Tuesday, October 19, 2010

To finish, or Not to finish?

Two different questions (that are really the same question) came up on the open thread:
"I know there have been a good number of sales to publishers based on partials. How does this happen? Are agents willing to sign up a client based on a partial only if those pages are truly outstanding?"
"I've attended several writing conventions in the past year and some of the information passed along from agents/publishers re:querying has been dramatically different. On a whim, I pitched my MS to an agent in attendance. She loved it and asked for a partial. Problem was, none of it was written. She said NEVER do that but earlier in the day, another agent said she welcomes it.

So, my question. When do you query? Once complete, or with a partial?"
First of all, here's a quick quiz for Fiction writers (non-fiction is a bit different):

Would any given random editor or agent recognize your name and know the title of at least one of your books without being told, and smile when they thought about it?

Have you written and published any books that have had wide acclaim and great sales and/or won major awards?


IF the answer to any of these questions is Yes, then by all means submit a partial.

In fact, if your sales are good enough or you are famous enough, don't even bother with that, just jot your great idea on a dirty cocktail napkin and call it a day.

If on the other hand you are a debut or barely-published author of fiction, what are you, nuts? You want to play reindeer games? In this economy? Who do you think you are? Do you know how many great FINISHED books we have to look at and sell?



  1. lol, reindeer games. Love that. You're absolutely right. :)

  2. I foresee a rash of dirty cocktail napkins in your mail...

  3. I would be faaarrrr to paranoid to pitch without at least a draft!


  4. Juli Cragg Hilliard11:05 AM

    Love the way you put this.

  5. I can't even imagine pitching in incomplete work of fiction. So much can change in the revision/finishing process. Craziness!

  6. Sound advice! I'm saving my cocktail napkins for doodles only.

  7. Great post. And I'm going to assume that being famous in my own head just isn't enough. :)

  8. This killed me! I've got a drawer of cocktail napkins. The best ideas always come at the bar, why is that?

    I couldn't imagine being so brave as to query without finishing a novel. I have the opposite problem, I may be moving too slowly.

    My new mantra- shots on goal. It's just shots on goal. Eventually, that little puck slips in.

    (Yet, when I play hockey I play defense. I'm always off-sides on offense, maybe I need a new mantra!).


Comments are moderated - if I'm at my desk, they'll show up quickly. If I'm not... not so quickly. Thanks for your patience!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.