Sep 9, 2012

When it's time to move on

I was going to title this post: When It's Time to Cut Your Losses but in this writing life, I don't think there really are any losses. Call me an optimist but I believe that, when it comes to pursuing a passion or a talent or even a career, nothing is wasted.

We learn from every experience. Good or bad. And if you're lucky enough to be a writer (or a quilter!), you can use everything eventually.

Some of you may have noticed that my agent has changed recently. Unlike the first time I signed, I haven't posted a huge hullabaloo of yahoo. For many writers, switching agents is viewed a bit like getting a divorce. The second signing is like the second wedding -  the bride wearing a business suit instead of a white gown, only family present. However, this analogy doesn't quite hold true because in this case, the business suit is actually more applicable. The agent-author relationship IS a business one. It isn't until death-do-you-part. Break-ups happen all the time.

But why, you ask, did you and your former agent end your relationship?

One word: incompatibility. Our working styles, our expectations, our method of communicating,  didn't mesh. Fortunately, we both figured it out at the same time. And we parted with lots of cyber hugs, promises to stay in touch when good things happen, and best wishes...because she is a great agent and a wonderful person. I am a very lucky girl to have worked with her.

And I am beyond thrilled to have Andrea Somberg at my back. She is uber-experienced, has the reputation of being one of the nicest agents in the business, and her clients cannot say enough good things about her. I am a very lucky girl to be working with her.

This experience has made me think of several emails I've received recently from writers who aren't getting any query love for their current MS. They've peddled it for months. They've rewritten it forty-zillion times. They enter contests, plead for betas, read writing books. And still: nothing. I love this book so much! they write to me.  How do I know when it's time to give it up?

The publishing journey is such an individual path, it's different for every person. I gave up querying a novel after only three months. It took only eight months for me to figure out it wasn't working with my previous agent. While I just said that nothing is ever wasted, the one exception to that principle is: TIME.

So in order to help those of you pondering the great "rewrite-or-move-on" question, here are several very general signals that indicate it might be time to move on:

1. If your request rate is really low - like 1-3 percent.
2. The market is saturated with concepts like yours.
3. When entering contests, commentors are more critical than admiring.
4. This is your very first ever completed MS.
5. You just want to "get it out there!" The intricacies of all those editing expectations are more frustrating than freeing.*
6. You really believe you've made your MS the best it can be.*

*If #5 and #6 are true for you, self-publishing may be the way to go.

What time-to-move-on signals have you experienced that I missed? Share them in the comments!

 Have a great week.


Suzi said...

Wow. Jealous. I hadn't even noticed the change.

I like your 2nd wedding analogy. I've noticed when others silently change, and you're curious as to why, but it's not posted because either they are private people or it's a bad split.

That's the hard thing about agents. You can do all the research in the world, but until you start working with them, you won't know if they're a good fit.

Lisa Regan said...

Wow! Great list for figuring out the when to move on conundrum. BTW, Andrea Somberg is awesome! Lucky you. She rejected me a few times but she was super duper nice about it. She does have a lot of experience and from my limited interactions with her, she seems like a class act! And your book is so flipping fabulous. Hopefully the combination will land you a deal in no time at all!

Kimberly Gabriel said...

I did see that and thought I was losing my mind. I'm so glad your split was amicable and an obvious next step. I'm very excited to watch things take off for you!!

Rowenna said...

Glad to see this moving on story has a happy ending :)

When it comes to when to move on from your MS, I tend to fall into a "pretty much anytime it's not working out" camp--and I think if you're querying you should always be writing something new. So often I think writers get attached to the first MS they finish--which is totally understandable, but you have to spread the love to all your other shiny ideas! You never know which is going to be "the one."

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Very excited for you in this new "relationship," Melodie! :D Love your analogy. I do agree - it's a business relationship, not matrimony. There's a paper contract, not a covenant. When it's not working, it's not working and I'm thrilled for you that you had the wisdom and the opportunity to move on!

Deciding when to give up on an ms can be tough, but I usually have the opposite problem. I'm often too quick to give up on one and move onto the next. My new projects always seem *so much better* than the ones before that I'm happy to let go to the old and move on to the new.

Kate OMara said...

I write shorter pieces, so when I do a larger project I take it to the point of feeling complete. It's always different: complete aka tired of it; complete aka finished the story; complete aka a book.


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Cassie Mae said...

I missed this post when it was new, being a big pregnant boob who is so tired all the time, lol. But I had to comment because I think it takes a lot of courage to move on, especially when you're unsure about what comes next. I bow to your strength, girl. :)

Congrats on the new agent, and I hope things go amazingly for the both of you! :)