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Thread: The Send in Batches Theory of Querying.

  1. #1
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    The Send in Batches Theory of Querying.

    I've seen a number of folk mention here and there, that sending out a batch of queries at one time is the best approach. (ETA: As opposed to all at once to all the agents you feel would be worth sending to. I write MG, so there's quite a few. )

    The reason I heard for this approach is that:

    1/ It's a useful way of finding out if your query letter is good (ie, low requests = weak query)




    Anyone else feel batches is the best way to go, and if so, for what reason(s) (other than the one mentioned)?

    Using the assumption, that a group of 50 agents are equally desirable.

    Why send out batches of say, 10, rather than all together, other than the reason aforementioned?



    ETA: I'm leaving to one side the 'rating agents' aspect, as for me, the difference between number '1'' and number '50', isn't significant enough to give favour for one above another. The only differentiation I use, is those with more than 3 years experience as a 'full' agent v those with less than 3 years exp as a full agent. Definition of 'full' is my based on my own idiosyncratic criteria) Which leaves a roughly 20/30 divide, but not in rating desirability. This is a personal decision, and others would feel differently. So, going with that assumption...)
    Last edited by Davy The First; 11-12-2017 at 05:32 AM.

  2. #2
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    10 or so at a time is doable. This allows you to focus on one group of agents, but if the query tanks, it doesn't burn all of your options without giving you a chance to tweak the query.

  3. #3
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    Yes, Cyia, though that does seem to be in category of the aforementioned weak query reason.

  4. #4
    beef rank be frank's Avatar
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    What other reason do you need?

    If you send them all at once and your query's poor ... that's it. Chance blown.
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  5. #5
    Preparing for winter VeryBigBeard's Avatar
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    It's a smart approach, but it has to be combined with vigorous research into which agent is best. Your hypothetical numbers are way, way off--even in genres with a lot of agents, there should be a big difference between a top, desirable agent and an agent fifty spots down your list, if for no other reason than there does come a point where, if no one's biting, maybe you leave it for awhile, maybe you revise the MS.

    As with publishers, a bad agent can do a lot more harm than no agent. There so, so many more criteria than simply "experience". Many terrible agents have been terrible at agenting for awhile, but keep on keeping on because they charge their clients fees, or because they don't put much time into it, are semi-retired, etc. Likewise, a junior agent at an established agency can still be a good agent to query, depending on fit for the book and what contacts that agent has.

    The right book needs to find the right agent, too. This isn't a linear scale. You research to see what the agent works with most often (i.e., don't query your epic fantasy to an agent who hasn't repped one since 1996 and even that one was for an existing client) and how recent/significant the sales are, info which can be found in various places around the web, particularly industry publications like Publishers Weekly. Many authors thank their agents in acknowledgement pages so it's not a bad idea to pick up books like yours, that you like, and see who repped them. Many agents these days keep a blog or social media presence discussing what they're looking for right now--don't query your favourite agent when her list is full; it might open up again six months from now.

    The advice to query in batches is partly to guide new authors away from spam-blasting every agent ever with a badly-focused query. Once you've actually done the research you have a significant leg up and can be a bit more strategic about sending to groups. I still think it's a good idea to do it in batches because, like Cyia says, it's a way to test the query. You keep a couple preferred agents in reserve. Query a mix with each batch, improve as necessary, query again. If your request rate is good or even if you have an offer, you can start sending more queries with that knowledge in hand to try and find your best fit.

    It's also really, really important to talk to the agent before signing anything. That's standard practice. No part of this process benefits from rushing.

  6. #6
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davy The First View Post
    Yes, Cyia, though that does seem to be in category of the aforementioned weak query reason.
    Is there another reason? I can't think of one, assuming you've done your research.

  7. #7
    All the nopes. lizmonster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    Is there another reason? I can't think of one, assuming you've done your research.
    Well, there's the hypothetical possibility that if you send out 35 queries all at once you'll get 35 rejections at the same time, which might be a little hard to process. But that's an emotional reason rather than a practical one.
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  8. #8
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lizmonster View Post
    Well, there's the hypothetical possibility that if you send out 35 queries all at once you'll get 35 rejections at the same time, which might be a little hard to process. But that's an emotional reason rather than a practical one.
    I was thinking it might be the cost of postage stamps. But then I remembered....

