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Publishing Tip #1

Do not query until you’ve at least started writing the book.

It’s a disturbing trend lately, but I’m getting a lot of queries from people who have an idea and “plan to start writing soon” or are “about 5,000 words into it.” I know people are excited and I would suspect that any of you reading this blog would never dream of doing such a thing, but there it is. Happens all the time, almost every day, in fact.


Category: Blog



  1. Forget "at least started writing the book" I'd say (for fiction) that you shouldn't start querying until you've FINISHED.

    No, make that finished, rewritten four times, let it sit for a month, done two more mini rewrites, polished, and THEN start querying.

  2. I have read and heard that you should have MULTIPLE books completed before querying. I am about halfway through my first book and while I am anxious to query, I am also not stupid. Why would I want to shoot myself in the foot like that?

  3. I'm considering writing a 200,000 word book about the Russian revolution. Thinking of calling it Conflict and Settlement, or something similar. Please send standard "rich and famous" contract by return messenger. Thanks.

  4. one of the guys in my course – writing and editing mind you!! – said he was going to start querying agents soon, as he'd "just started" his book.
    So, i got home, and emailed him heaps of links to agent blogs and such saying NO.
    i swear, some people just don't know *shakes head*

  5. I'm thinking about becoming a writer. Can you give me ideas on what kind of book I should write so that you will want to represent me? That'd be super. Oh, and do you think you could tell me how I should start chapter one? Actually, if you could just go ahead and say you'll represent me and then I will send you the ten ideas I've been thinking about…

  6. Seriously you've got to wonder what these people are thinking?!

    Even before I started researching agents, publishing practices, or any of that I never would have dreamed about doing stuff like that. Or “pre-querying”. Or any of the other cockamamie (yes I said cockamamie!) things people come up with to try and get around having to query an agent and wait to find out if they are interested.

  7. I think this happens in two cases. The first: like you said, Jessica, some people get very excited, and they don't realize how competitive the field is. They think: I've got talent, and an agent would be happy to work with me.

    Or, there are some writers who are in it because they want to make money at it. They want to know if their idea is workable, and will sell.

    So, I can feel some sympathy, but I could also see how this would drive an agent – who is looking through 100 queries a day – nuts.

  8. If finishing the queried book in a respectable amount of time is not the hard part, then being able to follow-up with the second book definitely is! I know that takes some foresight and knowledge to plan ahead, but a serious newbie might want to think beyond that first sale and just write… and then worry about who’s going to represent their fabulousness.

    But, yes, it’s understandably tough to contain excitement.

    twitter @loriamay

  9. Anon 12:05:

    I just checked out that link. Astounding.

    Decide you'll get published before "wasting your time" writing a book.

    I think I'll see if I can get a record deal before I commit to guitar lessons. Don't want to waste all that effort and money.

  10. There is a recent post over on Absolute Write from an author who is "almost finished" with her book, and is understandably nervous about querying.

    Most of the responses from other writers are along the lines of "go for it as soon as you're finished," but what I see on agents' blogs is "stick it in a drawer for a few months and start your next book."

  11. Eight years ago, that was me. I'm soooooo sorry now! I was just so full of…well…we won't go there. But I've learned a LOT since then. And written quite a few books and done tons of research. Still don't know exactly what I'm doing…but…GADS! *embarrassed blush* I look back at some of the mistakes I've made and I'm just…mortified!

  12. SMB: I think we've all been there and done that. I know I definately have. Maybe not that particular mistake but I've certainly made some doozies of my own in the course of trying to get published.

    Think of it as a badge of newbie-ism and move on. 😀

  13. being fairly new to all this, I admit I have sent a query a little to soon, but never that soon. The manuscript was complete, but not exactly finished.

  14. Are you sure… I mean, I have this *great* outline for a novel that I plan on writing soon. Promise! It's going to be fantastic! I think… well… you know…

    I think the Rushed Query is part of the standard growing-up phase for writers. Hopefully, you out grow it. :o)

  15. I'm thinking of thinking up a great book. I don't have an idea yet, but I'm really smart. I'm soliciting representation and a small advance of sayyy 50K. I'll give you exclusive rights for the next 30 days.


    Holdin' M' Breath

  16. Jessica, you should write a book. 😉

    I'm glad I'd left my coffee cup in the other room. After reading the comments, I would be headed out to by a new keyboard from the spray.

  17. I do think some people new to this see information about book proposals, ideas and outlines, and miss the part that those are for NON-fiction books. Not novels.

    So, it may be sort of, a tiny bit, understandable. Maybe.

    Is it wrong that I always read things like this and think, "Well, my chances just went up a bit"?

    WV: welingio — a kind of island slang

  18. This makes me laugh. People think it's so easy to write a book. I bet the majority of these people you hear from will never even complete the novel.

  19. If you're previously published (especially with good sales), you can get away with querying for proposed projects not yet written. But if you're unknown, you nee to show you can deliver by having a completed ms.

    I do not recommend, as someone posted above, completing multiple novels before querying for any of them, unless you feel they aren't ready for publication. If you think it's comemrcialyl viable, send it out and start the next one while you wait to hear back.

  20. Geesh…we've all those good ideas. Those people need to get into a writer's group and share their good ideas and get their fill of positive feedback that way. Stop yacking at agents before it's time!

    Perhaps someday they'll be the sort of writer that the publishers call to write the book that fills their missing hole, but until then, they should get in on that book critique group.

  21. Seriously! I got a phone call last week where the guy said to me "Is this a literary agency?" When I confirmed he said "I have a great idea for a book, what do I do?" I asked if he'd written the book yet, and he said no, he didn't know how to start that's why he was calling. I wasn't sure how to respond for a few minutes – I was just too shocked.

  22. I'd never want to start querying about a book until I was done with my rewrites. My rewrites are always so much better (About three revisions in, I start to like it). I'd be afraid you'd be interested and want to read it before it was good.

  23. I really don't get it. It's not like the publishing industry (including the process of finding an agent) is hard to research. There are books, blogs, and forums with plenty of information.

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