letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 159
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: fantasy

still have about 350 queries in the queue waiting to be reviewed…..

Dear Authors:

I struggle with the concept of re-queries sometimes. On the one hand, people have been known to query prematurely to the detriment of their submission. People I currently represent originally sent me queries that I rejected, and therefore I have to believe that having an opportunity to make another connection isn’t necessarily a bad thing (whether it’s through a re-query or a meeting at a conference or whatever). Either a new query or a revised manuscript may be exactly what’s needed and as an agent looking for the next new story to fall in love with, it’s counter-intuitive to count that out.

However, with the advent of email queries (until just a few years ago, no one took queries by email, you know), it’s become so easy to abuse the process. Some people re-query you in a few days. Some wait exactly a month to the day. Some appear to have not kept close enough track and are surprised when you tell them they queried that project before (actually happened last month). Of course, that presumes that I recognize it as a re-query (which given the numbers I may not) and/or the author identifies it as such. Some, of course, don’t do any research at all and query for things their agent has listed on the website under “does not represent.” Given the volume of queries (and the tide seems to have markedly risen this year), these types of things can really slow down response time. But I’m at a loss as to how to address it in any new and more efficient way.

Some questions for you….

How many times do you think it’s okay to re-query an agent? (reference: Jessica Faust Please stop (As I said on Jessica’s blog, I’ve now gotten this query from 4 different email addresses, and I think I’m up to about a dozen times, and it’s been going on since October of last year.)

Do you think it’s acceptable for an agent to blacklist an email address, and if so, at what point does that become a fair and reasonable response?

Under what circumstances would you re-query an agent (for the same project)?

Given that an agent gets hundreds of queries per week, do you think a re-query should get the same weight as a new query?

Any other thoughts on this that anyone wants to offer?

55 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. Number of times to re-query: once, and only if so indicated (see below).
    Yes, it’s acceptable for you to blacklist email responses. I’d say the third query for an identical project is the tipping point — a second query might be an honest mistake.
    It’s only okay to re-query an agent if the agent has said she is open to seeing the project again, or a revision is done that changes more than 50% of the book in a material fashion.
    If the agent said, “If you can fix this, I’d like to have another look at it,” the re-query should get the same weight as a new query. If it’s a book that has been extensively reworked, it might go on the bottom of the pile of those that arrived in a particular time frame.

  2. I would say (not working in the industry) that if i queried you and you rejected me, the only way you would want to see a re-query is if I had substantially reworked both the novel and the query. Now I don’t know about most writers out there, but revising a 100k book – EXTENSIVELY – would take me weeks and months. Sooooo…
    I’s say 3-6 months before a re-query.
    I would also say you get to retry ONCE. Now if an agent emailed me back and said ‘I see a lot of progress, but I still don’t see enough. I would be willing to look again if you do another revision’ THEN you MIGHT get to go 3 rounds. That seems unlikely so I’ll stick w/ 2.
    Blacklisting is fair – I think an agent can be a good judge of who is just persistent and who is a wierdo stalker. I would say if a query is coming back more than twice in 3 months or so, and a few warnings fall on deaf ears it’s blacklist time.
    Again, I would re-query if I felt I made substantial revisions and REALLY made significant changes. Thinking of a new title, rewriting the query and changing the protagonist’s name from ‘Bob’ to ‘Robert’ would fail to qualify.
    I think a re-query should get equal weight if it is an honest attempt at improvement. As I said, a quick coat of lipstick shouldn’t get a whole hell of a lot of re-consideration though.
    Speaking from the writer side of things, we would all like to think we would get a second shot if our first impression upon an agent was not perfect. I think any agent that allows such a second chance is being very accommodating and gracious. I also think some writers want agents to be their personal writing coaches and editors. In that case, Agents are just as justified as the rest of us when we have to tell people that they are overstepping the boundary of good taste.
    That said I would hate to miss out on an agent because I am a newbie the whole process and wrote a subpar query and said agent had a strict no re-query policy.
    Likewise I am sure an agent wouldn’t want to miss a great client simply because the first query they ever wrote sucked.
    Unfortunately, there are WAYYY too many people who don’t know where a polite no mean no and would never give up.
    The only solution I can think of is for Ms Jackson to take me on as a client immediately so that we can both be filthy rich and retire.
    Ah,…. to dream….

