Thursday, July 30, 2009

Submissions 101

Almost daily new readers are discovering the blog and many of these new readers are also new to the submission process and have lots of questions about where to even begin. Because of that today’s post is really going to be a rudimentary look at how to begin and what to do next. I’m also going to ask many of our more veteran readers to weigh in and give any tips or tricks, so don’t forget to take a look at the comments section.

Before getting started, before even writing a query, you need to make sure your book has been written, rewritten, edited and polished, and, as you have heard from me before, I even suggest you’ve already started writing your next book so you have something to focus on besides just the query process. Fiction and narrative nonfiction (i.e., memoir) writers will need to have completed the full manuscript. Self-help writers can start submitting on proposal.

Once it’s time to sit down and write your query I suggest you spend time on it, and a search on this blog for "query" or "blurb" will give you hundreds of tips and posts on writing a strong query. I’m not going to go into that here; however, I am going to remind you that a query is not typically something that can be thrown together in 15 minutes. Remember, a lot of pressure is placed on this poor query, so I always suggest you spend time really working on it and, if you can, find a group to help you make sure it will sing to agents. I know that online groups like Absolutewrite, WritersNet and Backspace will definitely help hone queries. You also can’t go wrong, as a fiction writer, by joining groups and local chapters of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, or Science Fiction, Fantasy Writers of America.

Research is essential to finding an agent, but I think research also needs to be done in moderation. There are a number of fabulous web sites and books available that will guide an author through the agent maze and list hundreds of agents and what they are acquiring. There are three places that I recommend you definitely look. The first is Preditors & Editors; this amazing author advocacy group vets agents to make sure you are submitting to only those that are reputable. Do not submit to any agent until you’ve checked this site. The second are agent web sites themselves; this is the best place to find the most up-to-date information on what agents are looking for and an agent’s guidelines. Granted, not all agents have web sites, but it’s important to check. And finally, if you don’t become a subscriber to Publishers Marketplace, you should, at the very least, sign up for their free deal notifications so you can keep up on the news of some (not all) of the publishing deals that are being made. After you’ve checked those sites, sending out queries is a bit of an act of faith. Do enough research to know that the agent you are submitting to represents (or is at least listed as having represented) books in the genre or area you’re writing in. There’s no need to double- and triple-check this with every single listing ever written. One reliable source should be enough. Remember, when querying it’s really easy to get bogged down in things like research or editing your book and at some point you just have to decide that it’s time to make that next step.

Now that you’ve written your query and done your research it’s time to take that leap and send the query out. This is where I’m hoping veteran readers will pop in with their own advice. I think it’s probably best to send a few out (maybe ten) at a time to some agents on your A list, some on your B list, and some on your C list. Get a feel for if the query is working, and a few weeks later (whether you’ve received responses or not) send out ten more queries. Whether or not you get a response will depend on the agent and her guidelines. This is one of those issues that stresses submitting writers out more than anything and, as we learned in Agentfail, causes more than a little anger and frustration. My advice is that if the agency has a “no response means no" policy, note that on your query-tracking sheet and move on the minute the query goes out. If an agency does post that they respond to all queries, note that on your tracking sheet and also when you should check in (I think 4 to 6 weeks is more than reasonable).

Hopefully you’ve written a strong enough query that you’ll immediately start receiving requests for proposals. If not, you might discover that you need to go back to the drawing board and revamp that query before making any new submissions. I believe there’s an evolutionary process to rejection and almost every writer goes through it. If you have revamped the query, are you allowed to requery those same agents who might have already rejected the work? I don’t necessarily advocate you do this. On the other hand, I don’t see a lot wrong with doing it. I don’t love the idea and I suspect most other agents feel the same way. Ultimately, it’s a decision you need to make on your own based on your own feelings about your query and passion for a particular agent. To read more of my thoughts on how to make that decision, I suggest you read Resubmissions and ReQueries from early last year.

