How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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Dixon Ticonderoga
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How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » March 20th, 2010, 11:45 pm

I had an agent, from a century old agency in New York, respond to a query on Wednesday, asking for the full manuscript. While polishing the manuscript today (Saturday), I got a request from second agency in New York for a partial (75 pages). I had been editing my manuscript for a year before I began sending out queries. It's in good shape. But in working over it this weekend, I'm still finding small errors. I'll be more than halfway through by Sunday. I'm positive I could have it completely ready by Sunday next.
My question is this: are these agents going to view me in a bad light if I wait a week or two before sending these off? What is the proper etiquette here?
I already felt like I rushed things earlier during the query process, by "using up" great agents before I had my "ultimate" query letter down (my query went through seven revisions), and I'm sick about not having gotten to send my best query. I don't want to repeat the same type of thing with these agents by sending them off inferior partials or fulls, but I don't want to tick them off either.
Help!
Last edited by Dixon Ticonderoga on May 9th, 2010, 7:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by CafeCliche » March 21st, 2010, 2:23 am

Strictly speaking, you can take as long as you want. But you might want to take a look at this post:

http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2007/03/o ... e-for.html

For some agents, tardiness is not really a dealbreaker, but for others, it makes all the difference.

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by JustineDell » March 21st, 2010, 11:40 am

I asked Nathan this same question in the "Ask Nathan" section. This is his reply:

by Nathan Bransford » 08 Mar 2010, 12:06

JustineDell wrote:
My Question:
You get a request for an MS (from a publisher or agent). How quickly does said agent/publisher expect to get it? And how long is too long to wait to send it? Would it hurt to go over with fine-tooth comb on more time before sending it, which would make you send it several days after the actual request?

Is there a strict timeline guide for this type of thing?

Thanks Nathan!

~JD


Nathan's Answer: I don't know that there's a strict guideline, but I find it strange when it comes in long (as in weeks) after the request. It wouldn't be a deal-breaker by any means, but I would find it curious.

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » March 21st, 2010, 12:29 pm

It sounds like there are going to be people on both sides of the fence.

The Snark post strengthens the argument for waiting. As evidenced in this passage:

"Now before you get even more outraged, let's all remember this is when I'm pretty serious about you and your work. It's not at the query stage or even the partial or full stage. I've read all that and liked it."

This morning, my wife found this on Author! Author! Which makes me look like a fool if I don't wait the couple weeks I'd need to finish this final polish:

To let one of the most poorly-hidden cats out of one of the most hole-ridden bags in the business, few souls walking the planet are in a greater hurry than a writer who has just received a request for materials. Especially if that request comes at the end of a long period of querying or after a particularly intense conference, it’s far from uncommon for the lucky writer to decide, wrongly, that the only possible response is to drop everything else in her life — by calling in sick to work, evading kith and kin, pretending to have emigrated to Morocco, that sort of thing — to throw together the requested materials and get them out the door as close to instantly as possible.

One of two rationales may prompt this super-speedy response. In the first, the writer cries, “Oh, my God, this request to see all or part of my manuscript must be a fluke. I’d better get these materials under the agent or editor’s nose within the next few hours, before either (a) s/he changes her/his mind, (b) the malignant forces that rule the universe cause the wall of indifference to art to rise again, this temporary fissure mended, or (c) both!”

Whichever thunderbolt the hostile gods of publishing are planning to send his way, the hyper-fearful writer wants to make absolutely sure that his submission is out of his hands well before it strikes. Who cares that he hasn’t had time to double-check his submission for easily-overlooked gaffes that a few hours invested in proofreading (IN HARD COPY, IN ITS ENTIRETY, and read OUT LOUD, preferably), or that overnighting that package will cost four times as much as sending it via regular mail? He’s trying to submit before the agent of his dreams comes to his/her senses.

In reality, of course, it just doesn’t work like that: a request to submit materials will be every bit as good two weeks from the day it was made as it was in the moment. Or two months hence.

As I MAY have hinted gently above, the writer’s speed in getting the submission to the agent typically does not make one scintilla of difference in how quickly a manuscript is read — or even the probability of its moldering on an agent’s desk for months. Certainly, whether the agent’s receiving the manuscript the next day or in the 2-3 days offered by the much more reasonably priced Priority Mail will make no appreciable difference to response time.

