Two years ago, an editor was interested in my previous novel. The novel was taken to acquisitions and not acquired. Subsequently, I withdrew that novel from sale and began to work on another novel. Over a year and a half later, the same editor contacted my agent to see if I had anything new he could look at. (I know, pretty flattering, huh?) In the intervening time my agent had retired and I hadn’t found a new agent because the book was unfinished (and there was no point looking for an agent for an already-shopped book), so I emailed the editor directly and told him about my new project.
Well, he was really interested. Took a look at the partial and made some brilliant editorial suggestions. Which I have implemented. (They meant an entire rewrite, so I’m not quite done, but nearly there.) But when I sent him a partial with the changes, he sent them to another Senior editor, and they both got a little excited, and now they’re waiting on the full. No promises, but lots of interest.
So what’s the protocol here, in regards to queries? I really want to work with this editor should an offer be forthcoming, but I also want an agent. Preferably first, so they can negotiate the contract and make sure I’m getting a fair deal and for other novels – to help me turn this into a career. Should I mention anything in the query title or open with, ‘I have an interested editor’? Or do I wait until I have an offer in hand?
Life never works the way it’s supposed to, does it? All the time people do things out of order or “not the way they’re supposed to” and it works brilliantly for them. The difference between these people and those who “do everything right” with little success is that the people who use the back door first also grab every opportunity the moment it arises.
Grab this opportunity. The moment you feel the manuscript is in fighting shape you get it off to that editor. You have someone waiting for your work, don’t let too much time slip by (of course, don’t rush it too quickly either). Then get your queries out to agents and yes, definitely mention that Editor Name at House Name is reviewing the manuscript by request. You can explain the details later if necessary.
If you get an offer from the editor before you hear from agents you can use the offer to push an agent offer. Simply follow my guidelines, ask the editor to wait, and get the agent on board before you agree to anything. You don’t need an agent first to negotiate the contract. You’re just going in through the back door.
Hope that helps. Best of luck!