Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How Many Projects Should You Have Before You Submit?

This is always an interesting question we as agents and editors hear. While there is no definite answer for this because it really all depends on the genre you write and the project you have, I do think there is a semi-consensus between the editors and agents out there on a part of the answer. If there are other editors or agents that read this, I would love to have you chime in on this one.

For the most part, when we are looking at new clients (this coming from an agent's perspective) we are looking for someone who will be in it for the long haul. We are looking for someone with some potential and staying power. In other words, we aren't looking for the one hit wonder. With that as an understanding, we are often looking to see if they have additional projects that might also be suitable for what we are looking for. But do they have to be finished?

Not necessarily.

If we can see that you have a sense of where you are going and a plan to achieve that goal that is realistic and works with the type of writing you do, then you can certainly have nothing more than some plans for future projects and maybe some works in progress.

But here is where having the additional projects can really work to your advantage. Since opening Greyhaus in 2003, I have had several editors love a particular submission I sent in to them, but there was something not quite right, so they passed on it. Here is the kicker though. In many of those cases, the editors asked if the writer had something else they might read. In one situation, I have a feeling if the author had an additional project, the editor might have been willing to take a chance on the author. Unfortunately, the author didn't have anything and the door may be closed now. It might not be, but things just got a bit tougher.

Having the additional projects also have an impact sometimes on contract negotiations. Because an author has additional projects there might be room for talking higher advances, different royalties and certainly multi-book contracts.

Please note, I am not talking a "series" here but simply multiple books to offer.

I guess the way to look at it is, having the additional books is certainly going to give you a bit of an advantage. It is also a way to really understand your own writing and the time it takes to get a project completed. You get a better sense of who you are as a professional writer.



  1. I love to hear this as I thought my plan to wait to try to land an agent until I had several manuscripts was sound. Thanks for the reinforcement.

  2. Great to hear since I have multiple projects in the works and one almost finished and ready to submit.

  3. Excellent post! Sub-question; is it ever a good thing to let an agent know there are more works in a query? For example, I've let agents know that a manuscript was a first in a (hopeful) multiple book project on my part and there is a follow-up WIP being edited as I query the first. Is that something to stay away from, or is it worth putting that small detail in? Thanks!

  4. Thanks for this post, I was just wondering about this very question.

  5. It could also be helpful if the first manuscript just isn't getting any requests, or if the agents won't sign the writer after reading it. If you've got other projects finished, you're ready to start the next batch of queries for manuscript #2.

  6. Great info. I'm finishing my WIP and getting ready for edits. I've also been dabbling on a new project and wondering if I should be spending the time on it.

    Thanks for the reinforcement!