Especially during summer conference season, since most of the industry goes on vacation from early August through Labor Day. Or between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the NYC-based part of the biz more or less shuts down. Or in January, when half the aspiring writers in North America are trying to live up to their New Year’s resolution to get those queries and submissions out the door, pronto.

The other, more common rationale for too-swift submission is eagerness. “Whew!” the writer who has just received a request to submit exclaims. “The hard part is over now: my premise has been recognized as a good one by an agent who handles this sort of material. From this point on, naturally, everything is going to happen in a minute: reading, acceptance, book sale, chatting on Oprah.”

You know, the average trajectory for any garden-variety blockbuster. Who wouldn’t want to cut a week, or even a few days, out of the delivery time for that brilliantly fabulous future?

I sincerely hope that yours is the one in eight million submissions that experiences this second trajectory — and that’s the probability in a good year for publishing — but writerly hopes to the contrary, a request for submission is the beginning of the game, not the end. The fact is, as small a percentage of queries receive a positive response (and it’s usually under 5%, even in a brisk economy), even fewer submissions pass the initial read test.

Or, to put it the terms we typically use here at Author! Author!, it generally takes even less provocation to cause Millicent shout “Next!” over the first page of a manuscript than over a query. (If that’s news to you and you’re in the mood for a good, old-fashioned Halloween scare, I would strongly urge you to set aside a few hours to run through the posts in the HOW NOT TO WRITE A FIRST PAGE category on the archive list at right. It’s sent many a strong writer running screaming from the room.)

There’s a reason that I grill you on the details, you know: I want your queries and submissions to be in that top few percentiles. Which is why I would rather see your resources and energy going toward perfecting the submission itself, rather than getting it there with a rapidity that would make Superman do a double-take.



Mr. Bransford's reply only convinces me that he doesn't see this happen very often, and so it becomes a curiosity. Personally, the idea that I could make an agent feel anything—especially curiosity—seems too good an opportunity to pass up on. If Mr. Bransford had said anything like: "Oh, I wouldn't mind it, but I know of agents who would really get into a snit about that," then I might have more to think about. But he didn't.

Thank you for all your helpful replies!
And thank you, Mr. Bransford, for this wonderful forum!
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Nathan Bransford » March 21st, 2010, 12:54 pm

Richard C Due wrote:Mr. Bransford's reply only convinces me that he doesn't see this happen very often, and so it becomes a curiosity. Personally, the idea that I could make an agent feel anything—especially curiosity—seems too good an opportunity to pass up on. If Mr. Bransford had said anything like: "Oh, I wouldn't mind it, but I know of agents who would really get into a snit about that," then I might have more to think about. But he didn't.

Thank you for all your helpful replies!
And thank you, Mr. Bransford, for this wonderful forum!
It becomes a curiosity, but not necessarily in a good way. If, after my request, someone looks at their manuscript and thinks, "Oh god! I need to change this!" and the end-result is a better manuscript, okay, yes, take the time and get it right.

But otherwise, it just seems strange that the person took so long. I don't care enough about this sort of thing to make it a deal-breaker, but I certainly wouldn't encourage someone to intentionally do this just to seem intriguing.

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » March 21st, 2010, 1:40 pm

Mr. Bransford, now you have me thinking again: I'm not so much worried about Agent #2, because I queried them through snail-mail, and they are no doubt used to a slower return. But Agent #1, who I queried first was through email, and will end up waiting ten days before getting her request for the full MS.
Here's what I'm wondering: should I consider sending Agent #1 a quick email stating that I got her request, and that I'm putting it together and will have it out by the end of the week? This idea seems a bit much to me, especially since I'm a total nobody. (All these agents have seen is the one page query.)

Which brings up another question: Right now, I only have the two requests, but I have nine more queries floating out there, and they could easily generate another request or two by Sunday. If two or more agents offer me representation, how long can I politely take to decide which agent is the best fit. The last thing I want is to offend an agent I didn't use. I researched them thoroughly before I queried them. They are all excellent people. I want all these people in my bullpen should something fall apart.

