When I first tested the publishing waters the pace of publishing was described as GLACIAL. Slow, steady, and quite often chilly, nothing happened fast in publishing.
Many authors took advantage of this by sending out queries or pitches before their book was fully finished. After all, who needed to edit before sending in a short story if the magazine's response time was over 6 months? When query was all conducted by snail mail it could take half a year to get a request.
Let me tell you, global warming hit publishing hard. That glacial pace has melted in the wake of digital publishing. With very few exceptions I had responses to queries in weeks rather months. Several full requests came in with only a few hours for turn around, rejections too. It happens.
Last October I had a Revise&Resubmit request from Marlene Stringer. I asked her for six months and wound up sending the revised novel in late May. In August we signed a contract. In September the novel went on submission to the editors. Two weeks later we had a tentative offer. Six weeks into submission we had a three book deal. Now JANE is releasing less than a year from when I queried Marlene with the final project.
Eleven months between query and pub date is not glacial.
In smaller presses the time between query and publication is even less. INTERNS went to my editor the same week JANE went out, and the contract was signed in August. I'm an in-house author so that tightened the time frame by a week or so, but not by much.
The advent of the digital marketplace (and the godsend that is email) have brought publishing's leisurely pace into the 21st century. If you want to query, don't do it until your book is 100% done. The day you send out your first query, or first twitter pitch, or first contest entry, should be the day you start writing chapter two of your newest book. The manuscript you send out should be at least two projects removed from where you are.
- novel on query
- manuscript being edited
- new project
- pot boiler ideas
Even if you use the One True Manuscript approach to writing you need time and space between writing, editing, and sending a query. Maybe instead of a manuscript being edited you'll have a painting drying and your new project is overhauling a car engine. That's fine, because it's the emotional and mental space you need before querying.
Working on the next project has three advantages. First, it means your novel is 100% ready when you send the query is sent. Second, the emotional sting of rejection is reduced when you're invested in something else. Third, when the agent or editor accepts your manuscript and they ask if you have another project you can say yes.
Whatever you do, don't rush to publication with a half-baked manuscript. Give your work all the time it needs to achieve perfection. A flawless novel is worth the work.
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