  3. I think all agents may eventually have to hire or ask for volunteers to go through email queries. I just don’t see how you are going to keep up with them, especially when some people just can’t accept the word “no.” The query-reader wouldn’t have to make judgment on whether the agent would like or not like a query (unless the agent wanted them to); they would just get rid of the ones which don’t obviously fit: requeries, wrong genre, queries that aren’t really queries, etc.
    As to requeries, it depends on the situation. If you ever have to write back and tell someone not to query you with the same project again, that should be an automatic blacklist.
    I have requeried a project twice before, but in both circumstances, it was because the agents asked specifically for my type of book on their blogs. I figured it couldn’t hurt. Plus, five or six months had passed and I tweaked the query some.

  4. If I reworked a manuscript so that it was fundamentally different I would then definitely re-query. Because I would then feel it was a totally different work.
    Having said that if you’re getting the same query from the same person every week then you might as well go ahead and blacklist them. I mean, this person doesn’t understand the submission process anyway so why waste your time? Life’s too short for that malarkey.

  5. Do you think it’s acceptable for an agent to blacklist an email address, and if so, at what point does that become a fair and reasonable response?
    Normally, I’d say not unless the agent has received threatening, abusive, or solidly inappropriate email from that address, but I think there may be an exception to be found in the case in question. There does come a point where one’s time is being wasted. I suppose blacklisting for a year or so and then reinstating email privileges wouldn’t be inappropriate for a clear serial querist.
    Under what circumstances would you re-query an agent (for the same project)?
    Significant reworking of both project and query letter and preferably not within 6 months of the last query on the project. I suppose there are exceptions to that rule (e.g., having an offer on the table), but it seems fair to everyone involved.
    Given that an agent gets hundreds of queries per week, do you think a re-query should get the same weight as a new query?
    Sort of? I certainly recognize how a story that didn’t interest an agent the first time around would still not interest them on the second or third (or more) viewing, but assuming my above thoughts on rework and timing I think it’s not unfair to want a fresh read. That said, I *am* assuming significant rework and time between queries. If the writer is just shipping back the same package? No, definitely not, and there’s no way the agent could give the re-query the same weight once the package has been recognized. (I realize the agent actually can’t give the same weight even if all they’ve recognized is the author’s name and concept, but one can *try* to give it a fair read and that’s all any query can really expect.)

  6. Blacklist away. A dozen queries in six months? Egad. No means no, people.
    My take is query twice. Second query ONLY after a complete revision/changes that deal with any problems agent might have mentioned. If it’s still no, then… no twice is NO, end of subject. (It’s a social rule. Why wouldn’t it be a professional one as well?) Actually I think the rule is three times for most people, as per the baseball metaphor, but … twice is enough. Maybe I’m rejection-phobic.
    But why would someone do the same thing over and over and over expecting a different result? “Maybe it won’t hurt when I hit myself with a hammer THIS time.” Or, “If I turn the hammer to the right and wait for the full moon, THEN it won’t hurt!” Good luck with that mentality. Step away from the keyboard, people. You are doing yourself far more harm than good.
    A question back at you. I use the same protagonist in a new manuscript. On my query list is an agent who said no twice to a different project AND said s/he “just didn’t fall in love with the main character.” Hm. Does a *character* get a second shot at winning someone’s interest, too? I’m of two minds on that.

  7. I recently had an agent state a very specific reason as to why she was turning down my ms — specific enough that I won’t query her again, as I can see we’re not a good fit. I realize that won’t stop some people from requerying, but it might cut down on a little (though it takes time too…).

