Monday, August 25, 2008

Querying an Agency and Not Just an Agent

I’ve said many times that when querying one agent at BookEnds you are really querying the entire agency. That being said, it continues to amaze me how many of you will query all three of us at once or query us one at a time as the rejections come in. In the grand scheme of things, while it’s probably simpler for you (and for me) to just query one of us period, I don’t blame you for giving it that old college try (as they say).

I’m often asked how we handle forwarding queries to each other. Do we tell the writer, do we reject the book, what happens?

I think everyone handles this differently, but here’s what I do. I reject the book if I had intended to reject the book, and then forward the query to Kim and Jacky. If either of them are interested they can email the author, letting her know that I had passed on the query, and request more material. If not, it’s no extra work for them, they can simply delete the email. That doesn’t mean that everyone who gets rejected by me should then ask if I forwarded it and then query Kim and Jacky. Again, if your goal is to make sure every single agent out there sees your query, and not just every single agency, go ahead and do that. However, it’s probably not necessary. Our goal is to be successful agents and a successful agency. If we think an idea has merit and is right for another within the agency, it would be stupid on our part not to share the wealth.



Anonymous said...

That being said, what if you originally wrote a really stupid query and now, months later, with your head out of your nether-region, have written an intelligent query (or so you hope?)

Now that you can see daylight again, should you resubmit, specifally to the agent you now realize would be best suited for your project (rather than the original lucky dog who received your stooopid query) or say tootle-ooh to BookEnds for eternity?

Anonymous said...

"If either of them are interested they can email the author, letting her know that I had passed on the query, and request more material."

This statement, and others that have appeared in some of your past blogs indicate that Bookends only represents female authors. If this is true, it needs to be made clear
on you web site.

I'm a male writer. One of my novels received honorable mention in your first 100 words contest.

Bill Peschel said...

"I’ve said many times that when querying one agent at BookEnds you are really querying the entire agency."

I've never thought of it that way. We're so trained to focus on an agent. The books and web sites treat agents as individual entities. The notion of "querying an agency" is, well, alien to everything that we writers have been taught.

I checked your site, which emphasizes "only one agent directly" without further detail. Perhaps an additional sentence: "Your submission will be shared with the others agents with similar interests" would help?

Perhaps not. Getting a new idea pounded into people's heads sometimes takes a mallet (a literal one, that is).

Julie Weathers said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm glad to know how it actually works.


Anonymous said...

Wow, interesting responses to your article thus far. Re: anon's 9:20 response...not sure how he came up with the impression your agency only handles women. I'm male and your agency--specifically Jessica--has a partial she requested from me. Your agency reps male writers...even western writers. And I think Bill Peschel may be missing the point as well re: querying the 'entire agency'. Certainly a query should be addressed to a particular agent. All you are saying is you pass queries on if it doesn't interest you but may interest one of your colleagues. Man, gotta tell you that's as good as it gets. See absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think more attention needs to be paid to what you actually wrote, not what they 'think' you wrote.

Robena Grant said...

When you decide to offer an author representation, do you first ask your colleague's opinion and have them read the submission and bio, or do you all sign independent of each other?

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that almost every pronoun for writers when referenced on this blog is a feminine pronoun. I had decided that while you didn't only represent women the majority of your clients must be women (esp given one of your specialities...romance writers).

Anonymous said...

Okay -- you know how some Sunday's you sit in church and think ... OMG, he's talking to me!

Well, that's how I feel right now. I am guilty of sending work into multiple agents at Bookends. BUT not at the same time, and not without the work going through changes based on feedback along the way. I've had Bookends on my TOP AGENCY list for a long time and each of you bring a little something different to the party.

We learn along the way, our books improve, we make babysteps and big leaps in honing our craft. Does today's post mean that once you've rejected a query letter we've missed our chance with Bookends forever?

Bummer --- (you're still on my TOP AGENCY short list!)

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Anonymi 9:20 and 10:45:

Welcome to the wonderful world of women. Would it have rattled you to have seen "him" there rather than "her"? My guess is no, although the male pronoun is just as discriminatory. Jessica was referring to one author and elected to use a singular, generic pronoun. Dealer's choice as to which gender she chose. Why read anything more into it?

