Frequently Asked Questions
- I want to be part of the DG&B family. How do I query you?
Please check out our Submission Requirements for guidance.
- There are a lot of you. Which one of you would be the best fit for my work?
Meet our agents and read about their interests here. We cannot tell you which one of us to submit to—you know your work, so do your research and then pick whichever of us feels like the right fit for you.
- I’m torn between a few of you. Can’t I just query you all?
No. You need to pick just one of us—we don’t compete amongst ourselves, but we do share work with each other. If one of us receives a project we think is wonderful but not right for our own list, we’ll pass it along to a more appropriate agent. Please do not submit to more than one of us whether simultaneously or in succession.
- What if I have a few options and the person I select doesn’t bite? Should I query another agent at the agency for that project?
Again, we’re good at sharing around here.
- How do I get in touch?
You can find our email addresses on our profiles. We strongly prefer email to snail mail queries; Michael only accepts queries by email. Do not call to pitch your work—publishing is about the written word, so we need to read your pitch, not hear it.
- Can I send my query through the mail?
We strongly prefer queries by email and you will need to be comfortable on email to work with us and, eventually, a publisher! But we do still accept queries via snail mail (sent to the appropriate agent’s attention at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, One Union Square West, Suite 904, New York, NY 10003). Please enclose the requisite letter and sample with a self-addressed stamped envelope for our response. Do type all of your correspondence and, again, double space everything other than the cover letter.
You should know that we are not legally responsible for your materials, even if you did send an SASE. Unfortunately, sometimes accidents happen—either on our end or with the U.S. Post Office. We will try to return everything that belongs to you and would not deliberately lose or damage materials.
- I heard about a query service that will submit to agents for me. Is this a good way to query you?
No, please query us directly. The query process helps us evaluate how well we could work with you, to make sure we’re a good fit for each other personally as well as whether your book fits our list, so we want to hear from you. We do not consider submissions from query services.
- I know someone who is a client of your agency. Can I ask them to submit my materials?
We love referrals from our clients! By all means, ask your friend to make an introduction to the agent here you’re interested in working with, and then you can query us directly referencing that introduction. As above, we want to get to know you as well as your work!
- I’m a playwright, screenwriter, or poet. Are you the right agency for me?
We do not represent plays, screenplays, or poetry, but we’re open to nearly everything else.
- Do you represent illustrators?
We do not represent commercial or editorial illustrators. However, we do occasionally represent author/illustrators in the children’s picture book market. Please note, though, that we are only interested in professional-level illustrators with a proven track record who can also write—if you are an author who likes to draw or paint but does not have any professional illustration credentials, we would not be the right agent for you.
- How much does it cost to submit to you?
Nothing. In fact, any agency that charges fees should give you pause. It’s against the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) Canon of Ethics to charge reading fees.
- So how do you make money?
We only get paid when our clients get paid, taking a commission on the income received for their work. Our commission on a book sale is 15% (subsidiary rights commission percentages vary), and that’s industry standard.
- What should a query look like?
- How long should my writing sample be?
Please do send sample material. Send the first chapter—even if chapter 14 is your favorite. Aim for about 25 pages, but fine to go a little long or a little short to end your sample at a sensible cut-off point. If your chapters are very short, fine to send two or three to reach that 25-page count.
- How do I know if I should send a sample chapter or a proposal?
If your book is fiction, send a sample chapter with your query. If it's nonfiction, it's best to send a proposal with your query, if you've written one. (And you'll have to write one eventually so might as well get started!) Your proposal should include a sample chapter - see next question!
- What exactly is a nonfiction proposal?
Unlike fiction, nonfiction is usually sold before a full book has been written. Instead of a manuscript, a proposal is used to submit to publishers—and therefore as agents, that’s what we’d like to see as well. For detailed guidelines on what goes into a proposal, take a look at Nonfiction Proposal Guidelines.
- Can I submit to you if I’ve also submitted to other agents?
Yes. If you send queries one at a time, it’ll take you forever! We assume that other agents (outside our agency—see below) also have the queries we do, and we don’t have a problem with that. However, you shouldn’t indiscriminately blanket the publishing community with queries. Targeted queries are far more likely to succeed, and if we can see that you’re sending it to every agent on the planet, we’re not going to be able to give it serious consideration. And you should tell us if you receive an offer of representation.
- Can I submit to editors and agents simultaneously?
Not really. An agent taking on a project can’t effectively manage a submission if the author starts the ball rolling—sometimes in the wrong direction!—so it’s important to seek out an agent before seeking out a publisher. You can rarely submit to a publisher more than once, so if publishers have passed on your work, our chances of success will shrink, so it’s harder for us to take something on.
If through some rare chance your book is out with an editor, you should mention how that contact came about and who has it in your query. And you should also let us know if the work has already been submitted to, and turned down by, one or more editors.
- I have a publisher/deal already. How do I submit to you?
You should be looking for an agent before a publisher, but if you haven’t, you’re in a tough spot. Agents make their money by taking commission on deals, so if you already have a book deal, it’d be hard for us to make any money on that book. We aren’t freelance publicists or marketers, and larger publishers infrequently buy the rights to already published/self-published books. 99% of the time, you’re better off getting to work on your next book and querying agents for that. If you have an offer but haven’t concluded a deal yet, query us as you would otherwise—and of course lead with that good news.
- Should I pitch multiple books in one query?
