Thursday, November 04, 2010

Querying Agents at the Same Agency

By now you should know how I like to confuse things a little by stating how I like things done v. how you should be doing things—guidelines that often conflict with one another.

Kim and I both receive a lot of queries and have specific interests. We also have a number of interests that cross over, and while I do not like when authors query us both at the same time (since there’s nothing worse than sitting in a meeting when two agents bring up the exact same project), I do think it’s in your best interest to query one if the other passes and you feel both agents might be right for your work. And yes, I’m wincing a little as I type this. And yes, I’m sure there are many agents cursing my name as they read this.

Here’s the deal: There are definitely times when I’ll pass on a query, but forward it to Kim anyway. If it’s something I think she might like I’ll pass so she doesn’t have to answer if she doesn’t want to (and since I was the one queried), but if she is interested she can request more. That being said, I can’t always say that I understand the kind of books Kim might like.

One of the reasons agents specialize is that we, like readers, get certain books and don’t get others. In other words, I don’t get what makes a children’s book work. How does one ABC picture book really differ from another? I also don’t necessarily get certain voices, so I might read something that would be better for Kim, but I don’t think to pass it on to her because I didn’t connect to the voice. She might.

Recently an author queried me after getting an offer of representation. She had recently received a rejection from Kim, but thought to query me as well, just to see. I LOVED the book. Thought it was simply great. Kim apologized profusely, feeling like she should have passed it on to me, but admitted that the book was not her style so she couldn’t even tell if it was really great enough to pass along or not. She was right, and certainly I’ve been in the same situation. Sometimes we just can’t tell because it’s not our style.

There are a ton of agents out there, there are three times as many authors. If you feel there are two or more agents within the same agency who are right for your work, query them all, just not at the same time.

Jessica

28 comments:

Yvonne Osborne said...

Thank you, Jessica, for answering a question I hadn't the nerve to ask.

Guinevere said...

Good to know! Thanks for posting this, even knowing it might mean MORE slush for the both of you. :)

Rowenna said...

I was just debating this (in my head...wow I sound crazy..._). Thanks for the perspective!

Noelle Pierce said...

I was avoiding that, actually, because I'd heard not to (except with one agency, where they say it's okay, if not encouraged, on their submission guidelines page). And your agency was one of those where I had to flip a coin.

So...Kim feels the same way, right? *grin*

Christopher S. Ledbetter said...

This is a great *insider's view* post. I never would have thought to query agents at the same agency. I simply thought it was taboo.

Joanna St. James said...

this was really helpful

Buffy Andrews said...

Wow. (smiles) So even if the agency says on its website that a "no" from one agent is a "no" from all of the agents we should ignore? Good to know.

The REALLY Real Curious Crow said...

Such a daily joy to learn from this blog, written by obviously "real," enjoyable people who are passionate about their work. Your kernels of wisdom and glimpses of possibilities lift us sometimes dejected-feeling writers (at least, that's the inspiration I always leave with).

Thanks!
Kalinda C. Schreiber

Melissa said...

Before my manuscript was finished, I pitched to an agent at a conference. She loved it and requested the full when it was finished.

There is another agent at her agency whom I like a lot more. Would it be inappropriate for me to send her a query and NOT send the full to the first agent?

BookEnds, LLC said...

Melissa:

Good question. I think you need to send it to the agent you're more comfortable with. as long as you aren't sending to both agents I think that's fine.

And I'm sure agents all over NY are cursing me right now ;)

--jhf

Anonymous said...

i would like to start out this post by saying that i have a fabulous agent who i am delighted with.

however, i did query you way back in the beginning and although you rejected my query you did go on to give me further(invaluable)advice that i will always be appreciative of. but i'm sure like many others i thought querying more than one agent at an agency was taboo. had i known otherwise i may just have queried kim also...

Vickie Motter said...

Oooo. I was cringing while reading your post. But you're right, sometimes it does work. More often than not though, a lot of writers just send it blindly to everyone in the agency. Those are the ones I see. However, if you have debated over it again and again, and two agents positively without a doubt seem like a good match, go ahead and query them both. But, as Jessica said, not at the same time.

Judy Black said...

Just found your blog and I have to say it is one of the most helpful and enjoyable blogs by an agency that I have found!
Looking forward to your future posts and I'm off to dive into the archive!

Anonymous said...

When I was querying I used to wish that all agencies had different e-mail accounts for their agents...so writers could query individual agents with individul e-mail addresses. Not all do, though. And it can be very frustrating.