Anonymous said...

I recently e-mailed a query to Jessica at 5:56 AM Central Standard Time and received a rejection at 6:23 AM. If you really believe this query was floated to the other agents this time of the morning, all I can say is I believe there's a turd in the punch and everybody's at the wedding.

Anon 9:20

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure when Jessica is refering her, she is refering to the other agents. You men seem a little touchy.

Anonymous said...

A large part of querying is research.

Some agencies do say that your novel may not be right for one particular agent at the agency but you are welcome to query one of the other agents (ex. Writer's House).

Even the new agent at Firebrand said to query him even if other agents at Firebrand had rejected you.

Other agencies state in their submission guidelines that they work as a group--if the sub is not right for one they will pass it on to who they think may be interested within their agency. In other words- a no is a no from the entire agency.

If you are unsure how a particular agency works, you can always email and ask --- or search for interviews, read the blue board etc.

Coll-still wishing Bookends repped YA :)

Elissa M said...

Such sensitivity about pronouns! Totally agree with phoenix here. Suck it up you guys. Have some quiche.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:20. Jessica made it clear in her post that if she thought the other agents were interested, she would pass the query on to them, but she would also send a rejection as normal. If the other agents are interested then they can to respond, or delete. So, you really don't know if Jessica passed your query on, do you?

I also agree with Phenoix on the 'her' thing! Well said.

Anonymous said...

I think Jessica is saying IF she thinks one of the other agents would be interested she'd pass it along. I had queried Kim at bookends and got a response from Jessica. Kim passed, but forwarded the query to Jessica because she thought she'd be interested.....It never went farther as I'd already signed with another agent ( the initial query had been sent months ago) but, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Jessica....I can tell you, these women do share if they think one or the other might be interested.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:53 AM:

Bless your miserly little heart for complaining about getting a quick response from an agent!

Look, if she rejects you, she rejects you. Some things just aren't a fit for BookEnds, and these women certainly know it when they see it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9.20, at the risk of sounding harsh... such a quick rejection might suggest that there was some fairly clear-cut and obvious reason for it -- something that might make an agent feel confident that her fellow agents would respond the same way. I can't speak for Jessica, obviously, and I know nothing about your query. But speaking generally, as an editor, things that might prompt me to reject something on the spot include an obvious mismatch between the submission and my list, or obvious problems with the writing. And to be honest, the vast majority of unsolicited submissions received by publishers (and, I can only guess, by agents) fall into this category. Most aren't borderline - they're quite clearly unpublishable. And in most cases, the problems are so glaring and so basic that an agent/editor can be close to 100% sure that her (or his!) colleagues would agree.

So... a 27-minute turnaround really isn't that fast. Most submissions wouldn't require anywhere near that amount of time to be assessed. It usually takes so much longer to get a response only because of the number of submissions in the pile -- not because each of them requires hours of subtle consideration.

Anonymous said...

well, you never do know. I queried Jessica and got a no. Two months later I queried Ms. Sach and got a partial request-

I always assumed that a lump email to the agency meant it would do no good to query agents individually. But if the agents have separate emails, it seems to invite this-

and apparently it doesn't hurt.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it appears when we use a male pronoun, it's often inclusive of the entire human race, when we use a female pronoun, men are up in arms. Not satisfied with dominating the world guys?

Anonymous said...

Hey, wait one darn minute. Let's not pile on the 'guys'...I'm good with however Jessica or anyone else choses as her pronoun. And honest, I haven't conquered any countries lately. Well, maybe just a small county somewhere. Sheesh, just because Anon 9:20 got it wrong, doesn't mean that I, Anon 10:18 did. Which kind of reminds me of a variation on an old joke: How do you keep your female agent happy? Always tell her, 'you're right, I'm wrong, I'm sorry and it'll never happen again'. Just a joke, ladies. Just a joke.

Anonymous said...

I was the anon at 10:45 and it seems those who commented regarding the pronoun issue assumed I was male because I had said something. I'm female. I actually like the pronoun usage on this blog, but I'm saying I NOTICED IT. That's all I was saying. No panties wadded here.