2 Replies to “So you’ve pitched successfully — now what? Part VIII: Help! I’m feeling disoriented. What if an agent is ready to say I do, and I can’t?”

  1. You know, of course, how grateful I am that I found your blog before this all happened to me.

    I’m too remote to be able to attend conferences, so would never be in the position of being HNW because of winning a contest OR being a celebrity (uh, awful idea). So I did the only sensible thing I could and multi-queried.

    Which netted lots of new electronic wallpaper for my blog room (when I finally start decorating) in the form of rejections. As well as a couple of requests for partials, and one request for a full. All of which would have had me bouncing around for joy except that – one partial request was for an exclusive, after I’d already sent out partials to the other agents, and the full request was for an exclusive, also afterwards.

    So putting on my big brave typing fingers, I wrote back to both agents granting the exclusives with a stipulated time frame AND LETTING THEM KNOW my work was already submitted elsewhere. They both replied immediately that I should submit if the other agents didn’t take up my work.

    Which is rather scary – because if the other agents don’t like my submission to them, what does that say about my work to the agents who have asked for the exclusives? Is it make my MS look bad?

    In any case, all this happened very recently, so I’m still waiting to hear back from those other agents. And I”m still in the position of being able to query and respond, which I wouldn’t have if I’d jumped the gun.

    Now the only hard part is that I waited those few days between request and submission so I could just do that one last edit (again – does it ever stop?) and it seems to be a pervasive belief amongst relevant sites that if you don’t jump on that agent request for submission you have more or less annihilated your chances of them taking you seriously. For the last request I’ve waited a week – cutting, polishing (hacking!) and then proof-reading all over again for the typos that sneak in while re-writing.

    Was I right to wait and send my best version? (It’s been sitting here a whole 24 hours edit-free and I can’t find anything further, incudling typos or missing words). Or have I blown it?

    1. No, it never stops — thus my slow reply, in fact. And you did the right thing in letting them know.

      I wouldn’t worry about how returning to those agents later would make you look. They know that agents often have very quirky tastes, and that the market changes constantly; they themselves have most likely rejected beautifully-written manuscripts that they didn’t think they could sell today, but realized a month later that they should have picked up. Happens all the time.

      And even in the unlikely even that they have not had that experience recently, if they were prejudiced against manuscripts already rejected by others, they would not have asked you to resubmit. It would be a waste of everyone’s time, right?

      I’m familiar with the jump-on-it meme, but honestly, I’ve rarely heard anyone inside the industry express it. This oh-my-God-I’ve-blown-it! panic comes almost entirely from the writers’ side of the world; it represents a misunderstanding of how much agencies have to read. It’s not as though agents don’t keep records of what they requested, or will walk away from the 47 manuscripts already in their to-read piles because the one they requested yesterday turns up. Turn-around times typically run into months, not hours.

      I get the instinct to believe that because competition is so intense, speed of reply is going to win a submission Brownie points, but trust me, any reputable agency receives far too many queries to have the luxury of sitting around with a stopwatch to see how quickly the few that result in materials requests tumble in the door. Indeed, since close-to-instant responses are the norm for e-mailed requests, a Millicent would have to awfully inexperienced not to notice that the manuscripts that appear sooner tend to be less well proofread than those the writers took some time to review.

      So yes, you were absolutely right to wait and send your best version. You get only one crack at this with any given agency; you want them to judge you on your best work.

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