Friday, August 14, 2009

Multiple Projects Submitted

I'm wondering if you have any advice on how to write a query letter when
A) You have a completed short story collection. Many of the stories have appeared in good journals; a few have won awards.
B) You have the first sixty pages of a novel and a full synopses.

How do you combine both projects in a query, when you're looking for a two-book deal? Or do you just plug the novel, and then tell the interested agent the novel isn't finished yet, but...?

When we receive multiple projects from a new (as in, not published) author, we tend to treat the projects separately unless they're books in a fantasy series published by Lulu with a self-drawn cover (in which case, we reject). Maybe we'll want one project and not be interested in the other(s), though honestly I can't remember a new client my boss has taken on who had multiple projects presented. On the other hand, she does reject well over 99% of her applicants, so maybe it's just the way things played out.

Of your two projects, which I would examine separately:
a) Short story collections are bad. They're hard to publish. Very, very rarely do I put a short story collection in the maybe pile for my boss, and that's usually because the author says that every story in the collection has been published, and I recognize the names of the publications as being major places for short fiction. As for "awards" I've grown cynical about them, because there are, it seems like, an endless amount of writing awards someone can win if they just send the story around, as a large percentage of queries mention writing awards even if the writing is terrible. But you've got a decent pedigree there; it's worth a shot, but don't get your hopes up.

b) The manuscript should be finished before you submit it. End of story.

9 comments:

Thomas said...

Even as a reader I'm suspicious of short fiction and poetry awards. There are so many that are of no real significance or that are really just scams to take money from aspiring authors that, unless the award is instantly recognizable, I'm more likely to skip a story if it comes with a pedigree.

Clare K. R. Miller said...

So if it's a fantasy series with a self-drawn cover that hasn't been published on Lulu, you'll still consider it? ;)

Anonymous said...

Author: My understanding is that to sell a collection, you don't need an agent and likely won't get one because collections don't pay very well. The best route is to contact the publisher directly. Get proactive and do the legwork.

If you've sold short stories before, then presumably you've found editors who believe your work is publishable. Are any of those editors connected to a publisher? If so, you might consider querying one of those editors with your collection. If you've published some of those stories in anthologies, query the anthology publisher. They're already familiar with your work and might be more receptive to you than to someone they haven't published before.

And/or you could always enter a short story collection contest like the Drue Heinz Literature Prize or the Iowa Short Fiction Award, or the Bakeless.

-SarahT.

Next said...

Thanks everyone, including you, Rejecter. All the awards are listed on the Poets and Writers website--so yes, they should be recognizable (thousand dollar purse, 'good for your career.') Lots of agents take on collections: think of Kevin Wilson, etc. But you need to promise a novel is forthcoming and I just wanted to know if you should do that in the query; answer is obviously not.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Why not get an agent for the novel and suggest the short stories later?

Coral Press said...

Rachel's suggestion is legit. Sounds like the author is just a little impatient to get a deal and hopes to kill two birds with one stone.

Short story collections generally only do well if the author is famous via a huge past writing success or regular old celebrity.

Next said...

Actually, no, short story collections are sold on the BASIS of a forthcoming novel. Think of Daniel Alarcon, Maile Malloy, etc. This is why I have been asking about how to query when you are hoping for a two-book deal. Any agent who takes on a collection will also ask you, Do you have a novel idea? And so presumably it helps to say that in the query itself. It would be silly not to.

Anonymous said...

How can you "reject well over 99%"?

The Rejecter said...

I mean she probably rejects about 99.998% or something like that.

Let me put it this way: We get about 40 queries every day, and she takes on about 2 new clients a year. So someone else can do that math.