Picking an agent #1—FINISH THE MANUSCRIPT

Yes, I’m shouting.

Before I go into some tips on how to pick an agent (and possibly receive an offer of representation), I want to point out this very important part of the submission process.

For some people, this is a no-brainer, but I’m always amazed at people who’ve never heard this piece of advice.

Before you query that agent (or editor, for that matter), finish the manuscript. There are TONS of writers who never finish that first manuscript, and agents know this. Therefore, if they are interested in your story, they are going to want to see the full, completed manuscript.

For one, they want to know you finished it.

For two, they want to know if you can sustain your brilliance in the first chapter throughout the rest of the book. Many novels sag in the middle because the writer loses steam. If that’s the case with your manuscript, it’s not ready to submit. Period.

You want that manuscript ready to go if they come back with a manuscript request. You won’t want to make them wait for a few months.

Sometimes, the agent is interested in your particular idea because it’s hot in the marketplace right at that moment. If you wait, they might receive 20 other manuscripts of a similar idea and sell one of those instead. Or the market may be saturated. Or the market changes (which it always does).

Agents are also typically much faster than editors. They won’t often leave you hanging for months at a time.

Strike while the iron is hot. Make sure that puppy is primed and ready to submit.

Update: Julie Carobini pointed out that it is possible to acquire an agent with just a fiction proposal and not the entire manuscript, because, in her words, "time is money." She also had a strong freelance career at that point, too, which added to her credibility. In my opinion, it's not the norm to successfully query with an unfinished manuscript, but it certainly is possible.