  8. How many times do you think it’s okay to re-query an agent? (reference: Jessica Faust Please stop (As I said on Jessica’s blog, I’ve now gotten this query from 4 different email addresses, and I think I’m up to about a dozen times, and it’s been going on since October of last year.)
    Do you think it’s acceptable for an agent to blacklist an email address, and if so, at what point does that become a fair and reasonable response?
    Yes I do, especially if the person is being rather obnoxious. Though I do think a warning might in order before blacklisting them. I think if they were to re-query every single month, then that would be a bit much.
    Under what circumstances would you re-query an agent (for the same project)?
    Let’s say the agent says they don’t respond to queries for at least 8 weeks. I would add 6 months onto that 8 weeks.
    Given that an agent gets hundreds of queries per week, do you think a re-query should get the same weight as a new query?
    Yes, because it’s quite possible that the author could have changed a lot to improve their chances.
    Any other thoughts on this that anyone wants to offer?
    I do think that a warning is in order for people that are obnoxiously query-ing. I know they should know better, but maybe they’ve been told that it’s okay to query that often.

  9. I do not, as a rule, requery. If I am specifically asked by an agent to change some things and requery, I might, if I got a good feeling about the agent.
    I mostly consider it a one-time exchange.
    Getting a good feeling about an agent implies that he or she was constructive and correct. For example, a comment such as, “I love what you’ve done, but I don’t think that the narrative is strong enough. Would you consider strengthening the narrative and re-submitting this?” That would probably get me to attempt a requery, especially if I saw where my narrative was weak.
    What I would not requery would be a response such as, “This needs tightening”, or, “Send me something else you’ve written”, it would be a waste of my time and they aren’t interested enough to tell me what they wish to see from me.
    If an agent sends me a form letter, I won’t requery, it would be a waste of both of our time.
    Hope that helps you come to terms with your struggle.
    *Edit: And concerning black listing, you are sort of entitled to do this. I have a list of agents and publishers that I’ll never query or requery, it isn’t anything personal against them, it’s simply business. The idea is not to waste each other’s time.

  10. I just finished a successful agent hunt. (Yay! Hooray!!) It never occurred to me to re-query an agent who declined to represent my project. The only reason I would’ve returned to a given agent with that same manuscript was if he/she specifically asked me to revise and resubmit.
    That said, if I hadn’t been successful in finding an agent, I would have had no problems submitting to the same list *with my NEXT book* Rather than beat agents who’ve already declined over the head with a manuscript, why not write another and start the process fresh?

  11. I’d re-query exactly once, and only if I was specifically invited to do so after addressing the agent’s concerns regarding the manuscript. If the answer was still “no”, well, them’s the breaks. I can always show it to other agents while I’m working on something else.
    Solicited re-queries should have equal weight with first queries, I think. Unsolicited re-queries should go to the bottom of the pile.
    Blacklisting is a bit trickier. If it were me, and I got an unsolicited re-query, I’d have to give the author the benefit of the doubt that they’ve re-worked the manuscript and think it merits consideration. If it still wasn’t up to snuff, however, I’d have to send an email rejecting the manuscript with a request not to re-submit it again. If the author re-queried yet again, then I’d blacklist the email address. At that point, all pretense of professionalism has been thrown out the window; either the author can’t follow simple directions, or he is just being a pest. Unfortunately, that still involves time spent re-reading a manuscript, sending a warning email, and then devoting future time to blacklisting ongoing re-queries, but I don’t think that can be avoided.

  12. This is your time their wasting, so at some point enough is enough.
    1. If it’s not your thing, i.e. genre or whatever, then I’d close the door on the second attempt. As I advised before, I do not represent poets…. or whatever.
    2. If you responded the first time with encouragement, then I think you owe them the second look. From there, it depends on what you see and whether they got “closer” or whatever.
    3. If it’s the same old, same old, then cut it off. However, I would tell them, politely but firmly, that you don’t wish to waste their time (and yours) by continuing a conversation that can go nowhere.
    In the end, you have a business to run. Sure, there’s a chance you’ll miss that next Jim Butcher, but that’s always a risk, at least as I understand the business. Everybody and their brother missed Tom Clancy, and I’m sure there are a bunch of similar examples. However, you need to make your day more effective and spend your time on the projects that truly seem to have promise. Blacklist away! Avast, and repel boarders. ARGH!

