PDA

View Full Version : Query Letter.



Cathie71
02-22-2005, 10:23 PM
Hello,

I am a novice when it comes to query letters. I am writing a YA fiction book. I will be writing a query letter to agents in a few short weeks. My question to you is what is the best way to end a query letter when you can't write an author's bio because you don't have any experience or publications to write about?

Thank you for your time,
Cathie

victoriastrauss
02-24-2005, 03:15 AM
My question to you is what is the best way to end a query letter when you can't write an author's bio because you don't have any experience or publications to write about?
If you have no publications, and your life or work experience isn't relevant to your book, don't say anything. Credentials are great if you have them, but new writers aren't penalized for not having them.

Just end the letter with something like "Thanks for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you."

- Victoria

Cathie71
02-27-2005, 06:18 PM
Victoria,

Thank you for your response. I have another question for you if you don't mind? Is it better to query one agent at a time or multiple agents? I knew breaking into the writing field was going to be tough but boy there is a lot more to it than people think.

Thank you for your time,
Cathie

victoriastrauss
02-27-2005, 09:11 PM
Is it better to query one agent at a time or multiple agents?
If you query one agent at a time you will be old and gray by the time you find representation. Many publishers discourage simultaneous submissions, but with agents, multiple queries are the norm. Most people seem to send queries out in manageable batches of 10-15, starting with the agents they'd most like to have represent them.

Many agents will ask for an exclusive if they want to see your whole ms. (i.e, no other agent should be reading the whole thing at the same time). But until that point, you can send out as many queries and partials as you like.

- Victoria

Nateskate
02-27-2005, 10:21 PM
If you query one agent at a time you will be old and gray by the time you find representation. Many publishers discourage simultaneous submissions, but with agents, multiple queries are the norm. Most people seem to send queries out in manageable batches of 10-15, starting with the agents they'd most like to have represent them.

Many agents will ask for an exclusive if they want to see your whole ms. (i.e, no other agent should be reading the whole thing at the same time). But until that point, you can send out as many queries and partials as you like.

- Victoria

Hi Victoria. What would you recommend if you get multiple hits at the same time? What do you say to the other agents, "Please take a number?" I'm just kidding, but you don't want to burn any bridges, and may want to come back to them. Is there a nice way to respond to them, or do you just not respond to them?

victoriastrauss
02-27-2005, 10:49 PM
Hi Victoria. What would you recommend if you get multiple hits at the same time? What do you say to the other agents, "Please take a number?" I'm just kidding, but you don't want to burn any bridges, and may want to come back to them. Is there a nice way to respond to them, or do you just not respond to them?
What do you mean by multiple hits? Simultaneous requests for a full ms. on an exclusive basis? Don't hold your breath, but if this happens, agents are willing to be flexible--you can just tell each agent that someone else is reading and would they look at it even so. Often they will say yes. If not, you can pick the one you'd most like to rep you, and when he's done with the ms., send it off to the other one.

Ditto if an agent is already reading the full ms. on a non-exclusive basis, and another agent contacts you and asks for the ms. on an exclusive basis. Just tell agent 2 that someone else has it non-exclusively and would they be willing to take a look anyway.

If an agent is reading the full ms. on an exclusive basis and you get another request, you need to honor the exclusive. Simply say that someone else is reading and you'll be glad to send the ms. when the other person is done. (This is yet another reason why it's a good idea to get the agent to give you a specific time period for an exclusive.)

Agents do understand this stuff. New writers often regard them as faceless gargoyles with absurdly inflexible Rules That Must Be Obeyed Or You Turn Into a Pumpkin (like the publishers that supposedly will hurl your ms. into the shredder if there's one single typo, or your paragraph indent is 6 spaces rather than 5), but they know the deal for new writers and will often make allowances. As long as you're honest, straightforward, and businesslike.

- Victoria

Nateskate
03-01-2005, 05:44 PM
What do you mean by multiple hits? Simultaneous requests for a full ms. on an exclusive basis? Don't hold your breath, but if this happens, agents are willing to be flexible--you can just tell each agent that someone else is reading and would they look at it even so. Often they will say yes. If not, you can pick the one you'd most like to rep you, and when he's done with the ms., send it off to the other one.

Ditto if an agent is already reading the full ms. on a non-exclusive basis, and another agent contacts you and asks for the ms. on an exclusive basis. Just tell agent 2 that someone else has it non-exclusively and would they be willing to take a look anyway.

If an agent is reading the full ms. on an exclusive basis and you get another request, you need to honor the exclusive. Simply say that someone else is reading and you'll be glad to send the ms. when the other person is done. (This is yet another reason why it's a good idea to get the agent to give you a specific time period for an exclusive.)

Agents do understand this stuff. New writers often regard them as faceless gargoyles with absurdly inflexible Rules That Must Be Obeyed Or You Turn Into a Pumpkin (like the publishers that supposedly will hurl your ms. into the shredder if there's one single typo, or your paragraph indent is 6 spaces rather than 5), but they know the deal for new writers and will often make allowances. As long as you're honest, straightforward, and businesslike.

- Victoria

Thanks, appreciate your advice more than you know!

flotsamarama
03-15-2005, 11:52 PM
What do you mean by multiple hits? Simultaneous requests for a full ms. on an exclusive basis? Don't hold your breath, but if this happens, agents are willing to be flexible--you can just tell each agent that someone else is reading and would they look at it even so. Often they will say yes. If not, you can pick the one you'd most like to rep you, and when he's done with the ms., send it off to the other one.

Ditto if an agent is already reading the full ms. on a non-exclusive basis, and another agent contacts you and asks for the ms. on an exclusive basis. Just tell agent 2 that someone else has it non-exclusively and would they be willing to take a look anyway.

If an agent is reading the full ms. on an exclusive basis and you get another request, you need to honor the exclusive. Simply say that someone else is reading and you'll be glad to send the ms. when the other person is done. (This is yet another reason why it's a good idea to get the agent to give you a specific time period for an exclusive.)

Agents do understand this stuff. New writers often regard them as faceless gargoyles with absurdly inflexible Rules That Must Be Obeyed Or You Turn Into a Pumpkin (like the publishers that supposedly will hurl your ms. into the shredder if there's one single typo, or your paragraph indent is 6 spaces rather than 5), but they know the deal for new writers and will often make allowances. As long as you're honest, straightforward, and businesslike.

- Victoria

Hi Victoria,

After sending out a flurry of queries last month, I am beginning to get responses from agents. One last week requested the first three chapters of my book on an exclusive basis. Another today asked me to send the first three chapters of my book, but did not mention any exclusivity. Do I send an explanation to Agent #2, without the first three chapters, saying I will follow up if/when Agent #1 is through?

No time frame was mentioned on the exclusive reading by Agent #1. How long should I wait before I follow up?

I am most grateful for any guidance you can offer.

victoriastrauss
03-16-2005, 05:34 AM
I think it's unreasonable for an agent to ask for an exclusive on a partial--especially given the reality of submitting, which is that it's more than likely that any writer will have a number of partials out at any given time. Speaking for myself, I wouldn't grant exclusivity on a partial. I'd simply send the requested chapters along with a note that someone else was reading (even if they weren't). If an agent is interested enough to ask for chapters, odds are he'll read them whether or not he gets them on an exclusive basis.

It sounds as if you did grant the exclusive, though, so you'll have to put Agent 2 off. Just send a brief note to let her know that someone else is reading and you'll send the chapters along when they're done (when you do send them, be sure to include a cover letter mentioning that she asked to see them--if several weeks elapse, she may forget).

You should always ask for a time limit on an exclusive. If the agent won't provide one, give him one yourself--IMO, two months is reasonable for a full manuscript, three if you want to be really really kind and tolerant (some agents ask for even longer than this). For chapters, I don't know--I'd think two to three weeks would be enough, four at the most. If you haven't heard anything by then, write and ask (gently) what the status is. If you have trouble getting a response, or get put off more than once, give the agent an ultimatum: if you don't hear anything by such-and-such a date you'll consider yourself free to submit elsewhere. Agents are really, really busy, and even--gasp--have personal lives, but you can't let these guys string you along forever.

I should say again (actually I don't know if I ever said it) that I'm not an agent, just a writer and writers' advocate who observes agents and their habits very closely. Sort of an agentologist. A real agent might disagree with any of the above.

- Victoria

flotsamarama
03-16-2005, 05:38 PM
Thank you, Victoria, for your insights. I'm sorry I granted an exclusive on a mere three chapters (10 pages) -- particularly without a time frame. Live and learn.

Little Rose
03-25-2005, 06:16 AM
hey,
I'm a new writer working on a query for agents too! I've never been published, and I'm only in high school, so I have no credentials other than the classes I'm taking. Should I even let them know that?

victoriastrauss
03-25-2005, 08:19 PM
Nope. Just query. You don't have to mention your age.

