As I’m finishing up my current work-in-progress, I keep asking myself the above question on when is the right time to query. I’m not sure I have an answer. Or really if one exists, since I imagine it’s different for every person and book. Sure, I definitely need to finish the book first. Then I need to wait to do more edits after having critique partners read it. But after that, how will I know when it’s ready?
I don’t want to be like those American Idol beginning contestants and think I have a good voice and then get laughed off by the judges. I want my “voice” to be ready when I send it out to my own judges (i.e. agents).
But knowing if your work is good enough and “ready” to be sent out into the world is hard to judge for yourself. There’s two good pieces of advice I’ve heard about when a writer should query in the last few weeks:
1.) Most authors submit to agents one-draft too soon. (Sorry, I don’t remember where I saw the first one, so I can’t give them credit. If you know, let me know.):
This is excellent advice and a reminder that when I’m ready I need to wait and hold out until one-more draft is done. And just hope it’s the draft that will get me through. This is definitely something I’m learning with each book I write.
With the first books, it’s really easy to send early, since you are craving feedback and want to know if your “baby” has a shot. It feels more like you are jumping up and down in a crowd and waving your manuscript back and forth yelling, “Pick me. Pick me.” However with each book, I think you learn more of not only what to do when querying agents to effectively target the attention you do have, instead of waving erratically, but also about patience. And hopefully about making the book better that agents can’t resist but to pick you (wouldn’t that be nice!).
2.) The second advice was on Kate Schafer’s Ask Daphne! Blog. Here’s a link to the entry. I read this tons of times, just because I knew it was advice I needed to hear. Basically her advice is that if you are down to tweaking instead of making the story better and you have all your loose ends tied together and have complete story and character arcs, then the book is ready to query.
I like this advice for a number of reasons. But mainly because I can understand it better than the standard, “send when it’s ready.” Because frankly, I really don’t get that. Because no one asks when it’s going to be ready if they know what “ready” really means. Now do they?
Which brings me to you all. When do YOU think a manuscript is ready to be sent to agents? Because I could really use some more advice and a slap on the hand, since occasionally my old-newbie writer self comes out and really craves to jump the gun and see if my “baby” has a shot. And I’d really rather refrain from looking like a fool jumping up and down yelling, “Pick me. Pick me.”
--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent