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View Full Version : Next step - re-query, or finish ms?



pisqualie
06-23-2008, 06:54 AM
Howdy - I've been a member of the board for awhile, but have not posted in ages. I'd like some perspective, however, if you're willing to share. :)

I had an idea for a non-fiction, did some research and landed an agent fairly quickly. Within, gosh, two months of that, I had a small publisher sign me. No advance, just a simple contract. I finished researching, worked with editor back and forth and after almost a year, they decided to drop the project due to an overall vision difference. My agent decided to cut me loose also, feeling that with publishing the way it is, he just wasn't sure he could do anymore for me.

I agree completely understand the editor's position, and look forward to a fresh start myself. She went above and beyond to help me and I gained fantastic insight on the process and have a better feel of how to write this. I feel good about the agent too - I liked him, but... he was the first one to offer representation and I am not sure if he was the best one, kwim? I feel wiser and better prepared for a second round... but my question is...

Would you, at this point, begin re-querying agents right away? Or do you think it may be wise to finish the manuscript (I have three solid final chapters, two rough drafts and then about five more chapters to flesh out) and then present to agents as a final project?

I worry about that gap between an editor loving the proposal but ultimately not being please with the final project. It seems such an inefficient way to do it. But, perhaps that is better than re-writing to an editor's preference after you finish?

What do you guys think? What would you do? I know I should be really upset, but honestly, I feel very relieved. I was doing everything I could do please her and the project was going down a very different road than I was intending.

J

loosebricks
06-23-2008, 08:12 AM
Granted I'm very new to this, but it sounds like it's an issue of how attached you are to your vision v. how willing you are to adapt your vision to the editor's taste. If you choose the former, it would seem like finishing your project now makes the most sense. If the latter, I don't see why you couldn't take what you've learned from the process and start over right away, since a new editor is going to have a different vision.

pisqualie
06-23-2008, 08:32 AM
That is sort of what I am thinking. I am really not crazy attached to my 'vision' but I think the editor really liked the project but there was just something off about it, or me. We tweaked and worked and tried to make a match, but there was just something off. In trying to fix it, the direction got further and further from the original plan... you know?

So I would be willing to go along with an editor on anything - I am easy with that. But I don't like dragging something out trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole... you know? If I can make the process easier on the future agent/editor (and me), I'd like to go that route. :)

Mumut
06-23-2008, 01:31 PM
I haven't written non-fiction but I'd imagine a finished work would be easier for an agent and a publisher to make a decision about.

scope
06-24-2008, 07:25 AM
I think you should begin by making sure that you are satisfied with your manuscript, proposal, query, and whatever else you write. Really satisfied -- no uncertainty other than will an agent or publisher pick up your work. If you're not so convinced, it's going to be really hard to convince others. From what I read you don't seem to be that assured right now, although I could certainly be wrong. Against conventional thinking, if I were you I would finish the manuscript. Most will probably disagree and say you have the potential to sell your work with a proposal, and you do. And I must admit to being partial. I've been writing and had published a number of nonfiction books and MY preference is to complete the manuscript before preparing the query and/or proposal. I run about 75% complete and then proposal vs 25% by proposal with incomplete manuscript. You have to decide what works best for you. Again, for me, I know I write a far better, more effective queries or proposals when I have a complete manuscript in hand. Others are different.

Whenever you write your proposal be sure to pay special attention to your credentials. Explaining why the book is needed, why it's better than any other book of its type, the audience and its size, and more, is basic, but you have to convince the agent and/or publisher why you are the best person to write this book.

pisqualie
06-24-2008, 07:42 AM
Great guidance - thank you. I definitely have the credentials and the platform - the trick is the market. I have shown great market (and it is a somewhat captive audience) but the numbers are just not amazing. We are talking about, oh... 100,000 - BUT, of those, I think the actual books sold would be close to that annually. There is room for a new edition every two years and I am one of a few people who can write it. I have had extremely positive feedback regarding the platform and proposal, but the market is just not big enough for the big guys to take on.

After reading what you had to say, I am leaning more toward finishing. I bet I have a better shot with a bigger publisher with something done (thus requiring less work on their end, eh?) Hmm.

I'll chew on that a bit... :)

PatrickMoran2008
06-24-2008, 07:47 AM
As a first-time writer, and maybe I'm wrong for this... I'm going to finish all if not most of my manuscript before I even think about sending out proposals and/or trying to land an agent.

The biggest reasons for me personally, and there are people a million times more qualified to give you better advice is I want to really focus on writing the best book I can. Worrying about the business stuff may take away from that in someway.

I'm a dreamer, but I'm not overly naive. I have limited credentials at this point. .So I am figuring that by writing my manuscript first full or near fully complete, that it will help me a lot more when I do a proposal for publishers and/or a query letter for agents.