Thanks a bunch for your quick reply, and, again, thank you for these wonderful forums,

Richard Christian Due
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Nathan Bransford » March 21st, 2010, 9:03 pm

Richard C Due wrote:Mr. Bransford, now you have me thinking again: I'm not so much worried about Agent #2, because I queried them through snail-mail, and they are no doubt used to a slower return. But Agent #1, who I queried first was through email, and will end up waiting ten days before getting her request for the full MS.
Here's what I'm wondering: should I consider sending Agent #1 a quick email stating that I got her request, and that I'm putting it together and will have it out by the end of the week? This idea seems a bit much to me, especially since I'm a total nobody. (All these agents have seen is the one page query.)

Which brings up another question: Right now, I only have the two requests, but I have nine more queries floating out there, and they could easily generate another request or two by Sunday. If two or more agents offer me representation, how long can I politely take to decide which agent is the best fit. The last thing I want is to offend an agent I didn't use. I researched them thoroughly before I queried them. They are all excellent people. I want all these people in my bullpen should something fall apart.

Thanks a bunch for your quick reply, and, again, thank you for these wonderful forums,

Richard Christian Due
1. No need to send an update. Just send it when you send it.

2. I'd say make a decision within a week. Shouldn't take longer than that.

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » March 22nd, 2010, 12:13 am

Thank you, sir. I value your opinion.
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » April 6th, 2010, 7:52 pm

Well, it took me a week and a half but I got the full and partial out the door. I'm glad I took the extra time and sent off my best work. The temptation to send them off immediately was ENORMOUS, but I successfully fended off that knee-jerk reaction.
The agents have each had the material for a week now, and I expect I'll probably get form letter Rs within a month or two, but I won't have to suffer second guessing myself.
As an added benefit, the next requests for material will be able to go out the door right away!
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by BlancheKing » April 6th, 2010, 10:31 pm

When I first saw this topic a few weeks ago, I thought "not applicable to self" and moved on. But today, sincerely, I want to say thanks. I've been mass-editing my manuscript (again... it's already been a year and a half...) and it's already been a week since the request. For a moment I was going to panic until I saw this.
One manuscript, One dream, One stack of stamps that needs to be bought...
Writing Process: http://blancheking.blogspot.com/

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » April 24th, 2010, 1:53 pm

I got another request for material from an agent (this time just a chapter). I got it ninety minutes after I emailed him the query, which is the fastest response time I've had so far (that wasn't an R).

The agent that requested the 75-page partial and the agent that requested the full, both of whom have had the material for almost four weeks now, have not gotten back to me. I don't know what to make of that. I guess is it could mean anything from: they haven't had a chance to look at it yet, to . . . well, I really don't know.

It felt really good to be able to send the material off straight away. But the best part was being able to include the following line in the cover letter: At present, two other agents are reviewing requested materials.

That may not seem like much to some, but after five hard years of writing and editing on this project, it means the world to me. In fact, it's the biggest reward I've earned to date (writing-wise), and the only conformation of worth or value I've been afforded by professionals in the business.
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by FK7 » April 24th, 2010, 5:47 pm

It's not rare to read agents saying it can take six months, sometimes more, to get around to a full, especially if they're successful and busy agents.

What kind of ms is it?

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » April 24th, 2010, 6:15 pm

Six months. Wow. That's a long time. Thanks for the info; I really appreciate.

The MS is a middle grade fantasy adventure series, weighing in at 82,000 words.

Rich
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » April 29th, 2010, 2:55 pm

I just got another request for material. This time, the agent asked for fifty pages. That the fourth agent to request materials on this project.

I still haven't received any Rs from the first three, two of which have had the materials for a month now.
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 8th, 2010, 12:10 am

I just got my fifth request for a material on this project. This time a full. I sent a query and synopsis on Monday to a west coast branch of a New York agency. They probably just got it in the mail today. I'm really happy with the state of the manuscript, but I want to take one last look over the first couple of pages of the first chapter before I send it off.
I won't get a free block of time until Sunday. They said they prefer e-mail, but paper is fine if that's what I want to send. I'll e-mail them the full first thing Monday morning.
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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