  13. It’s simple
    If the agent gave you a form letter — no dice. But if there was a glimmer of interest — a candid response — then by all means rework your MANUSCRIPT before reworking your query.
    If an author can’t formulate a proper query, then how-in-the-heck can he/she create a salable novel?
    Agents reject queries. They have a RIGHT to.
    If you figure out what was broke, then by all means, (I think) submit a second query.
    But you better not be shopping the same material you shopped the first time.
    It wastes everyone’s time.

  14. I would requery once and only under specific circumstances.
    1. If I had taken several months to complete extensive revisions on a manuscript.
    2. If one agent or author suggested I requery another agent with their specific recommendation included this time.
    3. If an agent said she responded to all queries, but had not responded to mine well after her posted response time. (This just happened to me. An agent’s computer dumped a large number of queries into the wrong file. She found mine, and my requery, in that file, seven months later. She ended up requesting the partial and now has my full.)
    Is it okay to blacklist someone? Yes. If someone is wasting an agent’s time sending the same query over and over again within a short span of time (less than, say, three months), that person deserves to be blacklisted, at least temporarily (perhaps for a year as someone above suggested).
    Lisa Iriarte

  15. I have requeried projects before when I’ve significantly improved the query letter and they died on that level, but not for years. Even then there was at least 6 months between. The reason I requeried you in specific was because on your blog you mentioned several clients who had reworked their queries until you could see the good tale behind them. At this point though, I figure better to get the interest with a new project and bring up the reworked older one later in the relationship.
    I would possibly consider requerying a project that died on the partial level if, years later, I rewrite the whole thing because my writing has improved. After all, the idea was sound enough to get a partial request, and the harsh truth is the writing in the partial wasn’t good enough to sustain that interest.
    However, in the case you describe, it’s harassment at this point and I would blacklist. There is no chance of you changing your mind, and they’re doing themselves a disservice. Someone up thread suggested a year timeframe. Maybe in that time the writer will have improved in market understanding and skill.

  16. While I haven’t yet done any requerying, I will/would if I’d done serious work on the novel, sent it through my writing group two or three times, and felt that it now could not get any better. Which is something a writer should do the FIRST time, but I have two novels I’ve queried to agents (rejected by each one), admittedly before they were ready, but I was a very young writer and didn’t know any better. I’d requery those after a lot of work, but by then, I don’t think anyone I queried would remember the work, anyway.

  17. I would never requery on a project that had already been rejected. And I think agents should blacklist email addresses whenever someone annoys them. Seriously. Don’t hold back, just ban.

  18. I think you are absolutely justified in blacklisting an email address that has queried you a dozen times for the same novel. That many queries is way over the line, and is fundamentally disrespectful of your time and process.

  19. My $0.02
    How many times do you think it’s okay to re-query an agent?
    None if you haven’t made considerable changes to both the manuscript and the query.
    Once for each amount of considerable changes.
    (And if you’re the kind of person who is going to revise the same novel three or more times, you should stop querying at all and write another book with all that energy.)
    Do you think it’s acceptable for an agent to blacklist an email address, and if so, at what point does that become a fair and reasonable response?
    Yes. When you feel the person is not listening to your responses, there’s no reason you should have to listen to them in the first place. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s at your discretion, the same as it would be with a personal communication.
    Under what circumstances would you re-query an agent (for the same project)?
    They would have to indicate that they wanted to see it again, or I would have to make considerable changes to the project.
    Given that an agent gets hundreds of queries per week, do you think a re-query should get the same weight as a new query?
    Haha! No. I had my chance; I should have either written a better book, described my book better, or chosen a different project to query with you. If I missed my first shot, I can be patient on #2.
    Any other thoughts on this that anyone wants to offer?
    I think sometimes writers decide which agent is right for their books, and that’s why they get pushy about re-querying. Really they should be thinking more about the fact that they wouldn’t like it if their mother picked out their clothes every day! Agents have every right to pick out projects they want to represent. πŸ˜‰

