyal work. Thank you so much my Queen. This eases my mind a good bit.

Kitty said...

Kale By Moonlight, Carrots By Twilight....OMG! Laughing is always the best way to jump-start the day.

Julie Weathers said...

I'm wondering if the exception to not mentioning the agent passed is when they passed on Angels in my Rear View Mirror but asked to see future works.

Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Smith said...

I was just thinking the same thing as Julie--i.e., where the agent loved the writing and specifically asked to see future projects. In that case, mentioning a previous work might help the agent remember you as that wonderful writer whose previous novel wasn't quite right for them.

Elise! Great question. Thanks for asking. :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Carrots by Twilight seems like it would be the sweeping romantic epic which comes a couple of generations after Watership Down, when only peace has been known at the warren, but upheaval is coming.

Do some agents ask for your mutual query history? I can only imagine it's to try and weed out some bad eggs (there's a mixed metaphor for you)? Maybe? And what if you don't have a query history with them, you shoehorn "this is my first time querying you" in at the end somewhere? "This is our first correspondence"?

Julie Weathers said...


I haven't heard of agents asking if you've queried them before. Most are pretty organized. If they're really interested, it's pretty easy to search email history I would think.

I nudged one agent who has an always replies to queries policies, but I hadn't heard from her. She said she had responded with an unfortunate pass and gave me the date, but sometimes glitches happen and I may not have received it. I hadn't. She was very nice about it.

I have run across a few who want to know if you are querying other agents and how many you've queried, which seems intrusive. Yes, by golly I am. As far as how many? Not enough, apparently. I can't even remember who they were now, there was more than one. I queried one if I remembered correctly and said yes I was querying other agents. I didn't mention a number.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Julie does ask a good question. I did receive a couple of passes on my last book that included some variation of “think of me for future works”. I grimly decided this was more or less a polite form rejection. However, I will watch their tweets and guidelines in case they are not as awesome as our queen, and want to be reminded that they have previously jilted me. I rather like the idea of a fresh start, but I would be curious in the circumstances Julie describes, if it is more in your favor to mention the previous correspondence and work. Or would this simply encourage the agent to smite the poor writer again? I hate when I am smite upon by the same entity more than once.

Julie Weathers said...


I've spoken to agents about this and they assured me if they ask you to remember them in the future they are serious. They liked the writing, but something didn't work in click for them. They won't invite you to submit if they aren't serious.

Colin Smith said...

Dear Agent P:

Jenny was growing tired of kale, but that was all Joe, her betrothed, would eat. Jack loved carrots, and Jenny too. Jenny thought Jack was an ass, and so did her family, but something about the bad boy carrot-muncher captivated her. When Joe found Jenny making hay with Jack, Joe threatened to make a mule of him, forcing the couple to flee for their lives. Can this love-on-the-run survive, or will Jack's roaming eye find pastures new, leaving Jenny an outcast forever?

CARROTS BY TWILIGHT is a 70,000 word Romance novel, based on the ancient play, Dauci per Lunae Lumen by Asinus Africanus.


Theresa said...

Sounds like there's a new subfield in my profession: query history.

Great advice for those Frankenstein manuscripts.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Thank you, Julie . That is good to know. Hopefully, I can write a book that gets past the “not quite right” mark or the “if you would make this young adult with a romance then…” kind of advice. It’s hard to be starting over again when I felt like I was so close and invested so many years in the last book. Ah well, live and learn or so the saying goes.

Colin Thanks for the giggle. Maybe you can write my query letter. I haven't written the book yet so feel free to use any query you fancy. I will add enough words to the book to make it work.

Karen McCoy said...

Wonderful info. I may have to sell a novel for parts in this same way. Frankenstein indeed!

And E.M., I can't wait for the book that has your name on it. I would read anything you've written!

Anonymous said...

Kale by Moonlight sounds like some YA paranormal love story featuring hot vampires who, instead of drinking blood, only dine on vegetables. And the werewolves only do fruit.

