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[Query service] Querylyzer

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Medievalist

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Querylyzer is an automated "personalized" query service: https://www.querylyzer.com/

I have some grave concerns about it, not the least of which is a fundamental objection to essentially spamming agents.

There is no privacy or TOS statement. I have some ethical issues regarding Querylyzer using the data from Preditors and Editors. It's clearly designed as a transaction system with a fee per email—how will Preditors and Editors be rewarded?

Have the agents agreed to be listed?

There are other issues as well.
 
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kaitie

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The outbox details show $.15 per email sent, so it's not exactly a free service, right?
 

Medievalist

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The outbox details show $.15 per email sent, so it's not exactly a free service, right?

Thanks Katie; missed that.

I note that the site displays quite differently and functions differently on different browsers, which suggests perhaps more attention to QA would be beneficial.
 

victoriastrauss

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I think this is a well-intentioned venture, but I share Medievalist's concerns.

I spot-checked the lists of agents, and they appear to be pretty well-vetted. However, I'm guessing that the person who put the lists together used the agencies' track records as a whole to sort the agents into genres, which is not a good strategy for identifying individual agents to query--for instance, my original agent comes up on the fantasy agent list, and while she has sold some fantasy, and is an eminent agent, fantasy is most definitely not her specialty, and a fantasy writer isn't very likely to get a look from her.

A broadcast approach may get results simply because of
volume (which is the same way spam works) but it's still better to do the research yourself--and not just because you don't have to pay for it.

- Victoria
 

lorna_w

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When I sent out my first novel, (back in the horse and buggy days, it feels like) I was able to send directly to publishers and got two written responses of three subs. By the time I had another novel ready, publishers had quit reading because of the volume of crap they got and agents became their gatekeepers. I'm having a Seer moment where I see this sort of thing becoming popular, and then agents will have to have their own gatekeepers who also take 10%. Of my lousy 8% of cover price, if I ever am so lucky to get that. The mind boggles.
 
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kaitie

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Honestly, part of what bothers me about this sort of thing is that it's just lazy. I know that in a lot of areas of life, it's useful to delegate the grunt work, but in my opinion, the grunt work in this area is what helps you learn about the field, who agents are, what they're looking for, etc.

I looked up each agent before sending, read their websites, their blogs, checked them here, and so on. Sometimes they would say that they repped a particular genre, but then I'd see that most of their sales were for romance, so I'd take them off my list. Or I'd see that an agent said they were looking for fiction, but didn't have fiction sales to show for it, and so on.

Not to mention because of my way of doing it, I could only send to certain people at once. I tried out three versions of my query letter for the book that got me an agent. For the one before, I revised a couple of times as well. I did a revision based on feedback once. Had I send to everyone on my list at once, I wouldn't have been able to make those changes and send it to the others.

Some things I just feel should be done the hard way, I guess.

ETA: Not to mention I've seen agents mention before that they hate services like this. It would have be very well-hidden to make it something that didn't automatically shoot you in the foot.
 

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The person behind Querylyzer is an AW member, and has started an Announcement thread about the service. I have expressed my reservations in that thread already so won't do so again here: but to paraphrase, services like this spam agents and all submissions sent by them are probably going to end up being deleted unread; and the person behind Querylyzer doesn't seem to be terribly well-informed about how agents work and what they do.

When I add the concerns expressed by Medievalist and Victoria Strauss, I have to say that I wouldn't even consider using this service and I don't think it will give the writers who pay to use it any advantage at all--and might, in fact, work against them.
 

Terie

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$.15 per transaction X 1,000 (as indicated in the creator's announcement post) = $150 the writer hypothetically pays to the service provider.

Just sayin'.
 

kaitie

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It also appears that there isn't anything in place to stop from sending multiples to the same agency. That announcement said that he sent agents queries for 3 books in a week (3300 total).

First of all, you can't send different agents in the same agency work even if it's different books. There would need to be some way to determine that and make sure that the book only went to one agent--and honestly, it should be going to the one most suited when there are multiple agents to choose from, which I doubt this service could help determine.

There would also need to be a good way to keep track of responses in order to know which agency had seen it and which hadn't, and so on. Especially if there was more than one book going through it, because each book would need to be kept separate from the others to avoid overlap.