No. We prefer to consider one project at a time. If you’re writing a series, it helps to know how many books you project it will contain, but we don’t need synopses of other projects when you first query. If we want more info, we’ll let you know!
- How soon should I follow up with you?
Be patient with us. Remember, we get a great many queries every day and we do read them all. This takes time. We will respond to most query letters within eight weeks. If you don’t hear from us within that time frame, chances are we did not receive yours. Feel free to resend it, referencing the date of your original query.
Once we request the full proposal or manuscript, again be patient. Please don’t call or e-mail us trying to ascertain where we are in the process. We try to respond to all submitted materials within two months’ time. If you have not heard from us at the end of two months, please do follow up with the agent considering your work.
- What happens if you like my query?
We will get in touch to request more material. In general we prefer a double-spaced Word document sent as an attachment. Your manuscript should be clean of any editorial comments or Tracked Changes.
Please allow 8 weeks before following up on a partial or full request.
- I saw you tweeting about reading this weekend, and I’m wondering if you’ve gotten to my query/requested manuscript yet. Can I check in via Twitter?
It’s fine to chat with agents on Twitter about coffee, puppies, favorite books, or links they’ve shared, but please keep all questions or follow-ups about submissions to email. The nature of social media makes it much too easy for us to miss important correspondence, so we prefer all professional communication to be done via email. We won’t respond to social media follow-ups.
- You requested my full manuscript—what happens if you like it?
If our agent loves your work, they will be in touch to learn more about you and to discuss your writing. If they find you and your manuscript to be a good fit for their list, they will offer you representation! You will have the opportunity to ask any questions you have and to get in touch with other agents reading. If you decide this is the right agent for you, you’ll sign our agency agreement and become our client. Congratulations!
- You have my full manuscript and another agency has offered, but it hasn’t been 8 weeks. What should I do?
Congratulations! When you have an offer from another agency, get in touch right away with the DG&B agent who has your materials to let them know. We always appreciate a reasonable amount of time to consider your submission thoroughly.
- You turned me down. Can you tell me more about why?
Unfortunately, the volume of submissions we receive makes it impossible for us to offer feedback on individual projects. We’d love to be able to help everyone, but we just don’t have enough time, and for reasons we’ve explained on our blog, it’s not what we feel is best for you anyway.
- You turned me down a while back, but I’ve thoroughly revised my work. Can I try again?
If you’ve genuinely made it substantially different (and, one hopes, better) then we don’t at all mind if you come back to us and offer it again. Just be up front about it when you do, and if we think that a re-read might be to our and your benefit, we’ll be happy to do so.
- OK, so can you tell me who else to query then or refer me to another agent?
The nature of the business allows us to know what editors are looking for much more than what other agents seek. As such, we can’t offer recommendations for agents outside the agency.
- What kind of shot do I have here? What percentage of the projects you consider do you actually take on?
We take on a very small percentage of the work that we review, less than 1% of the queries we receive. We know they’re daunting odds, but we hope you believe strongly enough in your work to try us anyway.
- I work in multiple genres. If I was your client, how would you handle that?
We work across a lot of categories and many of our agents have clients who write for different audiences and in different genres. We see our role as helping to shape careers and guiding our clients to the strongest possible choices for how to build and grow their audience. Working across categories, you need to be very strategic, and we work with those clients to help them find the best balance for their particular situation.
- How does the submission process work once I have an agent?
Things undoubtedly vary from agency to agency, but Jane wrote all about this on our blog.
- How long should my actual book be?
This is a big question that there isn’t really any hard answer for. What’s most important is that you write a book that is as long as makes sense for what you’re writing. A 40,000 word epic fantasy makes as little sense as a 250,000 word debut young adult novel. That said, there are always exceptions to the rule. Ultimately, an average adult project will be in the 80-100,000 word range and for young adult it might be 50-75,000 words. For middle grade, the range is quite large. Realistic books on the younger end of the spectrum may be as short as 35,000 words, whereas fantasy novels can run all the way up to 100,000 words. It’s important to understand the conventions of both your category and genre.
- What happens if we don’t find a publisher?
You’re a glass half-empty type, aren’t you? Read what Jim had to say here.
- How long does it take from the point I think my work is ready to have a book on the shelves?
There’s no hard and fast rule here, but it’s rarely going to be less than 2-3 years. You have to find an agent; together develop the project till it’s ready for submission; the agent has to submit it; a deal has to be negotiated and a contract signed; then you have to write it and then edit it; then it has to go through the production process—cover design, copyediting, proofreading, layout, etc. Beyond all that, your publisher will need time from the point that the manuscript is accepted (after you’ve worked on it with your editor) to actually launch, position, market, and publicize the book. Many, many, many authors take far more than 2-3 years from the point they hit send on the first query. Very few take less.
- I’m supposed to be a marketer now? Doesn’t my publisher do that?
At a good publisher, marketing and publicity departments will work hard on your book, and yet there’s still more that can (and should!) be done to promote it if you want the best chance for success. Nowadays what works for most books is establishing a genuine connection between author and reader, and no one can do that for you. This will largely involve leveraging what the internet has to offer to build a platform and relationship with your readers. We talk about this a lot on our blog because it is vital to the success of books in this day and age, so you can read more here.
- So when do I get a film deal? And a translation into Russian? And an audio book?
Subsidiary rights are a complex beast. Read more about them on our blog!