View Full Version : How long does it take to send out a query?

04-07-2012, 10:49 AM
I've had my query critiqued and revised numerous times. I've had beta readers critique my manuscript and it's been through numerous drafts and I feel that it's ready to submit. I think I have a decent synopsis too. I research agents and take notes on them.
However I feel like it takes me FOREVER to get a single query sent out. I admit that I'm a little anal about it, but by the time I've stewed over which agent at a particular agency to submit to, checked and double checked everything I can find about them and what they represent online, and quadruple-checked to make sure that every detail of my submission is correct, it is extremely time-consuming and I'm lucky if I send out one query a week. And even then I sometimes feel as if I'm sending queries out in a somewhat haphazard manner.
Do others feel this way??

04-07-2012, 11:35 AM
I make querying part of my work (writing) day. I set a block of time and a specific number of agents to query for that day.

It is better to put in an honest effort to adhere to guidelines, which may mean you have several different versions of your story saved when all is said and done (one file for "50 pages" here, another for "First3Chapters" there, and the full MS, of course), than to half-ass it. Yes, it is quite a bit of work, but anything you truly want is worth it.

If it is that important and you care about the end result, it is worth the time and effort it takes to adhere to each agent's guidelines. Send out a small group of queries once a week, perhaps - maybe 5 to 10. Make the time for it. What seems like hoop-jumping (following the guidelines, researching the agent, knowing what they are looking for) is the very first "test" you need to pass with agents.

04-07-2012, 12:30 PM
Five minutes, ten max. There's only one line in my query that's 'variable', and that's the line that says what's included in the e-mail.

Before I begin, I already have the following files ready to work with:

Query text
Synopsis in .txt format
First five chapters of the manuscript in .txt format, single-spaced, two paragraph returns at the end of each paragraph, indenting removed, italicisation _set up like this_, smart quotes turned off, everything left aligned

These pre-prepared files are saved on my hard drive, so I don't have to bugger around with them for each query. I've never seen an agent yet who asks for more than five chapters to be pasted into the body of an e-mail, although maybe there are some out there. That's why I put only five chapters in the .txt file. If someone asked for more, it's only a few minutes' more work to sort that out on the fly.

When I'm ready to send a query, here's what I do:

Open the query, the synopsis, and the manuscript in a text editor (such as Notepad).
Check the agent's submission requirements on Agent Query and the agency's website (if they have one).
Copy the query into a new e-mail.
Add the subject line ('Query -- BOOK TITLE IN ALL CAPS' or whatever the agent asks for if they specify something different).
Add the salutation (Dear Mr or Ms AgentSurname).
If the submission requirements ask for the synopsis, copy that into the e-mail.
If the submission requirements ask for sample pages, copy as much as asked for into the e-mail. (If they ask for a certain number of pages, I open the manuscript in Word to find where the specified page ends, and I grab that much from the .txt file, finishing with a complete paragraph even if it goes over a line or two. If they ask for a certain number of chapters, that's what I copy from the .txt file.)
If the submission requirements ask for attachments instead of pasting into the body of the e-mail, attach what's asked for. (Again, if they ask for an attachment of, say, five chapters, I open the manuscript, cut everything after the requesed amount, and save-as with a new file name, such as 'manuscriptname01-05'. This file can be reused. I probably have Word files of ch 1, ch 1 & 2, ch 1-3, 1-4 and 1-5 saved.)
Modify the line in the query that says what's included. ('I've pasted the synopsis and first two chapters below.' 'I've pasted the synopsis below and attached the first five chapters.' Whatever reflects what you're sending.)
Hit Send.

Seriously, if you're spending more time than this on each separate query, you'll never get anywhere. What you should agonise over is the manuscript, the synopsis, and the query letter. Once those are ready, preparing an individual query really should take only a few minutes.

04-07-2012, 02:20 PM
It depends. :) It sounds like you're careful and you know who you're querying (good!). If your material is submission-ready, it's really just a matter of checking the agent out, which is mercifully easy these days. Shouldn't take too long.

Do you have any goals? That might help you get there faster. Maybe a goal of 3 or 5 queries a week?

Katrina S. Forest
04-07-2012, 02:49 PM
Five minutes, ten max.

I'd agree this works if, as you said, you have all the materials ahead of time, everything an agent could possibly ask to be included in a submission, prepared in a format that looks correct in a plain text e-mail. You also need to prepare the list of agents you want to send to, and make sure their contact information is current. (The OP said that they spend a good chunk of time researching agents within an agency.)

I think when there is an opportunity to personalize, you should, and that takes more time. (Not a ton more time, mind you, but it would stop you from sending the query in five minutes.)

I tried to send one query a day when I was actively querying, until I was through my list. It was one of my first activities of the morning and it pushed me to send within a reasonable amount of time since I had to be to work. :)

04-07-2012, 04:18 PM
1 query per week, if it's a good week, is likely going to make your wait long and unproductive. Most writers seem to use the "batch" method, sending out around 10 queries at a time (as in "on the same day," not a mass email).

04-07-2012, 05:56 PM
I'd agree this works if, as you said, you have all the materials ahead of time, everything an agent could possibly ask to be included in a submission, prepared in a format that looks correct in a plain text e-mail. You also need to prepare the list of agents you want to send to, and make sure their contact information is current. (The OP said that they spend a good chunk of time researching agents within an agency.)

This might be a matter of semantics, but to me, 'researching agents and compiling my agent list' is a completely separate task from 'sending a query'. I was merely addressing the task of 'sending a query.'