  20. Well, I’ve never re-queried the same project to the same person. I’ve assumed the book wasn’t a good fit and moved on (or tucked the book back into a drawer). Of course, there is a part of me that wonders if I’m just really bad at query letters. Did I focus on the wrong thing? Was my tone too formal, too dry? Did I fail to articulate how the central conflict affects my characters? So I revise the query letter a bit and try the next person on my list.

  21. I think you’re entitled to blacklist someone anytime after they’ve ignored a request that they either not requery the same book or not query any further books for x months. I would hope that if there were any genuine reason for the writer in question to be doing what they are they’d explain themselves at that point and beg your forgiveness (frex ‘I bought the services of a crazy online mailing group who promised to send out my query a thousand times but only has a list of ten fantasy agents and now I’m trapped in a sorcerer’s apprentice nightmare OMG Help!!!’)
    Me, I would consider requerying after a year or two if I had a shiny new query letter and was form rejected at the query stage (I say I’d consider but I’ve never actually requeried anything… yet). It’s probably also reasonable to requery people who’ve asked for partials or fulls if there’s been a major overhaul of the book (which involved the pages they’d seen). Especially if the changes are pertinant to comments in the rejection.
    Other than that my guess is these are people who don’t entirely get the meaning of ‘right query, right desk, right day’ and think of querying as playing a slot machine, when it’s more like deploying your best pick-up line.

  22. Ban them all!!!
    Okay, not really. But I do think that it would be fair to tighten up your submission guidelines. Look back on current clients who won you over with a re-sub and see how many times they did so. Whatever that number is, make it your max for submitting.
    Also require that they follow certain rules like noting that it is a re-sub right in the subject line. And have them make a special note of what it is that they’ve changed, corrected, or worked on. “I fixed spelling errors,” is obviously not going to cut it, “I realized my character motivation was completely off and therefore did a full revision of chapters 1 through 5,” sounds like they put some thought into the re-sub. Any submission not complying with said rules is automatically deleted.
    Blatantly ignoring the rules gets you blacklisted. Trying to subvert the rules by using aliases to peddle the same garbage gets you mega blacklisted in that a note goes out to all of your agent-like friends saying, “hey, if you ever get something from Joe Moron, delete it because he’s pretty much a stalker.”
    Is this harsh? Maybe. But this is a case of a few bad apples ruining things for everyone else. The more efficiently you can weed them out, the better it is for all the rest of us who bother to take the time to figure out what agents are really looking for. We also understand that a rejection does not mean that the agent clearly had a bad day when they got to our query because how else could they have passed up such divinely inspired work such as this.
    Then again, maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe some of these folks don’t think you really looked at their work. They get the form rejection and decide that if you would have really looked at it, I mean really REALLY looked at it, you would have said yes. So the question then is, how do you communicate through a form rejection that you’re passing for good reasons?

    • Re: Ban them all!!!
      This is very much like the post I recently made … only better, because it’s more concise.
      Good point in the final paragraph. I never thought of that, but I recently met some people who honestly believe that agents manage their slush piles by simply throwing 90% of it in the trash each week, keeping a (presumably random) 10% to examine. This was part of their rationale for sending the exact same submissions to the exact same people.
      Maybe vanity presses cultivate this myth.

  23. I’ve requeried once. That was after an agent had read my MS, requested a partial then rejected because she felt she wasn’t quite sure that it had been her thing. I then went back to her after I had an offer from a publisher. She was one of the few who’d not initially sent me form rejections and I gained the impression she’d been intrigued by the work’s premise to start with.

