When an Agent Asks for Your Manuscript

When I highlighted agent Rachel Zurakowski on Friday, I mentioned that I pitched my first novel to her.

And she asked me to send it.

I didn't send it.

Why not?

I wrote "the end" on my first novel at 11:30 pm the night before my first writer's conference, and proceeded to pitch it to three agents over the next couple of days. They all asked for it based on the pitch, but it was far from ready for prime time--a fact I discovered as I sat through all the excellent workshops at the conference. The more workshops I attended, the more I learned that needed to be applied to my manuscript.

I foolishly thought that being "finished" was the most important thing in order for a writer to query or pitch to an agent. But there are two important things to complete before querying: being finished and polished. Needless to say, I never did send my manuscript to the three agents that asked for it, and I'm so glad. I've continued to go to conferences, read books on the craft, and write, write, write. 

If someone had told me (while I wrote my first novel) that this was a "practice" novel, I think I might have given up and cried. After all, my kids loved it. It placed third in a large writing contest. My creative writing students begged to read more than the first three chapters. A winner, right?

It's difficult for those starting out in writing, getting excited about the possibilities of publication, to hear about how long it takes (most) writers to see their book in print. Many writers discover the average tme necessary, and give up on publication right there.

I believe that of the individuals who eventually get published, some are naturally good writers, and others worked hard to become good writers. But what they both have in common is that they didn't give up. They kept on learning, and kept on writing. They went to conferences. Read good books on writing. Joined a critique group. Kept up with what was published in their genre. And it finally happened.

Author Randy Ingermanson says that most writers take about 5 years from the time they begin to write seriously before they're published. For some writers, the process is much longer,  and for just a few it's  blindingly fast (for the story of one author's very long road to publication, check out thriller writer Brandilyn Collins). If you're trying to figure out where you are in the process, read Ingeramanson's article, titled Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Author!

So all you pre-published authors, hang in there with me!


  1. Will I get to read the rest of your story?

    After after having to edit and format science manuals for the past four months it would be nice to read a good story.

  2. I'll have to send you some more chapters!

  3. Wonderful post, and I couldn't agree more. Thanks too for the link to "Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Author!" Interesting article!

  4. That article really helped me have a realistic view of the road to getting published. Randy has a unique take on things. He writes a monthly fiction column for an online writing magazine--it's really funny! http://bit.ly/aL6q1e (you can go to the archives on the home page for more)

    By the way, I love the post on writing in a treehouse. My writing room doesn't even have a window!



Related Posts with Thumbnails