Thursday, May 21, 2009

Re-Pitching Agents

I did a round of querying in the fall that got a few solid nibbles, two partials and a full, and advice along the lines of "love the writing but this isn't as marketable as we'd like; make these changes and it might be." While I definitely intend to repitch to those three agents, I'd also like to requery a few others who gave encouraging rejections. What I'm wondering about is the new query letter. It feels weird to lead with a straight traditional pitch if I need to get the point across that this was a book they passed on that has undergone revisions and might deserve a second look.

If the agent has already read a partial or full you definitely need to let her know in the opening of your query that this is a re-query. Agents have short memories, sometimes, and it’s likely that if she already read part of the work she’s going to remember and feel somewhat confused. We do confuse easily. Was this something she saw before or does it just seem familiar? Make it very clear from the beginning what you’re doing.

I would simply start out with something along the lines of, “Back in December you had reviewed a partial of my book Oodles of Fun and while you declined at that time I have since done extensive revisions at the suggestion of other agents and feel the book is much stronger. I have great respect for your agency and am querying to see if you’d be interested in taking a second look at my work.”

Obviously, put that in your own words, but I think full disclosure is your best bet.

Jessica

15 comments:

M. Dunham said...

I didn't realize we could re-query agents. I thought that was a no-no. That's a good thing for me to know!

Jason Crawford said...

Yeah, I've heard a couple of different takes on this on agent blogs. Some agents see it as bad form--in a major way. Others seem to be OK with it as long as the writer has done significant revisions.

I queried too soon. I finished my novel and queried my first-choice agent. She requested a partial, then passed. After reading through my first 50 pages, I knew why she passed. It needed a LOT of polishing.

Anyway, I'm in a polishing phase now and plan to re-query her when I'm done. I'm not sure if she will mind or not because she doesn't blog, so I can't ask her. But I'm certainly going to mention it first thing, and even apologize in advance if she doesn't accept re-queries.

The First Carol said...

You rock! You even wrote that part of the query. Now, if I could just get the first query done, we'd be getting somewhere. hahaha I LOVE your blog.

Laurel said...

This is good to know. My worst fear is being 90% of the way there and have a fixable problem. I am very open to constructive criticism and willing to take a chisel and sandpaper to my MS even though I'm doing my best to make it perfect before it goes out.

The impression I had was that if your book is not ready for prime time in an agent's estimation then that agent doesn't want your MS to darken their inbox again. Glad to know that some might take a second look if you take their suggestions to heart.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Thank you so much for this post! You've answered the question that's been keeping me awake at night: if it was okay to re-query after significant changes had been made to a manuscript and/or platform.

I can't wait to sleep in peace tonight!

jimnduncan said...

I've requeried my novel. It got rewritten from first to third person, so was a fairly different animal the second round. This was also nearly a year later. Given the slushpile, I don't believe agents are going to remember a standard rejection. Partials/full are a different matter.

I'm also curious Jessica, what you think about requerying with a different query for what is the same story. I understand that the market changes, and what may have sounded unmarketable at one point, months later might have different appeal. I also tend to think if you have a much better query that this can sometimes make the difference between requesting pages or not. While requerying with a different query after a few weeks certainly wouldn't do any good, if the writer believes the market is brighter for their genre would it hurt to try again?

I know rejection said...

When I was searching for an agent, I re-queried various agents more than once. I even did it with pen names and different queries. Once I pitched the same agent, with the same project, within the same week. Only I used a different pen name, a different title, and a different query letter. The first time the project was rejected, the second time that same week the agent requested a partial for the same project.

I'm not advocating being sneaky. But this is really how I learned how important it is to get the query letter right.

But, to be totally honest, I didn't actually get my agent through an unsolicited query letter. She, more or less, found me. You just have to keep plugging away until you get what you want.

Stephanie said...

To the above poster, wow that's interesting.....

I have requeired agents, but after much time has passed and only after major revision.

quixotic said...

Great to know. I had assumed re-querying was a big no-no.

Nathan Bransford said...

Jinx!

lynnrush said...

I was on an agent's blog a few months back and she was asking for questions about re-queries....

When I asked about sending a query in again on the same book after it had been re-vamped and improved...the agent asked, "Why'd you query something that wasn't ready then?"

So true.

Great posts between yours and Nathan's. Great minds.... :-)

Kimber An said...

"Why'd you query something that wasn't ready then?"

That's like asking a newborn baby why she can't walk yet.

When an aspiring author is just starting her journey through Queryland, her first novel only matches her skill level at that point in time.

It's a learning process.

The agent has no way of knowing if that aspiring author will be the next Stephanie Meyer. It's in her own best interest to be patient and polite to her. One day that aspiring author may need help negotiating a huge contract. Who's she gonna call?

Marilyn Peake said...

Thanks for this informative blog post. I plan to send out queries in the fall, and this information is very helpful.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I asked Kate Testerman this same question a month ago. Her answer was "a no is a no". It really does depend on the agent.

Another agent rejected my full, but commented on some general mistakes I had made throughout. I corrected them, plus made some substantial rewrites in terms of characterization and plot. But I don't feel comfortable enough to requery her for the same book, even though she had really liked the idea. Guess I'm don't feel like being rejected twice for the same novel, but this time without her even reading it.

Glynis said...

Very useful information, thanks.