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dalebridges
12-23-2011, 07:17 AM
I recently finished a nonfiction book, as well as a query letter and proposal for same book. I have already sent query letters to agents that represent nonfiction authors whose styles are similar to my own. On top of that, I have compiled a list of 50 agents whose websites express interest in the proper categories (narrative nonfiction, humor, spiritual). My inclination is to submit queries to all of them and just keep going. However, is there such a thing as query overkill? Should I stop at 100? 200? I don't want to become a query-oholic.

Drachen Jager
12-23-2011, 07:23 AM
It depends a little on how you want to approach it. Many of us query in spurts, when we find a lack of interest we pull the manuscript and give it some more work. If that's your approach then don't blow your load.

Otherwise, go nuts. There's no real harm in querying widely. Pick 20-30 agents a week and go for it, but I really recommend the other way.

jjdebenedictis
12-23-2011, 09:56 AM
I'd recommend sending out 5 at a time, and giving up on that book only if you get over 100 rejections.

The reason I suggest sending out small batches is it's awfully easy to decide, two weeks later, that your query letter sucks donkey-tail and you need to change it.

If that's the case, at least you haven't burned through every agent out there.

Anna L.
12-24-2011, 05:54 AM
Small batches allow you to judge the response to your query so you can adjust it and try again. Now and then you might get a little bit of feedback from agents that you can use to revise some aspects of your work before the next query wave. I aim to query a hundred agents before I put a book aside as too hard to sell and focus on the next one.

I write fiction but I figure it'd work for nonfiction too.

IceCreamEmpress
12-24-2011, 06:55 AM
There are plenty of people on this board who signed with the 80th or 90th or 110th agent they queried, and who went on to have that agent sell their book to a solid commercial publisher.

EthanJones
12-24-2011, 07:34 AM
I would keep searching until I find one.

Thanks,

Ethan

Susan Littlefield
12-24-2011, 10:10 AM
I'd recommend sending out 5 at a time....

I concur.

kidcharlemagne
12-27-2011, 07:23 PM
I would also recommend doing it in batches with gaps in between as that allows you to re-adjust the query if it is not connecting.

FYI, I didn't eat my own dog food re. the above advice ;) I just kept on querying.

Quickbread
12-31-2011, 11:01 PM
You may also decide you want to revise your manuscript during the querying process, based on agent feedback or new insights you get along the way. In that case, small batches are also best so you don't blow too many partial/full requests on a not-yet-fully-baked manuscript.

JSSchley
01-01-2012, 11:28 AM
Thou shalt query three. No more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt query, and the number of the querying shall be three. Four shalt thou not query, nor either query thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to query three.

(Which is a long way of saying, query as many as makes sense. An arbitrary number is just that--arbitrary. And, in the right quotation, hilarious. :D )

Lyxdeslic
01-01-2012, 11:29 AM
Thirty-seven. Duh. :)

Lyx

kidcharlemagne
01-01-2012, 06:23 PM
Since -- even with a successful query campaign -- 50-60% of the agents will be zero responders, you will probably have to query a substantial number of them. :)

Wolfdreamer25
01-03-2012, 02:42 AM
It is all good advice to query in small batches, and then waiting. There is no such thing as overkill, and query and revise until you get a contract. Oh and never ever give up either no matter how hard it gets.

SarahHobson
01-09-2012, 06:46 AM
Thirty-seven. Duh. :)

Lyx

In a row? (had to)

Madison Ready
01-15-2012, 04:17 AM
I agree with the three-per-week plan. I'm new to the query process, but going in I decided to query only three agents per week, take the time to customize the letter to each agent.

Just finished my first week and the act of customization has already helped me improve the overall query with each submission.

So far I've received one kindly-worded form rejection. My feeling is, "one down, ninety-nine to go." I confess, I may not feel so pragmatic about it after the 37th rejection, but I'm going to try.

Simultaneously, I plan to start a blog, in the hope that it will positively influence any agent mulling over my ms.

If I hit one hundred rejections, I'll shift to Plan B, and look more seriously into self-publishing. The blog will be firmly in place, and with luck I'll have a better understanding of self-promotion.

Good luck with your querying.
Madison

Calla Lily
01-15-2012, 04:40 AM
There are plenty of people on this board who signed with the 80th or 90th or 110th agent they queried, and who went on to have that agent sell their book to a solid commercial publisher.

185 passes.

#186 said yes.

This was over the course of 4 years and 3 books.

logan9a
01-16-2012, 01:15 PM
In a row? (had to)

I'm glad I wasn't drinking when I read that.

What's a Nubian?