- Victoria

Little Rose
03-26-2005, 02:10 AM
Thanks so much. I might be back with more questions in a few weeks when I start getting responses. I'm trying to read all that I can about this business, but it starts to get confusing after a while. As long as I maintain determination hopefully things will turn out.

Julie Worth
03-26-2005, 04:54 PM
Play your own game. Laugh out loud when an agent says she doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions. Send out ten at a time. They only want a query? That’s a waste of time. Ignore it. Include three chapters of your work. Include a synopsis. Don’t bother with the bio unless you’ve a lot of writing credits. Polish it all till it shines. Make the whole package look as professional as hell. Impress the assistant who opens it, and you’re to first base. They’ll forget they only wanted a query. They’ll still send a rejection, of course, but maybe they’ll scribble something on the form letter. Maybe they’ll even write you a personal letter, saying something useful. Read it carefully. Send the agent a thank you note. If the rejection is by email, thank them by email. Make it short, but always add something to hook them—something they feel they just have to respond to. And thus you get even more useful feedback. Use those pearls to modify your query letter, then send out another ten submissions. If more than one agent requests the full MS, don’t worry about it. Send it out to anyone that asks, and don’t tell them. After you sign a contract, send out a polite note to the others, telling them you’re awfully sorry, but the work is no longer available.



There’re about 200 agents you can query. But that’s hardly the limit. Write another book and you’re up to 400 possible queries. Rewrite the first book and re-title it. Now you’re up to 600. Be persistent as hell. When you get to 1000 rejections, throw yourself a party, build a bonfire, and ritually burn all your manuscripts.



The next day you will get an offer.

Catchthefish
07-27-2005, 10:03 PM
Wonderful insights, and all about what I've been puzzling over. What about simultaneous queries to individual agents working within the same agency?

Julie Worth
07-28-2005, 12:57 AM
Wonderful insights, and all about what I've been puzzling over. What about simultaneous queries to individual agents working within the same agency?

No. Wait for the rejection.

victoriastrauss
07-28-2005, 01:08 AM
If more than one agent requests the full MS, don’t worry about it. Send it out to anyone that asks, and don’t tell them. If one or any of these agents has asked for an exclusive, this is very bad advice.

- Victoria

Julie Worth
07-28-2005, 01:20 AM
If one or any of these agents has asked for an exclusive, this is very bad advice.
- Victoria

Why?

PattiTheWicked
07-28-2005, 03:57 AM
Why?

My understanding is that the publishing community is a very incestuous little group, and everyone knows everyone else. I seem to recall reading more than once about an author who sent a ms to Agent A, on what was supposedly an exclusive basis. Agent A was having lunch with Agent B, and said, "Honey, you're not going to believe this ms I'm reading! It's fabulous!" and then proceeded to describe it.

Agent B asked the author's name and then said that she too had the same ms on an "exclusive basis." Turned out both of them were looking at what could be a potential winner, but neither one took it on, because the writer chose to make his own rules to the game.

Today I got two emails from agents requesting full mss from me, but neither asked for it on an exclusive basis, and I'm glad. If they had, I'd pick one to send it to first rather than send it to both and claim they had exclusivity.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I think starting a business relationship with a lie shows a distinct lack of integrity.

Julie Worth
07-28-2005, 04:24 AM
Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I think starting a business relationship with a lie shows a distinct lack of integrity.

That should definitely be a consideration, and it should be up to the individual as to how this balances against the loss of valuable time that's going to occur in 90% of these grants of exclusivity. The fact is, except for the anecdotal case where two agents happened to be talking about the same MS, there seems to be no downside to handing out exclusives to anyone who asks. Or am I wrong about that?

PattiTheWicked
07-28-2005, 05:42 AM
That should definitely be a consideration, and it should be up to the individual as to how this balances against the loss of valuable time that's going to occur in 90% of these grants of exclusivity. The fact is, except for the anecdotal case where two agents happened to be talking about the same MS, there seems to be no downside to handing out exclusives to anyone who asks. Or am I wrong about that?



I'm not sure that a lot of time is really lost to exclusivity. I mean, not every agent asks for it, and those that do are probably willing to negotiate as to how long they get it for. Obviously, if every single agent wanted a six month exclusive peek, you'd lose time, and that would be completely unreasonable. However, if you've got only one agent asking for an exclusive look, and three other agents who want to see it but don't want an exclusive, then you've got a bit of a bargaining tool.

You can either send it to the other three and tell the first one that other folks are looking at it and that you'd be happy to send it along once they're done, or you can tell him, "Hey, you can see this exclusively but only for X number of weeks, because i have three other agents interested in it."

