View Full Version : What Agents Should I Contact When?

01-15-2007, 11:32 AM
Given the non-fiction sports nature of my planned book, I have identified over 50 agents that I could potentially contact with a QL or a proposal, and direct these to inexperienced vs. experienced agents. What should be my strategy with staggered mailings? For example, I could

Send just a QL to to those agents who only request these (since I have not created 2-3 chapters ready to submit yet).

- Among these "QL only" agents, I could send my QL (fairly well edited) to "rookie" agents to see how they reply. And via these communications (it is hoped!), I could hone my QL for add'l submissions and also become more experienced with the process. Then, I would send a polished QL/ Proposal to the "Heavy Hitters" with more experience "under my belt."


01-15-2007, 12:14 PM
I have no useful advice for the strategic deployment of your query letter, I'm afraid. My Query Letter Strategy is "Oh, neat, I love these books, I'll send her my query letter. After this cup of tea." So I'm no help.

I would, however, suggest that you have your query letter in the best possible form you can first and foremost and skip the bit where you "hone" your query letter on rookie agents. That sounds complicated on your part, and unpleasent on the part of the rookie agents.

01-15-2007, 03:12 PM
Tom - My advice is to have everything any agent might possibly want prepared and polished before you send out the first query letter. If you get any response at all from 75% of your queries, you're doing extremely well. Don't expect that anyone is going to take the time to tell you what they'd prefer to see - if you get anything it will most likely be "no thanks". I'm not sure what your game plan is, but it sounds like you plan to turn down any "rookie" agents who might take the bait. If that's your plan, you're a fool. Get all your ducks in a row, put your best foot forward, and send out no more than five queries; wait one to two weeks and send out five more. When you hit twenty and no interest, take a hard look at what you're trying to sell to see if you can improve your position AND post your query letter in share your work so the critiquers there can give you some pointers (not a bad idea to do that before the first query even). Good luck. Puma

01-15-2007, 03:21 PM
Uncle Jim always advocates starting with the BEST first

So I agree with Puma. Make your query letter as good as it possibly can be. Prepare your proposal and sample chapters. If you don't have a proposal, see Jenna's thread that covers this in the Writing Nonfiction forum:

Then send it to the agents you think are the BEST match for you, and work your way down the list.

aka eraser
01-15-2007, 07:26 PM
Unless you're a known quantity in the publishing world (and I don't think you are if you're scouting for an agent now) I wouldn't send a thing until you have at least a few chapters written and know where you're going with the rest of it. Few agents are going to maintain their enthusiasm if weeks or months pass between a dynamite query and the submission of the first three chapters.

Yes, nonfic books are sold from proposals every day but most of those are from writers who've written books before.

Good luck.

Noddy Rider
01-15-2007, 07:27 PM
Tom - I'm a total newbie, so take my advice for what it's worth.

I didn't send my query until it and my proposal (including 2 sample chapters) were polished. You know, just in case. I was extremely lucky that two agents requested the proposal within hours of my initial email. So prepare for the best, and the worst! Good luck.

01-15-2007, 07:40 PM
Thanks for everyone's comments. I posted this question after reading about this two-tiered approach in one of those "How to Writer QLs/Proposals Books". In this one source, it stated that you could learn from your initital set of repliies (or non-replies)! But, you're all correct in that I"ll likely get few nibbles or feedback (hence my comment, "it is hoped"). I do have my proposal near-complete and will work on it further before sending out a QL that I believe is my best effort!

01-15-2007, 07:42 PM
Frank is right here. You should at least have the TOC, a solid marketing proposal, and three tight, polished chapters. In addition, you must supply a complete synopsis, or a Chapter by Chapter outline. This indicates you have the scope of the entire book laid out. Non-fiction books frequently change through the agent/editorial process. But sending out a lone query letter is a waste of time if you don't have anything to back it up with.
Start writing.


Noddy Rider
01-15-2007, 08:11 PM
I read that you should send your two best chapters as samples. In my very first book, the strongest are Chapters 2 and 5. However, some agents want the first 2 or 3 chapters of the book. So I finished Ch. 1, 2, 3 and 5 first.

I have slightly different versions of the proposal, depending on which chapters I send. For example, if I'm sending Ch. 1 and 2, I don't summarize them in the proposal, but I do include the summaries of 3 and 5. The TOC lists which ones I'm sending. And in my cover letter, I always say something like "enclosed is the proposal with Chapters X and Y" so I know what I sent to whom.

Who knew this whole write-a-book-and-try-to-get-it-published thing would be so complicated ...

01-16-2007, 01:45 AM
Among these "QL only" agents, I could send my QL (fairly well edited) to "rookie" agents to see how they reply.How do you define a "rookie" agent?

Agents may indeed be new to agenting. But they should not be new to publishing, or they won't have the skills or the contacts an agent needs in order to succeed (in which case, their response to your query would tell you nothing, because they may not have any idea what they're doing). A new agent should have a publishing industry background, or have worked for another (reputable) agency to learn the ropes.

- Victoria