Should You Write the Whole Book?

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Classic wisdom for unpublished authors seeking traditional publication has been that if you’re writing a novel (fiction), you need a complete manuscript. If you’re writing non-fiction, you need a book proposal plus two or three sample chapters. If you’re writing a memoir, who knows — everybody has a different opinion.

Here’s what is true and will always be true: unpublished fiction authors MUST have a complete novel before trying to get an agent or publisher. No question, no exceptions.

the-end-150x150But things are changing in publishing, especially when it comes to non-fiction. In some ways, the standards are higher. It’s more of a risk for a publisher to say “yes” to an unproven author. And in light of this reality, I’m going to make a bold and probably controversial suggestion.

No matter what you’re writing, even if you’re already published, even if it’s non-fiction or memoir:

Consider writing the whole book before you search for a publisher.

Why would I say such a thing? A few reasons:

1. It lowers the risk for the publisher.

Recently I’ve been submitting proposals to publishers with the entire manuscript attached rather than just a few sample chapters. Without exception, editors are telling me how much they appreciate me sending them the entire book. It takes away so much of their risk and guess-work. Even though they’re planning to edit the book, they know exactly what they’re getting. They know for sure that the author can deliver a manuscript that satisfies from beginning to end.

2. It makes the publisher more confident.

There have been instances when I sent the entire manuscript to an editor, and soon I was told that the editors, the sales people, and the marketing people had all read the manuscript cover-to-cover. When that many people at a publishing house have that “can’t put it down” feeling, it leaves no doubt in their minds about whether they can sell this book. They experienced the book themselves, and they’ve already begun to develop a vision for how they can sell it. Their confidence in the value of the book is high.

3. Consequently, you have a much better chance of selling it.

When several members of the publishing committee all have a strong gut-level “buy in” on your book, they naturally want to try and acquire it. They’re much more likely to put an offer on the table because of the certainty about the product they’re acquiring. This is completely different from the more common scenario — a strong proposal and some killer sample chapters that still leave them waffling a bit as they wonder… will the rest of the book deliver what this proposal says it will? Is this going to be a satisfying reading experience, making people want to recommend the book to their friends?

4. Finishing a book is harder than you think.

One of the things I’ve been learning over the last few years is how very difficult it is to write an entire book when you’re contractually obligated to a deadline, and you’ve never written a complete 60,000-to-100,000 word piece before. You have no idea what it’s going to take until you do it. You may be uber-confident you can deliver the entire thing and have it be awesome, but publishers know this isn’t always the case. The best way to set yourself up for success is to prove to both yourself and your potential publisher that you can do it — by having it already done.

A few notes:

  • Even with a complete manuscript, you still need a book proposal. It’s a sales tool and business plan.
  • For unpublished novelists, I’m not saying anything different than the standard wisdom that has always been true: don’t try to get an agent or publisher until your novel is complete, edited, revised and polished.
  • I always prefer memoir-writers have a complete manuscript rather than just a sample. Memoirs are tricky and difficult to craft from beginning to end, in some ways harder than a novel. Memoirs usually require not only a complete manuscript, but one that has been worked and reworked multiple times before it’s right.
  • This advice isn’t meant to supersede whatever advice your own agent is giving you. Trust your agent.
  • You may find that you can get an agent with your non-fiction proposal and sample chapters, but your agent may suggest you write more of the book before submitting to publishers. Be open to discussing this.
  • Publishers still buy non-fiction based on a stellar proposal and sample chapters. Just remember, the more you can provide them to raise their level of confidence and emotional buy-in, the stronger your chances.
  • If you go to the effort of writing the whole thing and still can’t sell it to a traditional publisher, you’re perfectly positioned to self-publish. So there’s really no downside.

What do you think? Have you heard this advice before? Are you willing to write a whole book before trying to sell it? Is it worth it?

