Friday, March 19, 2010

What do you do when someone wants to see more?

I know, on the surface this seems like a silly question to ask, but surprisingly, over the last month, I have seen many authors that fail to know the answer to this one.

The simple question... What should a writer do when an editor or agent asks to see more? Send it? Right?

Well, duh! Yes!!!

And yet, there are many authors out there that fail to do so.

Here's what happens. They attend a conference and get a pitch session with an agent or editor. After a painful 8 minutes the editor or agent asks to see a partial, or in many cases, a full manuscript. It goes something like this. "You know Catherine. I would be interested in seeing more of this story. Why don't you send me a full with a synopsis and I'll take a look. Here's my card."

And yes, the same applies to snail and email queries. You send something off and find out the editor or agent is begging for more. Now what?

Wooo Hooo!! You have a request. This is something every writer dreams about. But then, the writer doesn't submit.

Why? The excuses are endless including:

  • I didn't even have the manuscript done.
  • I want to go over it a couple more times to make sure it is alright.
  • I'm afraid they might want it.
  • I went home and did some research and thought my story should go some place else.

Get the idea?

Now, understanding this, I want to discuss each of these excuses and show what the writer should have done...

I didn't even have the manuscript done. Then frankly the writer had no business pitching the story in the first place. When a writer makes an appointment with an editor or agent, someone that has taken time out of their work in the office with clients of their own to listen to them, that writer needs to be prepared. There are no situations when it is OK to use this as a "practice pitch" because that time you just took up is time someone that is serious might have been able to use.

I want to go over it a couple more times to make sure it is alright. Again, it is your job to make sure the story is in great shape before you pitch. You are not to go home and run it by your critique partners one more time. You are not to go home and edit. The story is to be finished.

Now there is one exception to this rule. If, during the pitch session (or in your email correspondence) the editor or agent says he or she wants you to make some changes first, then feel free to do so. Set a deadline and tell that person how much time you plan on taking. Think contract revisions though. You are often not given unlimited time. Show that person you are a professional.

I'm afraid they might want it. Again, this is one of those cases you should have been more prepared going in. You have to be ready to make the jump and if you aren't, then please don't pitch to anyone. As an agent, it is really disappointing to hear an outstanding story idea and then to be let down when it doesn't show up. Sometimes this is the project we have been looking for and we have a home for it already. Don't let us down.

I went home and did some research and thought my story should go some place else. This one is your advance planning. You should have done your research before you pitched. When you send off that proposal or sit down with an agent or editor, you need to know this is the place you want to be. There are no excuses. Again, if you aren't sure, then don't pitch. If you are at a conference, listen to what that person has to say and then see if there is a spot available. If there isn't you can always send something later.

And finally...

There are no excuses of:

  • I don't have a printer.
  • I don't have postage.
  • My computer is down.

Nothing but excuses.



  1. Help! What do you do BEFORE someone wants to see more?

    I'm having difficulty with the transition from WIP to "manuscript." Specifically, WHEN DO YOU KNOW WHEN THE BLASTED THING IS DONE/FINISHED/COOKED/COMPLETED?

    Every read produces more things to tweak. Every scene rework requires more tweaking in subsequent chapters. And yet, I do not want to put it out there unless its the BEST I can do.


  2. Man oh man, Scott, I hear your understandable frustration and disgust over wasted time on your end, but still suspect that many of these one-ended submissions are intended to discover one thing only-does this story idea have any commerical possiblities? If one or more agents want it, the answer may be positive, and the thing is then likely completed and submitted down the line. If not, on to the next idea.
    I wish I had an answer that made both parties happy here. The choice between a few minutes of an agent's time, and a year wasted writing a story that will never see daylight, well, the choice seems clear to the desperate writer.
    It's certainly nothing personal, only the wish to survive on the part of the writer, in an increasingly impossible situation, as in, many have made major financial sacrifices to write, and can't waste a year for absolutely nothing.Better to test the water before drilling the dry hole, as it were.
    I still wonder why agents do not reserve some small amount of time to talk with writers about promising projects, but fear we are all locked into our positions. As always, I appreciate your honesty about your own experiences with authors, and appreciate your efforts to educate us about the reality of publishing.

  3. much appreciate the honest advice

  4. I'm afraid they might want it.

    Well, I do not understand that one at all. I am afraid it won't be wanted. It is strange how folk think.
    My work will never leave the house until I am sure it is the VERY best I can do. I would not dream of pitching without a prepared MS. This is one of the first things I read about when I started my venture.

    Interesting and informative post, thanks Scott.