When to approach an agent or publisher

By Teika:

So you’re in the thick of writing your novel, and you’ve just hit 50K words. You pretty much know how it’s going to play out and what (roughly) has to happen between now and those final words. THE END is so very nearly in sight. You reward yourself with a quick flick through Facebook and that’s when you see it – the news that an agent you’ve had your eye on for some time will be at an upcoming writing conference that’s being held not too far away from where you live. She’ll be doing one-to-ones. Tickets are going fast…

So you buy yourself a ticket, bag a one-to-one, and then email over your first three chapters and a synopsis. Ker-ching! You’re on fire! A publishing deal feels tantalizingly close…

Only problem is, you haven’t actually finished writing your novel. Never mind, you tell yourself. You’ve still got a couple of months to finish it. This way, you’ll be truly motivated to get it done.

But life gets in the way. You get ill. Or your kids get ill. Or you have to spend extra hours at work. Writing those last few chapters suddenly becomes surprisingly difficult. And you’re not sure the ending’s working. In fact, you’re now not even sure if the whole first third is working. Or that you’ve got a coherent plot. Aaaah! And in two weeks’ time you’ll be meeting with that agent!

So you go to the writing conference, do your best to “sell” your book (which you no longer believe in) and, unsurprisingly, find that your dream agent isn’t interested. You go home, infinitely sadder. But (hopefully) infinitely wiser.

Like a literary owl

Nobody wants to go through the above. It’s the equivalent of turning up to a job interview only semi-dressed. It’s embarrassing (as well as a waste of time) for all involved. So here’s a handy checklist for When To Approach The Agent (Or Publisher) Of Your Dreams:

1) Finish writing your novel. Completely.

2) Put it in a drawer and let it sit there for a month or two whilst you concentrate on other writing projects.

3) Do not be tempted to send it off anywhere just because a deadline for a competition/publisher’s submission slot/whatever is looming. You only ever get the opportunity to make one good first impression. Make it count.

4) After the month or two has passed, re-read your novel. You’ll likely see flaws in it. Hopefully, those flaws aren’t impossible to put right. So, put them right.

Unfixable flaws will be covered in a later post

Leave it another week or two, give it another read and then pass it on to your trusted beta-readers. 

5) According to the feedback of your beta-readers make further edits. Give it another polish.

6) Wait a few more days (or a week or two). Read it again. Correct any typos; make final (tiny) tweaks.

Only THEN are you ready to approach the agent (or publisher) of your dreams.

Whilst you’ve been doing the above 6 steps, no doubt you’ll have seen competition deadlines/publishers’ submission slots whizz by. You may well feel saddened by the fact that you’re not submitting to them. Or feel a bit left out of the loop – especially if fellow writers are submitting to them. That’s okay. It’s natural to feel like that. But remember, by abstaining, and by being patient, you are doing THE RIGHT THING. By making your manuscript the best it can possibly be you are acting like an experienced professional. And by acting like a pro, you become a pro.

Finishing stuff, being patient. You have totally got this!

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