Queries: Avoiding the Dry Runs

An editor friend of mine was frustrated and was venting on the phone to me about receiving a query that look interesting, so she wrote to the author asking for a full book proposal and first three chapters; the usual.

The author wrote her back, expressing amazement at how quickly she had replied to his query and…oops…was in the process of taking his 175,000 word manuscript down to a more manageable 100,000 words. All I could do is laugh and tell my bud the author was suffering from The Dry Runs. My bud, being the perv that she is, suggested the author needed some Imodium.

No. Not talking about an intestinal situation, but an authorial one. Dry Runs, also known as Premature Submitulation, is an aberration where authors query out, before they’re actually ready, as a way of gauging industry interest. Problems arise when they find themselves busted if someone actually answers their query with a request for pages because the book isn’t actually query-ready.

It may be bad form to ask, but, what kind of fool logic is that??

How Do You Think This Makes You Look?

First off, you always want to put your best foot forward, which means that you are a professional at all times. If you have an editor interested in seeing your work and your reply is to offer up an “oops,” then how do you think you look in the editor’s eyes? You may as well put up a giant flag that says, “I’m A Noob.”

It sounds rude, I know, but it may be helpful to put yourself in an agent’s or editor’s shoes. We have LOTS of queries coming in. There are more authors and manuscript than there are publishing houses to publish them. With the plethora of wonderful books, it’s a buyer’s market, which means that we have our pick of the litter.

If you’re busy doing a dry run and get caught, then you risk alienating the editor who caught you because you’ve already admitted you’re “not ready,” which begs the question, “So when will you be ready, and do I trust you?” It’s not a way to make friends and influence others. For instance, my editor bud will accept those pages from Mr. Dry Run, but she’s already run cold with the author and expects to reject him.

There is never any rush to query, so why not take your time; sit on your manuscript for some time, let it marinate. Then come back to it and reevaluate whether it’s ready. Because, really, dry runs suck stale Twinkie cream.

3 Responses to Queries: Avoiding the Dry Runs

  1. Wannabe authors derp variously.

  2. Lynn;
    The submission process as you well know, can be a wild ride. During the process, I’ve received really helpful commentary from agents who have demurred, but found critical areas of revision. (Seemed odd at the time, but never look a gift horse…) In that way, I have actually been called to submit a full from a previous sub, when the full is not quite ready for prime time. Of course, I would never want to make a habit of this, as it makes you look like your powder is always damp.

  3. Richard, when you queried out, did you feel your work was query-ready, or were you cognizant that the word count was too high, or that the story was still pretty raw?

    It’s different to query out when you believe your writing is ready, then discovering, through crits, that, oops, maybe it’s not ready after all. Crits are a valuable gauge, and there have been times when I really liked something, but it was too green. I send my thoughts and invite the author to resubmit. In fact, I just signed an author last month based on a rewrite…after the author took nine months to revise it.

    In that case, I didn’t hold it against the author at all. She believed it was ready, and her agent agreed. Maybe it would have been for another editor, but not for me.

    That’s different from the author who queries out just to see if his work is any good. That isn’t a confident or knowledgeable writer. In short, he reveals his hand if someone asks for pages. He then has to admit that he’s not ready and will I wait. Eh, maybe, but probably not.

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