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

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

Post by brando » May 19th, 2010, 3:43 pm

Ok here's something else, another question. If an agent requests a full and the writer sends it five days later because they're doing some tightening etc--if that's a deal breaker for the agent (though it's a kind of unwritten rule, as in it does not state this anywhere) do people think that the agent would write back to writer to say "sorry can't accept this now?" or do people think the agent would just let it hang in the silent balance, never respond?

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

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 19th, 2010, 4:09 pm

brando wrote:And yo, Ticonderoga, here's something else for you:

Things to remember before querying:

For fiction and narrative non-fiction/memoir, your manuscript must be complete and polished before you begin querying.


That's from Colleen Lindsay's submissions page. It's one agent, sure, but it's direct. Complete, polished, BEFORE querying. I know what the author author thing says, but I think waiting too long is dangerous as we can't know all the particulars of every agent.
If you know a final pass will make it better, do you really want to send it off—solely so the agent can have it immediately? How many chances do you get to send a full out? You know, you can't alter it once you send it (and it may sit in their inbox for a month before they get a chance to read it). Wouldn't you want the agent to have your very best stuff? Wouldn't the agent want to read your very best stuff?

My problem was that I had re-written the first four pages on the suggestions of an agent and editor at the SCBWI conference in NYC (this winter), and I wasn't a hundred percent happy with it. Then, while going through that first chapter, I noticed I was making small improvements elsewhere in the text. After taking a really good look at it, I realized I could go through the whole thing one more time in about ten days. The only thing I worried about is if I might honk off the agent. That's why I posted here to Mr. Bransford. I also asked him if I should email the agent who asked for the full about the wait. He was kind enough to answer (and quickly). He said to make the changes and don't send an email. He also made a point to say he wouldn't wait any longer than necessary to send out the full.
As it turns out, I still wasn't a hundred percent happy with the first four pages, and two days after a second re-write of them, I got another request for a partial and a full (wouldn't you know it!). Rather than send off what I had, I took the time needed to get things right (four days, I think). And I'm glad I did. In fact, I wish I could go back and send the new beginning to the first agent who asked for the full. But I can't. So be it. I love the beginning now, and I don't see changing anything from here on out. But if I were to see a place for improvement, I'd improve it. I'd be a fool not to. It's not like the good old days, when works of fiction got revised with subsequent printings.

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

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 19th, 2010, 4:21 pm

brando wrote:Ok here's something else, another question. If an agent requests a full and the writer sends it five days later because they're doing some tightening etc--if that's a deal breaker for the agent (though it's a kind of unwritten rule, as in it does not state this anywhere) do people think that the agent would write back to writer to say "sorry can't accept this now?" or do people think the agent would just let it hang in the silent balance, never respond?
Good question. Any agents out there? Little help?
Some more questions for the agents: what's the average amount of time that goes by before you crack open a big requested materials box that's arrived via snail-mail? Average time for file?

As I understand it, from listening to agents' blogs, it's common for an agent to not get to read their requested material until that weekend. And it they have a trip coming up, with flight time involved, they will wait until then.
"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 bcomet » May 19th, 2010, 5:50 pm

How long have your various pages been out now?
I just sent my first partial out a week ago and I am so insecure about whether it might have gotten lost in the email but I don't want to bug the agent.
Wish they would have sent me a note saying: Thank you. I received the requested materials - will be back in touch by date.

Agony!

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

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 19th, 2010, 8:42 pm

bcomet wrote:How long have your various pages been out now?
I just sent my first partial out a week ago and I am so insecure about whether it might have gotten lost in the email but I don't want to bug the agent.
Wish they would have sent me a note saying: Thank you. I received the requested materials - will be back in touch by date.

Agony!
I hear you! Alas, our lot is to wait. I have one full that's been out for a little over seven weeks, and another that been out for nine days; I have a fifty-page partial that's been out for a little over two weeks, and another that's been out for three and a half weeks.

I had a fifth partial (75-pages), but after seven weeks I received a form letter R on that one.

For sanity purposes, I ask myself: what would I do if I was the agent? In the case of wondering if they got the partial, I'd think (if I were the agent): hey, where's my partial? And if I didn't get it in a reasonable amount of time, I'd ask for it again. It's thoughts like these that help keep me sane. Remember, the agent that asked for your partial wants to be excited, wants to be on your side, wants to help you find a publisher. But that's easier said than done. What make one person excited might make another not so excited. And an agent has to really connect with the work if they're going to sell it.
"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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Dixon Ticonderoga
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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 19th, 2010, 9:04 pm

brando wrote:Ok here's something else, another question. If an agent requests a full and the writer sends it five days later because they're doing some tightening etc--if that's a deal breaker for the agent (though it's a kind of unwritten rule, as in it does not state this anywhere) do people think that the agent would write back to writer to say "sorry can't accept this now?" or do people think the agent would just let it hang in the silent balance, never respond?
The vast majority of agents are going to give you the benefit of the doubt. Let's face it, first time authors have a lot of responsibilities: family, businesses, and all the troubles that go with making like work. Agents know that. And don't forget: the agent who has requested material is interested in your work. They're investigating whether or not they want to join the struggle to see your work published. Agent's are your advocate, your voice of reason: they are hoping to read your work, get excited, and be on your side. That's what they want to have happen. But it's hard to get excited about another person's work (especially a highly original one). It's hard to find a good fit.