  24. How many times do you think it’s okay to re-query an agent?
    If you have a genuine reason to believe that a response might have been eaten (such as with my ISP that filters spam at source without telling me which lost me several business mails that I only learnt about much later; or ISP server crash): after a reasonable time (4-8 weeks) with a different e-mail address and an explanatory note.
    If you have substantially reworked the book: once. And that’s ‘substantially reworked’ as in ‘revised according to editorial feedback’ and spending several weeks thinking about it, talking about it, rewriting, adding new scenes, tightening the focus etc, not just ‘read through the book, took out mistakes, and polished the prose a bit.’
    And I think that yes, it should have the same weight as a new project – it is, essentially, a new product. I cannot see doing this process more than once; if a project is as good as you can make it a couple of years later and *still* not gathering much interest, a new book would be a better direction for the writer’s energies.
    As for blacklisting: if this person annoys you, bin them. If they change e-mail addresses, filter by author name or suject line.

  25. I haven’t requeried anyone, yet, but I’d say once at most, unless the agent specifically asks.
    There’s a world of difference between having faith in your book – it’s a great novel and if I keep throwing it out there, someone will pick it up – and being stupid. Rather like a guy asking the same girl to go out with him 42 times on the same night. There’s a chance she might say yes, but she’s more likely to reach for the pepper spray.
    If your book’s that good, another agent will love it, so why re-query? Sooner or later, you’ll get representation, or more likely, decide it’s time to return to the old drawing board for a major rework.
    The trouble is, from a self-deluded writer’s point of view, it’s easier to keep pitching than to revise(especially if you can submit via email, since we’re talking a quick cut & paste from the last blanket mailing you sent out). After all, if you’re pitching, you’re a writer, right? At least, that’s how some people seem to view it.
    Ironically, the same idiots who think you’ll love their book once they change the title and send it from a different email account, will be the first to slag you off at Preditors & Editors when you eventually blacklist them.
    I don’t know what records you keep about names/book titles/email addresses etc, but if it were me, I’d start with an impossible to not see rule that says ALL resubmissions must be sent via snail mail and clearly marked with RESUBMISSION in the letter heading. Failure to do so results in an instant blacklisting, and I mean by the agency, not the email account.
    I think you’d be surprised how much that shrinks your inbox. Sure, you’ll get some extra post in the mailbox, but not as much as you’d expect, and at least you know the writer had to go to some effort :).
    Second, I’d wait at least a month longer than usual to answer them (unless, of course you requested it). It sounds harsh, but let’s face it, they had their shot at a first impression.
    It sounds harsh, but these clowns are spoiling it for the rest of us.

  26. I think authors should get two queries unless you say you want to see revisions on a third. The guidelines page should make it clear that you won’t accept a second query without substantial improvement.
    I would chose a line of text out of the nuisance manuscript and block any email with that line. He may change emails again. I would not choose a character’s name because it can be changed too easily.
    Adrianne Middleton

  27. A practical suggestion
    If you use Microsoft Outlook for your email, you can use the “Rules Wizard” to automatically delete emails with certain phrases. So, you could set up your email to delete any query containing the phrase an abused woman [who] is the greatest composer who ever lived. This would prevent any more copies of the query that you’ve received 20 times.
    As for whether you should feel entitled to blacklist people, definitely! Sending you the same query again and again is spam!
    Here, I am writing from the perspective of an author who has been looking for an agent. I check each agent’s profile very carefully to make sure they handle my type of writing. I keep a list of agents I have queried, to make sure that I don’t accidentally send an agent the same query twice. So far, I have never requeried an agent, although I might if I substantially reworked a project.
    It’s infuriating to think that I’m going to all this trouble, and yet an agent might never get around to reading my query because he or she is overwhelmed by “spam queries.” If you feel guilty about blacklisting someone, keep in mind that you are doing responsible authors a favor.
    Also, you could state, after the second query, that you won’t accept another query for six months (or whatever time frame seems appropriate), with a warning that you will blacklist authors who query three times in a short period. That would give authors fair warning.

