Wednesday, 17 August 2011

7 Reasons Why You should Go For Multiple Submissions

Derek asked for my opinion on multiple submissions.  It's short:  YES!  Go for it!  And these are the reasons why:

1. Things get lost in the post, piled up in heaps, slip down the back of desks...You could be waiting indefinitely.  Ten years later and I'm still waiting to hear back from one agent.  (You're too late! Ha!)

2.  Assuming your ms has reached the agent, you could be at the bottom of a very big pile of unsolicited submissions.  The agent has to prioritise their existing clients so it's understandable that at times the slush pile is left to mature quietly on its own.  It can take months for an agent to read your ms, only to immediately discard it.

3. Have you ended up with your first boyfriend/girlfriend? Yes, some of us get lucky and never look beyond that first snog at the school disco, but for most it takes time to find our match. Similarly you want the agent who not just likes your novel but completely falls in love with it. The chances of finding The One on the first submission are as likely as on the first date.

4.  Most agents don't send back messages such as 'This novel is an abomination' if they don't like it, but there are a few who don't believe in holding back their opinion.  I have been at the receiving end of a letter from an agent that confidently stated 'You are wasting your time.'  Luckily I'd already had 2 positive responses from other agents so it didn't matter too much, but I think if that was my only reply I might have given up there and then.

5.  Do the maths.  If you send out to one agent at a time and each takes 6-8 weeks to reply, it's going to take 1-2 years before you've had a chance to send out to 10 agents.  If you're sending out to 6 each time, then you'll have clocked up 40-50 in a year.  (Gosh, that sounds depressing but...)

6.  Novels are of the moment.  You've written it, re-written it, edited it now.  If it does the rounds for several years it will be slightly out of date, perhaps a bit tarnished round the edges.  Better to get it out there as quickly as possible and see how it fares in the marketplace.

7.  A positive response is to be cherished, even when it's a no.  You examine the comments the agent has made, wondering if you should apply their suggestions and start a re-write.  This can drive you potty.  Multiple submissions should give you several responses to consider.  If all of them are telling you the characters are weak, then you can be pretty certain that you need to look at them again.  If one says it's too long, but another says it's too short, you can make your own decision.  It's all opinion, but the wisdom of crowds means more opinions are likely to give the right answer than a single opinion on its own.

**** Please note, I'm talking about the initial submission ie 3 chapters, covering letter, synopsis.  It doesn't take much time for an agent to look at them and make a decision if they'd like to see more or not.  However, reading a whole novel with a view to representation is a completely different thing.  If an agent asks for the whole book you shouldn't send it out to anyone else for several weeks, and then give the first agent notice that that's what you intend to do.  

3 comments:

Mama J said...

Very good points. It can be confusing with the conflicting advice but it's good to see the positives of sending out to muliple agents. It gives a better overall view.

Thank you.

Nikki Goodman said...

Sarah, great post thanks. One question - do you tell the agents that's what you're doing? And if so, what do you say about this in the query letter?

Thanks, Nikki.

P.s. Have shared this article on Twitter...

Sarah Duncan said...

Mama J - I know, there's lots of conflicting advice out there, but you know - my opinion is always right! (Except of course when it's wrong.) I think you have to use your common sense and work out what's best for you.

Nikki - I wouldn't say anything at the initial stages. It doesn't take much time to decide to see more so IMO it's fair enough, given the time some agents take to reply.

The only time I'd consider mentioning anything about it would be if you were very set on a particular agent and wanted to offer them an exclusive chance to view, but even that sounds a bit...pushy, I suppose - it could be read as, I'm so great I'm giving you this wonderful opportunity. Safer to put the whole issue onto one side and not say anything.

But once someone has asked to see the whole thing, that's when you should stop sending out to others, or if another agent asks for the full ms, you should be up-front about the situation.

Think you should always be honest and truthful, but that doesn't mean you have to tell them everything all the time.

Thank you for sharing it on Twitter - the more mentions the better IMO!