Sunday, January 30, 2011

One arrow to shoot at the target?

Q: If you are only supposed to submit/query one MS at a time, how will an agent know whether you have the ability to write more books and build a brilliant career. Especially since it is in an agent's interest to find clients for the long haul.

It feels like authors have one arrow (the MS you're submitting) to shoot at the target. What advice can you offer?
To be clear before I start: I AM NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT READING. I like to read, and I like that so many people want to submit material to me. Just the thing is, as I mentioned in my last post, agents can get overwhelmed fairly easily when dealing with submissions from people that we have no knowledge of or stake in. See, if a client writes to me a million times or asks follow up questions or gives me a bunch of stuff to read at once, well... I'd tell them to knock it off, probably, but I'd mean it with love, and they'd know that.  If a stranger does it, the much more likely response is automatic shutdown of my brain systems.

So my suggestion is, to query with what you think is your VERY STRONGEST piece of work, and only that. You may choose to mention (in one brief sentence, at the very end of your query) that you have other picture books, or another MG work in progress, or whatever, but this is not a must and don't hit it too hard. 

When the agent falls in love with that piece of work and has an email or phone call with you, you can talk about some of the other projects you have cooking, and they will likely ask to read some, particularly if they are picture books.  At this point they already like you and are paying attention, so they are going to go into reading the material with a positive attitude.

Now, while you are querying, you should be polishing up some of that other work, so that you have more material with which to dazzle. If your quest doesn't work out the first time around, you will have another VERY STRONGEST thing to offer, and you can begin again. 

WARNING! WARNING!  WEEEEWAAAA WEEEWAAAA (that was a siren noise). The following scenario happens all the time. WEEEWAAA WEEEWAAAA WARNING! WARNING!

Moxie wouldn't stand for this, unfortunately 
DO NOT. I REPEAT. DO NOT respond to the rejection of the first book by saying "that's OK, I've revised it, here's a newer version!" or "that's ok, what about this one?" and attaching another manuscript(s).  Even if we've said we'd be happy to consider something else in the future.  Not only is this exhausting (didn't we JUST get done thinking about this and saying no? Seriously?) - but if you are responding to the rejection, you are likely to just end up getting thrown away because we won't know it is a new thing.  And if you are going to query a revision, make sure it is really completely different now - that is not something that I will believe can be done overnight.

Give it some time. Allow our feeble brains the opportunity to recuperate from thinking. Then, after a month or two (or six, or twelve), take another shiny arrow out of your quiver, and aim again.