Honestly, I kind of think if I was an agent and I found out my newly signed client had just spammed every agent in the universe, I'd be at least a little annoyed.
 

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Honestly, I kind of think if I was an agent and I found out my newly signed client had just spammed every agent in the universe, I'd be at least a little annoyed.

If I were an agent and found out that not only had my new client just spammed every agent in the universe, but that he was also now encouraging other writers to pay him to spam them even more, I'd be a lot annoyed.

This is not a good way to find an agent. It really isn't.
 

DaveKuzminski

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I learned yesterday that P&E's data is being used by this service. At present, P&E does not receive any payment for the use of its information. Of course, if they wish to contribute to the P&E defense fund, that would be appreciated.
 

Maryn

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Ugh. I consider that unconscionable, Dave. Unacceptable and underhanded as well.

Maryn, who should probably kick in again on the defense fund
 

Terie

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I learned yesterday that P&E's data is being used by this service. At present, P&E does not receive any payment for the use of its information. Of course, if they wish to contribute to the P&E defense fund, that would be appreciated.

While it seems perfectly generous to give this information away to individuals for their (ahem, OUR) private use, someone profiting off of your work without recompensing you seems....wrong.
 

eward

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I have expressed my reservations in that thread already so won't do so again here: but to paraphrase, services like this spam agents and all submissions sent by them are probably going to end up being deleted unread; and the person behind Querylyzer doesn't seem to be terribly well-informed about how agents work and what they do.

How exactly would the agents know that your query was from a service like this? It inserts the agents name, and they don't see the other recipients of the e-mail. So if it's a good query, they're just going to pay attention to that, right?

I'm a bit wary of it, but we'll see. I'd still certainly do my research and make sure that I was targeting the agents who would actually be interested in representing my books, but if I could get all of them and just send the query in one click, it seems really useful. Although agents have different guidelines, too, like some want synopses, some want first chapter, some want first three chapters, etc. . .
 

Medievalist

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How exactly would the agents know that your query was from a service like this? It inserts the agents name, and they don't see the other recipients of the e-mail. So if it's a good query, they're just going to pay attention to that, right?

Personally, I'd set my email client to reject anything from that IP.

It's insulting to treat an agent as a one-size-fits-all service.
 

BenPanced

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How exactly would the agents know that your query was from a service like this? It inserts the agents name, and they don't see the other recipients of the e-mail. So if it's a good query, they're just going to pay attention to that, right?

I'm a bit wary of it, but we'll see. I'd still certainly do my research and make sure that I was targeting the agents who would actually be interested in representing my books, but if I could get all of them and just send the query in one click, it seems really useful. Although agents have different guidelines, too, like some want synopses, some want first chapter, some want first three chapters, etc. . .

Personally, I'd set my email client to reject anything from that IP.

It's insulting to treat an agent as a one-size-fits-all service.
As quickly as you can spot a form rejection, agents can spot form queries even faster.
 

lorna_w

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But if you spam them, how can you personalize, like if the agent repped your favorite book of the last three years and you want to reference that because it's in your genre and style, or once said to you in a prior rejection that if you had other ideas to keep her in mind? Or said in her website she loves novels set in Japan and hey, yours is. Or maybe you met him at a conference or an SF convention or a bordello, and you want to remind him of that.

Maybe I'm just old fashioned. I'll stick to personal letters.
 

Dancre

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Kaitie says what I was thinking. I agree.

Honestly, part of what bothers me about this sort of thing is that it's just lazy. I know that in a lot of areas of life, it's useful to delegate the grunt work, but in my opinion, the grunt work in this area is what helps you learn about the field, who agents are, what they're looking for, etc.

I looked up each agent before sending, read their websites, their blogs, checked them here, and so on. Sometimes they would say that they repped a particular genre, but then I'd see that most of their sales were for romance, so I'd take them off my list. Or I'd see that an agent said they were looking for fiction, but didn't have fiction sales to show for it, and so on.

Not to mention because of my way of doing it, I could only send to certain people at once. I tried out three versions of my query letter for the book that got me an agent. For the one before, I revised a couple of times as well. I did a revision based on feedback once. Had I send to everyone on my list at once, I wouldn't have been able to make those changes and send it to the others.