  28. I am old-school and of the belief a year should pass before a re-query, assuming within that time period much self-reflection, rewriting of the manuscript, and reworking of the query has taken place. If you’ve got the bones of a good story, and a sufficient creative supply, you should be able to entice some interest. During this year, you should have also started your next manuscript, and fueled with passion not defeat, learned to incorporate all things learned in said 12 months into better writing and better query crafting.
    To ban or not to ban. Is there any other choice? If you’ve made yourself a pest, you NEED feedback, and if a polite ‘no’ has not registered, perhaps the thud of the closed query door is the sound to force you to self-reflect, rewrite and realize you have burned your bridge.
    Number of times to re-query? Twice. Number of agents? All applicable. Then close the book. New project commences.
    How to weight re-query? Difficult decision. Guess what! I don’t have to make it. Therefore, good luck Jennifer. I have all confidence you’ll make best decision, and in the meantime, best advice I have: trust your gut.

  29. I’d say it’s only appropriate to re-query once, and then only if you’ve made extensive changes to the manuscript. And yes, I think it’s absolutely okay to blacklist someone if they won’t stop resending the same manuscript. If they can’t figure out that you’re really not interested after the second rejection, they probably aren’t going to figure it out no matter what you say. I think if an agent is even willing to look at a re-query it should be the last thing they look at after all their other queries. -HeatherM

  30. Jennifer,
    I’ve been following several agent blogs the past year and half, including Nathan Brandsford, Jessica Faust, and Janet Reid.
    Each of you have wonderful advice on so many different facets of publishing, yet all of you have the same types of issues when it comes to querying agents. Every time I read a post from one of you regarding the queries you’ve received, I am constantly left shaking my head. So much of what you all complain about, in my mind, boils down to common sense and common courtesy.
    If you are submitting a query via email, then you obviously have access to the internet. Why would you query someone without first checking what they are looking for and how they want it submitted? That is essentially the first step before sending a query, beyond completing and polishing your novel, of course.
    Then, after receiving a rejection, why on Earth would you reply rudely? I simply do not understand. This is a business, like anything else. If you cannot accept rejection I think you should seriously re-consider attempts at getting published. Anything creative that goes before the public will always receive positive and negative feedback. Attempting to get published is only the first step in receiving and learning to deal with rejection. If you can’t handle it at this stage, get out of the kitchen.
    For fear of this turning into a venting post, which I consciously try not to do, I’ll close with these comments:
    1) You absolutely have the right to ban email addresses. Anyone who queries the same work from more than one email address would automatically wave red flags at me. I wouldn’t think twice about blocking both email addresses.
    2) I think re-querying a work is appropriate if, and only if, the agent made suggestions on a revision, or commented that if it could be polished more, she’d be interested in taking another look. Essentially, I wouldn’t consider re-submitting unless the agent clearly expressed interest in the concept. (emphasis on “clearly”)
    Before re-submitting, however, I would go back to the novel and go through every chapter again, working in whatever changes I had in mind as I saw fit. Afterwards, I’d probably have my novel pod or critique group do a once-over to make sure the changes I made worked for the better. Only then would I open up my email account, cross my fingers, and hit send.
    3) I think a re-query should stand on it’s own, from the author’s perspective. However, if I were an agent, and I saw the re-query and I was, indeed, interested in the original concept, I would probably push the query to the top of the list. Again, this is something I would do as an agent. As an author, I wouldn’t expect any special treatment as far as timing goes, however I would have a bit more hope in getting a contract than I did the first time I submitted.
    I’ll end my post with an apology on behalf of all author’s everywhere. I promise, not all of us lack common sense and/or common courtesy.

