Would you wait to finish the manuscript first?

In almost every blog post I have read, conversations I have had, and email exchange with authors, both published and aspiring, there has been one consistent theme: they have all recommended that one should finish the manuscript first before sending it to the publishers (or agents, as the case may be).

While this seems like a logical approach, my question is as follows: at least in India, most publishers expect you to send a book proposal which includes at a minimum a synopsis, sample chapters and author bio. Then, there is a long wait anywhere between two to six months before the publishers respond to you – informing whether your book proposal has been  shortlisted or not. Then you have to send the full manuscript, which will get reviewed again and then finally you will be informed of the decision.

While what I have written above may already be known to most of you, my question is as follows: Why wait to send the sample chapters till the entire manuscript is ready? Why cannot one send the sample chapters as soon as they are completed, and finish the rest of the book while the book proposal is being evaluated?

I would like to know the pro’s and con’s of doing so- I am thinking of trying this approach for my next book.

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4 thoughts on “Would you wait to finish the manuscript first?

  1. In my experience, the first chapter I write at the beginning is NEVER still the same first chapter when I finish the book. Writing the first draft helps me to clarify the story in my head, and often that means I start the story at a different place! Different people write in different ways though, and it is likely other people will advise something otherwise! Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

    1. Dear sandradan1,

      Thank you for your thoughts- I think you are right- depending on how the plot unfolds, the first few chapters might get modified.
      Still haven’t decided what I will do though…!

  2. Sending a proposal and sample chapters for a book that’s not yet written is common for nonfiction, but since your book is fiction, it is best to hold off on querying until you’ve not only completed writing, but also completed revising and self-editing. As sandradan1 mentioned, your first drafts are often quite different from the final version, and why chance a rejection by sending sample chapters that you’ll later improve? Although it usually does take months for a response from a publisher, there’s always the possibility that your submission will be looked at sooner–and how would you feel to receive a request for a full manuscript that you know you can’t finish for several more weeks? The publishers will still be there when your work is ready, so give yourself the best chance for success by spending all the time necessary to write and polish your work before submitting.

    1. Thank you for the very useful and insightful comments, I hadn’t thought of the possibility of the submission being looked at before the nominal timeline. Indeed, it would be quite embarrassing for the author and frustrating as well if that were to be the case. Not to mention the several rounds of refinement the manuscript has to undergo will also add to the timeline.

      I am not defending my original question, but I come from an engineering background, and I was thinking of an approach similar to the concept –>prototype –>final product cycle. May not be applicable in this case..

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