Friday, January 22, 2010

Submission Delays - What do you do as a writer?

Dear Scott,
I'll make this question short and simple. What should a writer do if she is asked to submit a full manuscript to an agent or editor and it isn't quite ready yet? Do I respond to that person and tell them how long it will take or just submit it when it is ready?

Great question and there really are several issues here that we need to deal with - a couple with your quesiton and then an extension for the published authors out there.

If you are submitting anything to an editor or agent, you need to have it all ready. I know there are editors and agents that say it really doesn't matter how long it takes, but in my humble opinion, it really does. My question to that person would be, "why did you pitch something to me that wasn't ready?" As an agent, I would need to count on you to have a project finished when we need it. If an editor is asking for something, they need to know they can count on you. At some level, this shows a bit of unprofessionalism.

By the way, if they say it really doesn't matter how long it takes to get the manuscript to them, they probably are not that enthusiastic about the project. Sure it sounds like a great story, but the interest is not through the roof. Again, just my opinion.

Now, the second element is whether you should let them know or not. The answer is yes, let them know. Send them a quick note and tell them there will be a delay. Don't make up excuses but inform them. When you do this, though, give them a date when it will arrive. Don't just say "when it gets finished." That is simply too vague.

As for the published authors, obviously you have deadlines. Editors are waiting on projects because they need to get the manuscript to a ton of other people to assist with getting it to the shelves. If you see a deadline that you might not be able to meet, let the editor know as soon as possible (not the day before). The more advance notice you can give the editor, the better. They can then adjust their schedules and, if necessary, delay the release of your book a bit to accomodate you.

Now here is the side note to this one... If you haven't been good to them in the past, or if you are really new at this, you might be hurting yourself. Do everything you can to make those deadlines.

As for me, I am off to edit a project to get my deadline met. Have a great weekend everyone!


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