This week’s post comes courtesy of Lucia’s Fiction, and offers a great opportunity to get your work critiqued.
Literary agents have various styles of working, and if you’ve been in the writing world long enough you must have heard of hands-on and hands-off agents. If you haven’t:
A hands-on agent is one who is very editorial. To improve the quality of your manuscript, they can have you do at least two rounds of edits. Or twenty.
A hands-off (or not-so-hands-on) agent is an agent who gives little to no editorial feedback on your book.
Because many agents are hands-on with manuscripts, it can be easy to forget that there are agents who aren’t. And so one might possess the misconception that once you have an agent, you are set. You only have to do minimal editorial work on your manuscript and that your agent will handle the rest of it.
Honestly? This can be a harmful mindset to have. Often it’s because some writers may presume that once one has an agent, all would be smooth routes and sunshine going forth. All the hard-work and diligence goes bye bye with the querying stage. This is another harmful mindset and will be explained further below.
Now even if you have the most editorial agent who probably has three assistants with masters degrees in editing, you stillhave to polish your manuscript as well as you can before submitting. This could be by sending the MS to your CP/beta readers and working on feedback. If you don’t have readers, it could be going back to the manuscript and scrubbing it until you know you’ve done your best. Otherwise, if you give your agent sloppy work just because, the below are potential results:
1. Your MS would take INFINITELY longer to go on submissions
This is probably the best ‘consequence’ of sending a manuscript you didn’t put your best effort into editing to your agent. If your agent is hands-on, then they’ll take the time to guide you through polishing up your work. This could mean months upon months of edits and a submissions period that’s pushed back far longer than you expected/hoped.
But… If you had taken the time to polish your MS, ask for feedback from reviewers and improve it, you could’ve been on submissions in January rather than in September. I suppose it might be a small price to pay to some and motivation to work harder on an MS for others. But that’s why it’s the best consequence.
2. Your agents might not like your story, hence they won’t sell it
I always emphasize that (good) feedback is great for improving the quality of a story. In this scenario, your concept might be groundbreaking but your early execution might need plenty of scrubbing. Or maybe even an overhaul. A reviewer can help you detect this—especially if you are passionate about that concept—and work with you to get the execution right so that your agent will likely fall in love with your message.
Now if you send a poorly executed story directly to your agent, there is a chance that they might hate it. That it could be sopoorly executed that they can’t even see through the badness to the potential the concept holds. Hate it so much that they suggest that you shelve the story forever or do so by singing ‘Let It Go’ with a cringe on.
Of course, this can be avoided if you make sure you’ve done your best work before sending it to your agent.
3. Your agent may feel you’re unprofessional
Although many acknowledgement pages in novels have agents named champions, super humans, fairy godmothers etc, agents are human beings. And you’re obligated to ease their workload whenever you can. If your MS brims with faults your agent knows you could’ve fixed if you only paid extra attention, they can find this lazy. And who knows how it’ll color their overall view of you.
4. What if your agent is hands-off?
This is probably the worst consequence. If your agent isn’t big on edits, they might submit your MS to editors precisely as you submitted it to them—plot holes, one-dimensional characters, lack of character motivations, and all. And this time, chances are that editors would pass without pause. There’s much to lose in this scenario. Months after months of unsuccessful submissions. An agent who eventually loses faith/interest. A career that sputters out. And all that stuff that keeps we writers up at night.
A good agent will do their best to ensure your book sells, and it’s your responsibility to do your best to help them achieve that goal!
To assist querying writers this December, I’ll be offering critiques on Lucia’s Fiction for my December Special. (https://luciasfiction.wordpress.com/)
Interested? Great! Please send the following to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Your Query Letter
2. Your First Five Pages in word document (double spaced!)
3. A small note on the critique style you want. General? Or detailed with track changes?
Submissions are open until the 10th of December. And I will be critiquing the first 3 (perhaps more) queries I receive. So hurry up and submit those queries! I would love to do more but December is a super busy time so watch this space as I might do another Query Critique Package in January!
If you’re one of the first three to submit and I’ll be critiquing your query, you’ll get a confirmation email from me shortly after I receive it! Along with my feedback will also be a link to my list of fast responding literary agents!