Back on track, I'm starting to wonder if I need to be sending (and receiving) hard copy. Since I move every week or two (often switching countries) this may be tricky for me. I'll have to try reading the other billion words on this site and see if the answer is there...somewhere...

But thanks for the laugh!

Krazykat
02-03-2012, 02:56 AM
I'm definitely all for persisting even if it takes 186 tries(!), but I'm wondering how you folks are finding that many agents who might be appropriate for your work . . . ??? Maybe it's easier with some other genres, but even after using the wonderful resources here on AW to do agent research, it doesn't look like there are more than 30-40 reputable agents who rep both science fiction and fantasy (which is what I need, since I write both and I'm definitely looking for an agent to be a partner in my career, not just to sell one book).

Maybe with some more digging I could get that number up to 50, but that's including some agents that are probably a stretch because based on their listings and/or website bios they look they wouldn't really be a good match for the stuff I write . . . So I sure hope I don't have to query that many agents, because it looks like I'll run out of possibilities long before I get anywhere near a hundred!!!:scared:

(BTW, I've discovered that when you go through the agent listings in Jeff Herman's guide, for example, probably at least 60% of the agents who rep fiction specifically say that they don't do science fiction and/or fantasy.:()

Drachen Jager
02-03-2012, 03:03 AM
There are 102 agents registered with QueryTracker that have an interest in SF and Fantasy.

You're not looking hard enough.

Also, keep in mind that if an agent reps your first book it does not mean you have to stick with them for your second book. If the agency is large enough they may have another agent pinch-hit for genres they don't rep, or they may give you the green light to find another agent for that work outside the agency. Some agents will also represent work for their clients that they would not accept queries on. If all else fails, find a new agent. Once you have one successful book it becomes much easier.

heza
02-03-2012, 03:11 AM
Can I ask a related question? Say you have a dream agent (I know, you never know who you're going to connect with until you actually talk to them)... but still, pretend you have a dream agent you've been stalking and you're perfect for each other and you really want to impress her with your query.

Now, if you query in batches of five and improve your query in between based on feedback or lack there of.... at what point do you think you should pull out your A-string list and query those? I've heard you should start at the top and work your way down, but it also sounds like you need a few "test queries" to work out the kinks. Do you start with agents you don't care that much about and query your dream agent on the third or fourth pass?

Drachen Jager
02-03-2012, 03:35 AM
If you wanted to make that your strategy, I'd say query until you're hitting better than 10% request rate. If you have some real success and have a half-dozen or more packages requested that might be a good time to query your dream agent.

If you're offered representation from another agent you can always nudge your dream agent with the news. Normally they'll put it on the top of their priority list, and it is not uncommon at all for an author to query for six months with no offers, then suddenly have multiple offers come in once there's one on the table.

M. Scott
02-03-2012, 06:37 AM
Should I stop at 100? 200? I don't want to become a query-oholic.

Do what you feel comfortable with. It doesn't matter. Some people like to do batches, some query en mass. I like to make sure I'm happy with my query letter, have my sample (and the whole book) as polished as can be. After that, I just let it go.

In my experience, what matters is that YOU feel the query letter is good. I've had it where I've sent 100 and got little interest. Then, I send another 20 of the same thing and magically get five requests. Funny how that works.

Saanen
02-03-2012, 06:52 PM
There are 102 agents registered with QueryTracker that have an interest in SF and Fantasy.

Actually, QueryTracker has a lot of agents listed as being interested in SF and F who actually aren't, if you look at their websites and other direct information. Not sure why.

I'd estimate from my own research that there are around 50-60 good agents for SF/F writers, and a bunch more that say they're interested in SF/F but who've either never placed a SF/F book or only have one or two SF/F authors in their stable. A lot of agents narrow down their interests to the hot subgenre of the week, and are only interested in, say, urban fantasy rather than all fantasy.

I don't mean to derail the thread, but it is rather frustrating to be told that you're not looking hard enough when the agents simply aren't there in great numbers for certain genres.

Brigid Barry
02-03-2012, 08:43 PM
I recently finished a nonfiction book, as well as a query letter and proposal for same book. I have already sent query letters to agents that represent nonfiction authors whose styles are similar to my own. On top of that, I have compiled a list of 50 agents whose websites express interest in the proper categories (narrative nonfiction, humor, spiritual). My inclination is to submit queries to all of them and just keep going. However, is there such a thing as query overkill? Should I stop at 100? 200? I don't want to become a query-oholic.

If you send out a few at a time (5 or 10) if you get 10 form rejections and no requests for additional material you have only blown your shot with 5 or 10 agents before going back to revisit your query. This is a great alternative compared to sending out dozens of queries to agents and then figuring out your pitch is lacking.

