Monday, April 17, 2017

"I don't want to clutter their inboxes"

I've been querying a novel over the past eight months during which it went through one total rewrite and one large revision. I know, I know, as a first time writer, you think something’s ready only to learn the hard way. But now, it seems like the pieces are finally coming together and it’s gotten a lot of requests and upgrades lately — probably because of some of the early agents who were kind enough to give me real feedback along the way.
In the age of no response means no and form rejections on fulls, I'm grateful to those agents who took the time to help make this a better book and me a better writer. Some of them said to let them know if I revise this work to resend, which I think it’s finally time to do that, and some said something about sending future work.
I don’t want to clutter their inboxes, but should I bother asking them if they want to see the revised version? Or should I firmly conclude the concept was not for them and just keep them on the list in case this MS doesn’t result in an offer? Am I reading too much or not enough into the wording? It’s like being stretched on a ouija board!

Let's be very very clear about something: I need good stuff to sell or I'll be out of business. Thus, it's in MY best interest to see as much good stuff as I can. And we all know it's all about me me me, right?

We may differ on what we call good stuff, but I hope that you believe your stuff is good. Thus, you're eligible for chomping if you did not at least give me a heads up on the revisions.

I know agents yap endlessly about being overworked, and I spent a good portion of this weekend sending emails that started with "I'm sorry I've been so slow to respond" so too much email is a problem, yes.

BUT that is absolutely irrelevant to YOU.
You have a project that you KNOW is good.
I need projects to sell.
Nothing else should factor in to your decision about whether to reach out to agents me me me.

And just a reminder: believe us when we say nice things to you, ok?


Unknown said...

Mornin' all. I'm confused. Is the question, "Should I send a query?" Or is it, "Should I send an email asking if I should send a query?"

My two cents is to send a query that includes a sentence about what they told you earlier.

Theresa said...
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Carolynnwith2Ns said...

SEEEEEEND the damn thing.
Hey, they said nice things, they asked for a better version.
You made it better, seeeeend it !!!
Ask yourself, what have you got to lose by sending?
Nothin' hon, nothin'.
Do it.
Did I mention that you should query again?

Theresa said...

Janet's response surely eased OP's mind. Good luck querying the new, improved manuscript.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Send the revision query. Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission to send your work. But I totally understand how that rodent wheel fills dear OP with doubt.

I will definitely send my new book to agents who showed interest in my last book. However, I worry the ones that rejected or did not respond have my email blocked for all future work. Because sometimes I am that paranoid. Is that paranoid? Will those that politely just said no to my last book have me blocked for all time?

Ugh, Monday!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

If an agent said "revise and resend"... I would revise and resend. All the best to you, OP.

Colin Smith said...

Here's what I would do, Opie: if the agent said they'd look at a revised version, then send the revised version with a cover letter explaining what you've attached. Don't forget to copy-paste the original query at the end of your cover letter. (It goes without saying that "letter" here is an archaism--I'm talking email.)

If the agent didn't explicitly say to send a revised version, but did express positive thoughts about the work, and invited you to send more, if you think that agent would like the changes you've made, and they are significant enough, email the agent and tell them you have substantially revised the novel and ask if they would like to see it. Again, copy-paste the original query to the end of your email.

Bear in mind, my ideas often lead to me being banished to Carkoon, so take these thoughts under advisement. :D

All the best to you, and congratulations for every page request and positive comment you've received so far!

DLM said...
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Claire Bobrow said...

I think the Ouija board is telling you to revise and re-send. Go for it, OP, and good luck!

Julie Weathers said...


You're not going to lose anything if you send out some sample pages and a reminder that they gave you some valuable advice. As Colin said, I'd put the query below.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Write and query fearlessly. Hunting season for writers doesn't start for another three months or so.

"And just a reminder: believe us when we say nice things to you, ok?"

I've said this before, but perhaps it bears repeating. At Surrey, I was convinced the compliments I got on my writing were just an author and editor saying "this is gorgeous writing" because they're paid to say it. That night when we, the B&W gang, was gathered taking up half the bar, someone spoke up. "Nope, they weren't being nice. My blue pencil editor shredded me." Some others verified theirs were pretty brutal as well. They did remark on the good points, but the critiques were very honest.

