Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Resubmitting Queries

Sometimes I feel like I write myself in circles, answering the same questions. I’m sure this is why Miss Snark quit blogging. After a while she had to feel like she’d answered everything at least twice. That being said, I know there are always new readers and I know that sometimes it’s the second or third time you answer when someone gets it.

So, here’s the question:

If I've reworked my query letter to the point where it is now an entirely different letter with much better substance, can I resend it?

I don't want to fall into the camp of those people who just don't get it, but I really like you as an agent and would love it if I could give it another swing.

I promise I'll take a second rejection at face value (should that be the case). If it makes it any more appealing, version two of my letter has already gotten a few responses from real live agents asking for pages.


Go ahead and send it in, especially if you’re getting better feedback than you were before. From an agent’s point of view, I dislike the idea that the same 50 people are sending me queries for the same 50 books, but from an author’s perspective, you never know if you don’t try. If you know, and have proven evidence, that your query is stronger, go ahead and hit those dream agents again.

Jessica

21 comments:

scarlettprose said...

Wow, that's extremely generous of you, Jessica, and no, I'm not being sarcastic! Some agents would probably like to get their hands on you after this post, but the truth is, when you're a newbie, your query letter is going to suck worse than a clogged up Kirby. After much guidance, revisions, and blood-congealing screams, said newbie could in fact produce a query worth reading, and in turn actually have a book worth reviewing. Still, they should have done their homework BEFORE querying, but it's a common mistake with new writers.

Kimber An said...

I think it takes a lot of guts to requery. I'm at the other end of the spectrum. I write the book, the query, and the synsopsis, and bang! I send it all out and don't look back, or try not to. I get right to work on the next thing. If an agency or publisher opens up to submissions, I'm like "I don't waaaaannnuuuu." And I put off revising and sending, burying myself in the next thing. Pathetic.

Then, I read a post by a recently published author who spent FIVE years writing, revising, and querying her novel.

Erika said...

As someone who after years and years of submissions has now found a wonderful publisher for my work, I think it is vitally important to move on to new projects when current ones aren't finding their home.

I understand both sides, of course. When we are attached to manuscripts, and are sure we have found the solution to what ails them, it is very tempting to resubmit. Personally, I have often equated it to challenging romantic relationships. Wanting to reconcile because the relationship is known and familiar but at some point, if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. And the best thing to do is shelve it and move on to one that will. How many times have we writers moved on to a new story and felt that great sense of fresh excitement--much like in a new relationship: "I never thought I could fall in love that way again, and I have--wow!"

Also too, I have to believe if an agent sees potential in your work, they would much rather see that you can put your skills into more than one project.

Bernita said...

and blood-congealing screams

Scarlettprose, that's a fabulous phrase!

Mary McDonald said...

I agree with previous commenters that a writer shouldn't cling to just one project and should move on, but I also think that they can do both.

Yes, I'm one of those. My first queries were drenched in suck. I improved it, and just yesterday, sent out about five more. I also wrote 900 words on my WIP. (and worked 12 hours at my day job.) I just don't see where it has to be all or nothing.

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

THANK YOU for this post. First, it's always wonderful to see that other writers also suffer from the dreaded first-query-suckage-syndrome. Second, it's wonderful to hope resurrection is still possible.

I have to say that I really recommend moving into another project before going back to requery. I gained perspective and learned so much delving into something new, that it made me see completely different strengths in my first novel.

And scarlettprose, sucking worse than a clogged-up Kirby? LOL!

Anonymous said...

This is just me. But I would imagine the same query (from anyone, not to single one person out) could be rewritten dozens of times, adding and subtracting different aspects of the novel each time. And yet it's still going to be the same query, with the same theme, and the same basic content.

On the other hand, if the project itself has been rewritten (or it's an entirely different project), I can see re-querying with a different query letter. In other words, I've always just assumed agents reject the overall project and not the way a query letter is written, because the project didn't interest them.

Am I missing something here? How bad could these queries be that they have to be rewritten so many times to give a basic description of a novel?

Nic said...

