When To Submit Your Novel to an Agent?

I’m constantly looking for ways to improve the odds for finding representation for my next book, currently titled Sentimental Journey. Having taken dozens of courses and webinars, I’m working now on moving from “good writing” to “I have to have that book!” And I’m finding that this step is to ordinary writing courses what microsurgery is to applying a Band-Aid. It’s working on the finer points of your writing as opposed to just telling the story. It’s elevating good writing to “can’t put it down” writing. It requires an understanding and skill at a level far removed from the basics.

I’ve been through Sentimental Journey at least five times now, and had feedback from three early readers and one partial and one full professional edit. I’ve added, changed and deleted something on every single page at least once during those reviews. I’ve applied, to the best of my ability/understanding, the principles in Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. I’ve had several “aha” moments reading numerous agent blogs and gone back to make additional changes. How do I know when it’s ready to go?

The competition for a good agent and publisher is so keen. Once the book gets a rejection from one, I can’t rewrite and try again with them. It has to be right the first time. How do you know when it’s “right?”

About Dawn Lajeunesse

I, like so many others, am a novelist struggling for recognition. In Her Mother's Shoes was published in June 2013 - available through Amazon, B&N and iPad, e-book (only $2.99!) as well as paperback. Autumn Colors was my first. My third novel, Star Catching, was released in November, 2016 and has been very well-received! My writings are mostly women's fiction, most also suitable for YA. My website is www.dawnlajeunesse.com. Come visit me there!
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4 Responses to When To Submit Your Novel to an Agent?

  1. Joe Iriarte says:

    My manuscript wasn’t right the first time, but I don’t think waiting more would have helped. I’d done everything I knew to do at that point. I’d chopped the wordcount down to a reasonable total. I’d done multiple read-throughs and revisions and had one good beta partner provide detailed feedback. I’d done Control-F searches for the words that can signal weak writing. It was close, but not as good as it was by the time I got my agent.

    While I queried in batches, I listened closely to the feedback I got from the few agents who actually gave feedback. I was lucky–or close enough–to get some feedback early, though I certainly got my share of form rejections. But the first agent I queried asked for a partial and then rejected it, telling me why the character and the voice jarred for her. She wasn’t seeing him as the good guy like I was. The second agent asked for a partial, and then a full, and then had her associate agent read it, and then told me it had been a very close, difficult decision, but that she had to reject, but she told me what parts didn’t work for her. (Then I spent most of a year striking out, so don’t think I got that close every time.) Again, I took her criticisms to heart. I didn’t change my artistic vision, but I took seriously her perception of my story.

    Maybe if my book had been what it is now, I would have gotten that agent. I like to think so. But there was no way I could take it that last step without throwing it out there, letting it fail, and figuring out why it was failing. No, you can’t requery that agent with that project (unless she invites you to), but I dispute the idea that there is a single “right” agent for you anyway. There are a lot of agents out there, and if you keep trying and keep tweeking, you’ll get it good enough. You obviously have the goods.

    Good luck!

    Like

    • mtnwriter77 says:

      Thanks, Joe! You were fortunate to get that much feedback! But then, your manuscript must have been pretty good to stimulate that, since they generally just say “no thanks” or send you a form rejection note (one-liner) if nothing about it moved them. Think, though, based on your experience, that I may start testing the waters!

      Like

  2. mtnwriter77 says:

    Thanks, Joe – you gave me the nudge I needed to do it!

    Like

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