Friday, March 31, 2006

What a difference an agent makes

Instead of submitting Bad Company to publishers in proposal form (three chapters and a series synopsis), my agent and I have decided to submit the whole shebang, the full manuscript. She says that unless an author is well-established or the work is non-fiction, editors prefer to see an entire draft rather than just a proposal.

Which is a happy surprise to me, because in the world of the unagented author (which I inhabited for a decade), it's a struggle to get an editor to look at a full manuscript. There are several steps:
  1. Submit a query letter.
  2. If requested, send sample chapters.
  3. If requested, send full manuscript.
Response time for steps 1 and 2 take anywhere from a few days to several months. Response times for step 3 range from a few weeks to a couple of years. No, really.

Moreover, step 3 is exclusive to one editor. The business frowns on simultaneous submissions of full manuscripts, because if an editor goes to all that trouble to read your novel, only to discover that someone else has grabbed it, they'll be pissed.

New York may seem like a big city, but the editorial community is small and talks a lot. Supposedly you can be blacklisted for simultaneously submitting a manuscript, although this may be a myth designed to scare people into subjugation, like Santa Claus or Hell*.

Note the default assumption here: reading a submitted novel is a waste of their time.

But my agent can send all 534 double-spaced pages to as many editors as she wants, simultaneously, and then give them a deadline by which to make an offer. If we get more than one offer, it goes to auction, the ultimate writer's ego boost.

I'm still blown away by the power of an agent to put a big honkin' six-pound manuscript on an editor's desk without even being asked. What gall, my humble writer's reflex thinks. Don't you know these are busy, important people?

The thing is, these are busy, important people who are all seeking a book like Bad Company. For once, I've written something marketable--and I mean that in a good way.

New default assumption: reading my novel is something editors actually want to do (at least for a little while).

Upshot: With comments from my agent and two other readers, I'll spend April doing a third draft of Bad Company to submit to the Big Six fantasy publishers in a few weeks. More thoughts on that revision tomorrow.

*And like children and sinners, writers are better off playing it safe.

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That sounds SO friggin' dreamy.

(and my wordverf: "Alfzp": the sound heard right before Alf leavs the men's room.)

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 3/31/2006 10:07 AM

That conjures up an image I just don't want to have. Does Alf wear pants, or was he always filmed from the waist up?

It is dreamy (the in, not Alf). It's one of those things where the opportunity is there, and now the work just has to be good enough (or more precisely, the editors "just" have to like it).

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 3/31/2006 2:38 PM

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