Once proposals are being requested I can’t promise anything on timing. Again, it’s up to each individual agent how she responds. You might receive constructive feedback, you might receive little more than a form. Some agents might respond within days, others months. My best advice at this point is to stay the course. Continue querying, continue sending out proposals and hopefully full manuscripts, and, when that offer does come in, please, please use it to your advantage to make sure you are getting the best offer with the best agent for you, because not every agent is right for every author.

Jessica

Please note: In an effort to catch up on the numerous submissions and queries that she's received—and to improve her future response time—Kim will be closed to submissions from August 1st to September 30th. Any queries received during that time will be automatically deleted.

54 comments:

Dan Holloway said...

I would love to contribute to this, but as a UK author I don't want to muddy the waters. May I just note that I find it fascinating the difference between US and UK procedures. In the UK the first submission phase to almost all agents is synopsis and opening chapters. Very few go through the query stage. In the US, however, the query seems to be universal. I guess this means authors develop very different pitching skills and have very different needs, which in turn means I guess we need to be careful where we go for advice in a "global" web age, so as not to get even more confused than we already are.

There, that's sort of advice, as well as an observation :-)

Still loving the blog and glad I found it.

Anonymous said...

Ten agents at a time? Some from your "A" list, "B" list and "C" list?

Wow. I only query at most three at a time. I got a request for a partial last night, so I've got three partials out right now. I won't query anyone else until I hear from one of them. My only "A" list agent asked for a rewrite and resubmit, but then rejected it anyway.

After that I considered most agents to be from the same pool, unless I'd heard something terrible about them. But, I've been agented before and have had bad experiences. I'm not from the school of thought that "high-powered, 'successful' agents" are necessarily good agents. They can spend all their time on their "large" clients and you get pushed to the back burner.

Dan Holloway said...

Anon, for me, assuming an agent has no strikes against them from a place like Preditors & Editors or Writer Beware, whether they are on my "A", "B" or "C" list (in reality, because I am inclined towards self-publishing, I only have an "A" list - if I can't get one of those, I'd rather go it alone) is entirely dependent on their client list and what they're looking for.

For example, my dream agent is the Susijn Literary Agency, because they handle many of the authors I love, and because they specialise in literary fiction with a cross-cultural appeal (they actually state that) which is what I write. I think, as an author, we need to be sure our potential agent understands the genre we write in, likes it, and gets how it works commercially. Basing your list on these criteria will also, of course, get you a better strike rate, because agents who like your genre are more likely to be interested in you.

Teh Awe-Some Sauce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Teh Awe-Some Sauce said...

Just wanted to add a note that Science Fiction Writers of America require an author to be "published", which is to have three short story sales or one book published before you can join.

Also, for those that write middle grade and young adult books, SCBWI is a great resource. They have local chapters whpo hold events and some areas have local crit groups. They also send their members a resource which lists agents and their querying process. And with SCBWI you don't have to have any publishing credits to join.

Anonymous said...

I never status query. Ever.

To me, if you aren't on the ball enough to read a query and respond in eight weeks, OR read a partial and respond in six weeks, Or read a full and respond in two months, then, hell, you are not the agent for me.

Agents need organizational skills. They have to be on top of things or this industry will stomp on them. I used to have an agent I felt I had to babysit -- one I had to politely remind to follow up on submissions (after five months with no word), and remind several times (over months) to read my latest ms, and remind (every single time) to provide me with the rejection emails. Never again.

One or two emails of reminding is fine -- no one is perfect and everyone is busy. But when it feels like you are a parent instead of a client, it's time to get a new agent.

Rick Daley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CKHB said...

I also very much like AgentQuery. You can search by genre(s), by agents accepting new clients, and by agents accepting e-queries.

I can't imagine having only one "A" list agent. Sure, I started out hoping for a response from a single agent who repped a book I thought was awesome and no dissimilar to my book, but once I start reading the AgentQuery listings, I realized how many good matches there might be. This one says she loves strong-but-flawed heroines! That one says she likes dark-but-funny! My novel might be a perfect fit for them, and I had no idea they even existed until I started doing broad genre searches on AgentQuery, because they don't have blogs.

I sent out 13 queries my first week, and 35 the week after that. (I got requests for partials right away, so the query letter only got minor tweaking as I went along.)