As to handing out exclusives to anyone who asks, if someone else has the ms, then it's not really an exclusive, is it? :)

Euan H.
07-28-2005, 06:39 AM
They only want a query? That’s a waste of time. Ignore it. Include three chapters of your work. Include a synopsis.
If I was an agent and my guidelines said 'send a query', and then someone ignored my guidelines and sent me a partial, I wouldn't be happy with that person, and it would prejudice me against taking that person on as a client.

But then again, I'm not an agent.


Don’t bother with the bio unless you’ve a lot of writing credits. Polish it all till it shines. Make the whole package look as professional as hell.

This is good advice, I think.


They’ll forget they only wanted a query.
I'm not sure about this.


They’ll still send a rejection, of course,
This may of course have something to do with you not following the guidelines...


If more than one agent requests the full MS, don’t worry about it. Send it out to anyone that asks, and don’t tell them. After you sign a contract, send out a polite note to the others, telling them you’re awfully sorry, but the work is no longer available.
As UJ says, the agent-client relationship is based on trust. Do you really want to start a relationship of this kind based on deliberate deception? I would be very uneasy about doing that.


Play your own game.
Or be professional. Your choice.

victoriastrauss
07-28-2005, 06:53 PM
Why?Because you will be deceiving someone with whom you are seeking a business relationship. Because publishing is a small world and agents talk to one another, and one thing that's certain to piss an agent off is to discover that a potential client has lied to her. Because granting an exclusive is no big deal! I find it really hard to understand why writers get so worked up about this issue. If you're honest with the agent, they'll often agree to waive exclusivity anyway.

It's a buyer's market. It pays to do what the buyer wants, and to be honest. The rules may piss you off, but you can't remake reality to your own desire, and you ignore expected and customary practice at your peril. Of course everyone has heard a story of someone who flamboyantly flouted every rule, custom, tradition, or whatever, and succeeded anyway. A lot more often, however, success results from boringly professional behavior.

- Victoria

Andrew Zack
07-28-2005, 11:51 PM
This is what happens at my firm: Send me something other than a query, it goes to the bottom of the query pile. Frequently, dozens of queries that come in after get read first. If I get to the query with the chapter attached and like the query, I put it at the bottom of the 200+ sample chapters I have to read.

However, since I reject something like 99.75% of what I get (seriously; we did the math in another thread), the odds that I will ultimately get to that sample chapter and ask for more are quite low. So why waste your money sending out sample chapters unless they were requested.

Julie, I think your "do what you want" advice is pretty bad. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Looking for an agent is like dating. If you know your date hates seafood, don't take them to a fish place. If you know your agent wants JUST a query, don't send three sample chapters.

The exclusivity question is tough. If you don't want to grant it, simply send the material and politely state that you are unable to grant it but that you will let the agent know immediately if the status of the work changes. Personally, I think I've asked for exclusivity ONCE in all my years.

Best,
Andy

Julie Worth
07-29-2005, 12:15 AM
My concern about exclusivity was more with the partial than with the full MS. Frankly, I think no agent should be asking for an exclusive on a partial, but as for the full MS, the writer should carefully word the exclusive so that the agent knows she has to read it quickly--e.g., granting an exclusive for a "limited time."



As for doing what you want, sending 3 chapters when a single page query is preferred, my thinking was, if you send a package that impresses the person opening it, the minor sin of sending more than a query would tend to be ignored.

Andrew Zack
07-29-2005, 12:36 AM
Frankly, I think no agent should be asking for an exclusive on a partial, but as for the full MS....


As for doing what you want, sending 3 chapters when a single page query is preferred, my thinking was, if you send a package that impresses the person opening it, the minor sin of sending more than a query would tend to be ignored.To me, this is a real problem.

1. You can't tell an agent how to do business. You don't want to grant someone an exclusive, that's your choice, but don't be so arrogant as to think you can decide how any one agent "should" do business. You'll never be happy with any agent you find with such an attitude.

2. That minor sin might get your material tossed or rejected without being read. You might not like roses and you might have told your boyfriend you don't like roses. But he buys you roses. It's a minor sin, right? But you might think, "What an idiot! I told him I don't like roses," and dump him. That's what an agent might be thinking--"What an idiot, I told her I don't want anything more than a query"--when he gets your three unsolicited chapters. And that is not what you want an agent thinking, is it?

Follow the guidelines an agent posts and you will be judged just on your writing and the work's potential and nothing more. And that is what a writer wants, I think.

Julie Worth
07-29-2005, 12:44 AM
Okay, I give.