If I was getting requests for partials and fulls and getting turned down based on material instead of just a query, I'd personally stop at 150 or one year, whichever comes first.

Krazykat
02-03-2012, 09:52 PM
Actually, QueryTracker has a lot of agents listed as being interested in SF and F who actually aren't, if you look at their websites and other direct information. Not sure why.

I'd estimate from my own research that there are around 50-60 good agents for SF/F writers, and a bunch more that say they're interested in SF/F but who've either never placed a SF/F book or only have one or two SF/F authors in their stable. A lot of agents narrow down their interests to the hot subgenre of the week, and are only interested in, say, urban fantasy rather than all fantasy.

I don't mean to derail the thread, but it is rather frustrating to be told that you're not looking hard enough when the agents simply aren't there in great numbers for certain genres.

This is exactly what I've been finding. And to begin with, if you start with that 102 figure from Query Tracker, just subtracting the ones who don't accept queries and the ones who come up in that search only because they do YA in those categories (but not adult stuff) causes the number to begin to drop a lot.

Then when you get to looking at their websites, there are those who only do specific subgenres (urban fantasy, as Saanen mentioned, being one of the most common). Also, sometimes agents are included simply because they rep genre fiction in general, but when you see their book list you realize it's mostly romance or thrillers, a few of which feature time travel or werewolves or something that causes them to technically cross over to SF/Fantasy. But that just doesn't give me a good feeling with regards to that agent being the best fit for the kind of books I write . . .

Filigree
02-04-2012, 01:11 AM
With two years of diligent research, I found 100 agents who accept various flavors of sf&f. I queried some of them too soon, but went back through when I had more publishing credentials, contest honors, and a better mms and query letter. Didn't seem to help. After rejections on 66 queries, two partials, and one full, I trunked that novel. I started directly submitting another mms to publishers in a genre that doesn't require agents. I'm also looking into self-publishing as a last resort.

At the moment, I'm burned out on the agent hunt. I'd rather submit newer work than re-query on older stuff. That could change, but I need some solid sales on the novel front before I go back to querying agents.

Krazykat
02-04-2012, 01:53 AM
Just wanted to add that, regardless of the genre, I would think it can't be wise to approach this process with the idea that there are a vast number of agents out there who would truly be appropriate for your work. I find myself cringing a little at the suggestion that it's fine to basically use the first agents you contact as 'guinea pigs' to see if your query letter is any good, rather than working really hard to polish it first and starting at the top of your list with the agents you're most interested in.

If you are ready to query, it should mean you have a very polished complete manuscript (with the exception of some types of nonfiction projects, of course) so it only seems right that you should be promoting it with an equally polished query. Since there are widely accepted criteria for what makes a good query letter, there are lots of resources out there (including here on AW, I believe) to help you write a strong one before you try sending it out to any real live agents . . . And (hopefully!) that should help to reduce the number of queries you have to send before you find the right one.

heza
02-06-2012, 09:07 PM
If you are ready to query, it should mean you have a very polished complete manuscript (with the exception of some types of nonfiction projects, of course) so it only seems right that you should be promoting it with an equally polished query. Since there are widely accepted criteria for what makes a good query letter, there are lots of resources out there (including here on AW, I believe) to help you write a strong one before you try sending it out to any real live agents . . . And (hopefully!) that should help to reduce the number of queries you have to send before you find the right one.

Well, you should also have your MS polished as much as you believe it can be polished before you hand it to a formal beta reader, right? And yet, we all know the beta is going to find problems with the MS. You can write a query you think is amazing, that you've had others here vet, and that you feel confident sending and yet, still need to make adjustments to it if the query process isn't yielding results.

On a first query for a first novel, I expect some element of trial and error in the process... that does not mean I plan to query with unpolished crap.

Because there aren't a vast number of agents who would be truly appropriate for my work, I'm not sure it would be wise to burn through my top five with a completely untried query letter.

OohLaLaura
02-24-2012, 09:40 PM
I am wondering about Heza's question, too.

Many of you seasoned writers seem to think it's best to send out a wave, then adjust yoru query.
Would you want to be sending out those first batches to agents you're less interested in? I'm still confused about a good 'magic number' (Like there is one, right?) of queries to determine whether or not my query letter is up to snuff.

tko
02-25-2012, 10:09 AM
Yeah, at first I was thinking, only a hundred of so agents. But all agents aren't listed. Start looking at blogs, searching for new and hungry agents, reading the posts. Odd are you can find 200 agents.

And start with a mix. In each batch I try to send some queries to the ideal agent, the so so agent, the unknown agent. Pretty much random.

Querying the so so agents first and hoping you'll get better doesn't make sense. Querying the best agent first and writing a better query is frustrating. So mix it up.