Heather Lane said...

This process is a long one, and it is very important to be patient. Patient enough to edit the ms and query and synopsis and then put them away for a while, then look at them again with a fresh eye and re-revise.

Also--when querying one project, and simultaneously starting a new project, it's best for the new project not to be a sequel to the first. If the first does get picked up by agents and then publishers, it may change so much that the sequel then doesn't fit. Or, if it doesn't get picked up at all, now you don't have anything new to query.

Anonymous said...

I can only say what worked for me.

I pretty much disregarded agent guidelines. I sent a short, snappy query letter with -almost- enough information. (I think we're often in danger of un-selling an agent by going on at length.) Then I'd always sent 10-15 pages, to the first natural stopping point. Might only be half a chapter, whatever.

Maybe some of the OCD agents tossed the whole package because it's not what they asked for, but I'm pretty confident that the majority glanced at the query letter to check the genre, word-length, and for a basic level of professionalism, and if they were slightly interested, they'd at least run their eyes over the first page.

That's all I asked of them. That's all I ask of readers. If my first paragraph didn't push them into the second paragraph, and my first page into the second page, all the way through those first 10-15 pages, then the project wasn't ready for submission anyway.

So I'm probably the only person who's gonna say that you needn't hew so closely to agents' guidelines, but that's what worked for me, with some pretty impressive agents.

JR

Judi said...

Actually, I don't think I'd advise people to wait to write that query and synopsis that far along in the process. If you've spent any time helping crit writers' queries (for ex; on forums), one thing you notice right away is that issues that pop up in queries tend to be reflective of issues in the ms.

Wordy queries for books with 150k word counts. Queries where you have no idea what the heck the story is actually about for books with plotting issues (conflict-it's always conflict that's missing, it's freaky). Queries where the MC is totally unlikeable.

Same with a synopsis. No better way to figure out you have plotting issues, etc.

I always say work on them sometime after the first draft is done. I think it helps focus you, and as I said, it never ceases to amaze me how strong the correlation is btwn problems in the query and problems in the ms. Never.

Then put it away. Edit your ms. Revise. Fix the issues you found. Then go back to your query and synopsis and revise. It really does help.

Rick Daley said...

Oops. Wrong blog. Had to delete that before I confused the heck out of everyone. Stupid tabbed browsing.

So back on topic...I recommend two sites for your query efforts:

1. The Public Query Slushpile (http://openquery.blogspot.com) is another place to post a query and get feedback.

2. QueryTracker.net has great tools to manage the results of your submissions and report on other writers' experiences in querying specific agents.

And I can't stress enough how important it is to have your MS in top condition. You don't want to succeed at a query only to be rejected at the partial. An agent is not a critique partner.

Alan Orloff said...

Excellent advice all around.

I would add something about expectations and attitude. Expect that the process will take a lot (a lot!) longer than you think. Expect that it will not go smoothly. Expect rejections. No matter how good your stuff is, you WILL get them.

But don't let the bumps in the road get you down. Keep a positive attitude; let stuff roll off your back. If you get perturbed by every rejection, or "no response," you'll burn out very quickly.

And don't try to read the tea leaves with every rejection. A no is a no, so just move on.

My two cents.

Mira said...

This is wonderful, Jessica. Thank you.

I'm not exactly new; I've been hanging out on line for abit, but I learned alot reading this.

Another great one to link on the sidebar, if you want. This is really helpful.

I also noticed that I asked a question yesterday that you had answered in a previous post. Sorry about that.

I really like your matter-of-fact, and 'let's focus on what's important' approach. Thanks.

Weronika said...

A very thorough collection of observations, Jessica. Thanks for bunching it all together.

The one rule that I've seen mentioned more and more consistently is the one about having a project in the works -- outlines, etc. -- for a novel before someone finishes their current WiP, and I'm glad you mentioned that, too. It's added perspective to my writing.

Marsha Sigman said...

I would send out maybe 5 at a time and remember to personalize! Not just with the agent's name but sometimes their preference on how a query is written is different from others. Research that and adjust accordingly as you go along.