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60 Comments

  • Even though I write nonfiction, I have always written the whole book, except for one case (more on that later), before trying to get it placed with a publisher. Years ago I was surprised that Prima Publishing (later acquired by Random House) was willing to make me an offer on a book called “Don’t Hurry, Be Happy” even though I had sent them only about 20 percent of the completed manuscript. When the acquisitions editor called me, I said, “You do want to see the rest of the manuscript, don’t you? I have the whole thing completed.” She replied that she just wanted to talk numbers. We ended up agreeing on a $13,200 advance and I received half of the advance before having to send the rest of the manuscript.

    This is the only time I have tried to interest a publisher before having written the complete book: Several years ago, I started writing a book called “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Success.” Two or three months later, I did the title proud by quitting when the book was half completed. I gave up on the book entirely, thinking that no publisher would be interested. When a Spanish publisher requested the complete manuscript of another book, on a whim I decided to send half of the completed manuscript of “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Success” to her as well, even though she hadn’t asked for it.

    My devious, “reasonable” mind told me it was a waste of time and money to send the half manuscript, but my creative, “unreasonable” mind told me to send it anyway. Surprisingly — to my reasonable mind, anyway — two or three months later this publisher made me an offer to publish the book in Spanish ( I found out later that she thought that the half-manuscript was the complete book). After I finished the book, I sold American and other foreign rights to a total of thirteen different publishers. “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Success” has now sold over 110,000 copies worldwide and made me almost $97,000 in pretax income.

    Even though I had success with that one half-completed book, I will still write the complete book before trying to get a publisher interested in it.

    In short, I agree with your great advice: “The best way to set yourself up for success is to prove to both yourself and your potential publisher that you can do it — by having it already done.”

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 200,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • Rachelle Gardner Rachelle Gardner says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Ernie. It’s very funny how the “Lazy Man’s” book is the one you didn’t finish.

      • Katina Ivany says:

        I;m so glad you shared your thoughts, Rachel.
        I’m busy sending out queries for a completed non-fiction manuscript, but I’m finding the
        submission guidelines confusing. Some agents
        want a query letter only, while others mention a short and longer query in the same breath. You mentioned that you always need a book proposal,
        which I have, but these mixed message have me puzzled about what to submit.

  • “Finishing . . . is harder than you think.” That wisdom applies to more than my book in progress, Rachelle. I get bored with projects when they’re 90% done and jump to the next new thing. Deadlines make me finish. Thank you for this call for a self-imposed deadline. Back to the keyboard!

    • Rachelle Gardner Rachelle Gardner says:

      Yes, I think many of us are great at beginning a new project when it’s fresh and exciting… not quite as great when we’ve been working on it for months!

  • I’d never try to shop an uncompleted manuscript, because I’m too eager to see how the story comes out, and I want to finish the thing.

    There’s a practical reason, too, and it applies to both fiction and nonfiction (I have two complete nonfiction manuscripts ready for me to figure out how to present them).

    Sometimes a book can take a different turn, along the way to “The End’, and I’d hate to be contractually locked into a preplanned synopsis. It limits me, and can cheat a publisher of the very best the book could have been.

    You’re right about memoirs – many of them do seem to trail off into insignificance, and leave one disappointed, because life usually doesn’t come with a dramatic climax and meaningful denouement. A good ghost certainly helps; as an example, Kevin Maurer did a fine job ghosting “No Easy Day”, the inside story of the bin Laden kill, by ‘Mark Owen’.

    (The ‘controversy’ surrounding that book, implying that classified information was revealed, is nonsense. There’s nothing there that can’t be gleaned from open-source material today, or that can’t be extrapolated by someone associated with that community a couple of decades ago. There’s nothing classified there; read it with a clear conscience.)

    • Rachelle Gardner Rachelle Gardner says:

      Andrew, you right that “sometimes a book can take a different turn.” This is especially true with memoirs. Often a writer doesn’t know exactly what they want to write until they write it. We work out our thoughts through the very writing of them. Thanks for stopping by!