I'm not saying this to pat myself on the back, I'm just saying that it's been my experience if an agent or editor goes out of their way to comment on something, you can trust they noticed it.

Now I need to get to work. I should kill another banker or have the MC go through the secret keeper desk. Decisions.

Unknown said...

OP, your question keeps coming back to me this morning, and I just realized why. I queried 10 months ago, got 40 rejections, no real feedback, and no requests. In the meantime, I started reading here and elsewhere and realized how unready I was to query in the first place. So, here's why you get a big round of applause from me *clap, clap, clap.* In essentially the same timeframe, while I went on to other things and lamented my manuscript, you rewrote/revised yours, twice! *Clap, clap, clap!* Perseverance is hard under disappointment and frustration, and you are an inspiration to me. *Clap, clap, clap!" Thank you!

Joseph S. said...

I was, am, and will be in the original poster’s position. My plan has been (and still is) to query the two agents who rejected the first attempt (one at the full stage, one at the query stage) because I still would love for them to represent my novels, and they did reply, though with what was probably their form rejection email.

There are others who replied but won’t get second chances for one reason or another.

The NORMANS are done. Quid pro quo and all that.

If the novel is not good enough this time, I don’t think I’d try the first two agents again. It just wouldn’t seem right.

John Davis Frain said...

Julie, kill the banker.

Oh, sorry, I thought you were taking a poll.

Also, never make a typo and accidentally kill the baker.

RosannaM said...

First off--cute kitty. I love the hat.

I would like to applaud the OP for being so diligent and improving his/her work. Yes, query them again with this ms. While it may have some of the kernels of the first work, it sounds like it is a different novel and should be evaluated on what it now is, not what it used to be. Your baby is no longer an ugly duckling, but a beautiful swan. Query the swan.

Lennon Faris said...

Hey, OP, the Shark believes in you. Give it a go. What are they going to do, hunt you down if they're displeased?

Has someone here ever mentioned the Query Police? I think so because it's in my brain... I also think it's not a Real Thing.

And OP, congrats on accomplishing so much!!

BJ Muntain said...

Hi OP. I think your biggest question was should you send the revised manuscript to those who said to send 'future work'.

I think it would depend on what they said, really. If they said why they didn't want this work and you think you've fixed what they mentioned, then definitely query them again with the same piece. If they didn't say why, then do query them again. Heck, as 2Ns says, query them all again with this work because what have you got to lose?

It's not business e-mails (which is what a query letter is) that clutter an agent's inbox. It's the non-business e-mails. It's the 'non-queries', like, "Is it okay to send my query?" "Is it okay to send my query again?" Just send it. The worst that will happen is you'll get another rejection.

BJ Muntain said...

For OP and EM and others:

Are you worried about being blocked by an agent for a faux pas? Here are the questions you should ask yourself:

In my query, have I

A) openly and nastily insulted the agents or her clients? And by openly and nastily, I mean ON PURPOSE. Like, "Your clients suck, so you must be looking for a real writer. Here I am"; or, "You're not a very good agent, are you? I can help you."

B) threatened the life of any real person? (Characters don't count. Threatening the lives of characters is par for the course. I mean real, living people that the agent could talk to. Not the ones living in your head.)

C) spoken like an asshat? Things like, "I'm the best writer in the world. You would be stupid to not offer me representation. I will grant you an audience at a date and time of my choosing to tell you how you are going to pitch my book and to tell the editor how they are going to publish it."

D) attached an document containing a virus?

Outside of the query, have I:

A) responded angrily to a rejection, with or without threats to the agent?

B) phoned the agent, asking if they received my query?

C) insulted the agent or her clients ON PURPOSE on Twitter?

D) sent e-mail after e-mail after e-mail about non-business things? This includes signing the agent up for your newsletter without them asking (this is illegal in some countries, like Canada, by the way). It also includes sending lots of chatty non-business letters that seem nice, but really do clutter the inbox.

If you have NOT done any of these things, chances are good you will NOT be blocked.

If you are professional in your dealings, if you only send business e-mails (like query letters), and if you don't act like a real asshat that no one would want to work with, you have NOTHING to worry about.