When 17-year-old Stella Duck's family moves to Nowheresville, Kansas to become farmers, the last thing she expected to find was love. But when she meets a mysterious, brooding boy obsessed with vegetables, she begins to realize that nothing in the sleepy little town is what it seems. But just when the two new lovers share their first kiss and a kale salad, a werewolf shows up on her doorstep with declarations of love and warnings of dangerous stirrings from the brussel sprout* vampires of somewhere-or-other, and new alliances of the durian** werewolves of yore. With ancient enemies closing in, Stella must decide which boy to give her heart--and produce--before it's too late.

KALE BY MOONLIGHT is a 100k YA paranormal. It's just like TWILIGHT, but better.

Thank you for your time and consideration (just kidding. You don't need to consider, just sign me already!)

*Evil, I tell you. Pure evil.
**Have you ever tasted durian? It's even eviler than brussel sprouts.

Colin Smith said...

Bravo, xinraina!! Sounds like a fruity tale sure to make lots of green.


Jenny C said...

At Querying Writers Summer Camp, we compared notes and I learned that some agents have more than one form rejection letter! One is a straight not for me, thanks, and the second is an invitation to query future work. Personally, I would have mentioned that invitation if I ever queried those agents again. I honestly believe they mean it.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

So may we assume that at agent's summer camp you are in charge of the swim test?
I'm thinking that fishing is not your thing. Makes camp-chum have a whole new meaning.

Jenz said...

Belated congrats to Jennifer R. Donohue! I loved your story. :)

I'd consider writing a short story about kale, but I really try to avoid politically charged topics.

Craig said...

Elise, I am very sorry. I know you heart is in this particular story but it might not be enough to resurrect a dead genre.

I mean dead as far as publishers think. Many readers want the stuff agents are passing over as far as fantasy goes. If you check Wattpad you will see it.

Since we are on that subject, have you ever considered it? They have started their own publishing company and are soliciting those with a large amount of downloads to deal with.

I am still a little depressed from Julie's story yesterday. It hurts me more than many of you know. So I have to toss something else in. I hope it doesn't piss too many of you off.

It was all I could do to keep from crying.

It seems werewolves and vampires are really dead.

Sometimes it seems to useless to go on

And you never even called me the Chosen One.

Brigid said...

Julie, I just now read your story. I lost one this spring. It's hard. May Mirinda's memory be eternal.

Brigid said...

Oh! If youns haven't read Jenz's recently-published story, drop everything. It's a delight.

BJ Muntain said...


"Essentially a new project" = a completely new book.

Really. I've seen authors do this with *published* books - taking a different character for a POV, changing the plot. So yes: new book, new start.

But you say "am writing a new book". You're not finished yet. Finish the damn thing before you worry about querying it.

Though I think the biggest worry for you is: "I don't want to do this previous book anymore, but an agent has the full. What do I do?" If you no longer wish to shop that book around, and if you don't want that book to be the first published, then of course withdraw it, as our wise QOTKU said. And it's probably best to do so before the agent starts reading it.

Donnaeve said...

Maybe I have cauliflower brain, but I swear Elise's questions sounded very familiar. Did we have another OP at some point who asked almost the same things?

Not that it matters. I simply thought QOTKU was slipping a repeat in on us - being it's summer and all. Gotta catch a break sometime, somehow.

Craig, I've typed about five different responses here and erased all of them b/c what you went through requires a respectful privacy. I'll simply say, I'm very sorry you've had to go through it.

DLM said...

The image of those lacy, strong deep, piney blue-green leaves in moonlight really is relaxing. Lovely!

Colin, carrot-muncher sounds so dirty somehow.

Jennifer and Jenz, I've opened the links and am excited to read y'all's work. BTW, has everyone read Paul Lamb's Travel Light? I enjoyed this work so much.

Colin Smith said...