As far as 'researching agents and compiling my agent list,' that's not something I do one agent at a time. For my last round of query hell, I sat down and spent several hours going through Agent Query listings for the relevant genre and making a spreadsheet with each potential agent's name, agency name, and submission requirements. This included perusing each agent's or agency's site.

Once I had around 40 potential agents, I sorted them into order starting with the ones I was most interested in. It took maybe three to four hours to get a list of 40 agents. If one is new to the biz, it might be reasonable to double the amount of research time to compile a similar list. (I've admittedly been around long enough to be able to suss the important details out fairly quickly.) That still doesn't come to hours per agent.

Anyway, I sent out an initial batch of, oh, five to seven queries; as requests/rejections came in, I sent out a query to the next agent on the list. When it came time to prepare the queries after that inital batch, all I had to do was make a quick check whether the agent was still accepting queries and double-check the current submission guidelines. Hence, five to ten minutes to send each query.

I don't recommend researching one agent at a time because you want to query your top choices first, so you really do need to research a bunch of agents all at once so you can put them into order of preference.

04-07-2012, 07:43 PM
I take a long time on each query too. Not, on the query itself -- that's all set, with a first chapter and synopsis if the agent requests it -- but double-checking the agent I'm sending it to.

I have a list, like Terie, of several dozen potential agents, arranged in a prioritized manner, and that took me weeks to do, but I still like to double-check before actually sending the query, in case the agent has closed to submission or there's someone else in the agency that's re-opened to submission and who'd be a better fit.

So, yeah, the physical act of sending the query package takes only a couple minutes. It's all the prep work that takes forever. I send anywhere from one to three queries a week. Sure, it takes a long time to go through the list, but it does allow some flexibility, for adjusting a query that isn't working or (just did this, to my mortification) if there's a blatant homonym mistake in the first sentence (and I swear I proofed it four hundred times).

04-07-2012, 08:05 PM
Accept the fact that you will make mistakes and you may find that your standards of perfection will relax accordingly.

Follow the instructions for each place you submit and you'll already be ahead of a huge chunk of the slush pile right out of the gate. The ability to read, understand and follow simple instructions proves that you have (a) reading comprehension and (b) sufficient humility to understand that your unique vision is not so unique as to demand that all rules be cast aside to make room for it. (These are traits that agents and publishers prefer their clients to have, if only because lacking those traits makes a working relationship more difficult than it would be otherwise.)

Siri Kirpal
04-07-2012, 09:48 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

It helps to create a prioritized list of agents ahead of time. Check the details just before sending. That way you don't waste too much time on research.


Siri Kirpal

04-09-2012, 11:47 PM
Thanks to everyone for the replies. You've inspired me to try to speed up my process, but I'm just too neurotic about it to ever be able to send out a query in 5 minutes.
My process goes something like this:
- I have a list of pretty disorganized notes on agents and agencies that I add to on an ongoing basis. (I did spend some time reorganizing it this morning.)
- I do have some agents that I consider top picks, but I figure it's better not to send out to all of those right away, in case I get feedback/responses that cause me to revise.
- I have my materials (query letter, sample pages, synopsis) pretty much ready to go, but I do like to personalize whenever possible, so this does result in little changes to the query (and in the case of the last query I sent, changes to an author bio). And changing anything on the query can mean making several adjustments so that it flows well and includes all the required information, and then, because changes have been made, additional careful proofreading is required.
- I pick one or two of the agents from my list, google them and check everything I can find: the agency website, publishers marketplace, blogs, twitter, interviews, etc., and make some further notes.
- I usually then end up checking on other agents from the same agency to make sure that the agent I've chosen is the best fit. So that means I'm googling and reading interviews, etc., for several agents. I also will google the books and authors they represent, and sometimes the publishers they've made deals with.
- When I'm sure I'm sending to the agent that's the best choice for my work (and I'm never really sure), I double and triple and quadruple-check the submission information to make sure I'm following the most current guidelines correctly.
- I paste the required materials into an email (or in a few cases, print it out to mail).
- I double, triple, quadruple-check/proofread the materials in the email to make sure that nothing got messed up in the pasting in process, and to make sure that it's all correct, as required, and that I don't want to make any last-minute tweaks to the query letter.
- I have someone else proofread.
- Then I usually let it sit for a little while before coming back to re-check everything again.
- Then, after much nervousness and usually some doubts about whether another agent at the agency might be a better choice .... I hit send.

SO ... that is why I am slow sending out queries. I guess rather than sending out in batches, I have a (somewhat) steady trickle going out, and if I start getting feedback (or lack of feedback) that causes me to decide to revise, I will do that.

Siri Kirpal
04-10-2012, 03:40 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

A lot of this can be done way ahead of time: checking all agents at an agency, etc. You're having someone proofread after you create the email? That's unusual...and time consuming. Give your proofreader the basic query ahead of time. Tweak as necessary for a specific agent. Read through before pasting into email. I've got files already done for several top agents...and I won't be querying probably until next year. I finesse those as the mood hits.

Hope that helps.


Siri Kirpal

04-10-2012, 03:55 AM
I was incredibly slow about querying at first. It took me ages. Then three years ago, I hit a time when I was querying like crazy. It definitely got easier to send to an agent. Unfortunately, I ended up sending out too many in a short time and, while I got a lot of requests, I didn't have anyone left to query when I finally got feedback on rejections.

Now, I take a slower approach to sending out batches. I have some agents that I can query quickly--I know whether they'll like what I have, so I double-check their info and send it off. I have others that I have to do a little more research on, so those take a little longer to send out. Sometimes I'm feeling a little paranoid and have to quadruple-check my query, even if it's the same query I sent to everyone else. So it just depends.

If I know the agent, but I'm not personalizing, it only takes a couple minutes, though.