Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Can this book be saved?
June 19, 2012 5:27 PM   Subscribe

An editor asked for the full manuscript of my young adult novel. The problem? It isn't finished yet. What do I tell her?

Here are the gory details. I entered the first chapter of my YA novel in a contest in which it placed (hooray!). One of the judges, an editor for a Large Publisher, has asked me for the full manuscript (hooray!). The problem is that I've only got three chapters done (crap!). I should be clear that the contest itself did not require a completed draft -- it was just for first chapters.

I obviously need to tell her that it's a work in progress, but I'm not sure how to put it. Do I give her a projected completion date? Ask her if she'll still be interested then? Any other details? And for extra credit: Is there any hope that four months from now I will have a chance with her when I'm done?

Also worth mentioning: I have not published a novel before, and do not have an agent. Thanks!
posted by Shoggoth to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dear Publisher,

Thank you very much for your request! Unfortunately, the manuscript is not yet completed. Please find attached the first three chapters. I would be more than pleased to answer any of your questions.

Thank you,

Shoggoth
posted by kavasa at 5:29 PM on June 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Dear Editor,

Thank you for your interest in [your great novel]. It is still a work in progress; I would love to send it to you when it's done.

Sincerely,

Shoggoth


This is a) positive, b) finesses the "maybe you'll send it to them via your agent" issue (you should totally send this via your agent).

Congrats! Now you just have to finish the book and find an agent. Soon, so as not to lose your momentum. Yay, you!
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:36 PM on June 19, 2012


Do not give a timeframe. There is every hope she might be equally interested in four or six months. After that, you'll be starting over from scratch.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:38 PM on June 19, 2012


I could be wrong but my understanding was that editors would rather not see a finished product anyway. I would start out talking to agents first before dealing directly with publishers.
posted by bleep at 5:59 PM on June 19, 2012


Can you create an outline for the rest? From what I understand, that's usually enough.
posted by empath at 6:06 PM on June 19, 2012


Novels are sold on completed manuscripts, not outlines, unless the writer has already had success as a novelist. (Non-fiction books, other than memoirs, are generally sold on proposal/sample chapters/outline.)

Shoggoth should definitely finish the book before querying.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:17 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Please don't use words like "Unfortunately" or phrases like "I'm sorry" in your letter. You just put yourself at a disadvantage by apologizing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:19 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Congrats, this is great! Send something along these lines:

Dear Editor:

Thank you so much for your interest! I'm very flattered. While I'd love to send you my manuscript, it's current a work in progress. Would you mind if I send it along when it's done?

Yours sincerely,

Shoggoth

I would not send a partial without explicit permission, however. For a variety of reasons, the editor might want to see the whole book at once. Anyway, most likely, the editor will say, "Sure! Send when ready!" And four months is nothing for an editor to wait. Publishing moves at a snail's pace.

(However, have you ever finished a book before? That's fast to get a manuscript submission-ready! Just saying. Make sure you have great betas.)

The good thing about phrasing the question this way is that it opens up the possibility for the editor to say, "Send me what you have now!" Believe it or not, unagented authors have actually secured offers this way, then secured agents when they had an offer in hand. Julie Cross is one. While this is a particular sort of signing situation is unusual and unique in the particulars (it means better positioning with this particular editor, but less choice in editors, as a good agent will take you on wide submission in order to maximize advance money and likelihood of an auction and such), it's by no means a horrible thing. The key is just to make sure you have an agent before you sign anything.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:38 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


(Also you should write "currently" rather than "current," because typos are bad, man.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:45 PM on June 19, 2012


I defer to PhoBWan's expertise, because I haven't sold to (or edited in) the YA market! (Except as work for hire with a packager, but We Never Talk About That.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:07 PM on June 19, 2012


Can't believe I am the only one to suggest this, but---finish it! Write back and say you are excited to share the novel with them, that you are putting some 'finishing touches' on it, and that you will send it next week. Then work like mad to finish it. Pull some all-nighters, call in sick at work, whatever, and just finish it. You don't want to blow a chance like this.
posted by JoannaC at 4:41 AM on June 20, 2012


I would advocate being upfront with the editor. The contest specifically did not require completed manuscripts, so you have not misrepresented yourself so far. Be honest, thank her for her interest, explain you have three chapters done of your outlined X chapters and and ask the editor how she would like to proceed.
posted by mikepop at 5:52 AM on June 20, 2012


I could be wrong but my understanding was that editors would rather not see a finished product anyway. I would start out talking to agents first before dealing directly with publishers.

Can you create an outline for the rest? From what I understand, that's usually enough.


Just a note that neither of these are true in the YA market, particularly YA.

Can't believe I am the only one to suggest this, but---finish it! Write back and say you are excited to share the novel with them, that you are putting some 'finishing touches' on it, and that you will send it next week. Then work like mad to finish it. Pull some all-nighters, call in sick at work, whatever, and just finish it. You don't want to blow a chance like this.

Unless you know that you're unusually capable of writing (and editing!) a book in a week--and really, most writers aren't--please don't do this. Sending work that's not ready is one of the worst mistakes writers make. Sending genuinely finished, polished work can help maximize your financial bargaining position with this editor, among other things.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:29 AM on June 20, 2012


(Sorry, I meant "fiction market.")

Finish your book first, is what I'm saying. And finish it right. This editor has only one chance to give your book a first read--you really want it to knock her socks off.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:43 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


yes, PLEASE don't send the editor anything that's not completed and thoroughly revised (and ideally, has been beta-read by critique partners). don't rush it. PhoBWanKenobi is right that publishing is crazy slow, and the editor will probably still want to see it even if it takes you eight months. bonus: explicit editor interest like this is something you can mention when you're querying agents.
posted by changeling at 2:10 PM on June 20, 2012


oh, and congrats and good luck!
posted by changeling at 2:11 PM on June 20, 2012


« Older How do you make Excel automati...   |  How do I leave grad school and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.