Friday, September 5, 2008

Submitting an incomplete manuscript

On Friday, after a lot of intense internet research regarding Oz lit agencies and publishing a first-time novel, I read a post on the ALAA website that the agency I am very interested in working with is open to unsolicited MS being sent in. I am a published journalist, have 12 000 words of copy for a novel, I have a clear direction of where my novel is going, who my audience is and indeed its marketing capabilities.

So here is the question: is it completely naive, immature, unprofessional and downright primitive of me to send off a submission with only 12 000 words currently sitting in my laptop? My reasoning is I am working 7 days a week, unhindered, on this ms and figure if I receive a response from the agency in the 10 weeks to 3 months it may take for them to go through my query/submission, I will nearly have finished the full ms. What do you think? Am I showing my complete lack of knowledge of how this business works or indeed ''showing a bit of dash'', as an editor of mine once commented.

There are a few things I'd like to address in this answer ...

First, I am always intrigued by authors who say they have only picked one agency they want to submit to - presumably based on the client list, as there's not much else to go on, although the size of the agency is often a determinant ('the bigger, the better' seems to be the most common mantra). But the personality of the agent/s at the agency should actually be the determinant - and you can't know that unless you actually get to the stage of talking to them. One agency may have a client list you want to join, but what if you don't get on with the agent/s there? It's always worth submitting to more than one agency just in case.

Second, from a writing/editorial point of view: it is unwise to submit a novel before you've even finished your first draft. The first draft is never, ever the final - never even close - and there is a real chance that it will do yourself a disservice - I've never taken on a novel based on a first draft, and I wouldn't mind betting your 'dream agency' hasn't either. Even if you know where the novel is going, you will need to redraft.

Third, if you decide to proceed with the submission: you say you have published a book, so that means you're not approaching them as a first-time author - this gives you an advantage over other authors who are submitting. Also, you can send a query and just be honest, say you haven't finished it and ask if they mind that - they'll let you know.

1 comment:

Brascoe said...

A person like this is far better off approaching a small indie press that would work with them to develop their manuscript.

While I run a publishing house, I also work with writers who haven't finished their work - so that they have a sense of it being professionally assessed and moved along before they approach agents or other houses.

Because we are a house ourselves it might look weird; but the two parts of our business are totally separate.

In some ways, getting assistance to finalise or further a manuscript at this stage can often help a writer to create something even better than they would have before: because an independent editorial intervention can polish ideas as they happen.