  9. #9
    Not as sweet as you think Aggy B.'s Avatar
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    I found batches helped me keep organized and avoid some of the stupid mistakes that invariably happen when you are sending a bunch of emails back to back. (This is assuming even you copy/paste the query letter, sample pages, short synopsis if requested from a document set up to easily grab those things from.) Not every agent asks for the same things at the query stage. Some only want the query - no sample, no synopsis. Some want query + 5 pages, query + 10 pages. A handful want a larger sample (essentially a partial) and a synopsis attached. Some take queries via a form instead of email.

    Even if your query is really good, trying to hit every agent at once, making sure you have all the right things included or attached, that you've got every agent's name right, correct email, etc is taxing. I took a day every couple of weeks and sent out a batch of about ten letters. In between I would go through and review the info I had on the remaining agents and figure out who I wanted to query in the next batch. It just made sense to take a little time with it to avoid making silly mistakes (which I would have made if I'd tried to do them all at once). I'll also point out my list was over 200 agents, but my genre criteria was fairly broad due to the nature of the particular novel I was querying. So it took me about 8-9 months to get through most of it. (During which I had requests and eventually an offer, but you don't stop just because someone's looking at the MS.)

    Best of luck!
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  10. #10
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    Some excellent answers there, many thanks folks. Food for thought!

    (bed time for me. so nite to all)

  11. #11
    Now with bonus eyelashes AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    I've had books with excellent queries, but something about the book was not getting acceptances. A lot of fulls don't get feedback but some do, and for some early books with great queries and opening pages, I'd get excited by the request rate and paper the town...only to get enough requests for similar changes to the book that I could have done revisions. The only problem is that who would I query after that?
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  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW Antipode91's Avatar
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    I mean, how would you even send out 50 queries in time for the first 10 not to give you substantial information, anyway.

    Meaning, not only does it take time to find an agency that's right for you, you have to read through the agents to see which represents you. You then have to CAREFULLY read their guidelines, to make sure you do them correctly. You then have to paste into the email, make sure it's all formatted correctly. That's just ONE agent.

    I could be wrong, but the quest feels kind of moot, anyway. You're going to know your letters' effectiveness well before sending query #50.

  13. #13
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    The MS might not be very good, which is also a great reason to send out in batches as opposed to sending it out to errrrbody at once. When I first started querying my first MS, a very kindly agent sent me a 2-page-long, single-spaced edit notes on why she was rejecting the MS. It included stuff about the pacing, the world-building, and the characters, and it was massively helpful. I did a huge revision on the MS and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten it agented if I'd continued querying the original MS.
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  14. #14
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    Thanks folks, some great insights!

  15. #15
    Back on Track Carrie in PA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aggy B. View Post
    I found batches helped me keep organized and avoid some of the stupid mistakes that invariably happen when you are sending a bunch of emails back to back. (This is assuming even you copy/paste the query letter, sample pages, short synopsis if requested from a document set up to easily grab those things from.) Not every agent asks for the same things at the query stage. Some only want the query - no sample, no synopsis. Some want query + 5 pages, query + 10 pages. A handful want a larger sample (essentially a partial) and a synopsis attached. Some take queries via a form instead of email.

    Even if your query is really good, trying to hit every agent at once, making sure you have all the right things included or attached, that you've got every agent's name right, correct email, etc is taxing. I took a day every couple of weeks and sent out a batch of about ten letters. In between I would go through and review the info I had on the remaining agents and figure out who I wanted to query in the next batch. It just made sense to take a little time with it to avoid making silly mistakes (which I would have made if I'd tried to do them all at once). I'll also point out my list was over 200 agents, but my genre criteria was fairly broad due to the nature of the particular novel I was querying. So it took me about 8-9 months to get through most of it. (During which I had requests and eventually an offer, but you don't stop just because someone's looking at the MS.)

    Best of luck!
    I was formulating my reply as I read the OP, then I got to this, so I shall just give an enthusiastic "Ditto!"

    Sending in batches helps me stay FAR more organized.

    Also, it saves me time. Querying is a tedious process, because every agent wants something different. So sending in batches allows me to devote a manageable amount of time to querying without devoting solid weeks to the process.
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  16. #16
    figuring it all out atwhatcost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davy The First View Post
    I've seen a number of folk mention here and there, that sending out a batch of queries at one time is the best approach. (ETA: As opposed to all at once to all the agents you feel would be worth sending to. I write MG, so there's quite a few. )

    The reason I heard for this approach is that:

    1/ It's a useful way of finding out if your query letter is good (ie, low requests = weak query)




    Anyone else feel batches is the best way to go, and if so, for what reason(s) (other than the one mentioned)?