  • effie speyer says:

    I AM NEW A THIS AND HAVE A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT THE INDUSTRY, BUT I NEVER CONSIDERED SUBMITTING BEFORE I WAS FINISHED. THAT WOULD SEEM LIKE PUTTING THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE, SO TO SPEAK. ASIDE FROM THAT I HAVE EDITE AND MADECHANGES AT LEAST TWENTY TIMES. I’M NOT JUDGING BUT I WOULD FEEL LAY IF I SUBMITTED BEFORE IT WAS FINISHED. EVEN WITH THT THOUGH,FINDING AN AGENT TO TAKE OUR PROJECT SEEMS NEAR IMPOSSIBLE. ONE OF MY OBSTACLES IS MY WORD COUNT WHICH IS WAS OVER THE STANDARD DEBUT NOVEL. SELF PUBLISHING MAY BE MY ONLY OPTION.

  • Cheri Wine says:

    I am on track to finish “The Halloween Pickle” in a few days. You are so right it is hard to finish the last chapters but this helped me and gave me motivation to bite the bullet and write on. Thank you for the words of wisdom.

  • Rachelle, I finished my non-fiction before even thinking about submitting it. I was so new to everything … and back then, I barely had time for research with little ones clinging to me. And I just finished a fiction. This work, my girls were involved … so not finishing wasn’t an option. I’ll edit and edit before I try to submit. I want it the best possible.

    One thing I would wonder … if I submitted a whole manuscript instead of sample chapters … would I be told, “You can’t follow submission directions”? Ha! That just immediately came to mind. “If you can’t follow directions, etc ….”

  • For me it would be best to finish, edit,revise, polish, rinse, and repeat a few times before approaching an agent. I have one chance to make a good first impression.

  • This was my exact experience. We had a full manuscript and built on it for the new version. And yes, it is hard work to finish a book! Amen and amen!

    Thanks, great informative post Rachelle!

  • Paul Perkins says:

    If you’re writing a book simply to get published, you may want to reconsider how you spend your time. If you’re writing because of a passion deep within, write the book! And if you finish it, then by all means try to get it published.

    Publishing cannot be the goal. Writing cannot be the means to an end. Writing is the end! Publishing is simply a bonus.

    Paul

    • Paul
      Thanks for encouraging the focus on the passion if writing and FINISHING my first book! I’m finishing a memoir of my journey with my 15 year old daughter’s brave brain cancer adventure. I have to write it even if it never gets published.

      • Lyn Kienholz says:

        Roxane,
        I am writing a similar book, a memoir of my side of the journey through my husband’s cancer, death and what comes next. I am starting to write because this story is living inside me, I have to get it out so I can continue to heal and move forward; I am also writing to share the story and experiences for my children as they get older and are mature enough to handle the whole story and if it gets published that would be amazing, but that isn’t the why behind my writing.

  • Jack Vincent says:

    Thanks Rachel.

    As a sales advisor (and author) your first point on minimizing risk is so important. Trust is the biggest concept in any first-time purchase. Whenever anyone buys anything for the first time from someone, they perceive risk. Trust is the only way to mitigate risk, and this Job One of the seller, in this case author.

    Thanks again for a great post!

  • Tony Faggioli says:

    What it you reach the end of your novel and realize that you have a trilogy on your hands? Is it still okay to go to an agent with only the first book done? Or should you finish the entire trilogy? I’m just curious because I’m querying the first book but only halfway through the second.

  • Jill says:

    I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of querying an unfinished memoir. You’re correct. It’s a difficult genre, and I wouldn’t be sure I could pull it off to the end until I had actually done it.

  • I’ve always heard for fiction to finish the book before submitting. That makes perfect sense to me. Because of who I am (a planner, organizer, recovering perfectionist), I’d definitely finish whatever book I began before submitting—fiction, non-fiction, memoir. To submit before finishing would put an extraordinary amount of pressure on me to make it perfect. And on a deadline that would be stressful.