Diane: Ooo-err! Can't say that crossed my mind, but that's the beauty of art. ;)

Here's Diane's link:

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Jenz: Thank you so much! Your story stuck with me for the rest of the day. It was unexpected, and also totally reasonable. ^^

In my opinion/experience, there's absolutely nothing to be gained from an agent or editor or whoever saying "remember me for next time" if they don't mean it. If they don't mean it, then they pretty much don't want to see your work next time anyway, right? And if they do mean it, it means something about the query/story/novel didn't click this time but there was something about what you did present that suggested a future project would be a better fit.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Karen Thank you. That is so kind

Donna I think this subject has been broached before. I was worried about what to do about my last book which I did love. However, it seems the market did not quite love it. Were you not the one who said you got your agent with your second book, but it was your first book that was sold?

As Craig pointed out, it is such a saturated market that in order to go the traditional route, the work really has to stand out. One agent was ready to take it on but only if I changed it in a way that would have been uncomfortable for me to write so I decided to put it away, at least for a time. I am actually happy to be writing something different now.

When I asked the question, I was thinking of doing something hybrid but since then I have drifted off into an entirely new direction. It is still in the world of my creation, but I had always intended to write many books in this world. If mortality were not a factor, I could easily write a few hundred books with this world as a back drop.

I love that I will be able to queue up all the agents again. I still have the market forces working against me as I am still writing fantasy, but those trends turn all the time. By the time I have this sucker ready to query, who knows?

BJ You are correct. I am now so very far away from querying, but I did need to make sure I properly put the last book to rest. I was still grappling with abandoning the earlier book when I asked the question, but now I am quite at peace with writing a new book. It’s actually fun. I should have done it sooner if I had been more honest with myself.

Julie I am so grateful for your input every day. And your tales are so rich and wonderful. I am glad you are around to share with us all.

And that goes for the entire Reef. No matter what blows life deals you, it passes. The one thing about mortality – everything, pain, joy, grief, it is all temporary. I have met those demons of despair, and the one thing I know now is that they are all liars. But it’s hard to recognize that when they hold you in their sway. Just remember, if you’re going through Hell, keep on going. You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there.

Donnaeve said...

Elise, it didn't happen that way with my agent, but I've yapped so many times out here, with only snippets of info, it's a wonder anyone has any idea who I am, or what I do.

I got my agent with the first book. It just took a while to sell. In the meantime I wrote Book 2 (didn't go on sub with it - my decision) and then Book 3, which was my loaded up F bomb book. That went on sub, and the editor passed - but liked it enough to look at something else. The something else was the FIRST book - and that's when it sold.

I read Paul Lamble's story a few years ago. (TRAVEL LIGHT) Paul and I go back to the days of Averil Dean's blog (she wrote ALICE CLOSE YOUR EYES and THE UNDOING). (She doesn't currently maintain a blog, in case you go looking - but her writing is AWESOME) Yesterday, QOTKU said this, "Making friends is a long process. The earlier you start the better."

YES. I've been blogging for five years. I've made lots of connections and friends - like Paul. It's a lot like working at Nortel, where I felt so connected to my co-workers - although I never met any of them f2f. I love the people I've come to know while writing. I don't toss about the word "love" lightly either.


Colin Smith said...

Donna: What you say about making connections... I remember a post a while back where Janet was forced to admit that living in NY is a huge advantage for an unpublished writer seeking publication. It's not a show-stopper if you don't, but it's a lot easier to make connections if you do. And it's that making connections that makes the difference. It's true you don't need to live in NY to be published, and we all know plenty of writers from all over the world who are successful authors. Likewise, it's true you don't have to know people. However, you'd have to be deluded to think where you live and who you know are not at all important.

I can't think of people as mere "connections", however. Not that I won't--I can't. And I'm sure you feel the same. But knowing people in the industry, whether it's you or Janet, or anyone else, gives me a sense of... belonging, I suppose. I may not be published, and I may not have an agent, but I know some published writers, and I know a couple of agents, and they accept and encourage me. I don't feel so much like the guy at the party with the wide tie and the lime green flared trousers that everyone gives a wide berth. :) And who knows, maybe one day telling someone, "Oh, Donna Everhart--she's a friend of mine!" might help... :)

Julie Weathers said...

