Saturday, July 01, 2006

Q & A 61 Whom do I query first?

I've been querying agents with my novel. I went through all the agents I could find that handle the genre, indicate they're open to new submissions, and don't have anything bad about them on P&E. I checked out their websites and blogs. I checked out what others on the net are saying about them. Then I divided up the agents into the A list, the B list, the C list and everybody else.

I'm new at this so I started by querying my 5 favorite agents on the A list. Of course, I quickly realized AFTER I sent my letter that it could be written better (and yes, I wrote it, let it sit a while, read your blog and Miss Snark's and a host of other stuff--but alas insight never dawns until the mail is posted).

So I've improved my query and when I got rejections, sent off the new version to the next most favored set of 5. Now I see how my synopsis drags in the middle and needs revision.

All of this is a long way of asking--do you start querying with the agents you hope for most? Or do you start somewhere else, knowing that even the submission process is an evolving route?

And if you didn't start at the top and got offered representation, would you feel crummy for not reaching for the gold ring first?

Reading Evil Editor's blog was a step in the right direction. But did you submit your query to Evil Editor? Or is Evil Editor on your C list?

Evil Editor sees your problem. You're worried that at the current rate, by the time you get your letter perfect, the only agencies left to query will be the ones on the 20 Worst Agencies List. Hey, why not query all 20? If you don't get 20 acceptances, you know your query needs a massive rewrite.

Once you've weeded out the losers, you should not feel crummy if you find representation from an agent on your B or C list. You should feel thrilled. Feel crummy only if your agent isn't meeting realistic expectations. And take heart in the knowledge that while hiring a good agent is extremely difficult, firing a bad agent is easy as pie.


Jane said...

For what it's worth, I decided to make a list of my top 10, then send to half of them (Numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9) with the first batch of queries. That way if they all pass, I'll have some good choices left for my second batch.

Anonymous said...

Also, take a gander at Kristin Nelson's blog, Pub Rants. She's currently doing a series of posts called Agenting 101. Much useful info for those who are sans representation.

Anonymous said...

Take comfort in this, writer--you probably didn't REALLY find the agents best suited for you, it just seems like you did. Keep beating the bushes for the right agent while revising your query and synopsis at the same time. I'll bet you have a brand new "top 5" list of agents right when your materials are ready.

Anonymous said...

A little off-topic, but I just wanted to drop a thank-you your way; my query letter is getting a lot more interest now, and I'm still on the A-list.

Anonymous said...

Happy Canada Day EE!

Jenna Black said...

I say always start at the top and work your way down. You are, of course, writing another book while you're sending out queries for your first, right? So when you finish that book, you can go right back to those agents on your A list--assuming they're still up there--and send them what is undoubtedly a better query and, one hopes, a better book.

Oh, and I'm afraid I must respectfully disagree with EE about how easy it is to fire a lousy agent. If the agent is lousy enough, and you're gullible enough to sign a contract you don't understand, you could find yourself with uncomfortable contract restrictions if you try to fire said lousy agent. The moral of the story being--don't sign anything you don't understand. (As we all know, common sense isn't as common as it should be.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks EE, Jenna Black and others. from the anonymous author of this question.

I didn't submit my query to you, EE--too shy. But I did submit my query for critique to my writing partner and read a ton of stuff, making improvements with every revision. I didn't send it out until I thought it was perfect. Just that I've revised my idea of what's perfect!

Jenna, I am working on another book and it will be better. As I do the groundwork for it and thus get more distance from the novel I've submitted, I get random thoughts of how to revise the novel I'm not working on! Jot those down, back to novel in hand.

Love writing.

Tawny Taylor said...

I also have to agree with Jenna regarding bad agents. Take care in choosing an agent. It might be easy enough to cut yourself loose from a bad agent, but undoing any damage they might have caused to your reputation or career can take a whole lot longer. Don't settle. Sign with someone with a solid reputation and a verifiable record of sales to major publishers.

If you can get any personal referrals from published/agented authors, start there. It's generally safest to sign with an agent who has been recommended by someone you trust.

Also, subscribe to Publisher's Lunch. Read it and see who is selling what to whom. Check out Writers Beware and Predators and Editors. Make sure any agent you wish to submit to hasn't had complaints. Google the agent's name with the word "complaint" after it. You'd be surprised sometimes to see what you find.