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When to query: A matter of opinion?
Tawni Peterson
Posted: Thursday, September 1, 2011 5:03 AM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 69


Several authors and agents whose blogs I follow have different tidbits (okay--sometimes a lot more than a *tidbit*) of advice on the query process.   As with anything the proverbial baby must be filtered from the bath water so as to avoid missing that just-the right-piece-of-advice-at-the-right-time moment.  When it comes down to how to “do it right” some suggest that the best time to begin querying  is once you have a solid 50-100 pages done, revised, and perfectly polished. Others seem to suggest the query process is something that begins once the novel is “finished.” (Is it *ever* really finished?)  Is there a *hard and fast* rule here? Or is it simply a matter of preference?


stephmcgee
Posted: Thursday, September 1, 2011 1:14 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


I would never query until you've revised the entire manuscript several times over. When that is done depends on the speed of reviser you are.

The best benchmark for "done" that I've encountered is when you're going cross-eyed at the manuscript and you can't spot one more thing to fix on a big scale. When all you're changing is word choice, but you're not doing anything else to the manuscript, it's time to move to the next step.

No, a manuscript is never really done. But you can get it done to the point where you can't see anything else to change to make the manuscript better.

The only time your book is done is when it's on shelves. At that point, you can fix typos in future printings, but the substance of the book is set.

No agent wants to see your manuscript if you know in your heart of hearts what needs to be done to improve the manuscript.
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Thursday, September 1, 2011 2:38 PM
If you're writing fiction, and don't have a history of sales to point to you query only when you have the work finished and polished till it gleams. You're in competition with more then a thousand others, remember.

Nonfiction is different, and proposals are more common, since expensive research might be necessary, and a writer wants to know if there's a customer before they buy that plane ticket to Bulgaria to study the mating habits of the Bulgarian green-headed flea.
Tawni Peterson
Posted: Thursday, September 1, 2011 4:01 PM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 69


Bulgarian green-headed fleas??? I actually did laugh out loud at the thought.

It is good to hear that my inkling was right on. I can't imagine querying without a 'finished' product to hand over, but a few blogs have suggested otherwise so I thought I would test the BC waters. I figured this was the rule of thumb, and most of the threads here having to do with querying agree with both of you. SO, looks like I can trust my gut (and my fellow BCers). Thanks!!

@Steph, thanks for the thoughtful response. I have come to expect that from you, and your advice is often (if not always) helpful.

And Jay, if *you* are writing a book about Bulgarian green-headed flea, I would like to read it! Hah!


LilySea
Posted: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 3:58 PM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241


It IS a hard and fast rule with agents. For a fiction query, you must have a completed, polished manuscript.

After all, what would you do if the agent asked for the whole thing, on the basis of your query?

In nonfiction you pretty much never have a complete manuscript. Perhaps a few sample chapters and a solid proposal, which varies by topic and agent.
stephmcgee
Posted: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 4:15 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


*blushes profusely*

That totally just made my day, Tawni. Thank you for that.
Tawni Peterson
Posted: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 8:27 PM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 69


Good Steph! Hope the rest of your day follows suit!
 

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