Question on querying agents

May 7, 2009

Now that y’all have seen my query, as well as a description of how I picked literary agents to query, here’s a question to authors who have been through this already:

Should I query all 12 agents at once? Or would it be smarter to query the first half and wait for feedback?

Here’s the advantage of going the latter route: If I don’t get any bites, I can change the query and proposal according to their feedback and then approach the second half of the group.


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    0 Replies to “Question on querying agents”

    • Good topic. Pub houses and agents often request that you do not send out multiple and simultaneous queries – so as to not waste their time. Well I say bull. You could die of natural causes waiting for most of them to get back to you with their rejection slips. How about a little respect for OUR time?

      It is however, professional courtesy to let the agent or pub house know that you are sending out multiple queries, but salve their ego with something like, “naturally, you would be my first choice.”

    • enid wilson says:

      I actually queried all at once because I’m the impatient type. It took them ages to reply so I don’t need to wait for years to know.

      In Quest of Theta Magic

    • Our time is important and the sad fact is, rejection slips will come. Some are insultingly pro-forma in poorly copied format”¦.angled print on the page, for example. In fact, the rejection rate is probably in the high 90 percentile.

      How to compensate? For query letters: I’d do multiple submissions. One at a time is just unacceptable. Now, after the query letter, if a publisher or agent has agreed to look at my submission package, and asks for no multiple submissions, then, that’s a different story. I’ll wait and respect their wishes. (one of my novels has been in a read queue for a couple of years!! Ha! But, at least it’s still there.) But, from the git-go? I’m doing multiples.

      As to feedback on the query? Sad to say, that is pretty much just not going to happen. Rarely will you get anything other than a, “Thanks for the query, but your book does not meet our current needs.” I’ve done very polite follow-up emails asking for input…no response. What’s worse, In my experience, some agents/publishers never even bothered to respond”¦and that’s with the famous SASE included.

      Wish I could be more positive. Maybe your experience will be better.

      Best, Galen

      • Alexis Grant says:

        That helps, Galen! Thanks.

        I’d consider “we don’t want your book” as feedback — If I get a lot of those, I might need to rework the query, even though I won’t know exactly how.

        Here’s to hoping my experiences will be better!

    • Gerry Boyle says:

      Good question, Alexis, and good responses. I’d take it on a case by case basis, though. Are you submitting blindly or through referrals from other writers? If I refer you to my agent and my agent says she would be glad to take a look based on my recommendation, it would be a bit shabby to have the same query going out to a dozen other agents simultaneously. If you’re picking agents from a directory, you might send out more because your query might sit for months and months. No need for your query to be held hostage!

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Thanks, Gerry! I’m mostly submitting blindly, to agents who have represented similar books. But that’s a good point that I should give preference to referral agents.

    • Karen Walker says:

      HI Alexis,
      I agree with what others have already said. I sent out multiple submissions as well. If an agent asks to read your book and than accepts it, you can always go back and contact the other ones to let them know. It is grossly unfair to the author to expect them to wait until you hear back from one agent before sending another query out.
      As to whether the query letter is working or not, that’s a tough one. I wondered whether it was my query letter that didn’t work or not. I’ll never know. With your journalism background, my hunch is you’ll have better luck. Just a feelin’.
      Karen W.

    • Karen Brees says:

      By all means, toss the lot out into the world! You could produce grandchildren in the time it takes for an agent/editor to respond. And some simply don’t.

      Agree with what’s been said previously. Indicate that you’re sending multiple queries and then hope that your recipients will fall over themselves trying to be the first one back to you. (It could happen?)

      Good post!

    • Alexis,

      Great question! When I started, I sent 3 at a time and had the next 3 selected and envolopes ready to go. In addition the points you made, this gave me something positive to do each time I received one of those inevitable rejections.

    • Destineers says:

      Good post, Alexis. You’ve had a lot of responses, and I am in agreement. Their sbmission guidelines definitely lean towards not doing multiple submissions but in fairness to the author…they often take weeks and months before they respond. I think I would choose my top choices and send them out (of course if any are referrals, I would give them preferential placement as it may give you a foot in the door so to speak). If. after a couple of weeks I had not gotten a response, I would send the next few and so on, unless you get a request for your manuscript (or at least a partial), then I would wait on an agreed upon fair amount of time for response, before moving towards any other submissions.

      Good luck!

      NA Sharpe

    • Query more than one, definitely. Just state in the query that you’re making simultaneous submissions. I think as long as agents don’t get queries with Dear Sir or Madam, or Dear Agent, they really don’t care. They know the process takes forever. Good luck! 🙂

    • Jina Bacarr says:

      All the comments made today ring true–multiple submissions are more the norm than not.

      I’m curious: how many of the agents on your list accept email queries as opposed to those who do not?


    • I started off doing one query at a time and received feedback that I believe actually helped me find a publisher. However, it was a time consuming process and, if I had it to do again, I’d probably think seriously about sending multiple submissions.

      Jane Kennedy Sutton

    • I would send all 12 out at once since you can wait 1-12 weeks for a response. Hopefully some will give crtical feedback. That’s the key. If you receive standard rejections letters, which could very well happen like it did to me, you will have learned and gained nothing.

      I’m going to pay a steep price of $150 to have a professional help me with my query letter. Please check out ….. she can help. $150 can make the difference between a rotating oor of rejection letters and success. I say go for it.

    • Definitely send out multiple queries at a time. I’ve heard good published authors say they’ve sent a hundred or more queries/submissions before finding an agent. Just think if that author had sent them out one at a time, and then waited, and waited for replies. Life is too darned short.

    • Ami says:

      I’m a little late on this one, but based on some advice I received from a published author, send your queries out in small groups (5-7). Once you’ve gotten feedback, revise and then send out the next batch. This way you’re making the most out of your rejections, and maximizing your chances for success.

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