Is Your Manuscript Ready for Querying?

So you’ve written a great query letter and the agent or editor you submitted to has requested material. Now what?

So often partials I request have a great hook, but the final product is far being fully realized. This may be a result of a few issues:

1) Writers are unclear about what an agent’s role is – An agent is not an editor, though they use their editorial judgment to assist developing projects. Every agent has a different level of editing expertise to lend to clients. So, do your work ahead of time because the farther along the manuscript is, the better chance it has at succeeding. Don’t give the reader an excuse to put it down.

2) After working on it alone for months or years they are just ready to give it wings – So you’ve been staring at your writing for months, working on it for years and all you want to do it throw it out there and see if it sticks. Wait until you are ready. If you have those lingering ‘hmmm, that part is still weak but I don’t know if anyone will notice’ moments guess what: agents and editors will be able to spot them. So do the work ahead of time instead of having an agent tell you what you already know intrinsically. Yes, agents can spot a diamond in the rough, but what you want is multiple agents recognizing the polished quality of your work and thus multiple offers.

3) Lack of writing group feedback – Do you have an honest or constructive group of beta readers? Family members don’t always make the best readers. Finding a group (in person or online) that understands your genre’s expectations can help you in the editing process.

4) Not enough basic editing has been done – a) One of the most common simple mistakes I see is missing words. You know your work so well and can read through the text itself knowing what will come, but be objective, put your editor’s hat on and read carefully. It may sound like a mistake that could never happen to you, but I guarantee if you go through your manuscript right now you would find these errors that Spell Check often misses. b) Don’t send the first draft. Self-editing is a career long process for a professional writer.

Three points to take away:

Be honest with the limitations of your manuscript. Can you spot them and repair them before querying?

Find constructive beta readers. Don’t count on friends and family. Work within your genre.

Don’t count on spell check. Read your manuscript aloud, have your Microsoft word program read it back to you, use helpful editing techniques.

For more tips on what to do when an agent asks for your material see my post here.

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

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