Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A few more of your questions answered by Jim McCarthy

I think we’re about 25 down, 15 to go on the open call for questions. We’ll keep plugging along, and we hope that our answers are helpful!

Athena said...

My questions are:

1. Since it's been over 8 weeks, should I send the agent a "hey, haven't heard from you about that late Roman Empire novel set in North Africa"? Or should I assume that because I was a big dork and queried with a (not perfect) partial, the answer's going to be no anyhow?

--If eight weeks is the amount of time they say they need to respond to a submission, then by all means, send a follow-up to check in.

2. Since I haven't done diddly-squat on that MS since I queried (because I'm a neurotic little scrivener and I've been immobilized by my angst about the opinion of the agent), am I totally screwed if the agent comes back and says, "I would like to represent this--where's the rest of it, dear?"

--Well, it wouldn’t be the best of situations. The reason you want the entire manuscript ready to go is that you should be able to strike while the iron is hot. If the agent wants to read the rest of your manuscript now, you want to be able to give it to them. If they have to wait for you to finish, they’ll most likely be willing to look whenever you’re done, but their enthusiasm could have a chance to wane.

3. Does the fact that I even asked question #2 mean that my ego has reached megalomaniacal proportions, and that I am not able to recognize the simple and salient fact that my writing does, in fact, suck?


Kidding! Nah, the querying process is neuroses inducing for the sanest of authors. It’s tough to get a handle on, but you’re clearly trying to learn, so good for you. In the meantime, do what’s most important—keep writing! The ins and outs of submissions will get clearer and clearer, but if you’re not actively working on your craft, then who knows if you’ll ever have a book ready to send?

Aimless Writer said...

Pitching at conferences:
If you are at an RWA conference is it okay to pitch a mystery if you know the agent your interviewing with handles mysteries?

My book is a little of both but heavier on the mystery/suspense part. I do belong to RWA but this book fell out of my head more toward the mystery genre.

--That should be fine. And maybe that particular agent might be thrilled to have a break from romance pitches for a moment! Long story short, if they represent what you do, you’re welcome to pitch it. And if you’re going to RWA this weekend, have a blast!

Anonymous said...

I am in the unfortunate circumstance of finding another agent. In the query process, should I mention that I had an agent but it didn't work out, or leave it out all together?

On one hand, it shows that another agent thought my work was good enough to offer representation (assume I'm talking about a good agent, well known, not one new to the biz) but on the other, the prospective agent could wonder 'why' it didn't work out.

I don't want to hurt my chances, but I'd like to help them, if possible. My dream agent is out there!!

--It does help to let us know you had another agent and how far along you got in the process. If a project has been submitted or editors have said they want to see more of your work in the future, these are things we should know. If the information will be necessary when it comes time for us to submit, that’s likely something we should have up front. It shouldn’t hurt your chances if you’ve had another agent. We realize that the agent/client relationship can be a very close one. Sometimes you and your agent just aren’t the right fit. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be.

Linda said...

Is a historic setting for a first book (in this case, it's a thriller) an automatic minus?

--Historical fiction can be tricky, but not really any more so than other fiction. If it works, it works. Sure, if we’re positively drowning in Civil War novels, maybe we won’t feel like we can fit another one on the list. But that can be said of any setting, topic, style, etc.

Anonymous said...

I just read on another blog that no manuscripts sell during the summer months because all the decision-makers are on vacation. Is that true, even for agented submissions?

--This is one of those publishing myths that everyone seems to believe. In fact, a lot of people in publishing do take their vacations in the summer months, so sometimes things can slow down. That said, we’ve had numerous successful sales during the summer months (even in the dead of August). It can just take a little more planning and making sure the right people are around when you submit.

Rachel said...

How did you discover the Kushiel books? Was it a gem in the slush, or is there some grand series of coincidences?

I really love Ms. Carey's books, and I'm interested to know if she had to go through the slush pile too, or if things just happen when you've got something that good.

--We love Jacqueline Carey’s books too! If memory serves, she did come across the transom and was discovered in the slush pile by Todd Keithley, a former agent here who changed career paths a few years back. It is the possibility of finding books like hers that make the query pile such a strange and wonderful thing. You never know when you’ll strike gold!


  1. Jim and Lauren,

    Thank you so much for your answers, they really helped!!

    I have one more question - when you request a full, do you have readers that look at it and then tell you if they like it and you should read it? Or do you and the other agents at Dystel always read the fulls that are sent to you?

  2. I queried a major agency last December. The agent requested the first fifty pages of my manuscript. I received a quick email response that the pages were received and he would review them and get back to me shortly. Since more than seven months have passed, should I assume that he's not getting back to me. Should I send an inquiry or just forget it? Newbie that I am, it seems rude. I even sent a fully stamped manilla envelope in which to return the pages if they were not interested.
    Thanks for any feedback.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to answer so many questions! With so many people at RWA Nationals, the thriller con or on vacation, it seems blog traffic has slowed a bit this week. But some of us are out here still avidly reading!

  4. Thanks very much for answering these questions. It's a huge help!

  5. LOVE Questions and Answers--do you plan on making this a regular feature?

  6. Jim, thanks for the answer. I will send said follow-up email, neurosis be damned.

  7. I found this First Chapters contest at What is your opinion on it?

  8. I am a young writer, in fact I am only 17 years old. I have never been published, I have, however, completed one manuscript, I have been working on a two book series for over a year now, and I have been hard at work on a four book series for almost 9 years, I was 8 when I began. I have looked for a mentor since I was in 13 and I began to write serious everyday. I have yet to find one, and as disapointing as this may be, I have decided to look into other options, hence why I am on this very blog. For the past several months, I have been preparing to send you my submission of my finished manuscript, and soon I will complete this task. But first I must ask something: What is the likelyhood of my work being accepted? Will my age effect my chances in any way? Of course I still have billions of unanswered questions that I hope can be answered soon, I have not yet given up hope on a mentor, perhaps if I submit to you and I am accepted you would be willing to guide me? I am not now nor will I ever be a "one book AUTHOR", I am full of new ideas and love to entertain people, that is my first love. The reason I capitalized the word author is because, in fact, anyone who can scribble down words is a "writer" but any one who can tell a story is an "author". I took up this belief after I read Margret Atwood, who is to this day my favorite author/poet. Margret Atwood and I have so much in common it unnerves me. I have one more question, for now that is, what is the first step I must take to get published?


  9. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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