This is good info - do you suggest a time period for the resend though? I've heard don't requery an agent unless query plus novel have been rewritten and about 6 months have passed.

Aimless Writer said...

Interesting...I fear requerying because the last thing I want to do is piss off an agent.
Off topic; You once posted about Rawhide Rescue. Because of your post I looked into volunteering. Rawhide was a little too far north for me but I found a group closer to home and I'm on my fifth foster dog! Thanks for that post! Taking in foster dogs has been a great experience.

BookEnds, LLC said...

Aimless:

That just made my day. Thank you so much for letting me know. I really admire you for your work fostering. It takes special people to make great pets.

--jhf

Robena Grant said...

I've always sent my queries out too soon. Then I'd receive a request for a partial or a full, and the manuscript wouldn't have been polished enough, so there would always be a rejection.

This time around I'm being smarter. I've put the brakes on, and developed a plan. I won't even submit to a contest until the entire ms. has gone through a couple of rewrites. While that latest story is sitting and simmering I've started another one. Next month I'll start the second rewrite on the first manuscript.

Maybe then I'll be able to write a dynamite query letter, and be able to follow up with a dynamite manuscript. But I'm not going to hold my breath on that. ; )

Sarah said...

Anon @10:21 - I'm still learning, but my impression is that a query is meant to entice an agent to want to learn more about the project. It's too short by itself to really give an impression. For example, I can approach the query by describing my book from the plotty perspective... or focus on the characters... or I can try to be clever and do something weird...

So maybe I end up with three queries suggesting three different books, but it's really just three views of a single project. Even a 3-page synopsis can change drastically depending on how it's approached, so I figure the project itself (hopefully) is perfectly sound, and I just have to learn how to write my query so that the reader asks for more. Which is how I see re-querying reasonable under certain circumstances.

Kelly said...

This answer really surprised me! I have *never* heard another agent give the go-ahead on that.

jjdebenedictis said...

Me and Kelly both; I'm surprised to hear this. I think Miss Snark herself said you get ONE shot at an agent per project, because the agent is rejecting your book, not your query letter.

That said, if your query letter was sufficiently dreadful, the agent probably never glanced at the sample pages, and they certainly won't remember the letter even a month later. So why not?

AstonWest said...

Barring a completely off-the-wall query that would garner attention (like writing it all in 24-pt cursive font...I bet that would get your name and project sufficient attention), would an agent recognize one query out of the hundreds they receive daily? Would they really know that they'd seen that same query for the same project from the same author?

Heck, I had one agent who rejected a query they'd already rejected months before, even though I *hadn't* re-submitted it...

Anonymous said...

I think it is definitely possible that your query letter can improve on the same MS. I had to learn to write my query letter. If you go about the whole thing wrong they aren't just rejecting your idea.

Thanks for the encouragement Jessica.

Tracy said...

Anonymous 10:21 - I disagree. The query letter can be an epic fail, because it doesn't give the agent any idea what the story is about. First-time query writers often get caught up in the "make it sound exciting" school of thought. They tend to lean toward vague, cliched phrases to express the tension, drama, emotion, etc. in the story rather than just SAYING it.

I can see where, if the letter truly changed, a writer would be interested in re-querying their favorite agent in order to make sure it is the story -- and not the initial query suckage -- that was the reason for rejection.

mkcbunny said...

Please don't quit blogging.

Jeanna said...

I just went through this as a writer. Unfortunately, my new query did not open old doors but seems to be opening new ones. Maybe there is something to: "don't look back!"

Jeanna said...

I just went through this as a writer. Unfortunately, my new query did not open old doors but seems to be opening new ones. Maybe there is something to: "don't look back!"

Anonymous said...

You might as well -- the worst than will happen is they'll say no and you'll be no worse off than you are before.

Also, we're in an era of non-response, so if someone doesn't respond or sends a form letter, you can't be sure if they even read the thing. So try again -- all they can do is get mad (if they even remember they saw the query before, which they probably won't). And if they get mad, to hell with them. An agent who doesn't represent you is no more importance to you than a 7-11 Slurpee clerk.