Everyone has an opinion: your critique group, your family etc. If you’re writing a book you need to show it to people to get it published, right? Your critique group or family has watched you toil over your writing for months, years or decades. And often they’re the ones that say: “Send it out!”
Are you one of those writers that holds on to their work too long?
4 Signs You’re Ready to Share Your Work With the Publishing Industry:
1. You’ve received feedback from all the sources you trust. Once you’ve shared with your writing group, writing professor or trusted source a few times–you’re not going to hear anything new. Don’t go searching for lesser opinions just to critique more. Know whose opinions you value and focus on those notes.
2. You can’t think of any holes or gaps left to tackle. Plot? Characters? Pace? Continuity? If you’ve got your basics covered there’s not much left to do. It’s always about the writing, not necessarily the flawless technique that agents or editors will notice. What is ‘perfect’ anyway? It’s an opinion. Hear to your gut when it’s talking to you.
3. You don’t agree with the feedback you’re receiving. Listen, this is your work with your name on it. So no matter what anyone says it’s your decision what to revise and where to rework. You have to agree with the critique group feedback in order to implement it. Don’t go changing things for other people if you’re not sure it’s right for your story. That’s when you stop and recalibrate–the next steps are always up to you.
4. You are proud to put your name on it. If it was published tomorrow would you be happy with it? It’s the writer’s job to get it to the standards that they are happy with. Agents want to see manuscripts at the point where the writer can’t think of anything else to make it better. That means they’re ready for the next collaboration stage.
Agents and editors want to see the best work possible from superbly skilled people. That’s it. It’s our job to ‘talent spot’ and take projects to the next level, but it starts with your great projects coming our way.
Q: When do you know you’re ready to send your work out?
This is a tough one. Every agent feels differently about this, but my general philosophy is this: if I wrote up notes while I was reading the manuscript, I’ll pass them on, but if there are so many issues in the manuscript that I can’t tackle effectively in an editorial letter while balancing the work load of my clients then I won’t write one. That being said, there are many reasons why agents don’t explain why they pass on your manuscript and they include the following:
Time. I touched on this already, but our existing clients are always our first priority. We work so hard for them and do our best to balance reading the slush pile with our other work, but that often falls to the side as I read my clients’ work, their referrals, then the slush pile. Agents take time to read the slush pile, request material, and then take a huge chunk of their day, evening, night, and morning commute to read a manuscript that they aren’t sure whether they can invest in. If it is a pass after all this time has been put into it we need to get back to work on the phone calls and emails that have been waiting for us in the meantime.
Investment. Agencies don’t get paid until you get paid. That being said, it is always worth reading the slush pile because there are always those rare gems, however it takes awhile for those gems to turn into a manuscript that an agent can represent and sell. Our time is a huge investment and it’s all we have to give. Be patient with us when it takes time to get to your manuscript, because even though you might dislike form rejection letters even those take time for our staff to email out to everyone. We do the best we can in the careful balance of our job descriptions. Continue reading Why don’t agents comment on the manuscripts they pass on?
Taking feedback and criticism is never easy. Especially when the feedback directly relates to the body of work you have put so much time, effort and emotion into. Stepping back from the immediate reaction of a) ‘They only read 3 chapters, what could they possibly know?” b) “I just received an editorial letter, I must revise immediately” or c) “How am I supposed to make sense of all these revision notes and feedback?”
Whether the feedback comes from beta readers, agents, or editors, no matter what stage of the publishing process you are in you must be patient with yourself, don’t jump to conclusions and take everything with a grain of salt. There will be extremes; someone will think you need to cut and revise 100 pages to speed up pace and someone else will think the pace is great but the characterization needs work. Joni B. Cole says it best: Continue reading Writer Feedback in the Publishing Industry