AUPQ: When Is A Manuscript Query-Ready?

Hello everyone! It’s been a good minute since the last Ask Us Pub Questions, hasn’t it? We’ve missed sharing our collective two cents too! During the next AUPQ, our new Path2pub Contributors will be making an appearance before their introduction posts! We’re excited for you to meet them.

Today, Megan wants to know: How many rounds of edits do you typically do before considering a manuscript “query-ready”?

I’m not sure there is one correct answer for this. I’m admittedly guilty of sending queries waaaay before a story is ready (it’s common for new writers, so give yourself grace in those situations!) Though, it’s also easy to overthink things and either psyche yourself out or edit your story to the point of completely mutilating it.

My short answer: If you’re confident the story is ready, send the query. Along the way, take the advice of your beta readers, agents, critique partners, and anyone who provides you with feedback. I promise, they’re not being mean. 99% of the time, they’re your biggest fans! If the general consensus is a pass or people feel like the story needs work, take a step back from querying to start revising.

—Sarah, All Things YA!

I’ll be honest, I don’t have an exact answer for this either. Usually, my first drafts read like a second or third draft because I edit as I write. Then, I go through about three more drafts before I have a final product that I’m satisfied with querying.

I’ll admit that I’m way too much of a perfectionist. So, in an attempt to not overthink when to send queries, I make sure that I send out my first batch of queries when I get that gut feeling that the manuscript is ready. There’s no perfect draft number or time to send out queries. I’m about to hop back into the query trenches with my fourth book and it was a matter of figuring out whether I’ve truly done everything I can to make this manuscript sparkle. If the answer is yes, then I know I’m ready to query.

As I start to get responses, I usually tweak my submission package if I feel like the query isn’t working. Once I start querying, I let the manuscript speak for itself. Sometimes, I’ll tweak my submission package, but mostly I focus on writing my next novel because working on a new WIP always eases the querying anxiety for me.

—Reem, All Things With Heart In YA!

I queried two books and both were different experiences and not very straightforward. I’ll put it this way though, for A PRECINCT OF FLAMES, I worked on it until I satisfied beta reader concerns. I would’ve kept revising it on more rounds until all my betas felt it was polished enough. D&F went through three, rapid-fire but thorough rounds of self-edits before I felt confident enough to send full manuscripts out.

In general though, I’ll typically advise an MS goes through at least three rounds of revisions before you start querying it! I believe the first round is when we (most likely) rework the entire story since that first draft has given us a clear picture of where the story is going. So this first round of edits is to demolish and shape it up properly. The second round is where we spot plot holes and other inconsistencies. The third is little tweaks here and there, and polishing of grammar.

Lucia, The Fantasy And Regency Writer!

As everyone else has said, it really DEPENDS. I’m no master in editing, so I prefer to do fewer rounds of revisions. So far I’ve mainly done one round of developmental edits after beta feedback and then a second round of line edits to polish up the MS. The caveat is that I draft fairly cleanly, so the first draft is already quite close to the final product that I’m happy to go out with.

I know sometimes we want things to be close to perfection, but I don’t think that’s actually possible. Keep in mind that your MS will still undergo edits after you get your agent, and even MORE edits after you get an editor! So once you think you’re pretty much “ready”, JUST SEND THOSE QUERIES. Send them, and use the feedback you get to determine whether or not you need to make further adjustments 🙂

Amber, YA/NA SFF!

I also have to say the answer to this question is it depends. I’ve had PB manuscripts that I’ve felt are submission ready after 3-4 revisions. However, other times, like in my current manuscript, I’m already on version 17!!! and I’m just starting to get the feeling I’m getting close to be submission ready. I guess some stories just come out easier; others need more polishing until they shine.

In my experience, I know that my manuscript is “ready” when the voice, plot, character development, and structure is working, and I’m mostly tweaking some sentences or being very picky with wording (as Lucia mentioned in her 3rd round). When I notice my critique partners are finally focusing on those type of details, that’s when I decide to move on to querying. However, like Amber said, I always take the leap knowing that more revisions will surely come with an agent/editor or even if I need to make adjustments depending on the outcome of the querying journey. But that’s okay, because I know I also keep growing and evolving as a writer, so I trust that in the end my manuscript will be the best it can be.

– Mariana, PB Writer!

I think we need to define Editing to begin with. There are some writers that edit while writing the 1st Draft (not me), while others write an outline and a few paragraphs and decide their first draft is ready. I typically go for at least 3 rounds of edits. 1st draft is just writing the story in the paper. 2nd round of edits: Reading my story, adding details and checking punctuation and grammar. (I consider this 2nd edit, others might say is 3 rounds in total). 3rd time: Beta Feedback. And after that, I work on my query package.
Once the finished story is in the query trenches I try to focus on the new story, because I can honestly say as of right now I am not sure if I would change anything without completely rewriting a new story.
At the end of the day just ask yourself if there is something you might want to change, if you answered yes, then perhaps it’s not ready yet. If you are happy with it and it’s at the best shape, maybe you are ready!

– Alex, Romance Writer!

When do YOU feel a manuscript is ready for querying?

Published by path2pub

From The Trenches To The Shelves

7 thoughts on “AUPQ: When Is A Manuscript Query-Ready?

  1. New contributors, yay. Excited to meet them! Could this mean someone from the team is leaving? (hope not)

    Love seeing all your different approaches to editing before querying. For me, I agree with Lucia’s first approach; I edit until my beta readers and CP don’t have any more major complaints!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Sarah left – checked out the contributors page and she’s mentioned under writers on hiatuses! The group is evolving 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m excited to see the new contributors! Path2pub is growing bigger and bigger 🙂

    My editing doesn’t really stop with my manuscript, and that’s why I love personalized rejections. Because even as I query, I edit it. If it’s not getting the kind of attention or feedback I want, I get more betas on it and work on it some more. So my idea of when it’s query-ready is just when I feel like I’m ready to take the leap! Loved seeing your different approaches to editing before querying!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with Sarah re: I once used to send queries way earlier than an MS was ready, but soon I learned that that unfortunately lost us chances with the agents. So now, I sit on a book and query for as long as possible. I saw a tweet of a writer who got a 50% manuscript request rate, and she explained it was because she was very meticulous about each step of her query preparation. (Her tweet was included in that week’s Roadside Cafe). I’ve been trying to imitate that since. I really enjoyed yesterday’s post, and today’s too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Considering I constantly fumble on whether my manuscript is ready for querying or not, this post seems made just for me. And it couldn’t have come at a better time than after RevPit – and the disappointment of not being chosen hehe. Thanks to Megan for asking it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely team post! I once didn’t understand the concept of editing a book for querying. I wrote a book, checked through for typos, and sent it out. I know I’ve got a knack for creating good book concepts (not bragging, people tell me a lot!). So getting MS requests was never an issue. It was when I started constantly getting full MS rejections that I knew something was wrong! That was when I went to try to understand better how to edit a manuscript. It was then I learned about developmental edits, structural edits etc. and that editing wasn’t just for grammar.

    So this is a wonderful post that will inform many like this and I wish I could’ve seen it sooner!

    Liked by 1 person

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