Today I’ll be taking questions from the audience. Heh. Audience. I have one. Or not. What I’m trying to say is that, yes, I have an audience of one. Heh.

Anyway, the question, paraphrased:

How, as a writer, do you make the decision that you’re beating a dead horse rather than being persistent, by revising and resending your manuscript to yet another agent/publisher? Where is that line and how does a writer know how to find it, drop your manuscript, and move on?

Well. Talk about a loaded question. This could get lengthy. Let’s break it apart:

First, persistence. This, like the rest of the question, is a variable. It depends on the patience and tolerance levels of the writer; on the other hand, it also has to do with quality and feedback.

Naturally, you love your book – and other people have said they love your book. Yet no agent will accept that book or, worse yet, you haven’t heard back from an agent. Or many agents. Or any agents.

There are two components to selling yourself to an agent: the book, which everyone loves because we’ve already established that, and the marketability of that book. Can it sell? That’s a key question. Who is the audience? Are there enough people in that group to make selling this book a viable option?

Many agents may love your book – the question, then, is can it be sold and will it make money for those agents? The book might be good, or great, but if it can’t sell in its present incarnation, it’s dead in the water. But that’s not to say that, say in a few years, the market may have changed. Or you will have become known for other works, and agents will be tripping over each other to represent you.

In other words, a “no” might simply mean “not now,” in which case an author must yes, drop it and move on to the next WIP.

Sometimes you get feedback from agents – that’s when you need to re-evaluate the book and make decisions about revisions. Heh. Not intentional, but hey, it works. Sort of.

So if an agent says you should change ABC, you may or may not want to do that, and here’s why: maybe that agent is an idiot. If the agent says to change ABC and THEN HE WANTS TO SEE IT AGAIN, you should probably change it and send it back posthaste.

See, here’s the thing: agents are not, contrary to popular belief (including their own), the demi-gods of publishing. They’re people. They can be smart, or stupid. Just because an agent says yea or nay it doesn’t mean that he’s right. He could easily be wrong. In that case, you submit elsewhere.

And just a brief note on agents who never get back to authors: on bad days, I think they’re all just big meany-heads, but on other days I realize that they, like many people, just don’t like to turn down an author and so they simply don’t respond.

So, how many “elsewheres?” That depends on you. How patient you are, how persistent. Some authors query a dozen agents. Some query a hundred. For myself, I queried six. Or seven. I forget. After a few weeks, I decided to self-published. Not worth it, to me, because *I* knew it was good and *I* knew I could sell it. And it is and I did.

Regarding revising: an author generally does a first draft; perhaps a second, revised one. Then it’s self-edited, polished, sent to an editor. When it comes back, there are likely a few changes to be made.

Now stop. Put it away. Go ride a bike, climb a tree, run a few miles (see how I did that, Janet?). Wait a week, at least, before you look at it again. Read it like a reader, not a writer. Does it need any changes? No? Great! You’re done! (Unless one of those agents asks you later to change something.)

Do you need to make perhaps a few small changes or corrections? Do it. NOW you’re done.

Do you think you have to make a bunch of BIG changes? Do NOT do it. Start another WIP. Send off that puppy to whoever you think may be interested. And wait. And while you’re waiting, reread the beginning of this post.

Audience, any questions?





6 comments on “Questions

  1. Great question and great response. We generally know this as authors but take for granted that readers don’t always know. That’s the joy of epublishing and self-publishing these days. Look at Amanda Hocking. She constantly refined and edited her books based on feedback and reviews from readers – and was eventually picked up by a big six publisher and received a multi-million dollar book deal. Persistence is key.


  2. Sharon says:

    I never thought my first manuscript would languish for four years, in revision. It’s a great story, but now, because of a LOT of input from many agents, ( I queried over 50) it’s stuck in the middle of a revision. I went on to a different book, Killerwatt. Two publishers wanted it but with major chsnged. One wanted me to change my terrorist so that he wasn’t Middle Eastern. She didn’t want to offend anyone. Huh. The second one asked for another major rewrite, moving the time sequences. Another huh. I decided to self publish. I’m very glad I did. I didn’t bother querying anyone on the second, Killerfind. Nor will I on the current WIP, Killertrust which will be out this summer. I get professional editing and do listen to her advice. Or else why send it to her. But I know she is committed to me and my work, and I have confidence in her. She’s usually right!


  3. Bill Hopkins says:

    Exceptionally good advice.


  4. melindaclayton says:

    I queried close to 40 agents for Appalachian Justice. Got a “Doesn’t fit for us” from nearly half. Got a “We can work with this – change this part and resend” from an agent at Folio. Changed it, resent it, and got a form letter (email) response saying that that agent was no longer there. It was a great experience, though, even though it didn’t work out, because the change she suggested definitely made it a better book.


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