One caveat here: If you send an attachment of any kind (even a 'business card' as a signature) without them requesting it, there is a CHANCE your e-mail will not be opened or even seen. Mail filters can be set up to delete any e-mails with attachments. My experience is, often an agency's query e-mail address(es) will filter out e-mails with attachments. When the agent requests a partial or full, they'll then have you send it to another e-mail address that won't filter you out.

I hope this helps some of the hamster wheels from wearing out with overuse.

BJ Muntain said...

And a note on Julie's comment about 'nice things said to you':

I've always had good things said about my writing - by agents, by authors in blue pencil sessions, by other writers. It's easy to think that maybe they're just being nice. Once, an established fantasy author looked at the beginning of my novel. He said he really liked it, he really got into the characters, and he'd like to read it when it got published. I thought, "What a nice guy. I wonder if he's that nice to everyone?" Because you never know - while agents are usually professional about it, authors can sometimes be less willing to hurt a writer. A week or so later I happened across his blog where he talked about the writers whose work he read at Surrey. He was saying that most of those writers needed to learn the craft more. He felt kind of bad about having to be so mean to so many of them, but they had to know what was wrong before they could fix it. And I realized that, no, he wasn't just being nice to me. So, when my novel gets published someday, I may just send him a complimentary signed copy. Because after that, I felt really good about my writing.

Julie: As for killing the banker... why not? Although a secret keeper desk sounds intriguing.

Amy Johnson said...

I applaud OP, too! Oh, and that sharkly kitty--so cute!

I'm wondering if, when sending again, it would be best for OP to add to the original email chain. I can see reasons why doing so might be helpful, and reasons why maybe it wouldn't be best. Any thoughts?

Colin Smith said...

Amy: Janet can dangle me by my little toe over shark infested water if I'm wrong, but I believe copy-pasting the original query is sufficient. If the agent liked what she read, that will be enough of a memory prompt.

Karen McCoy said...

This brings a question. An agent requested 100 pages, which I sent...only to get a good critique from another agent about how the beginning wasn't working. Am thinking of sending her the updated 100 when it's done, if I haven't heard back yet...though am not sure if this causes ruffled feathers or not...

Colin Smith said...

Karen: I think Janet has said that it's okay to send a revised version of pages if you haven't heard back. Just be sure to include the query and tell the agent when you sent the original submission and that it has undergone significant change since then. If the agent responds to your original submission after you send the revision, you can respond saying you sent an update on such-and-such a date if she is interested. If the agent has already responded to your submission, unless she says she's not interested, I don't think it would hurt to offer the revised version.

Beat me down with a wet cabbage if I'm wrong, Janet... :)

Unknown said...

Having trouble focusing today (possibly "Easter head"). Which is a greater life accomplishment: 1) writing a novel, 2) reaching level 500 in Pet Rescue Saga, 3) napping?

Julie Weathers said...


Yes, I did decide to kill the banker. There's nothing like a banker falling out of the sky to liven up a scene.


Lorena's dead father has a desk similar to this in his office above the plantation store. They call it the secret keeper. I'm sure she'll find something interesting in it when she starts prowling around.

Back to the topic at hand, OP I applaud you for taking the advice and working to make your story better. You could have let the rejections discourage you as many do. I'm sure there were times you were discouraged. Good for you for keeping on.

Amy Johnson said...

Julie: Thanks for that link to the secret keeper. Cool! With one of those, I could be so sneaky. I like being sneaky (nice sneaky, not mean sneaky). It's fun! I could hide my clues for the kids' treasure hunts in there while I'm planning, and they'd never find them.

BJ Muntain said...

Julie: I love it! Thanks for the link.

Karen McCoy said...

Thank you, Colin! That sounds like a good plan.

*waits for wet cabbage*

Kae Ridwyn said...

What an encouraging post! Thank you, OP, for asking your question - and good luck!
And as always, thank you my Queen, for enlightening us and reminding us again of what's important here :)

AJ Blythe said...

When I was still green around the ears I believed agents were being 'nice' when they offered R&R. It wasn't until much, much later that I learnt I'd missed out on some fabulous opportunities. Never let one slip through your fingers, OP. Good luck!