Some things I just feel should be done the hard way, I guess.

ETA: Not to mention I've seen agents mention before that they hate services like this. It would have be very well-hidden to make it something that didn't automatically shoot you in the foot.
 

Medievalist

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Your relationship with your agent is personal in the sense that the agent represents your interests, and your work. Your contact should be equally personal—and genuine.

You don't want "any agent," you want one that will represent you.
 

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How exactly would the agents know that your query was from a service like this? It inserts the agents name, and they don't see the other recipients of the e-mail. So if it's a good query, they're just going to pay attention to that, right?

As others have already said, it helps to personalise your query--which you can't do if you're sending it out to hundreds of agents.

I've not checked, but it's possible that the submissions are sent out directly from Querylyzer, in which case there might be a generic email address attached to them which would be a big clue--the agents I know personally would all block that email address after they'd received two or three submissions from it.

I'm a bit wary of it, but we'll see. I'd still certainly do my research and make sure that I was targeting the agents who would actually be interested in representing my books, but if I could get all of them and just send the query in one click, it seems really useful. Although agents have different guidelines, too, like some want synopses, some want first chapter, some want first three chapters, etc. . .

Most agents have subtly different guidelines; and by using this service (I use the term loosely) instead of finding agents through proper research, you can't know that you were targetting any of the best agents for you. In fact, there's a big possibility that you'd be submitting to agents who would be entirely wrong for your book, and missing out those who might like it.
 

Katrina S. Forest

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I voiced some concerns over the creator's use of this service in the last thread, still holding out that maybe for some authors, at some point, the service could be useful. For example, if someone already did all their research and had gotten their list of agents down to the best matches for them, perhaps they could use Querylyzer and check their choices only. But now that more people are pointing out additional flaws in this service, I'm not sure it's useful to any author at any time:

1. No way to personalize queries. Now, sometimes I really just don't have anything personal to say that doesn't sound like I'm grasping at straws. I'll say if we met at a conference, if they showed interest in my previous work, or if I'm a fan of their clients' work, but I generally stop there. For the most part, though, if I've got any connection, I want to say so.

2. No way to include pages. I'd say less than half the agents I send to want no pages whatsoever. So basically, I could only use Querylyzer for non-personalized queries to agents who don't ask for any additional material. Honestly? That's a tiny list and I might as well save myself the 15 cents per e-mail and send them myself.

3. The possibility of being blocked by spam filters. This was something I hadn't considered before. And since so many agents respond with silence, how would I know if it had even happened?

4. The use of P&E's data without their permission. This is not cool with me, at all. I wouldn't recommend the service based on that new info alone. P&E works hard to provide that info for free. Using it in a fee-based service really rubs me the wrong way.

I do hope the creator of Querylyzer found a good agent. (There was never any mention of who the offers of representation came from.) But I can't help thinking of the many, many closed doors that happened in the process, and that's just not the way I want to do things.
 
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kaitie

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Not being able to send appropriate materials is also a big thing. I hadn't thought of that. If one agent requires five pages, and another a synopsis and the first three chapters, and another two chapters and an outline, etc., how would this program meet those demands? Especially considering these are all things that, the vast majority of the time, need to be pasted at the bottom of an email (the proper way without formatting).

At worst, it doesn't do this, in which case you're going to be rejected very often based on the fact that you didn't follow guidelines. At best, it does, but I would need to see proof that it did it well. And would it allow you to include five pages even when it's not listed? Because I always included five pages with the queries. Also, does the program personalize each one to say "This and this and this have been included below"?
 

Ruth2

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As much as I hate writing queries themselves, I like personalizing each one to fit the agent. If I've read an interview the agent's done, I can tell by the voice of the answers how to pitch the query-- and get an idea if we'd work together well. A query service can't do that for me.
 

kuatolives

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I learned yesterday that P&E's data is being used by this service. At present, P&E does not receive any payment for the use of its information. Of course, if they wish to contribute to the P&E defense fund, that would be appreciated.

Hi Dave, I'm the author of Querylyzer and I'll try and answer some concerns from this thread here. First off, I like your site and use it a lot. I'm sorry you're being sued, and it's something I'm prepared for myself which is why I've incorporated Querylyzer as a limited liability entity just in case things become untenable.