Brigid, I am so very sorry. If you need someone to talk to, I'm here. You never get over it, but it does get better.

Craig, I'm sorry to have brought you down and I'm sorry this hit close to home. I'll extend the same offer. If you ever need to talk. I'm a good listener.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Donna Sorry, I do think you had told the story before. Just got it mixed up I guess. I knew there was more than one book in the mix. My memory for real things is sluggish at best. Still, my point is valid. It was not an overnight thing. And after a long road of building bridges and a lot of writing, here you are about to be a NYTBS. I feel it. I just do. You, ma’am, are an inspiration.

Colin Well said. I never fit in anywhere. I am weird even among the bizarre. Hanging around other writers and those that aren’t freaked out by us is my only respite from being overly isolated. So yeah, it helps to know people when you embark on an expedition to the query trenches, but even now, as I leave the trenches behind for a good while, it’s nice just to talk to other writers and folks that help us just because common ground and all.

I am chatty today. I am going to stop now. Is it time to leave the real world yet?

RKeelan said...

Jenz, I just read your story from one of the links here and I really liked it. Good work!

Julie Weathers said...

Jenz, that story was great. Good job.

Timothy Lowe said...

Fun story, Jenz. Thanks for sharing. My favorite part was with the hand of the clock sticking. Great image.

Beth H. said...

xinraina, I tried durian recently, and was disappointed. I'd been hearing for years that it smells either like a rotting corpse or a dirty diaper, depending on who you ask. Apparently, the specimen I tried was mild. Even the person cutting it up was disappointed. It smelled--and tasted--like fruit.

I'll have to try again sometime. I think.

Julie Weathers said...

Unbelievably, I've been at conferences and heard people start up conversations with agents with, "Hi, my name is Author Joe. You rejected my manuscript, but I still like you." It's so cringe worthy I can't even imagine what the agent is thinking. How are they supposed to respond. "Oh, thanks."

Does anyone think this is really a good way to introduce themselves? I asked one person and she responded, "Well, the agent would remember my name anyway, so why not mention that I wasn't upset?"

I said, "Trust me, they won't remember your name on a query unless you did something really noteworthy."

Start with a clean slate as Janet says. No need to mention you've queried them four times before. If they liked your writing they may remember that when they see it again, which is a good thing.

In case anyone is going to the Writers Digest Conference, I think Janet is, on the Twitter #MSWL hashtag Jessica Sinsheimer is answering questions about conference etiquette and pitch slams. Others are answering questions also, I believe.

Lennon Faris said...

Thanks for the great post, Janet.

Jenz & Jennifer Donohue - from yesterday, great stories. The talent in this group always impresses (and entertains) me. (And we'll see if I can learn Colin's bolding trick here).

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

ONLY ONCE did I ever mention previous query history to an agent in a query, and that was in housekeeping.

"When I queried you before, you said nice things about my ms and invited me to query again. I hope this story catches your attention."

And the neat thing? She remembered my previous queries.

Janet Reid said...

Having a writer say "you rejected me" is just about the most embarrassing thing in the world. What the hell do you say to that? "I must have been out of my mind?" ..more likely I'm thinking "and thank god, since you're a social cretin with no sense at all."

There's ONE thing to say to an agent when you meet them and it's this:

"Hello, how are you?"

To be followed by "may I refresh your drink?" and/or "I hope you're having a great conference. I sure learned a lot at your talk on kerning fonts for queries."

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Not quite in the same league as "you rejected me", but I once encountered a local State Police Officer who kept saying to me "you look familiar".
And because a lot of people say that to me I said "I work at the library", which nine times out of ten is the answer.
He lit up and said "Oh yeah, you yelled at me for having a backpack!" (we used to have a no backpacks rule, under the prior director/board). It doesn't matter that my voice wasn't raised, of course; if people are corrected, it counts as yelling.
So I answered "I guess you should've read the sign."