Friday, March 30, 2012

Query Letter Query: Strategy

We've all heard the stories. You know the amazing ones where writers tell the tales of how they landed their illusive-deer-like, super agents. It t'was Spring, and the long grass danced wildly in the breeze, and we saw each other from across the way...

Well, in a certain number of those cases it may appear like serendipity. Like the the writer and agent were star crossed, meant to be, perfectly matched. And that it happened magically, easily, painlessly. We've all seen those stories on the blogosphere, heard them from friends at conferences, or read them in magazines.

I am no expert, but I would venture to guess that in most cases of writer-agent bliss, a lot of hard work and strategy went into to it.

So I have a series of query letter queries: (and yes, we will bullet point it out)
  • How many hours of research on agents is ideal? (Don't say two months)
  • When you first start querying, how many do you shoot out at once?
  • How many of your top choice/dream agents do you put in the first round?
  • What month of the year is best? (I've heard January is the worst because agents are completely inundated with queries at that time, among other reasons)
  • If you've received a full request, or several, do you put that info in the query? 
  • Are you supposed to address it to: "Dear Agent,"? (hah...jk)
 I know there are answers to these questions "out there" in the blogosphere. What I am looking for is how YOU feel. What YOU think.

So, spill it!


  1. I think you can learn a lot from my query mistakes. I queried practically all my dream agents in the first round (when both my query letter and the first few pages sucked big time.)No one had seen my QL, so I had no feedback on it.

    I would suggest that you go slow, tackle the dream agents later after you get feedback from the other agents, don't burn your fingers like I did.

  2. This may sound bad, but I only extensively research my top choice agents. :\ For the agents who put themselves out there more, there's a lot more information--online interviews, personal blogs, etc. But some agents don't have any at all, and you wear yourself out hunting them down. And a lot of the time, it doesn't matter how much research you do, you're going to get shot down anyway.

    Usually I do two or three top agents in the first round, then spread the rest out. First round ends up being about 20 queries or so. (After the test flurry of 5.)

    And I've actually heard January and September are the best time for querying, oddly enough. That may not be the case for all agents. I'd say go for September--a lot of agents are just coming off vacation, so they're probably rested up and looking for material.

    And I have a few requests out with agents right now, but I haven't been putting that in my queries. If they request and then ask if anyone else has it, I put it in. Otherwise, not. (Although I've heard it's good manners to let them know that other agents are considering it...)

  3. Ha! I guess the real trick is making sure neither you nor your illusive-deer-like, super agents runs out in the the long grass that are dancing wildly in the breeze, and then think, Hey, wait! Where's the other person? ;)

    * 8 hours
    * 6
    * 3 (But only because I knew without any shadow of a doubt that my query was 100% as good as I could get it. If it didn't get bites, then it was because I wasn't good enough-- there was nothing more that I could do with my query. Had I thought there was, I would've probably burned less of my top choices on the first round.)
    * There isn't. Obviously they are busier at some times than others, but they are never okay with turning down the possibility of a fabulous story.
    * Pass.
    * Definitely! Use pink paper, too. And put glitter on it. Possibly perfume and stickers of unicorns.

  4. Hmmm... Okay, I'll pretend to know what I'm talking about, lol!

    I research agents while I'm editing. I come up with my first 'group' within a couple days.

    I do one or two, but I'll do another couple the next day or a few hours after that. I'll wait two weeks before sending out another batch.

    I'm a strong believer in sending it out when it's ready, no matter what month that may be. I just don't send on Tues. or Wed.

    Nope, don't put that info in. However, if they have requested and ask I keep them updated, I'll make sure I them I've received another request or an R&R.

    Oh, ALWAYS address it Dear Agent. They love that! ;)

  5. Okay, I'll try.
    1. I don't know hours, because I read about agents while I'm writing, and add the ones I think would be a good fit to my list. Then when I'm ready to query, I do another quick research, so it's hard to count.

    2.I start with 1 a day, and can get up to having 10 queries out at once. I don't count submissions in that.

    3. 2 to 4 in that first batch. BUT, I have found that "top agent" is a pretty relative term. I don't necessary see them like that.

    4. Best? I don't think it exists . . . unless in conjunction with the readiness of your ms.

    5. I don't mention requests to other agents. I figure that unless it's an offer, it doesn't really matter.

    6. Dear agent for sure. ;)

  6. I haven't done much research about it yet (I really need to finish my book first) so I'm not the best person to ask. Plus it looks like you've gotten a ton of awesome feedback. I may be to come back and stalk this post when I'm ready to go ;)

  7. 1. Until you feel comfortable with what they're looking for.

    2. Maybe 5.

    3. It depends. If you're query is the best you can do and you've had it critiqued a dozen times and you don't think it can be any better then go for it. If you want to test drive the query because you're unsure of it then don't put any in.

    4.I've heard jan/feb and sept/oct are good. I've decided I don't care. When I'm ready I'll be ready and I'm not going to wait for a specific time of the year to put it out there. Unless my agents are currently closed for holidays or something. Then I'll have to wait.

    5.I don't know. I don't plan to. I think you really only need to let them know if you have an offer of representation.