God-willing if I get more established down the line, then I may start thinking about the book proposal earlier than I am now. But I've already found myself over the past week getting consumed with the business side of writing, and in ways it's prevented me from really jumping into my writing the way I should be.

talkwrite
06-26-2008, 01:22 AM
As a writer I agree that we can't write what we don't like.
So here is a way to approach such a change in the planned content of the book. I'd like to give the pov as an editor. You should be having a real candid conversation ( like this one) with your editor. And he or she should be open to listening and explaining their angle of interest. It could be that they know your book as originally developed will hit a real hot market and this editor is ready to market it easily and quickly. I've been there. Or it could be that you did a great job convincing your editor and they can be re convinced. Ask your editor what he/she liked best about the proposal and see if that would stay put once you implement your changes.

I have had authors make changes- almost overhaul an outline and ...I liked it. Then there was the author who changed the entire target message and my response was " make that your next book"

Midia
06-26-2008, 01:22 AM
Hi Pisqualie,

I've had many non-fiction books published over the years and with every one of them I have secured a contract with a publisher on the basis of a proposal, three chapters, and a chapter outline. Also in my experience I have found that editors often like the original idea, but also have some input or suggestions of their own, which often end up going in. This is just my experience, but often a non-fic editor will want to change some things in a book anyway.

tombookpub
06-29-2008, 03:47 AM
Re: "I'm going to finish all if not most of my manuscript before I even think about sending out proposals and/or trying to land an agent."

- For anyone who writes the entire manuscript before submitting the proposal, there's a strong likelihood for various reasons that you or the pub house will change the content (ordering, chapter make-up, etc.) leading up to the final version.

scope
06-29-2008, 06:00 AM
I have no problems making any changes in a completed manuscript in my possession. In fact, I expect that changes will have to be made. FOR ME, switching things around, inserting changes, or whatever, into a completed manuscript is easier than trying to do so from an outline and/or a proposal. I can't tell you, but it may have something to do with the fact that my agent and others respected in the industry review and critique my completed manuscripts before the editor ever sees them. But, as I've said here many times, this process works for me and may not work for or be desirable to others.

June Casagrande
06-29-2008, 09:05 AM
I worry about that gap between an editor loving the proposal but ultimately not being please with the final project. It seems such an inefficient way to do it. But, perhaps that is better than re-writing to an editor's preference after you finish?
J

Those chapters you have written are part of the proposal. Yes, the yet-to-be-written chapters could veer in a different direction from the completed ones, but that's par for the course in nonfiction.

When a book changes course mid-project, it's probably because the author is getting better as s/he's going along -- learning more, getting a better grasp of the subject, developing a stronger voice. Editors know and expect that.

I'm a nonfiction author and my experience is pretty much identical to what Midia describes. So I say reassemble your proposal in the manner that best reflects the current state of the project. Then start shopping it.

tombookpub
07-01-2008, 05:53 AM
As a first-time writer, and maybe I'm wrong for this... I'm going to finish all if not most of my manuscript before I even think about sending out proposals and/or trying to land an agent.

The biggest reasons for me personally, and there are people a million times more qualified to give you better advice is I want to really focus on writing the best book I can. Worrying about the business stuff may take away from that in someway.

I'm a dreamer, but I'm not overly naive. I have limited credentials at this point. .So I am figuring that by writing my manuscript first full or near fully complete, that it will help me a lot more when I do a proposal for publishers and/or a query letter for agents.

God-willing if I get more established down the line, then I may start thinking about the book proposal earlier than I am now. But I've already found myself over the past week getting consumed with the business side of writing, and in ways it's prevented me from really jumping into my writing the way I should be.
------
Keep in mind that your book will indeed change even after you write a draft or two and you start getting feedback form others - editors or otherwise.

pisqualie
07-06-2008, 05:09 AM
Thought I'd offer a little update. I re-queried agents with my touch-up query letter, and got three instant requests for the proposal/first chapters. But one agent wrote back and said, this is a great concept, but what about xyz. To be honest, I had't considered xyz. I wrote back and said hmm, actually... that sounds pretty good.

Well we emailed back and forth over the next few hours, I sent the proposal I had for him to scan through and the next day to make sure my format was ok for his tastes, he wrote back and said it looked good and to just expand what I had. So I spent a few days doing that, sent the revised one to him and he wrote me a long (1+ page) of how to make such and such stronger, this part is good, take that section out, etc etc.

He has sent me a few unprompted emails that begin with "I've been thinking..." or "further thoughts..." etc and he has all these great ideas for this concept. If we were to go forward with this new concept, I would only have half of my research finished so in essence, back to the beginning in some ways... but my market will at least double and my target audience triples.

He is a good agent, from what I can tell. And he seems invested in this idea. He has not signed me, nor has he requested exclusivity. I think we are testing each other out. But he is sure putting alot of time and effort into helping me out when there are no obligations.

What do you guys think? I still have not heard back from the other three agents - but it has been less than a week since I sent out queries.

I'm scratching my head on this one. I sent an email on Thursday asking what my objectives were - without all the new research, the first three chapters would be tough to re-write without the new info... but a new proposal should be a snap. I am not sure what we are aiming for...

I am incredibly grateful for his help and he seems really sharp and experienced and wise... just not sure what the proper process is from this particular place.

scope
07-06-2008, 05:43 AM
Lots of choices, and as difficult as they are, relish in the fact that they appear good.