If you aren't getting a positive reponse on the query then you may need to work on rewording it. If your getting requests for partials/fulls but then rejections, you may need to go back to work on your ms.

I think it takes 80% talent and 20% persistence to make it.

Ainsley MacQueen said...

Wow, Anonymous! I must disagree. Disregarding the agent's submission guidelines sounds not so smart. Getting immediate attention for NOT following the rules is better left to artistic design fields, and I would imagine the agent would worry the two of you may not be able to communicate well.

Jessica's advice to query from lists A,Band C should be taken seriously. There is nothing worse than having an incredible breakthrough on your query, turning it into a golden ticket, and then have none of your dream agents left to send it to. Because if you're not pig-headed, you will see room for improvement each time you proofread that sucker.

And writing a stunning query, with conflict and high concept, will only help you create the blurb that will sell the book to whomever picks it up to read the back cover. $GOLD, like I said.

That being said, sitting down to write one is the hardest part. Set a timer for 1/2 hour and tell yourself to write wild crap. At the end of that time, you'll have lots of material to mold into your first draft. Fear not, newbies.

Ainsley MacQueen said...

Sorry. Me again.

About moving on to the next work-in-progress...

It helps distract you from all that waiting, it helps your writing improve from shear hard work (we DO get better with every book), and it helps you let go of your precious darling and stop picking at it.

It also gives you an answer for that wonderfully anticipated question, "What else have you got?"

For us, it's not "publish or perrish", it's "produce or don't publish". No one wants a one hit wonder.

Write on!

carolynyalin said...

Very helpful blog, thank you. I plan on bookmarking it.

Anonymous said...

I would add how important it is to track your feedback from agents (and later, from editors). Keep careful lists of who rejects, and on what--the query, the partial, or the full. I used simple abbreviations: Q, P and F.

I would paste into a Word doc any specific feedback I received on the partial or the full. It's a good way to see patterns and a helpful guide for revisions. You also may get responses from agents who don't love this project, but think your writing is strong and ask to see something else down the line. Highlight these names!

If you've depleted your list, and your first project doesn't snag you an agent (heaven forfend), you've got a good foundation in your records. Now you can go back to those agents with P's and F's next to their names with Book 2--and always remind them that they showed interest the last time around.

Rosemary said...

Sorry--checked wrong box.

I'm actually Anon 11:18.

Anonymous said...

Ainsley MacQueen:

I think some of our disagreement is due to the emphasis on query letters. The best query letter in the world--a stunning work of art and imagination--isn't gonna do more than get our pages read.

Our work sells our work, or nothing does. A crappy query letter defeats us, but a stellar query letter just opens the same door as an acceptable query letter. In other words, a query letter is an opportunity for someone to say 'no', but not to say 'yes'.

My goal as a writer querying agents isn't to make their workday easier. My job--at this stage--is getting an agent to read the first few pages of my ms. If they love the project and think it'll sell, they'll offer representation as long as I'm not offensively unprofessional. If they dislike the project and are sure it won't sell, they won't rep me even if they love me personally.

It's certainly possible that some agents, receiving a competent query letter that describes a novel with an intriguing hook, in a genre they represent, won't bother to read the enclosed 10 pages if that violates their guidelines.

But I also don't doubt that some agents, getting that same query letter, will peek at the first few pages, even if otherwise they would've sent a rejection, for any number of reasons, including a shortcoming in the letter, an argument with the spouse that morning, and a coffee spill on the shirt. And if my writing is strong enough, one of them will be blown away.

It's a numbers game. My belief is that the number of agents who discard a otherwise-acceptable query because they get an offensive 15 pages in the same envelope is smaller than the number who will glance at the first page of the manuscript that they might otherwise reject at the query stage.

JR

Meg Spencer said...

@Anon 11:26 AM: I see your point, to a point. It is probably worth checking out what are common auto-deletes, however. Most of these are fairly simple to avoid. Don't CC a bunch of agents. Don't address the query "Dear Gentlemen." Don't send attachments. That kind of thing. Coping the last five pages to the end of your email is probably not going to be an auto-delete (especially if your query catches the eye) but emails without attachments often get deleted without even being opened.