As for compensation regarding your information being used; as the P and E ratings being provided (I'm only capturing the Recommended and Highly Recommended ratings right now), you'll notice they are being provided as links back to your site (theoretically good for you) and as such not considered infringing activity of copyright infringement (see DMCA safe harbour rulings http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca512/faq.cgi
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/512#512.d

But if you're embroiled in a legal battle right now with disgruntled literary agents/publishers, you and your lawyer are probably already well versed in these particulars.

If you really feel that strongly about these ratings being placed on Querylyzer, we can have a conversation about it, but it's just my opinion the more exposure you get for your site the better, and the more sites who recognize your ratings as substantial (I do), the more credibility P and E receives with the general public. Something to think about. Also, if the presentation is not in a manner you think is conducive to increasing traffic for P and E, that's something we can also talk about. I do like your site and will try and make you happy. You can reach me at [email protected]

As for some of the other concerns:

TOS - It's listed on the main page.
https://www.querylyzer.com/jsp/terms.jsp

Permission to list agents - You don't need permission to publish contact information or anything considered 'A FACT' (ie publicly available names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses etc). Some guy in the States actually re-published all of the information held in his local White Pages and was not found in copyright violation.
Personalization : You can personalize queries as far as your address headers go, but the next release of querylyzer will have a drag and drop scripting mechanism that supports inserting into a query letter the titles that particular agent has represented. You'll be able to script certain agent details into the letter itself --- something like. "Having represented titles such as [TITLE1] and [TITLE2], <insert my novel> will be a good addition to your list." Stuff like that. Once I've completed importing all the previously published titles data into the DB and reorganized the query interface, this option will be available.

But speaking from personal experience, this level of personalization isn't really required. We had 3 beta testers use Querylyzer in its raw form (before it was a website), and the response rate was somewhere in the 3-5% range using simple agent headers. And this was with a bug in the original software that messed up some of the agents' contact information. We found that many agents, regardless of how badly we'd butched the format of the query letter, requested the manuscripts they wanted to see anyway.

One thing to wrap your head around Querylyzer is that it's s different mode of querying favoring quantity ahead of over personalization.
While there are many writers who will find the lack of personalization a deal breaker, there are many writers who've progressed to the cold query stage where it doesn't behoove them to spend hours and hours customizing letters that are being thrown out shotgun. But I do agree with what some of the writers have said - it's probably not a good first line attack when trying to get represented. Write your novel, personalize the hell out of your query letters for the agents you want, then, IF you get no love and find yourself shotgunning queries, load up querylyzer.

Further to personalization - again it's our experience using querylyzer that if an agent is interested in your material, they won't care if you send 5 pages when you're supposed to send 7 or 3, or none at all. Our beta testers composed query letters that were of roughly the same format and covered MOST literary agents requirements:

1. No attachments.
2. At least a low level of personalization (address header and salutation with the correct name)
3. Query letter itself.
4. Small writing sample of 5 pages.

What the proponents of personalization (using this term to describe a query letter where you get into the nitty gritty details of a literary agent's list) ignore as a feature of distribution is all of the currents and eddies that sometimes a query letter follows before it results in a phone call back to the author. For me personally, the agent who ended up representing me wasn't even on my distribution list, and the agent who forwarded my eventual agent my query didn't even represent fiction. Had I followed the process manually, my query would have never landed into the lap of the forwarding agent to begin with. So... something to be said for exposure.

Moreover, we found while testing Querylyzer that some agents who proclaimed themselves closed to queries and (if you didn't follow the rules of the website or use the website itself), were suddenly open to queries and their transmission format when they were highly interested in the material. Again, this is the advantage of distribution. More often then not, a writer will not send out that query letter if they think there is 0% chance of that query resulting in representation, but often that chance is actually greater than 0% when sending to these agents.

Another trick the beta testers employed in getting represented using Querylyzer was to (as abhorred this may sound to some writers) was changing the titles of their manuscripts, changing their names (writers do this all the time), and their e-mail account of origin so e-mail filters wouldn't pick up submissions that were rejected months ago (or have a harder time).
As the manuscript that got me represented was an older one, it had already been through the system, but after I changed the name and account of origin, it eventually found a home.

