What you need to know about querying agents

I came across this piece from thewritelife.com by the always interesting and entertaining Chuck Sambuchino from Writer’s Digest.

I think all of the advice is meaningful and generally right on, but I must say my favorite is number 1. Can you query multiple agents at the same agency? As he suggests, and speaking at least for our agency, the answer is no. Just today I got a query referred by a colleague that was submitted to me as well. This is something that can be extremely frustrating for us when we request something that another agent in-house has requested as well. He’s absolutely right that within our agency we have a great sense of each other’s interests, and if there is something that we feel isn’t right for our list, but might be a better fit for someone else, we will share it.

The other point that jumps out at me is number 6. When should you query? When is your project ready? He goes on to talk about beta-readers and making sure you have your work read and re-read before you start the submission process. It should be clean and edited and ready to go.

Number 9 about simultaneous submissions is also helpful. We always assume it’s simultaneous unless you tell us otherwise. And that’s ok, just as long as it’s not simultaneous within our own agency J.

I have a question I’d add to this list. Should you personalize your query? The answer to this is yes. The more research you do on agents and their lists, the more likely you are to get the response you are looking for. If you can cite a book that is similar to yours that the agent you’re querying represented, that’s a small personal touch that can really make a difference.

Let us know if you have any other pieces of advice not covered in this list. There is no right or wrong answer, but there are many things you can do to make your query stand out from the others.

2 Responses to What you need to know about querying agents

  1. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Queries are about as scientific as playing the lottery; you can have the best query and the hottest property in town, but it’s always best to stay detached and assume that just because the lights are on, it doesn’t mean someone’s home. There’s just too much incoming for agents to process it all, try though they might, (and a lot of them only occassionally glance at their in-box after they get a few royalties coming in) so after a while one gets to know the rules and the exceptions: I don’t query two agents at the same outfit simultaneously, EXCEPT when that agency has a track record of consistent non-response to everything from polite queries to demands to come out with their hands up from the local police department. I don’t waste a lot of time with outfits like this, but after all, this game is more of a lottery than a science, so why not. Obviously, some agencies have a certain taste parameter that has to be figured; one doesn’t try to interest an open pit borax consortium in a gold mine. (I posted a courtesy query to a new agent at this agency some while back, but you guys are mostly a pleasant coffeshop stop these days) Also, since agents rarely personlize there rejections, I don’t personalize my queries, other than getting their name right and making sure my query blows the roof off. I adopted this pose after getting a personalised response from an agency widely famous for their blank-wall atttitude to queries in which she complemented me for my compelling query but was too busy to read the manuscript. Also, and pardon me for being snotty, but I think WD is a great publication if you’re still learning this business, but I don’t use training wheels much nowadays, and the tips for who’s looking for what are jammed full before you scna the first page. I take most of my query prospects for the Book Deals section of Publishers Weekly, although you have restrain yourself from exclaiming “They’re paying 7 figures for WHAT!?!” Onward and upward anyway…

  2. Bela says:

    That is so exciting about your seoccr team! Good luck!I always went in expecting rejection. I might be a pessimist, but I saw it more as a defense against the inevitable. I had 7 requests out of more than 50 queries (and from what I’ve read those are okay odds) but that meant I got rejections like 6 out of 7 times. All of the rejections still stung but at least I was prepared. :)

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