Meg Spencer said...

*Emails WITH attachments. Bah.

~Jamie said...

Several have mentioned it in the comments above, but I just wanted to make sure writers were aware of QueryTracker.net

There is a paid membership... but most of their features are totally free. Sign up--and use it!

Sierra Godfrey said...

Anon/ JR:

I personally am someone who follows query submission guidelines as stated by agents-- but what I like about your response is the lack of stress. Relaxing and not getting so uptight about the whole process is key. Of course querying is tremendously important; it's the momentous first step towards publication (an unpublished writer's shangri-la, even if it doesn't actually change anything in one's life).

Your healthy dollop of easy logic is a reminder that maintaining a good attitude and relaxing is super important. Otherwise we run the risk of turning into angry bitter people when agents reject us.

Aisnley MacQueen said...

JR/Anonymous

Do you honestly think making an agent's day easier won't ever make a difference?

This industry is very very small. Everything you write, especially in your correspondence with VIPs, should be gracious. I plan on arriving on the NY scene without barnacles on my arse. Following an agent's guidelines is one of those things that will keep me aerodynamic.

But good luck with your action plan. You probably save yourself a lot of time.

Anonymous said...

JR,

I like your plan. I don't know if I'd have the guts to follow it, but as authors I feel like we are under too many time constraints, which increases pressure on us, which contributes to explosive behavior, which shows in our answers to blogs, which makes the blogging agents sad, mad, and upset, which leads to more tension between the relationship…Well you get the picture. My point is that everything we do takes soooo much time, and researching each agent’s individual preferences just adds to the stress. A uniform co-existence between agents would be great. How about a common form?

Contact info, genre, word count, query, credentials, and first five pages. Even cooler would be a website we could post this form and the agents could type in mystery or romance, and it would pull up all the queries related to that genre…forget it. That would create too much competition between agents. Silly me. I tend to dream way too big. I believe Nathan’s blog is about dealing with the crazies, I’ll just hop right over there.

Marie

Anonymous said...

“but as authors I feel like we are under too many time constraints”

After I posted that, I realized that wasn’t quite right. I should have said we have to deal with too many time thieves. Yeah that’s better. Now I’m heading to NB’s.

Marie

Sheila Deeth said...

All useful advice. Thanks. Just takes so long, and end up so discouraging. Writing's more fun. Job-hunting less.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I absolutely agree, Meg. I'm not saying 'Woohoo! Anything goes!' All I'm saying is, 'be professional, and don't sweat the small stuff.' If your work is salable enough, and you're not easily discouraged, you'll find representation.

This is something that worked for me. Of course, that was a while back; maybe things have changed.

I'm all for making everyone's day better, Ainsley, I just think we sometimes focus too much on things like query letters. I'm assuming a certain level of professionalism; once we achieve that minimum level, we're good, guidelines or no.

Hell, we're writers, we're -all- a little strange. As long as we're not completely freaky, nobody's gonna notice. (And if we -are- completely freaky, maybe it's best to only post to blogs as 'Anonymous!')

As far as VIPs go, I can only think of a handful of agents who qualify. The rest are just hardworking businesspeople in a tough industry, who love books--and love finding new books to love. It's really pretty simple. Hellish, sometimes, but simple!

JR

Bane of Anubis said...

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I add this precious piece of advice:

Don't take no response as no. Only no means no. Query until you get a response one way or the other. Query 10 agents at a time, replacing each NO with a new Q as the rejects come in. Treat all no responses after 2 months as a NO, but put that agent back on the list for a future wave, until you get a response.

Keep a spreadsheet to track the responses.

Write something new while you wait to hear back.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

"I only query at most three at a time."

Gonna take forever that way! You figure out the key to immortality or something?

10 at a time is optimal.

Anonymous said...

"No one wants a one hit wonder."

How untrue! Gone With the Wind was a 1-hitter.