Personally, I'd advise all authors to just stay away from these agencies with just one e-mail address altogether. Querying an agent is such a personal thing, one general e-mail address for fifteen agents, give or take a few, is just insulting to the author.

Khanada said...

Jessica, what you said here makes a lot of sense. I suspect the only cursing is about the high potential for misuse of this advice. But you know, SO many people who don't have a clue are out there querying everyone everywhere at the same time. This doesn't change anything for them. I see it just helping those who are trying hard to do the right thing.

Thanks so much for your honesty! We appreciate it.

Kate Douglas said...

Really an important post. I'm trying to imagine how Kim would have reacted if I'd first sent Wolf Tales to her...

M.A.Leslie said...

How do you feel about the re-query?

I didn't realize it when I started this process earlier this year but out of the gate I was overzealous and quick to present work that wasn't quite ready to be presented. I know that is a taboo and I have learned from my mistake, but now I am faced with having a MS that I have beefed up and improved and agents that I have already queried. Should I send it to them again on the pretense that it is new and improved work? Should I just pass by the top ten people that I want to work with and start querying anybody?

I know that I made a mistake and believe me when I say this. I have learned a valuable lesson. I will never try to sell the sculpture when it is still just a rock.

However is there redemption for me?

clindsay said...

At FinePrint, we generally preferred that the writer query one agent at a time, but they were always free to query another agent if the first one passed.

Additionally, when I was an agent and something wasn't right for me or anyone at FinePrint, but I thought it had merit, I often passed it along to an agent friend at another agency, one I thought might be the right fit for the writer. Agents who rep similar kinds of books are often friendly with one another. And at least two of the agents to whom I passed along projects offered representation on those projects.

I think that writers sometimes forget that we really WANT to find homes for good projects, even if once in a while that home isn't with out agency or publisher.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Good. I don't think this should be taboo, for the reasons you said. If I query Agent A and she doesn't like my work and doesn't pass it on to Agent B in the same agency, then I've struck out with two agents for the price of one. If I'm allowed to query Agent B later, he/she might love my work. I wouldn't appreciate Agent A denying me that opportunity.

Kaitlyne said...

Jessica, I just wanted to thank you sincerely for this post.

I have an agency rather high on my list that has always been a "no is a no from everyone" type agency. I searched through profiles and chose the agent I thought was the best fit, and received a rejection.

I'd written the agency off as a no-go, but after reading this, decided to take my chances on another agent. I received a request for a full manuscript about an hour later.

I can honestly say that, were it not for this post, I would not have received that request. Thank you.

Meagan Spooner said...

This is so helpful. I tend to stick to the default position that unless an agency says you can query more than one agent after the first rejects you, you should stick to just the one. But after reading thing I'm wondering if maybe my default should be the other way around--unless they say specifically not to submit to more than one agent, it's okay as long as you don't do more than one at once. Does that seem right?

magolla said...

I'm am so in the thick of this! I wondered if HUGE agencies would even KNOW whether or not I queried one of their brethren. And it isn't like I'm a query virgin, I've queried various projects of the last few years and wondered if I've gotten black balled for querying multiple agents (one at a time, of course).

Though I think a problem might arise if an agent requests material, but subsequently rejects it and then the author queries another agent with the same project.

Thank you for lessening the guilt.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Before I had an agent, I queried more than one agent at a few agencies, but never at the same time. (I only queried a second agent after I'd received a pass from the first.) It's nice to hear your take on this.

Victoria Dixon said...

Thank you, Jessica! I haven't had guts to do this except in those occasions where a new agent has joined after I'd queried the first time. I feel a more easy about doing it now. ;D

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I've been wondering about this lately - thanks for a perfectly timed post! :-)

Toyin O. said...

Great information on agents;thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Do make sure to read ALL submission guidelines on the agency you pick to query a second time. I have run across one agency that has a strict policy against "multiple submissions." On their submission page it firmly states,"A rejection from one agent represents a rejection from the entire agency." OUCH!

Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for this. It points out how important it is to read guidelines. Some agencies definitely say they don't want to hear from you again, ever, if one person doesn't like your query.

I wish all agencies would make this as clear as you have. I've had irate rejections from agencies when I queried a second agent several months after the first rejection, not realizing they had a silent policy of "go away means stay away!"

I suppose that happens especially in offices where agents don't read their own queries and one intern or assistant is the gatekeeper. She probably gets annoyed when she sees the same query she rejected coming back.