Monday, August 24, 2009

When do I shove it out of the nest??



Hey, folks. My timer on this Egg of a manuscript is almost up. I'm sending it out (supposedly come hell or high water) by Sept. 16. I've only got one more chapter to make small revisions on; then revise my Intro (again, not much to do); oh, and I need to write some semblance of a conclusion.

But *OH!* the wringing of hands! The gnashing of teeth! Just when I'm coming to the end, I'm balking!

So, I need to pose a question to the interwebs (and Notorious, Squadrato, Dr. Cleveland, Heu Mihi, Dr. Virago, and all others who have submitted book manuscripts and even had them published, this is a shout out to ya'll in particular!): at what point is it *ready* to send out?

Now, this might seem like a completely ridiculous question - how the hell do you guys know when my stuff's cooked enough? However, something tells me that at the heart of that subjective query is a seed of objectivity. This is because I think we all tinker with our work and resist sending it out "too early" - for some, that threshold is farther away, for some it's much closer. But it's there. I'm familiar with the "okay to send out" threshold with articles, but I'm a book manuscript virgin and I'm nervous. This means more to me, there's more at stake.

I could spend another 3-6 months polishing this sucker, making all the transitions as smooth as glass, clearing up every possible awkward phrase and point, having countless friends and colleagues read drafts. But I'm not sure it would be fundamentally a better manuscript. It would be spit-shined to the gills, but not substantively better, I think. I feel like, as it stands now, it's clear, well written (I'm sure that some sections are better written than others), and it's an interesting critical intervention. It's spellchecked and revised - there are no unconnected fragments of ideas or random "insert discussion of X here" left floating around. I feel like it's pretty solid, if a little squishy around the edges in places. But is this how all first submissions are? Or are they all as absolutely perfect as they can get?

Given my total intellectual stasis at the moment, I wanted to ask what you thought about when a manuscript is ready to be sent to a publisher. Any and all thoughts are appreciated. I'm sending this to a publisher who's already expressed a lot of interest and will, I think, send it to a sympathetic reader - i.e., someone interested in finding out how it can be an even better book rather than looking for reasons to dump it. And it's only going to one reader to start.

Help me, Obi Wan...

10 comments:

Notorious Ph.D. said...

There are actually multiple ways to approach this. I spit-polished and shined until it was almost too late, then sent it out to an interested publisher *who had already seen and liked my sample chapter*. It came back with two positive reviews and a contract, and very few revisions to make. A colleague in my department published with the same press (different editor), and sent it off much earlier, and in a much rougher stage. She got lots of interest, but had to revise & resubmit a couple of times before it was under contract. But in the end, we both got positive decisions in time for tenure. It was just a matter of where the work went in: before first submission, or after.

But I sense that your question is: "Am I going to kill my chances if I send it out now?" My opinion is that your penultimate paragraph says it all: you know that this is review-ready. Not perfect, but you won't embarrass yourself. If you're not sure of this, get a senior person (with a lot of publications) who you trust to give it a quick once-over, specifying that you know it will need revisions, but asking if it's review-ready. Remember: you will *always* find something that could be revised, so you can't wait around for perfection. Give the MS to someone you trust, and if they say you should send it out, then trust that.

And good luck!

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

It will never be perfect. I know something is done when I am either so sick of revising it I can't stand the sight of it, or I feel like I'm just picking around the edges.

Without having seen what you are writing, it sounds to me like you're picking around the edges. Send it out already!

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

I agree! It's an important detail that it's only going out to one reader at first, so it does need to impress. But if the heart of the thing is there, that's what matters. It'll go through more reading and editing before it's published, so you won't miss out on that chance to spit-polish, but for now I think the most important thing is to let somebody else see the thing. Go for it! Congratulations and good luck!

heu mihi said...

I agree with the above--you sound ready. Congratulations!

Doctor Cleveland said...

If we're talking about polishing, it will never be finished until *after* you send it out. It's editorial feedback that will help you complete the polishing.

I think it's natural not to let it out of your hands, because when you do you risk rejection. But you will have the same anxious feeling while it's out for review no matter how late you send it out for review. Or at least, that's been my experience.

medieval woman said...

Thanks, guys - you all rock my casbah. This is what I needed to hear - I've actually had collegues (both senior and junior - all widely published) reading drafts of the entire MS already. What I'm doing now is incorporating *their* suggested revisions (none of which is fundamentally about the arguments of the chapter or the entire project, but it's mostly suturing the chapters together at beginning and end, frontloading certain arguments, etc.) So, it's had eyes on it already, thank the gods. I feel like I won't embarrass myself...

Another quick question - how long did you spend on your conclusions?

squadratomagico said...

Oops! Chiming in way late, but I agree with the general consensus. If it is smoothly written, shows the structure of your thought, has a clear set of arguments, has 99% complete citations and notes, then it's ready.

As for the conclusion question: I breezed through mine pretty quickly, but the whole structure of my argument made it pretty obvious to me what the conclusion had to do. I think I was lucky to have that intrinsic set-up; I suspect I might have struggled with it otherwise, since for journal articles I tend to have difficulty concluding.

Susan said...

I would echo what everyone is saying. It's ready to go. As for conclusions, they matter. So take some time -- a few days, a week? They tell people why they should have spent the time reading the book. The problem is that we mostly take that for granted, so it's very hard to write. Conclusions also, I think, allow speculation, exploration of what might be lingering questions that lead to the next project, etc.

Sisyphus said...

Hooray for being almost done! Yay, Yay! Go send that lil egg OUT! And then drink a margarita.

Dr. Virago said...

What everyone else says.

I'm definitely in the camp that Nokes describes: I send things out when I can't stand them any more, when I know I need an outsider's more objective view of things.