Pubs want to make $$$--they don't give a rat'ws butt about YOU. If you don't wanna write more than 1 book, that's your problem, cuz you prolly ain't gonna make anough on 1 to make a dent, but if you can write a megahit one-off, believe me, they'll want you to death.

Anonymous said...

The reason I don't automatically include sample pages with every Q isn't because I'm afraid of breaking the rules, but rather because I like to be able to gauge the effectiveness of the letter.

If you're always sending pages, then you can never be sure if it's the letter that's not working, or the pages. So, unless they specifically ask for pages, I don't inlcude them.

Anonymous said...

Would like to hear thoughts on querying small publishers directly. By small, I mean pubs that pay an advance of a few thousand bucks, do offset printing with national brick & mortar distribution, as well as a decent reputation and track record.

To me it makes sense to approach some of these right along with the agents, since the Q process wait is about a year altogether.

Anonymous said...

"evolutionary process to rejection"

Jessica,

I just got around to reading that and loved it. That's why I've never understood no re-querying.

Marie

Anonymous said...

"Kim will be closed to submissions from August 1st to September 30th."

I've seen the small publishers do this frequently, but agent, soo...wow! The sheer barrage of people who say they have salable, printed material!

jimnduncan said...

The goal of the query letter is to get pages requested. That's pretty much it. To up your chances, eliminate the no-no's of query writing. You can get good examples of what to do and not to do in the archives of several agents blogs: Nathan Bransford, Bookends, Ms. Snark, Kristen Nelson, are good places to start. Once you feel you've got a decent query, research the agents.

Querytracker is a good choice, as it allows you a method to track them. Agentquery is a good sized database too. It's important to note however that these aren't always up to date. Once you've built a list of potential agents to query, track down their website and verify the info. Do they take email queries? Are they still open for queries? Are they actually representing your genre? Is the email/snail address correct? It's also good to look for info on turnaround time. Some will tell you that if you haven't heard in X amount of time, it means no. Querytracker is good for this because it lets you post the date you sent the query. Once you have the list and verified the facts, then you can think about submitting. It takes time to do all of this, and it's more than worth the effort.

You increase your chances immeasurably if you eliminate all of the stupid mistakes. If you have a polished ms, and a respectable query, and avoid all of the no-no's then you've put it in the hands of fate, and hope you hit the right agent at the right time with the right story. That's all you can do. It doesn't mean you deserve to have pages read because you followed the rules. All it does is give the agent no reason to say no except for 'this isn't right for me.'

As an addendum, I would add this. "This isn't right for me" is the response you should expect. Writing a great story is your job as a writer. The agent's job is to find great stories that they can feel passionate about selling to publishers and also believe they can do so. This is a very VERY rare alignment of coincidences. Odds are, you won't achieve this much sought after occurrence. That's just they way it is in this business. You're trying to hit a bullseye on a moving target that you can barely see. If you expect you'll hit it, you're in for a long and frustrating journey. Just make damn good darts and keep throwing them. If you're good and you keep trying, your odds of hitting the bullseye will continue to rise.

Maggie Dana said...

Something that's not been mentioned so far is a submissions service.

The blog, "How Publishing Really Works" warns about this here:

http://bit.ly/47BSjF

(Note: Jessica, I hope it's OK to include link to HPRW blog ... I see they reference you in today' post.)

Anonymous said...

I agree that sending a few pages with a query may help speed up the whole process. After all, top agents like Don Maass and Nathan now want 5 pages pasted in the body of the query (not attached). Frustrating to get partial requests that never get read or take forever to read...

If agents can tell within the first few pgs or first graph if they like the writing, why not make this practice a standard within the industry? Or at least add the opening graph or ONE page to the query? Anything to accelerate this tedious process!

Jeannie said...

Darn it! I just finished polishing my WIP and thought would be a good fit for Kim.
One thing I'd like to add is before sending the query recheck the agent's website as things can change quickly.
Like this. Kim was first on my list and now ... oh well. Maybe in September.

Kvn said...