    6. Absolutely! And don't forget to CC it to EVERY SINGLE AGENT you can find.

  8. Hey! What's going down? I need to query. I think hours...eleventy billion...then query everyone and their dog....then never get it critiqued because I hear that's the best way to go. ha ha. Ok, and I don't know the rest. Obviously by my lack of published works.

  9. Neat post. I've found with agents my goal is not to get a for sure "no." Some are interested, but want me to do rewrites, so that's about as "successful" as I've gotten, but hopefully someday it'll blossom into something better:)

  10. Well so far I seem to be a 3 at a time kind of girl. Some of the agents on my list I've been following on Twitter for a long time. Others were suggestions from My CP's. I didn't put the one's I really cared about first. It was just too much. But I have sent a few out to the ones I really like. This is just what I've done so far.

  11. Oh, I don't know if any of these have any solid answers. I think the most important thing is to be ready to query, REALLY ready. Then hope, pray, and try not to F it up. :D

    "Dear Agent..." Ha! I'm still laughing about that one.

  12. I have a question...should we mention blog contest winnings? Like..

    Recently a scene from this story won a blog contest... or something to that effect. (That's an accomplishment, right?)

  13. 1. 12
    2. 10
    3. 3
    4. Hmm... let's go with October!
    5. Nah. I'd wait until I had something concrete to mention.
    6. Oh, totally.
    One less writer to compete with... I kid, I kid! <3

  14. I wish I could answer your questions, but I've never gotten a postive response from a single agent. That's why I decided to self-pub. But I'm still open to finding an agent and publishing through the main channels. How it will happen is a mystery, being that I no longer send out queries.

  15. I'm going to be querying this year hopefully too. I think it's best to start with not your top agents and do it in batches of about 5 and see the response so you know if the problem is the query or your manuscript. I'm going to save my top ones till I feel more confident.

    I'd start researching and querying and continue the research as you go and pick new agents. But start with a solid list and plan.

    Your query should be addressed to the individual agent, not dear agent. And try to personalize it. Hope this helps. Share your tips as you go. Good luck.

  16. i have a file of agents with what they are looking for, if i want to Q or not and if i do, when i did & responses

    i send out 2-3 every time i finish an edit, plus contests for completed manuscripts

    my dream agent will be my dealmaker

    good month? any except dec, jan & sept, some take aug off too

    never list failures (requests but no cigar!)

    always use their name =)

    excellent questions!

  17. I address mine with 'yo, be-atch' (no idea how that's spelled!)
    Seriously, I do research all my queries. I have a top ten list of agents and I have *stalked* them for years.
    I only mention a full being requested if it is still currently under consideration. I will say, this is under consideration on full. I never say, this was requested on full then rejected...woot woot I'm almost there.
    I decided to start querying small presses. Signed a contract and I hope a sales record will help open doors. I was hearing a lot of 'this is good, but not break out novel worthy'.

  18. Ha ha! Love Elizabeth's comment :)
    I'm just starting this process, super fearful! I've sent out about ten, five in each group. I'm waiting to send them to my dream agents, hoping for some form of positive response before I do that. Good luck with this and thanks for the follow over at Falling For Fiction :)

  19. I'm nowhere near this yet. I'm sort of blocking it out right now because if I think too hard I'll never get this book finished!

  20. Here's my random opinion, which is worth what you're about to pay for it . . .

    LOTS and lots and lots of hours. This is someone you're going to turn your CAREER over to. Someone you will trust with your babies in the hopes that they'll get them ready for publication. Don't query anyone you're not in love with. If you don't get picked up, write something else and try again.

    I'd come up with a list of like 20, and send out four to five to people who you LOVE and who have fast response times.
    IF you get a request for a full, immediately send to your top agents.

    Top agents in first round?? up to you.

    Any time but around holidays. Don't tell them how many fulls or partials you have.

    And now I'm sure I'm over word count for this comment...

  21. I research agents while taking breaks from writing and polishing the query and synopsis.

    I have lots on my list to query, but I send out maybe 7-10 at a time. And by at a time, I mean with the same query in a time period spanning a couple weeks.

    I've heard not to send them around holidays or in March. Now, the March one I heard after I sent my second round (the round with my favorite agents) in March. So we shall see.

    And no you don't tell them in the query that you've had requests. :)

    I'm wishing you luck in your query process!

  22. I've gone in a different direction and was fortunate to be able to pitch to a publisher directly. I'll work to build a portfolio of published work, and hopefully look for an agent then.

  23. Thank you so much for following my blog.

    I usually send out about 10 queries at a time and I query all year round. Also, the preferred way to start the query is Dear(insert agents surname). I found this out by reading various internet articles, but feel free to add your personal touch.

  24. I spent a lot of time researching agents, reading books from their clients, internet stalking them, emailing writer friends on their suggestions, etc. to make sure I found the ones that I felt were the best fit.

    I sent out 10 queries on the first round and waited to see what my response was. Once I got a request for a full, I sent out 5 more.

    I have a list of my top 10 fav agents, on the first round, I sent it to 5 of them.

    I do not put that I recieved a full or partail request in my query.

    I'm right in the middle of this right now. Lots of ups and downs.