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About a month ago I requested the full manuscript of this amazing novel. I loved the concept so much that immediately upon opening the package I read the first three chapters. They were terrific: well written, enticing, exactly what the market is looking for right now . . . I loved them. I emailed the author to ask her to send the full manuscript and couldn’t stop talking about it at our weekly meeting.

And then I got back in the office. The author actually didn’t have the manuscript done, but wondered if it was okay to submit as soon as she did. I sighed. I hate when this happens because it takes the wind out of my sails. I told her that of course I’d love to see it whenever it was completed, but to take her time. The mistake here is that an author’s biggest concern is getting me the book and not making sure the book is perfect. It’s happened to me many times that an author has submitted without a completed project, and sometimes it’s worked out and sometimes it hasn’t. In a couple of situations I’ve ended up with authors who were able to finish the book and I did offer representation. In most situations, however, by the time I finally got the book the market had changed, I’d lost my enthusiasm for the project, or (worse for the author) I found another, very similar project, and took that on instead.

There’s a reason agents want a manuscript finished when you’re submitting. Unless you’re a published author (and can therefore prove that you can, indeed, finish a book successfully), it’s imperative that you finish the entire book, make sure it’s edited thoroughly, and have actually started your next book (so you know the first one has to be done) before submitting.

In this case the story gets even worse. I can’t stress enough how perfect this book is and how much I truly, truly love it and think it’s exactly what today’s market is looking for. The concept alone will have editors jumping up and down. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been proven to me whether or not the story can hold. About a week or so ago, the author emailed me. She was so sorry, but she isn’t finishing the book. She’s had difficulty with it and has turned to other ideas at this time (ideas that, by the way, aren’t nearly as marketable).

WHAT!?!?! I almost cried.

I guess this proves just one of the many reasons why an agent wants a book finished before it’s submitted. I wasted time, energy, and a whole lot of enthusiasm on that book. Maybe someday it will reappear, but who knows where I, or the market, will be by then.


Category: Blog


  1. that’s sad, and I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work out. But…and it’s a big but here…if she had gotten it back into you after working like crazy to submit, how long would you have kept your enthusiasm between asking and receiving? I mean, wow, am I running in circles on this. But how long does it normally take for a full to make it back to you?

  2. The writer sounds like who I used to be. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could finish a book because I had too many ideas and no focus. Fortunately, I grew up and realized I needed to finish a book before I could sell (duh).

    But until you, the writer, can get to the point where you can subdue your fear (because that’s what this is about, fear of success or fear of failure), the fear will always win and nothing will get written.

  3. Too many writers don’t look at what they do as a career and business. The cook at a McDonald’s doesn’t refuse to make cheesburgers because he doesn’t feel like it any more.

    That writer is a fool.

  4. Every writer I know, myself included, has at one time thought about tossing a book in the trash somewhere in the middle of writing it.

    That’s normal.

    The difference I think, is that the professional keeps writing.


  5. Sometimes writers will hear the horror stories about how long it takes to get an answer and submit before the book is finished, just to try to cut down on that looooong lag time. Unfortunately, as we see here, that strategy can backfire when you have such a very unique and marketable premise. Doesn’t it figure that the one time you don’t want to be the exception is when it actually happens?

    But it’s one thing to start querying when you’re in the polishing stage, and a totally different thing to start before you even have a complete first draft (which sounds like the case in this situation). Hard to know what was going through her head, but it sounds frustrating all the way around.

    However – since she had such a cool idea and isn’t using it any more, any chance you could share it with us? 🙂

  6. Fool or idiot I don’t know. I assume that this writer just, for whatever reason, could not finish the story and I suppose it is better to keep the door open then write something you know you can’t do anymore (for whatever reason) and submit crap. It’s also possible, and let me know what you think, that the request and my enthusiasm, instead of propelling her forward, froze her with fear. Just a thought.

  7. Jessica…One of the writers who called you back and said, “Um, how long do you think the book should be?” was me. 😉 You were so nice and told me the same thing you told this writer. “Take your time. Don’t rush it. I’ll wait.” And you did. Although I’ll admit to cranking out the last half of the book in 3 weeks and then editing for only 3 more–granted, that’s my best/preferred writing style, so maybe that’s why it worked out for us?

    Just thought I’d note that reading your post was like looking in a mirror…only I did finish the book, we do work together, and you did sell it in record time.

    😉 Bella

  8. Great point, Jessica.

    Fear of success can be just as debilitating as fear of rejection, if not more so.

    But like Allison said, the writer just wasn’t ready for this big of a step. Too bad, really, but maybe she’ll get another shot one day.


  9. I have a friend who has two books finished and she has inquired with Jacky (via my contacts with her) about representing her book and Jacky has failed to respond to the email. These books are good and I’ve edited/reviewed/commented/helped her get the kinks worked out and even helped with her synopsis recently so she could send them out. So this is the opposite end of the spectrum – finished work, inquiry made and no response – but I have hope that she will find an agent to represent her series soon and that the books will really do well once marketed and all – E 🙂

    [email protected]

    (Putting in a plug for Batya Deene’s Out of … series – first one is Out of Balance, second is Out of Tune and there is a prequel to be written with several other Out of stories coming soon)

  10. Sad to see this happen. As an unpublished writer working on a cozy mystery right now, I can see the temptation of querying early. BUT, on the other hand, I would never consider it. Why rush the end, when the end is so important? If an agent was interested in my book before I finished, I too would feel rushed, but would never throw it in the wind. Very odd. At least she didn’t waste your time any more than she had. What a shame.

  11. Elysabeth (and others): Keep in mind whenever contacting an agent via email that so much is often lost to spam filters. If you are not receiving a response from a BookEnds agent it’s very likely it was never received. We have actually addressed this on the Submission page of our Web site.

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