letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 217
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 3
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: YA paranormal (1), adult paranormal (1), mystery (1)

this week’s query wars casualty: the author who pitched the 8th book in the Harry Potter series which they hoped J.K. Rowling would approve

Dear Authors:

In last week’s report from the front, I mentioned that I haven’t told people not to re-query but encouraged them not to do so the very next day (which seemed to me rather obvious advice, but it happened again this week). I got a couple comments from people who weren’t aware this was even an option so thought I might elaborate slightly on it.

Here’s the scoop: I think a re-query is rather unlikely to get an author a different result. I think if I see something several times (which does happen occasionally), I will become less and less inclined to keep pursuing it over the course of time. And, there’s a possibility if you leave query-land and enter spam-land (by which I mean a never-ending sort of loop of queries sent several times in a row), that you will get blacklisted. Now, I’m not prone to blacklisting but other agents may not be so forgiving. So, just bear it in mind.

Here’s another point to consider: Time. Not just my time (which is sadly not infinite). The time you are taking from other writers in the queue. I still have nearly 100 queries left that did not get read this week and a query that I end up looking at more than once, means one less that gets reviewed cumulatively. Taken singly that doesn’t sound so bad, but multiplied several times, it can really gum things up. Again, just something to weigh in the balance.

If you are seriously (and I mean carefully and with much consideration) debating this option, be sure that you have considerably revised the query and re-approached your manuscript as well. While some people have suggested that agents reject on a whim, I can assure you this is not so. Therefore, resending the same material (and essentially asking the same question), will get you the same answer.

(It’s like that that girl in the bar who will keep saying “no”; no matter how many times you ask her out. You will not get more attractive or more interesting while you stand there, and she will not be worn down by simple repetition.)

So, why don’t I just ban re-queries? Well, because there is more than one author on my list that I initially rejected, and I’d be sad, at this point, not to be working with them. (Do note that an identical query did not succeed where it had previously failed, though.) It’s not in my best interest as an agent to not keep an open mind and say that no means never. However, I suggest that it is not in an author’s best interest to persuade an agent to that point of view by taking advantage either.

I hope that sufficiently explains how it might look from the agent side of things….

16 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. LOL, that is so funny that someone would pitch a book within a series that is synonymous with the author! Some people!
    Perhaps I can continue where Laura Ingalls Wilder left off? 🙂

  2. the author who pitched the 8th book in the Harry Potter series which they hoped J.K. Rowling would approve
    The sad thing is that she’s probably already written her masterwork, never once checking to see if it was legal first…

  3. I can’t even imagine sending a query to the same agent without a major revision (of both the material and the query). It just seems logical that if you didn’t connect to the concept the first time, you’re not going to do it the second time around just because you’re forced to read it again.
    And it’s nice of you to even allow that. Not all agents will look at the same project twice, even after its been reworked.

    • If somebody receives a rejection, figures out what what wrong with the query and story, renames the story even, and requeries a few months from now, older and wiser – should they let you know this is a second time around? Or hope you’ve forgotton the first time? 🙂

  4. I think so — and I have at least one client where I did not take on the first book they queried but a subsequent one. But YMMV.

    • Thank you
      Would you mind another question? I have a book that’s been sitting in an editor’s slush pile over a year. Could I send it to agents, or do I need to wait for a response first?

  5. Dear Agent Jackson (Cue Spy Music),
    I know this is a bit off topic, but do you know which conferences you will be attending in 2009? If you do it would be a great help because I am trying to decide which ones to attend. Thanks!

  6. To paraphrase Ziglar along with probably a lot of other wise folks: “One definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”

  7. That query casualty had me laughing!
    Anyway, being new to this whole publishing world, I don’t think I would chance sending a query a second time, unless it was a good year later and completely redone. Even then I’d be hesitant to do that. But I haven’t started the whole process yet (still have quite a way to go before my novel is submission worthy) so who knows how my opinion will change.

  8. Just for the record – I accidentally forgot to record a rejection and requeried the same agent the next month. This time she asked for a partial, which turned into a full and an offer of representation – which was later retracted…so I actually do believe in flaky agents who don’t always look at queries closely.

  9. For my part, I will either query an agent exactly once or not at all (as is the case for all agents who explicitly discourage queries by postal mail, among others).
    If I should decide later to revise the manuscript, even to the point of a full scratch rewrite, then I will not re-query the same agent. I won’t do it; it’s a matter of principle.
    When I get a sufficient number of rejections for a manuscript, I never send another query for it again. This keeps me from starting the query process before I’m absolutely sure the material is ready for submission.
    Yes, I’ve yet to receive anything but form rejections signed by assistants, but then— I never believed anything else was very likely, especially in this market, so it’s no skin off my nose. I’m sure this system works well for other writers, but I’m not really expecting it to work for me.

  10. Fair enough. Seems reasonable!
    You didn’t like my Harry Potter 8th volume?? Arg!
    hehe. kidding. But boy some people are so stinkin’ hilarious!
    Unfortunately, I don’t write within the genre’s you rep but maybe one day. And when that time comes…I will query only…*gasp* once. *shivers*

  11. this week’s query wars casualty: the author who pitched the 8th book in the Harry Potter series which they hoped J.K. Rowling would approve
    LMAO!

  12. An interesting post. I suppose a query letter is a bit like a movie trailer, in that you’re trying to catch the agent’s eye with a few (hopefully), well-chosen sentences.
    I guess if all you sent to an agent was the query letter, it’s possible to make your work sound more appealing, but I wouldn’t have thought it makes much difference when he/she has already seen the first five pages of the finished novel.
    If I may ask a question. Is it a good idea to write the pitch paragraph in a query letter as if it were the back-cover blurb on the book?

  13. (It’s like that that girl in the bar who will keep saying “no”; no matter how many times you ask her out. You will not get more attractive or more interesting while you stand there, and she will not be worn down by simple repetition.)–
    He may get more attractive closer to closing time, though, or with sufficient liquor. You know what they say, the girls all get prettier at closing time.
    Unfortunately, I don’t think this approach will work with agents. Just in case, what’s your favorite liquor? I already know Janet Reid’s.
    The Harry Potter thing is just sad. I noticed some people have been published using classical works and continuing the stories. I won’t buy them, but it’s happened. Trying to continue the work of an author who is alive and well seems a bit on the addled side.

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