    It’s reassuring to hear how publishers have responded when you submitted a complete manuscript to them. Your reasons make sense as well.

  • Pamela peters says:

    I agree with your article and what backs it up even more so is your advice that When they have the whole picture it is more beneficial to everyone. :) Pamela

  • Linda says:

    I have be given the same advice. I have just written a cozy mystery. We’re in the editing process now, but I feel as though I’ve taken a huge step just completing the book. I’m working hard to make it the best mystery I can, but if all else fails, I’ll print out a few copies for family and friends.

  • You don’t have to convince me. I’ve seen enough in my own writing life to be sure I have a written and polished manuscript before I submit it anywhere. You know that old adage, “The best laid plans…” I’m working on a manuscript right now I thought I would have completed last year. Enough said. :)

    Thanks for the great advice.

  • I don’t see how any novelist would even consider querying agents with an incomplete manuscript. I am in the query process now with my second novel, and I don’t know how I would write either a query letter or a synopsis without knowing the ending of the story.

  • Denise Willson says:

    Funny, it never even occurred to me to submit my work before it’s bright, shiny, and oh-so-complete. Not only do I want an agent or publisher to see exactly what they are buying into, but I couldn’t bear to have my stories wandering free half naked. I NEED them to be finished.

    Great post, Rachelle!

    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth, and (coming soon) GOT

  • Linda Clare says:

    I teach novel writing and have usually advised the standard “finish your 1st novel” and “you can submit proposal + 3 chap for nonfiction.” But I agree with your premise. With the explosion of self-published authors, I see a lot of really good ideas and stories that are unfortunately, undercooked.If you finish you are much more likely to know what it is you want to say and what it is you HAVE to say. So many writers rush out with their creations and try to push their way into the realm of the published. Slow down, I say, finish your book. Edit it ruthlessly, maybe even hire an editor to help you. Only then should you wade out into the agent/publisher sea. Just my two cents. ~Linda S. Clare, Author of A Sky without Stars

  • The hardest part is deciding when the WIP is done. Every time I go through even published works, I can find things to change! I know part of the problem is I enjoy editing, but at some point I need to be told to walk away from the computer!

  • Steve Novak says:

    With my first book, a non-fiction business book, I had no clue what I was doing. I submitted a proposal to a publisher with what I thought was a nearly complete manuscript, and was amazed when the publisher called me two weeks later. It turned out that the revised, formal proposal, completed with an assigned editor, was almost as long as my manuscript.

    I am currently working on my first novel, and since I find new characters appearing out of nowhere and unplanned and unexpected plot developments coming out, I can’t imagine submitting it until it is complete.

    • Joseph Snoe says:

      Steve
      I have a variation of that. I’m attending a conference this summer. It has a writing competition. You don’t need a completed novel, just the first ten pages or so. I entered. Unfortunately, part of the competition is a required short synopsis stating how the book ends. What I didn’t realize was that a driving force for me to write the next chapters was to learn myself what happened next – now I know – and I don’t feel the urgency to write the next chapter. And second, I worry I cannot pull off that ending in practice or the story leads in a different direction. I feel like I am semi-committed to the synopsis’s ending, but I don’t want to force it.

      Suddenly, what will happen to the author and his creation is more intriguing than what will happen to the characters.

  • Stanislava says:

    Rachelle, it is so true what you say about writing a memoir. I tried several times, each time finishing about 60 pages, then deleting the whole thing and starting over. I did that at least 4 times and then completely gave up and moved on to a different project.

    I seriously cannot imagine NOT having your book finished, especially when it comes to a debut authors with little to no experience. When pitching, or querying your project, you have to have a solid stats about your word count etc.

