Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Today Rachelle Gardner did a great post on agent's editing for their clients. Some agents are willing to roll up their sleeves and polish your MS til it shines. BUT (we've all heard that BUT cancels out whatever you said before it) in this tough market, where anyone and everyone is trying to get their book published, agents shouldn't have to. Why? Because there's just so much freakin' talent out there. They have PLENTY to choose from. Yes, they have to sort through a lot of slush to find it, BUT when they do find a well written, ready to submit to publishers MS, they are going to thank the query Gods if they don't have to spend hours upon hours of hard work to get your MS ready.

I think many aspiring authors hear the tales of a new author that wrote a story, queried a few agents, got representation quickly, and became a best seller. Now, everyone thinks they can do it. Sad fact is, it RARELY happens like that. Many of us MUST go through draft after draft, beta readers, critique, line editing, suggestions on plot and character development, etc etc etc. And then when we think it's perfect and ready to go, we should probably go through all that stuff a few more times.

It's a tough market. Agents want GREAT. Not "Okay, but needs some work." Many of us are guilty of "querying too soon" even though we've read the agent blogs that say not to. We think they won't care that a few commas are missing, or that there are too many adverbs. Surely, they'll think the story is so amazing that they'll happily do all the editing work for me. Ummmmmmmmm, no. Probably not. BUT, way to think optimistically (aka foolishly).

Agents are busy people. And publishers are being very picky in this economy. Good won't cut it. Make it great. Then, once you think it's great, make it phenomenal.

What do you think? Are you hoping that an agent will see your story as a diamond in the rough, or are YOU polishing it until it sparkles and shines?


  1. Me, I'm still trying to finish the rough draft :) Then I plan on scrubbing it clean several times before considering submission!

  2. I'm sure I queried too soon the first time, but at that point I was so sick of the story I had to query or put the manuscript in a drawer and never speak of it again. Getting positive feedback from agents gave me the will to get back into the story and rewrite. I also got some really good editorial advice off my first round of queries- advice that I couldn't have received any other way.

    That said, before I resubmit I'm going to make sure the manuscript is as perfect as I (and all my wonderful beta readers) can make it. We live and learn.

  3. I've jumped the gun before, so now I'm polishing until it shines because I really really really the book I just finished and want it to succeed!!

  4. Amen, sister. Amen. Have I ever jumped the gun? Absolutely. And, I was always sorry for it after the fact. Still, you point about today's market being significantly different is spot on.

  5. "Once you think it is great make it phenomenal"
    Now, that's a phenomenal line. Great isn't good enough these days.
    I got some really solid feedback from a senior editor at a big publishing house and from an agent--these were at different conferences but on the same opening chapter and synopsis. At first, I was deflated to realize my manuscript wasn't ready and how much work was ahead of me, but later I realized their comments were precise and correct in what would make the story really leap from the page. So that's what I'm doing--heeding their great advice and hoping I pull it off.

  6. I think we all have a jump the gun story. It's part of the learning process too. We all want our baby to be published someday. It's so hard to slow down and make sure we have done everything right. Thanks for this reminder.

  7. Yup. I def jumped the gun on my first query round. Did I really think ANY agent would be interested in reading a 120k word YA story? lol. Nat said it best. Live and learn. :)

  8. I've definitely subbed before I was ready. Sigh. Even though I'd like to get someone with editorial feedback, I'm still going to make my stuff as good as possible first. I read her post too. It's a little intimidating to know how many of are talented, and how few slots there are. Another Big Sigh.


  9. I haven't jumped the gun. Nope. And I'm pretty darn picky. I do know, however, that I can't create something perfect. I do get annoyed when I read all over the place that my work has to be perfect. There is no such thing. I think something important (and often neglected) is writers researching the right agents to send their work to. I think, then, with a polished manuscript and good query, you stand a much better chance of avoiding a huge crapload of rejection.

  10. As a reader who constantly picks up on typos in published works, I think it's safe to say your book will never be perfect. The trick is to make it shine so bright the flaws aren't noticeable. ;)

    But don't be surprised if your potential agent sends back your shiny MS and tells you it was good, but you should cut this and add that. Raymond Feist said his publisher absolutely raved about his first novel - then asked him to cut like 75k words from it. "Polished" is evidently a subjective term. :)


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