Happy Sunday, Biblionerds!
A short and sweet post regarding an aspect of querying for those of you who are getting ready to launch yourself into the epic querying journey.
Short because I know you're probably stretched on time, like most writers are. So let me get to the point.
DON'T QUERY UNTIL YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS DONE.
This includes cold querying, pitch contests, and any other type of appealing to agents where said agents may immediately turn around and say "This sounds great! Send me the pages!"
When an agent asks to see more (or all!) of your manuscript, you need to get it in their hot little hands AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Querying is usually a slow process. Especially cold querying. When you send in a query you may be expecting another 4-8 weeks of editing time before you get a response. BEWARE. An agent may be sitting in their inbox when your query comes through. Maybe they love your query so much they get back to you super fast, unexpectedly, to see more.
But you're not done! You still have final edits to complete! You thought you had time!
So now you're stuck with either sending in a not-in-its-best-shape manuscript or making the agent wait before they see it.
You already know why sending in your not-in-its-best-shape manuscript is not good, but what's wrong with making an agent wait?
This is a professional environment you've entered into, there will be deadlines. The agent will have deadlines, you'll have deadlines, you'll all be up to your eyeballs in deadlines... and if you're taking your time to send in a manuscript that should have already been done, that's not a good look.
Sure - you don't always see your e-mail right away. A day or two delay probably isn't going to send any negative messages. But if you've got a week, or two weeks, or Hades forbid a MONTH in between a query request and a submission, there will be some alarm bells ringing in the agent's ears.
In regards to pitch contests - I know they don't happen all the time, and you don't want to miss a good opportunity, but be honest with yourself about whether or not you want an agent to see your work as-is right away. If your answer is "After I've tweaked it a bit" - it's not ready.
Patience is your friend. The entire industry is rooted in having patience. There will be other opportunities - present your best work.