    Using the assumption, that a group of 50 agents are equally desirable.

    Why send out batches of say, 10, rather than all together, other than the reason aforementioned?



    ETA: I'm leaving to one side the 'rating agents' aspect, as for me, the difference between number '1'' and number '50', isn't significant enough to give favour for one above another. The only differentiation I use, is those with more than 3 years experience as a 'full' agent v those with less than 3 years exp as a full agent. Definition of 'full' is my based on my own idiosyncratic criteria) Which leaves a roughly 20/30 divide, but not in rating desirability. This is a personal decision, and others would feel differently. So, going with that assumption...)
    I started querying in September, and have only done 20 so far, but want to ask you something MG writer to MG writer.

    Quite a few? Differences are negligible? That's just not how I see it.

    Sure, there are tons to begin with, but we're supposed to be checking them out and seeing who we won't clash with or how well we'll get along, (depending if you're a half-full or half-empty kind of person.) And we're supposed to be figuring out which ones can do the jobs we most need them to do.

    For instance, I'm not going to get along well with politically-rigid people. First, I'm very opinionated about my political beliefs, so you really don't want to go down that road with me, and second, she's supposed to be representing my novel, not spending all day on Twitter proving her political opinions. I want an agent that I don't have to check my political beliefs constantly, and really really don't want an agent where I can waste hours of a day expounding on them rather than dealing with the project we're supposed to be working on together -- in unity. Specifically significant, since ultimately this story is taking it to Capitol Hill much later in the heptalogy, so the way I'm handling the political aspect has already been decided. I want an agent who can agree to disagree.

    And then on the generalized approach, I don't need an agent with marketing skills. I need an agent with editing skills, and big bonus if agent is a lawyer too. I know so little about the publishing business, I could use both with the understanding the best deal for me is the best deal for the agent too. But there are four kinds of agents -- editor kinds, lawyers, marketing, and... Well, I can't ever remember the fourth kind because I don't care.

    One thing for sure, all agents aren't equal. But not because some haven't proved their worth. Because I know what kind of agent I need. That was the whole purpose of researching them.

    By the end of all that research, although the list started at about 350 agents, I came down to 91 that fit me. And considering my story is niche and apparently my first query didn't do it, I'm down to a mere 81 left. (Less, really, because if they haven't responded in 2.5 months, they're probably never going to.)

    One partial, one full.

    How do you see them as equal and plentiful? I feel like it's November 2nd and I'm counting down what's left of a good haul of yummy chocolate on Halloween. The pile's dwindling.

  17. #17
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    @atwhatcost Well, 81 is 30 more than 50...

    But anyway, it's not so much the rating of agents (as that's all pretty subjective) I was more interesting in the most effective approach. Some good answer, have to say.

  18. #18
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Just echoing what everyone else said, the most common reason I have seen for taking it slow is so if you realize your query letter isn't effective yet, you haven't burned all your bridges. But man it's hard to be patient!

  19. #19
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    I'm so glad I chose to query in batches because my first version was incredibly generic and received almost immediate form rejections.
    Also, I second the time argument. How does anyone have time to query fifty agents at once? The answer is probably that they don't, at least not if the queries are quality queries that included research into what the agent reps.

  20. #20
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    i don;t know anything, don't even type well, but it may help to refine your search (which agent do you really want out of the batch?).

    write a query with some sort of IMMEDIATE compelling line AT THE VERY TOP...maybe something pulled from the mss. "he wanted to kill her the moment he first saw her.' or 'she lived in the swamp. no address. no mailbox. no nothing.' 'she only saw him once, and that was naked.' 'she hated her mother and went to jail for it.' 'they ran for their lives, which lasted 42 more seconds.' 'she was a hundred years old and swore a ghost slept with her. it did. and its name was andy.' i just made those up, but examples of things to maybe grab a reader so they may be interested in the rest of your query. keep the rest short. not trying to get the fish in the boat yet, just hook it. good luck!
    Last edited by ancon; 11-17-2017 at 03:19 AM.

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