Query Submission Strategies
My advice would be to send queries in blocks of 5 agents at a time; 7-8 at the most.
Why? You want to be able to adjust strategy by response.
To better illustrate my case, here’s how my query process played out back in 2012:
- On my first round, I submitted to 15 agents (actually 18, but the other 3 were live pitches) and I had 3 requests, which was a 20% success rate, which is pretty good. When those 3, and the 3 pitch agents rejected it, I knew not to continue querying, though I DID know my query worked. I did another Beta round and polished, polished, polished my manuscript.
- Second and successful round, blow-by-blow:
- Day 2: 8 queried, 2 requests
- Day 9: 42 queried, 3 requests, 7 query rejections, 2 MS rejections, and 1 partial converted to a full
- Day 10: 3 more queried, 1 request, and first offer! (ended with 3)
- Summary up to First Offer: 53 queried, 6 requests, 7 query rejections=46% success rate
So as you can see, there was a different energy to my second round. I could feel it, that my query was working big time and I was getting requests a lot faster. By this point I was also sick of the MS and so mentally I felt like this was it, if it didn’t work, I was moving onto my next book and would try again, that I’d done everything I knew at that point to make my MS as strong as it could be. Hence, when I saw my query getting a hotter response, I opened the floodgates and queried the rest of my list.
I’m also glad I came late to writing, as I was able to do all of this electronically, with no costs for postage and paper, etc. Can you imagine how expensive it was in the past? Hopefully even more agents accept electronic queries than in 2012, because at that time some good ones still only accepted by snail mail.
Once you have an offer
First, yay!!! After the squeeing has died down, you still have some work to do.
If it’s from your dream agent and you absolutely, positively know you don’t want another agent, you need to send out letters to all the ones you queried and who also have your partials and fulls to let them know you had an offer and are accepting it. Here’s how I worded it:
Thank you for your interest! Unfortunately I’m going to pull this from consideration as I’ve already had two offers of representation and a third who wants to talk on Monday. With that in mind, I don’t want to ask you to take time to read it as I know you are extremely busy.Thank you,
If you don’t have a dream agent, but rather a Top 3 or Top 5 list, then you need to go about it a little differently. Send out the emails to the ones you know you wouldn’t want over the one who offered. But for the rest, send them an email to let them know you have an offer (even the ones you’ve only queried but haven’t heard a response from yet) and that you’ve given the first agent a deadline for when you’ll get back to them (typically two weeks) so that the other agents have time to read your MS and respond. This is what happened to me, and it’s why I ended up with three offers, a great place to be!
Here’s how I worded that email. The first offering agent was putting the screws to me and was a little miffed I wanted time to decide and so I had a shorter window, but it’s absolutely all right to ask for two weeks, I just panicked is all :)
I wanted to let you that an agent has made offer of representation for MUST LOVE BREECHES. The offering agent wants my decision by the middle of next week so she can pitch to editors in October, but I also want to give you a chance to read the partial I sent and see if you’re still interested.
Thanks so much, and I look forward to hearing from you,
To close out this series, here are some resources to help you!
- The Spit Shine: Things to Check Before You Submit
- The Query Shark
- Nathan Bransford: How to Write a Query Letter
- AgentQuery – a helpful forum for finding queries to critique and to get feedback on yours.
- QueryTracker - an extremely helpful database of agents and editors that will help you keep track of who you submit to, their response, your response, etc. It’s the only reason I was even able to pull the statistics above, because I had it all in there. There’s also a forum where you
- Publisher’s Marketplace – not free, but worth the cost during this phase at it shows you which agents are selling and which aren’t, what’s selling genre-wise, etc. It’s a great way to get your finger on the pulse, to use a cliché.
What about you? Are you querying yet? What strategies would you add? What trouble are you having with your query or the process?