    It took me few years to get my feet into the water and then learn how to swim in publishing waters after I finished my first book :)

  • Joseph Snoe says:

    I agree with you, Rachelle, but because I was (and am) such a neophyte, or in spite of it, I had good luck doing it all wrong on academic books.

    First – I’ve published two books (one book currently in its fourth edition with a fifth due next year; and one out of print). Both are aimed at law students so a specialized market. Not knowing any better I sent a proposal and three sample chapters (not because I knew I was suppose to but to show what I can do) and a top level publisher of law books (West) published it. The day I sent a manuscript off for final printing, a sales rep for another publisher came to my school and while talking she suggested I send in a proposal for another law book, which I did. Turns out they already had an author with a contract but he’d had the contract for 8 years without producing a book. We co-authored. I was told somewhere along the way that at least for academic books so many authors never finish the book, book publishers become used to have unfulfilled contracts. That goes against my grain – If I promise it, I do it. But it helped, I think, getting the contracts.

    Second – I am writing my ‘debut’ novel. I swore to myself I’d follow the unanimous advice not to query before having a perfect manuscript. I still have five to ten percent to go. Meanwhile, I signed up for a conference this summer with agent meetings available. Even though the novel is incomplete, I signed up for agent meetings. It’s against sound advice, I know, but when faced with meeting an agent with the novel not quite finished or not meeting an agent at all, the temptation was too strong (plus I told myself I might finish the book by then (but it’s hard during the school year)).

    I don’t eat right, exercise enough, or get enough sleep, either.

  • Edwina Cowgill says:

    Great article with helpful tips!

  • I was always confused about that conventional, “expert” advice to not write the entire non-fiction book. Perhaps a publisher would buy a book that way for a previously published writer, but I can certainly see the publisher’s risk perspective. Can this writer even finish a book?

    For myself, I’m no longer pitching any of my books. But if I were I would for sure write the entire non-fiction book before doing so. If I think it’s such a great book that it should be published, why wouldn’t I want to write it?

  • I have written my first novel, but it so naturally leads into the 2nd and possibly the 3rd that I’m writing all 3 before I submit it to an agent. Why? I think that a publisher might want to change them so that they become a series or condense them so that I have only 1 or two novels. Either way, I’ll be ready!

  • Thank you Rachelle,

    I will finish my memoir first. It didn’t make sense to try and sell the story before I finished writing it.
    And I am not sure how to end the story. I did fly to Tokyo on a one-way ticket in 1983 and work as a commercial photographer for seven years. But it is more that a travel story, I also found Jesus.
    Back to writing.
    Pamela

  • This is good, solid advice!! Actually, I feel better, personally, having a finished product to offer because then I don’t have to go through the heart attack of discovering if I can in fact write said novel.

  • Ann Averill says:

    Thanks Rachelle. Your post confirms my own experience. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re trying to say until you say it. It took me ten years to finish my novel based on a true story. It took that long to understand the experience that compelled me to write and therefore ten years before I had a satisfying ending. Writing anything like a memoir is so much more than recording past experience. It is decoding the personal meaning of that experience in a way that vicariously enlightens others.

    And I confess I queried agents before the book was fully polished, but the process of writing queries sharpened my focus. It is all part of the writing process.

  • Thanks for the great advice Rachelle. I learn lots from reading all these comments too.

  • Neil Ansell says:

    I write narrative no-fiction, and to date have sold my books on the back of a proposal. But actually I agree with this, not so much for business reasons as for creative reasons.I think that writing to a proposal tends to encourage a very conventional approach, and stifles the imagination. Very often when I read narrative non-fiction (memoir/travel writing/ nature writing) I can clearly see the way in which the book has been pre-planned, and often get the sense that I am reading a depiction of events that only took place because they were part of a pre-existing plan. A book written without this can be much more spontaneous and authentic.

  • Thank you, Rachelle, for helping us to see ourselves from publisher’s perspective once again. I’ve been ruthlessly revising a novel, and I’m very excited to start sending queries.