Ultimately, however, you must act on what's best for you and your project. Are there unreasonable agents (or agents having a really bad day) that will treat you poorly? Sure there are (erm, but not on this site, of course). Do not live your life in fear of them—they are few and far between.
"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 brando » June 4th, 2010, 9:39 am

Thanks Dixon,

So I have something else for you, or anyone: say you get a full request from two agents and send the ms. on same day etc. Two weeks go by and you start feeling nuts. You want to send a quick, explanatory email about the opening pages, something that you couldn't include in your query, and didn't, perhaps stupidly, include when you sent the MS. Now I know you're going to say it's crazy but hear this out. Two weeks. Nothing, I know. But there are things that you've seen, nothing major, just some nagging things that make you panic they're not going to read past page 5 or something. A little email note would explain that A. you are aware that there's a lot of character and conflict development early on and that B. you would be willing to change those pages in order for some of the other stuff/characters to be arrived at sooner.

Bottom line: is sending an emai llike this to these two agents, at big agencies, a super polite no impatience implied, is it death? I mean is it just the dumbest thing in the world to do? Dixon, anyone, can asnwer. Thanks.

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

Post by Quill » June 4th, 2010, 10:24 am

I wouldn't do it. They will likely not be able to connect it to your submission and the result will be annoyance. Cross the bridge of improving your manuscript when and if you both come to it together. Let the original submission ride as is, or you risk muddying the water. Okay that's about all the mixed and broken metaphors I can offer. Good luck!

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

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » June 4th, 2010, 11:28 am

brando wrote:Thanks Dixon,

So I have something else for you, or anyone: say you get a full request from two agents and send the ms. on same day etc. Two weeks go by and you start feeling nuts. You want to send a quick, explanatory email about the opening pages, something that you couldn't include in your query, and didn't, perhaps stupidly, include when you sent the MS. Now I know you're going to say it's crazy but hear this out. Two weeks. Nothing, I know. But there are things that you've seen, nothing major, just some nagging things that make you panic they're not going to read past page 5 or something. A little email note would explain that A. you are aware that there's a lot of character and conflict development early on and that B. you would be willing to change those pages in order for some of the other stuff/characters to be arrived at sooner.

Bottom line: is sending an emai llike this to these two agents, at big agencies, a super polite no impatience implied, is it death? I mean is it just the dumbest thing in the world to do? Dixon, anyone, can asnwer. Thanks.
Quill is correct: don't send them anything.

Your submission, once you've sent it, is in the past. Make your changes and send them out to the next agent that asks for material. Painful, I know, but that's the way it is done (remember, I'm by no means an authority on this subject, but I do feel very strongly that I'm correct on this matter).

I still have two partials and a full MS out (and I'm still querying). The first four pages (arguably the four most important pages of any submission) on all of them have been greatly improved. If the agents who asked for the partials were to ask for fulls, I would resend the first chapter and write a brief note explaining the changes I made and why I made them.

Hang tough, Brando,

Dixon Ticonderoga
"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

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

Post by brando » June 16th, 2010, 3:27 pm

Hi, a general quetion I am trying to find an answer to that's impossible to get from google. If a writer once had an agent, but for wahtever reasons no is no longer repped by that agent, agent is not doing fiction anymore, didn't sell their book etc, and now writer has a new book and is querying new agents, should he or she tell that agent that they were once repped by another, esp if it's someone fairly well known? I mean if the relationship was good and ended amicably etc. I have only done this just now, that is, let a perspective agent know that I was repped previously. Do you have any thoughts on this? Much appreciated in advance. BL

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

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » June 16th, 2010, 5:31 pm

brando wrote:Hi, a general quetion I am trying to find an answer to that's impossible to get from google. If a writer once had an agent, but for wahtever reasons no is no longer repped by that agent, agent is not doing fiction anymore, didn't sell their book etc, and now writer has a new book and is querying new agents, should he or she tell that agent that they were once repped by another, esp if it's someone fairly well known? I mean if the relationship was good and ended amicably etc. I have only done this just now, that is, let a perspective agent know that I was repped previously. Do you have any thoughts on this? Much appreciated in advance. BL
I have no expertise in this situation, nor do I have a gut feeling or strong opinion.

It sounds, to me, like a question for an agent.

But you have asked for my thoughts, and I am rarely without those. If it were me, and I couldn't get a clear answer from a knowledgeable source, I would add up the pluses and minuses to the best of my ability and act accordingly.

As I see it, on the one hand, a well know agent was interested in your book and offered to rep you. That's a concrete plus. On the other hand, said agent was not able get you a contract for the book. That's a concrete minus. Are there other factors in play? Given my limited knowledge, the problem appears pretty darn muddy. And when things are muddy, I recommend cautious action. I wouldn't say nothing until I had more to go on, something to tip the balance one way or the other (preferably from an agent).

Take care,

Dixon Ticonderoga
"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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