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Monday, October 27, 2008

The conference pitch....

From the comment trail


I have a question-I was recently at a conference and after pitching I was asked to send in my novel-it's not quite finished yet so how long do I have before it's wierd to send it in?? thanx :)

October 27, 2008 11:00 AM

This is a little bit scary. Ideally, you would never show your work in a pitch session without it being perfect for exactly this reason. If the agent is madly in love with your work and wants this story right *NOW* for her list it might be an issue.

Scenario 1: You told the gushing agent that the manuscript was note perfect and ready to roll...

What I recommend doing is sending the agent a polite e-mail about the manuscript. Tell her that you need to implement some changes based on suggestions and ideas from the conference (True- finishing the book is part of editing) and give her a reasonable date by which you think you can have this ready. And then work your fingers to the bone making this story perfect!

Most agents take 1-3 months to reply to something in their slush pile, publishing only looks like a high speed business. Asking for 6-8 weeks to get the story polished and make a major round of edits isn't to much to ask at this stage. At least, I don't think so. When you have an editor breathing down your neck, it will be different. Editors don't like to wait.

Scenario 2: You told the agent that you were almost done...

This is the best of both worlds. You don't have to do something so crass as stretch the truth, but you have an agent waiting to see your work. Aim to finish within the next 6 months and then query this agent in your first round with a note that you had met at The Conference, talked over the pitch session, and you hope she'll love this as much now as she did then.

--> The take home lesson here is that you shouldn't show your work to an agent or editor until it's ready to roll. Early feedback on half-finished drafts is why critique groups were invented. Every author wants feedback, even on the first draft we want to know our characters are engaging and that the story isn't a waste of our time.

But the worst thing you can do is rush your manuscript out the door a la HP#7. Impatience kills careers. If you don't believe me, go check out Agent Nathan's blog entry about impatience.

And- congratulations! An agent is interested in your work and that is always wonderful news :o)


  1. First, I'll preface by saying this is probably one of the worst things you can do to yourself as a writer. Never, ever do this!

    But seeing as you're in this situation, I would take the advice given you and use the conference feedback as an excuse, or say you just got back some critique group feedback that you would like to implement before sending it off.

    Your timeline? I'm afraid I need to disagree in the fact that I think you have much less time to work with. Wait more than 2 weeks, and not only will the person who requested likely forget your MS, but they will begin to believe that the MS wasn't ready in the first place, unless you explained when you pitched that you were finalizing the final draft. A request isn't like slush waiting to be read.

    So, I'd wait maybe 5 days after the conference, sed an email thanking them for the opportunity to submit and mention you just have that last minute tweaking to do because of conference feedback, etc. Then, I'd say you have 2 weeks (1 month on the OUTSIDE) before the agents/ed's spidey senses start going off...a little more if your snailing it instead of emailing.

    If your waiting 3-6 months to sub because you have so much work to fix, I think honesty (or a closer version of honesty) is your best course of action. Send a note thanking the agent for their interest, and mention that the conference feedback has made you realize you have a bigger plot point/character motivation/whatever to fix and will need time to rectify. Then ask if it is okay if you take a few months to fix the flaw ad run it past your critique group before sending it onto the agent/ed, as you only want to present your very best work. My guess is the ed will say sure, go ahead and send it.

  2. Thank you Angela, I wasn't sure what the time line for something like this would be. Conferences never seem to happen near the Boondocks where I live (or I move 3 weeks before the conference!) so I've missed this opportunity.

  3. Heh, at least you're in the right country for them O:)

  4. Ya I know this is a pretty bad situation :( but thanx for your help. I did mention that it is not finished and that didn't seem to be a problem so hopefully things will work out okay :) Liana and Angela thank you I will take your advice and send her an e-mail saying I have a fair amount of work still to do. thank you :)

  5. I got word back from Susan today. Luckily I apparently picked an amazingly nice editor who didn't seem fazed at all and said I could take as long as I needed to get it perfect :). I am eternally greatful for my "freebee" and won't let it happen again!!
    -thanks again for the advice :)-

  6. wow--sounds great! best of luck!

  7. thanks I'm so excited but this is my first manuscript submission so I know it will probably be a rejection but hey u need to get through those first!