1. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Timing - in which stage of your work you should best approach a publisher or agent?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Leonardo Pisano, Mar 27, 2011.

    My initial thought was to finish the book completely. But given the long time elapse between approach and actual response, I was wondering if it makes sense to start the process earlier, e.g., when you are half-way.
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whatever you show the publisher or an agent is going to face tremendous competition. Handing over something half finished compared to someone handing over something both finished and polished is going to put you at a disadvantaged.

    Becoming a writer isn't a get rich fast scheme. It a slow moving business, you just have to accept it.
     
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  3. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Agreed with w176. You should not be looking for an agent/publisher until your MS is 100% absolutely the best you can make it.

    (The exception is Non-Fiction which often has different rules, but I assume you are talking about Fiction)
     
  4. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    I appreciate that, but:
    1. I wasn't thinking about showing work at first contact (Is that a must by default?)
    2. My story has a compelling timeline (linked to the Mayan prophecy - the world experiencing a catastrophe at 21 Dec 2012).
     
  5. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can begin networking early, being active going to conventions, listening to panels, following publishers, editors and agents blogs and podcasts on your genre, commenting on them and so on. But think of it as networking at this stage, not approaching people.

    But once you begin to network it might be good to have an short story or an except to show people if they are curious about your work.
     
  6. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    1. You may not need to show your work at first contact, but you do need to be prepared to.

    2. Having such a time-sensitive restriction on your work is a huge mistake. You're basically saying your novel not only needs to be noticed, but in circulation by December of 2012? Not to be a bubble buster, but even if right this second an agent said he/she wanted to publish your work, it would still maybe not be to that point by Dec 2012. Everything in publishing works at a glacial pace, and putting such limitations on your work isn't advisable (it's a limitation, because after that date it becomes a different genre, really).

    The absolute worst thing to do would be adding any sort of reference to the time-sensitive nature in your query. Pointing out the work needs to be published and fully supported and in the marketplace by that date is going to be a kiss of death for most agents, especially because I don't know how you'd even propose or bring up such a thing without looking unprofessionally demanding.

    Trying to write topical novel is for people who are psychic or extremely lucky, and started long before what makes it topical is even relevant, in most cases. The only exception is if you're already very established and have a contract. But think about it, you're approaching an agent by basically saying you're a new writer, want them to not only take a chance on you, but you come with your own time-related deadlines and expectations. Tough sell, my friend.

    I'm not saying give up, just make sure your novel is about far more than the fact it's topical. You should probably prepare for it to not be topical at all, and instead be more akin to speculative fiction, what could have happened in the past, not would could in the future.

    I've seen people try to do this, and it never works out well. Like a war starts, and then they start a novel about war to cash in... but by the time their novel is even ready to be read, the war is either over, passe, or people who had war-related material in their drawers waiting for it to be relevant again have already flooded the market.

    Basically, we're already seeing a lot of Mayan prophecy end of the world material in the marketplace... so if I'm an agent I want to know what ELSE your novel is going to do, because that's not something I'm looking for. Now, if it's great in other ways, I can overlook that aspect, but it's certainly not a selling point from a marketing standpoint.

    At least with Vampires you know they're going to be popular in cycles of every 3 years, it seems, lol. But basically putting an expiration date on your own novel isn't wise, and I'd definitely hope to have some other, better, selling point, and then the whole Mayan prophecy thing just becomes setting and context, instead of subject and theme.
     
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  7. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Thanks popsicledeath. Helpful comments. Didn't realise the publishing world is THAT slow.

    The book I am writing is about a conspiracy for one world government, linking events (such as 9/11) to that goal. The book has essentially three periods of six years (98-04/04-10/10-16), each period something big is contrived and later happens. The first two parts are of course easy as I can link to what REALLY happened. But the last part is necessarily somewhat speculative. I can change the 21.12.2012 date if needed, but I thought I could ride the wave. Frankly, while writing, I get now and then chills running through my spline myself!
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your work should be complete before you begin the process. Once you have a track record, a publisher that has worked with you may accept a proposal (outline/synopsis).

    Most publishers/agents that don't want just a query letter, usually want to see the first three chapters and a synopsis. If they're interested, they want the full manuscript.

    Okay, you're saying this all takes a while. You're right. But by the time you get to the end of your novel, will the first three chapters and full synopsis be the same?

    You only have one chance with each project with a publisher/agent. And if you're unprofessional, maybe one chance period--and burn that bridge.

    As far as having the manuscript out and published in time for the December 2012 thing? With a major publisher--not gonna happen. By the time you get an agent or even go through their slush pile, and by the time they assign you an editor and you go through the process and they place your novel in the publication slot/schedule, and they give time for ARCs to get reviewed etc--12 months is fast. 18 is more what you would expect.

    A smaller publisher...if they took you on right away--maybe but doubtful--very doubtful. Same with an e-publisher. I don't have enough experience with them to know how 'fast' a reputable one could turn around and put out your novel as a quality product. With a smaller publisher, they still have read and accept the novel before they even cosider assigning it to an editor and do all that they do to get out ARCs (Advance Review Copies) and whatever marketing efforts they will make. Even though they have fewer authors they're working with, they have fewer editors.

    Of course, don't forget contract negotiations.

    And, to top it off, the manuscript's first draft isn't even completed yet.

    Maybe you can get it to work...but consider what the odds are of a novel finding a publisher...and then factor in the time frame of 9 months or less to sell it to give 12 months to make it to the bookstore shelves--that's if they want to count on 1 month of sales, as well, after 12/21/2012, it'll be less relevant? And then factor in that the novel isn't even written yet?

    Just my two cents.
     
  9. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Yeah, it's slow. The best advice is write something that is relevant to all generations, yes, generations, as it may be THAT long before it gets published. The good news is quality fiction transcends current trends or topicality, so if the story is good, it'll have a market (in theory). I mean, we still get plenty of stories about Vietnam and WW2, for example. The unfortunate thing is if the world DOES end according to Mayan prophecy, there won't be much of an after-market for fiction dealing with that particular theme. :p

    You may miss the wave and still be fine. Just realize that when the wave crashes, you'll need more to rely on than what caused the wave. It sounds like your novel is a larger scope and not relying solely on the Mayan prophecy thing that's catching on right now.

    With any manuscripts, I'd suggest the writer ask themselves if they think an agent will still be interested in it in a year, or two, or 5, or 10. Because if your novel isn't relevant or marketable in a year from now, or better yet in 10, then why would an agent want to pick it up even if it were ready to publish right now if in a year from now it'll be forgotten?

    Granted, even many best sellers dissolve into irrelevance fairly quickly, but most agents aren't going to pick up a novel by a new writer if there's a chance it'll do this. Most agents are looking for that timeless classic (whether literary or genre, bestseller or niche), knowing they probably won't find it, but still, look for the best of the best, and then work with what they end up with.

    It's why writers querying with the approach 'this is hot, get it now or miss an opportunity' just get laughed at and ignored by most agents. :p
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    listen to tw and pops!... they're right and they've said all i would...
     
  11. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Thank you all for your time and help.
     

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