Last time I blogged I wrote about query letters. This time I’d like to focus on proposals and manuscripts.
Recently, I’ve received a few query letters for top-notch ideas, but when I look at the proposal or manuscript, I realize the author shouldn’t have submitted the project yet. The idea and bones of the book are good, but the writing could use some major editing.
A writer who sends a query letter too early doesn’t take the time to have critique partners look at the project first and then make the suggested changes. He or she is setting him- or herself up for failure. If an agent requests a project and sees it’s a mess, that agent is unlikely to re-request, even if the book is amazing after more work has been put in.
I know that sometimes an author can get a request for an unfinished or unedited project because of a connection made at a conference or through an author recommendation to an editor or agent. If you make a connection like this and your project is requested before it’s ready, you can wait to send it. Let the agent or editor know that the book isn’t ready, but that you will send the proposal as soon as it is. Also, more often than not, you will grow as a writer through the classes you take at a writers’ conference. When editors and agents request projects during a conference, we expect to wait a little while while you get the manuscript fixed up before you send it in. If there’s a rush for some reason we will make this clear at the time of our request.
An author-friend of mine who was chatting with an editor at a conference about what the publishing house was looking for. Off the top of her head, she came up with a book idea that blew the editor away and fit right in to what the house was looking for. The editor wanted to see a proposal for the book. My friend took a few weeks to come up with a strong synopsis, proposal and sample chapters and then submitted the story. I can’t remember if this project was contracted, but I think it was. I know that the time my friend took to prepare the proposal helped her to put her best foot forward with the publishing house and showed that she cared about creating a great product.
Have you ever received a manuscript request before your book was ready? What did you do?
What are the steps you take to make sure your project is in the best possible shape before sending your query letters?