I can hear the gasps through the monitor, but remember, your goal is to get published, not make buddy-buddy with literary agents who could care less about you. The goal here is publication. PERIOD. If you're not doing absolutely everything in your power to get published, then you probably won't, especially in a world with millions and millions of writers all competing for the same shelf space. Remember, all it takes is one YES, and if you were to ask most unrepresented/unpublished writers if they'd trade 1000 nastrygram 'go to hell' rejection e-mails for that one one phone call, that trade would be made more often than not.


As for agents spotting a Querylyzer based query; not likely to happen. On the order screen, you specify an email account to use. Querylyzer doesn't sent out any emails itself, instead using a distributed approach. The software logs into an email account of your choice and generates the query letters from there so it's as if you had sent them. Because popular providers such as Gmail and Hotmail hide the IP address of the sender from the receiver, the email's origin is anonymous - or at least as anonymous as in that it came from you. Querylyzer also abides by all provider send policies, keeping its thresholds well under published limits. For example, Gmail allows 500 messages a day, Querylyzer caps its send rate at 300/day for this provider. You can monitor your job in the 'My Job's panel to see the current status of your job.

Duplicate Email boxes - One of the features I've yet to implement is a warning notifying the user that they're sending to the same e-mail box (ie [email protected]). It's on the TODO list but for now, a user can simply sort their outbox by e-mail address and filter them out manually. Once a query has been sent to an agent, the date is recorded in their query list, so they can easily go back and find the agents they've yet to send a query to.

Integrity of the agent list - I don't have any literary agents on my list (or at least none to my knowledge) that aren't bona fide agents. If you see one that's a scam artist, let me know and I'll remove them from the list. I've also personally gone through the list and e-mailed each one with a bogus query letter to find out which e-mail addresses were valid. Moreover, the list is updated (almost daily) through an extensive system of bots that scour the net for literary agents' contact information and incorporate them into the list. And no, facts, including contact information is also NOT subject to copyright, therefore subject to reproduction and publication.

15 cents an email - Yeah, it costs. I'm a sympathetic guy when it comes to writers but the software behind Querylyzer is pretty sophisticated (Querylyzer also has the option of only sending queries during business hours) and if you compare the time it would take you to manually query every agent on the planet (if you elected to do this) vs how much your time is worth, then it's up to you to decide the value of the service. It won't be for some, I know, but for others it will be. I don't even want to know how much time I've spent over the years querying and when I set out to query one of my trunk novels, I wasn't going to sink all my evenings and weekends into doing it again - hence the software. But if you could take one of your trunk novels (something that's collecting dust and has no chance of publication) and snap your fingers and have a query letter/sample in the inbox of every literary agent known for $150 bucks while having those X hours back to yourself, then you'll find value in the service. If not, ok, I get it.

As for being lazy - ..... sort of, but it's a question of how much your time is worth. As a writer myself, I know what a pain it is to get time to write. You've got family commitments, work, god forbid a hobby other than writing, etc etc. Writers who can't find the time in the morning to get some work done often work in the wee hours when they're tired and grumpy and wondering how much work they could get done if actually at the peak of their mental game etc etc. Hey, been there, still there now.

As for my views on literary agents - these are well known. I find their requirement to the process as abhorrent as some would find Querylyzer, but writers have to acknowledge what they are told thousands of times a year by other writers - writing is a business. Agents are in the biz to make money, and that's absolutely fine, but the door swings both way too. I often frown on writers who come to these boards and talk about literary agents as if they're some kind of delicate spoiled child you can't offend, much less offer a letter of business association when they are in THAT business! (OMG did I offend that agent by sending them an email!? Did I follow their submission requirements EXACTLY? Do they have a big white board somewhere with all the names of the writers who've offended them and I'll never get a book published for the rest of my life OMG NOOOOOO!). Bleh. Fire off those queries! Let agents worry about their own sandbox.

Querylyzer is best used:
1. With trunk novels.
2. With new novels that have reached the cold-query shotgun stage.
3. With writers who simply don't have the time to spend hours and hours querying.

I can be reached at [email protected]

Dave email me when you get a chance.
 
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kuatolives

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*removed - duplicate data*
 
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