  • Rachelle, would this apply to a cookbook as well? My first book (isn’t that optimistic of me!) will be a cookbook.

  • Allison Duke says:

    I have a friend with several contacts in the publishing industry – two Christian publishers in particular – who says she knows of editors who have been known to buy debut novels based on an intriguing synopsis and a few sparking chapters. She has often suggested that I let her give my unfinished novel to some of her contacts, but I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea. I’m still not 100% certain of where this book is going, so how could I possibly sell it to anyone else? I have no intention of pitching it to anyone until it is not only finished, but as good as I can possibly get it on my own and with the help of my friends and contacts in the writing community.

  • It’s been a while since your blogs have appeared on my computer, so I was delighted when your name popped up in my “in” box. I’ve enjoyed your blog so much in the past and tweeted this important blog on publishing. Thanks for your ongoing efforts to keep writers up to date on the “how to’s” of publishing.

  • I’m working on my first nonfiction book. I’ve heard conference speakers suggest writing a proposal before the book is completed. Some authors may have 10-12 book ideas at one time. It’s a way to see if the idea is salable. But, if an author is trying to flush out unmarketable ideas, perhaps they’re not confident about their subject matter.

    If authors complete their market research, and they’re passionate about their project, I think they should honor the message and capture it on paper. Write the entire book. When the book is accepted for publication, there’s a short window of time to promote the book before it’s released. Having a completed book allows the author to develop their marketing plan. Just a few rookie thoughts.

  • Lanny says:

    Rachelle, this is one of your best posts ever, filled with flawless publishing logic. Thanks so much! We need straight talk like this!

  • Rita M. Gardner says:

    Thanks for the post; I’m one of those who had to write the book before anything else – and am glad I did.

  • AshleeW says:

    Great points, Rachelle! Some I had never thought of before. Thanks :)

  • Tom Morrisey says:

    Rachel, I sold my first novel (to the Zondervan imprint of Harper-Collins) based on a partial. In fact, when I first pitched it to the publisher who eventually bought it, I hadn’t written a word of it.

    But by the time I pitched that novel, I had one nonfiction book in print and was under contract for a second one, I had deep magazine-publication experience (which included several short stories), and the acquisitions editor who wound up buying my book had gotten to know me and had a sense that I would be able to “land” the novel in a palatable fashion.

    Fact is, when I teach fiction workshops, I advise unpublished novelists to not only have one book done, but to have two (to avoid the sophomore curse in the typical two-book contract). And while I am living proof that it is possible to sell a first novel on the strength of a partial, it is absolutely not the course I recommend.

  • Bonnie Leon says:

    Recently I’ve been hearing a lot about published authors presenting completed manuscripts to publishing houses instead of a proposal and three great chapters.

    I have mixed feelings about this. I personally get more work completed when I have a deadline I MUST meet. However, I love the feeling of freedom that comes with working on a story I love and writing until I get to “the end” and then sending it off.

    One big drawback – all that work and no interested publisher.

  • I have heard this advice before, but hearing it again is the swift kick that I needed to get going! I’m about 67k into the story, with only a few more chapters left to write.

    I especially appreciate your encouragement that even if a publisher doesn’t pick up my novel–my years of work, education, etc–the novel will at least be ready for self-publishing. I haven’t looked much into self-publishing yet, but it is a genuine route. Huzzah for options!

  • Evelyn Lauer says:

    Such a helpful post. As someone who has been querying agents on proposal for my memoir, I can attest to the fact that it’s a hard sell without a super strong platform. I even had a phone conversation with one agent who told me, “This will not sell on proposal.” Instead she encouraged me to finish the whole manuscript and then send it to her. So after coming up short on proposal, that’s my new plan: finish the book (it’s almost done) and requery. I’m glad I wrote the proposal though because it helped me realize th structure and themes of the book. Also, now I can tell agents that I have a complete ms AND a full proposal with a marketing plan.