If you're a newbie, this is a particularly informative thread. From my experience, queries and synopses are like dental work when done at the end, when they're purely sales copy. Do these darm things simultaneously with the writing, as early as you can bear, so you can benefit from the questions they raise and the clarity they require. As early drafts, you can chip away at them, do them as haikus, in crayon, walk away -- that feeling that they're holding up your book's debut just magnifies the pain, and may make you prone to rush and skip polishing. I'd also second the advice to begin a new work when the query process starts because:
1. First books are often learning aids more than they are saleable works
2. Even if yours is saleable, it will probably be years before it's agented, sold to a publisher, actually published, distributed and gleaming on the New Releases table.
3. If you can't quite move on because you know the first one really does need some cleaning up: stop, and ask yourself the hard question of whether you're querying too early.

Kim Lionetti said...

Jeannie -- You still have today to send a query!! :)

I should clarify that I'll be going through the queries received and requesting material that interests me during this time. So I'll still be accepting partials and mss. that I've requested. Honestly, I don't like having to do it, but my inbox is OVERFLOWING and there's no way I'll ever catch up on queries if I don't resort to this measure.

Anonymous said...

"Darn it! I just finished polishing my WIP and thought would be a good fit for Kim."

Don't worry, odds are yo'll still be querying in Sept.!

I wouldn't worry so much about the fit--the right fit is the agent who agrees to take you on. Q them all, as long as they say they handle your genre and are open to subs. Should you be lucky enough to get more than 1 offer at the same time, THEn worry about fit. Until then, it's a moot point.

in the deep end of the pool said...

sounds terrific. i'm getting close to have book one all prettied up, and i really don't know where to go from there. it's nice to have some good advice out there. thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have a problem..I live in South Africa and there seems to be no literary agents who will accept my query because of my genre..My genre is YA/Teenage books. So would it be okay if I could try query an agent overseas( like an american one for example) while still living in South Africa? Is that possible?

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Matthew Rush said...

Thanks so much for this post Jessica, as well as the rest of your wonderful, informative blog. I really wish I had seen this before I started querying. I find the whole process teeth-pullingly tedious and after I first finished my novel I thought I would jump right in, flood the market with quick and easy queries and as soon as someone took a chance to read the MS, off we would go.

As you can obviously guess things did not go as I'd planned. I got many form rejections and a few personalized ones that hurt my feelings but helped my query because the letters and emails I was sending out were pretty bad.

So I swallowed my pride, snapped my lazy bone and started doing some research into querying. I had figured that writing the novel was the hard part (pouring out my heart and soul if you will) but little did I know that the creativity, though time consuming, was easy by comparison.

I read some books but what really helped was when I found some of those blogs that critique queries like Query Shark and Ask Daphne!. I'm still waiting to see if the Shark will post my query but Daphne already did and nothing else has made such a difference.

Since then I've had 3 requests for partials and all 3 agents have said they like the voice and may consider offering representation if I can cut it to a manageable length as the book is far too long.

So anyway thank you very much for being an experienced publishing professional who is willing to share their wisdom with the masses for free. We really appreciate it.

Also, any writers frustrated with the query process who have a free moment please take a minute to read my blog: TheQQQE. It's just a novice writer and first time blogger's clumsy attempt to find some catharsis but it just might make you laugh too.

Anonymous said...

New poster/aspiring author here - In your experience, what composes the average day of a busy agent? I don't dare say average agent, right?

Anonymous said...

I understand the query process a bit more - looking at it from an angle I hadn't thought about. We writers put the agents through the query process as we look for one. We read their qualifications, their successes and their websites and decide if this is an agency we could work with.

If it is a "perfect" match we put that agent on the "A" list - if not so perfect the "B" list and if it is really iffy - the "C" list or slush pile.

Rejections won't hurt so much now as I view this process a different way. The rejection isn't personal - from the agent's point of view we just didn't gel.

The only "personal" part in this is - the agents have to tell us we're rejected. We already rejected many of them just from reading heir websites but we don't then send them a letter saying - sorry your agency isn't quite what what we're looking for at the moment.

Thank-you for taking the initiative and creating a site that is so helpful for people seeking an agent.