I know you've done research on the agent who contacted you, but has you research been intensive? Before moving on with him you have to be convinced he's the one you want. If he's really good, has the contacts, is experienced, has credentials in your genre, has represented authors whose books have been sold to traditional houses appropriate for your work, etc., I really don't think he's testing you out. Although today it's rather unusual for an agent to spend so much time on foreplay, he may be for real. That's the first thing I believe you have to find out.

He's asking you to do a lot of new work on your manuscript -- research, new info, re-write, etc. -- and I'm not sure I understand what you meant when you said "I sent an email on Thursday asking what my objectives were..." All of this makes me somewhat suspicious -- not negative, only suspicious. It seems as if all of his responses to your initial proposal only met with vague direction, although it's unusual to receive any concrete, meaningful direction from an agent. If he meets you approval perhaps it's best that before doing all he's asking for you have a "heart-to-heart" with him and try and get him to sign you before moving on.

Since your queries to other agents have only been out for a week or so it's way to early to expect any answers. So, another option is to tell the "anxious" agent that you will work on his suggestions and stay in touch (which you should), do further research on him and his agency, AND wait for answers from the other agencies before deciding what to do.

Keep us posted.

pisqualie
07-06-2008, 05:55 AM
Lots of choices, and as difficult as they are, relish in the fact that they appear good.

I know you've done research on the agent who contacted you, but has you research been intensive? Before moving on with him you have to be convinced he's the one you want. If he's really good, has the contacts, is experienced, has credentials in your genre, has represented authors whose books have been sold to traditional houses appropriate for your work, etc., I really don't think he's testing you out. Although today it's rather unusual for an agent to spend so much time on foreplay, he may be for real. That's the first thing I believe you have to find out.

He's asking you to do a lot of new work on your manuscript -- research, new info, re-write, etc. -- and I'm not sure I understand what you meant when you said "I sent an email on Thursday asking what my objectives were..." All of this makes me somewhat suspicious -- not negative, only suspicious. It seems as if all of his responses to your initial proposal only met with vague direction, although it's unusual to receive any concrete, meaningful direction from an agent. If he meets you approval perhaps it's best that before doing all he's asking for you have a "heart-to-heart" with him and try and get him to sign you before moving on.

Since your queries to other agents have only been out for a week or so it's way to early to expect any answers. So, another option is to tell the "anxious" agent that you will work on his suggestions and stay in touch (which you should), do further research on him and his agency, AND wait for answers from the other agencies before deciding what to do.

Keep us posted.

Hi there - thanks for your response. While I dont claim to have the answeres, here are a few thoughts spawned from yours...

From what I can tell, it is a good agent with a good agency. Still researching... but, I feel confident there. I am not sure if he is the best or that he is the one I'd choose, but... for now, he seems very good.

What I mean by my objective email is... so far he has given me really specific, wonderful guidance on the proposal - very, very good, helpful stuff that could help me with both other agents and publishers, kwim? As you say, it is difficult to get quality feedback from an agent and this one is chock full of great ideas, brainstorming this new concept, etc. He seems to be very optimistic about - not unrealistically, but seems to think I/we may have stumbled onto something really good.

The email I sent him was reiterating the fact that I have not completed the research for these other components and that re-writing the first three at this point would be impossible. But I am more than happy to apply his changes to the proposal and see what interest the new concept stirs. I asked him what my objectives were in his eyes at this point - to revise the proposal to reflect everything in the new proposal and see whether he wants to rep it, or if he has in his head for me to re-write the first three (which, as things stand right now, I can't without the info, plus that is alot to put into without a commitment).

As far as researching agents, do you have any ideas? Other than the basics, I am not sure where to even look. I have found online the agency website, that he teaches a few seminars and attends workshops, I see what he has sold and what he is known for on pulishersmarket or whatever that site is, and checked on the beware forum.

I always have that paranoia feeling on here when I write about dealings with publishers and agents hah.

scope
07-06-2008, 08:00 AM
Obviously, this agent has devoted a lot of his valuable time to your work. Although you have done a good amount of research on the agent, it's extremely difficult for me (I can't, and of course don't speak for others) to give you any further advice or opinions about him or what you could do without at least knowing the name of his agency and the genre and age range of your book to be. But, needless to say, that's up to you.

pisqualie
07-06-2008, 08:06 AM
thanks - my husband has been helping me look stuff up and apparently, he is a fantastic agent. Found at least 20 great reviews from authors thanking him, etc. Apparently he is known for coming up with new angles and helping writers put together outlines/proposals to sell, then writing them. Works for me.

pollykahl
07-06-2008, 07:30 PM
"the numbers are just not amazing. We are talking about, oh... 100,000 - BUT, of those, I think the actual books sold would be close to that annually. There is room for a new edition every two years and I am one of a few people who can write it."

I'm curious about where this number came from. From the impression I have of book sales, this would be very good sales. If you could sell 100,000 books anually, or even every two years, most publishers would jump right on it.