  • Loren Steffy says:

    Your first point raises an important topic: risk. By requiring an entire book on submission the publisher is transferring most of the risk for the project to you. This is a common tactic among businesses today (bank fees, automatic subscription renewals, various opt-out clauses), but if you think of writing as a business, it is not a healthy thing for the writer. A proposal doesn’t just outline a book, it outlines how you and the publisher will share the risk of publishing it. As a writer you already assume the risk that the publisher will market and support your book effectively, that they will provide competent editors and provide you with good guidance as you complete the project. If you’ve published a book, you know these are already substantial — and growing — risks.

    Writing isn’t just a job, of course, it’s also a passion, and publishers know that. They use our passion, our desire to be published, to mask the transfer of risk.

    I’ve been a business writer for 27 years and I’ve published two non-fiction books, both using proposals. In both cases, my books required upfront expenses to research — travel, document copying fees, paid researchers, etc. I do not have the deep pockets to front thousands of dollars in up-front costs without some assurance that they can be offset. I’m willing to write a comprehensive proposal, and to spend time and money on enough upfront research to show how the complete book will materialize, but if a publisher isn’t willing to invest in me as an author, then it’s difficult to justify the cost of pursuing the project.

    Across the internet, the ability for writers to make money is being undermined. I’m always amazed at the number of offers I get to write for free. A publisher who isn’t willing to engage in a shared-risk endeavor is no different than a blogger who expects me to write without compensation. By requiring full manuscripts, publishers are simply transferring their crumbling business models to the writers.

    Given that, if you’re going to assume all the risk, self-publishing seems to make more sense, although, it’s far more difficult to get traction self-pubbing non-fiction. At least by assuming more of the risk, you get a larger piece of the potential reward.

    But to the original point about publisher confidence, if they require a full manuscript, it tells me they’re looking for a sure thing. (After all, Tina Fey probably didn’t even submit a proposal, right?) All businesses love a sure thing, but success in business is about risk and reward. Just like Enron once did, many publishers these days seem to be seeking the latter while trying to eliminate the former.

  • mike ames says:

    I have actually completed my first novel. I have been researching how to sell and market the book to an agent and as one who has spent his career in business to business sales and sales management the literary business is very foreign to me. In all my career I have spent great energy in contacting the decision maker, the influencers, the financial wing in order to properly, in context and in person present my service to my prospective client. Now in the lit biz I am reduced to a query letter and the fancy of the agent who may read it. Don’t get me wrong I am not casting stones at the agent,if anyone knows the value of solid representation, it is me. I am also aware of the hard work of persuasion and crafting legal agreements and NEED an agent to do this for me. I am confident of my novel’s marketability and have received enough input from knowledgeable sources to know it is well crafted and engaging. In short I feel impotent when it comes to selling it!

    This may simply be an opportunity to vent but is there a better way? Also I am half way through my second novel.

    Thank You

    • Joe Snoe says:

      Mike
      My novel is not quite finished and I am not in marketing, but otherwise I share your frustration, anxiety, and dissatisfaction about this strange and unknown process. I doubt anyone will have a voila solution that the industry adopts in six months. All I can do is assume life will work out.

  • Joe Snoe says:

    I miss your blog entry, Rachelle.

    Do literary agents take spring break?

  • Rachelle,
    Thanks for the great advice! As a new author, I am looking for any advantage :0)

  • Cindy Brown says:

    I have wondered about this. Thanks for the answer!

  • Thank you for this vital information. Because I know how my own mind can wander here and there even when reading, I definitely would benefit from a finished work first. I am so glad I came here. Thank you Rachelle.

  • I cannot imagine pitching something that wasn’t 100% front to back ready. I’ve been in the snares of writer’s block before…without a deadline breathing down my neck. Whew! Just the stress and brain-lock I would suffer if I “knew” I had to finish something and make it live up to my own standards and the scrutiny of others…terrifying!

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