  31. Letters from the query wars
    I’m not an agent, and I really think it’s up to each agent to make his or her own guidelines for submissions.
    But as a writer, given what I know about the industry and what I want out of an agent-writer relationship, I wouldn’t re-query an agent unless that agent had said, if you make changes, please send it to me again. That’s the only time I would re-query an agent on the same project. If I didn’t find an agent on my first project and was now going through the process with a completely different book, I think it’s fair to re-query with the new project.
    As a writer, here’s my thoughts on why I would never re-query an agent on the same project unless it was invited. I want an agent who really loves my work, and no matter how much re-writing is done, the basic story or idea of a project isn’t going to change. If it does, that’s a new project. So, if an agent reads my query for Project A and doesn’t think the story has merit enough to ask for a second look after some re-writing, then in my mind, that agent isn’t that in love with the story. If the agent can see promise in the story, he or she would have asked for a second look. And, if they’re not that in love with Project A, that’s ok. Someone else might be, but either way, perhaps won’t be a good fit.
    So often, I think writers feel desperate to get an agent, any agent. But they should be trying to get the right agent. There are lots and lots of wonderful agents in this business. The agent that’s right for Christopher Paolini might not be right for Ellen Booream, or whoever. Both of those writers’ agents, I’m sure, are equally wonderful, but they’re equally wonderful for those particular clients that they find a connection to through their writing. That’s what you want in an agent.
    The thing is, and I’m addressing this to any writers who don’t research the agents you submit to and just send out query after query even after you’ve gotten a rejection, there are lots of agents in the business and lots of them who specialize in your particular genre. You want to find an agent with whom you can have a career-long relationship. You want someone who’s going to be your advocate, your salesmen. And for them to really want to sell your book and get you the best deal you can for your career, you want them to love your work. They should love your work. If an agent you query doesn’t LOVE your work, that’s ok. There are other agents who might love your work.
    If you’ve spent all this time writing your book, revising it, editing it, having it looked over by critique groups and editing it some more, don’t stop working on it now that you think it’s ready to be published. Don’t short change it by sending it to every agent on AgentQuery.com. Do the work, do the research. Find the right agent for you. If one doesn’t get your work, that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with that. Writing is subjective. There are lots of people who don’t like Harry Potter. Move on to the next agent on your well-researched list and query to them, and then the next until you find the agent who does LOVE your work.
    Now, there’s also the fact that many writers submit their work before it’s really ready. I’ve been guilty of that. And if you get rejections from every agent on your well-researched list, that’s ok too. It just means you need a little more work. Perhaps this project isn’t the one that will get you started as a published writer. Perhaps this project is the one that gave you the experience to write the book that WILL make you a published writer. Perhaps, as is often the case with writers, this project will be published after your second book is already a success.
    The point is, sending out query letters to agents who don’t specialize in your genre or who have already rejected you is a waste of your time as well as theirs.
    So, do the work, be patient and be smart. Be smart for yourself. Aim for a career, and a life-long partnership with an agent.

  32. Do you think it’s acceptable for an agent to blacklist an email address, and if so, at what point does that become a fair and reasonable response?
    –>Hell YES. If you were in an office, and some persistent salesman kept coming to the reception desk and demanding to see you despite repeated denials, no one would think you wrong if you asked Security to escort the salesman from the building, would they?
    Just because it’s email doesn’t make it any less a business interaction.
    Why is there even a question? You aren’t the first agent I’ve seen ask this. I suppose it’s because agents must have a personality type that enjoys interacting with people and does not burn bridges.
    But honestly, I don’t understand why agents even worry about this. Killfile the dunderheads and move on. Your time is too precious.

  33. Responding to some of the questions, in no particular order
    1) Under what circumstances would you re-query an agent (for the same project)?
    It all comes down to the agent’s reply. You once mentioned that you weren’t “enthusiastic enough about the premise” of what I’d sent — no amount of tinkering is really going to fix that, no matter how long I wait to re-query. If you’d said the premise had potential but the writing quality was lacking, that’d be worth a second try; or I might query again about a whole new project unconnected with the one dealt with in my first query.
    Another agent responded that they “found the concept interesting”, so the possibility exists that a re-query might be viewed favorably. But they also said didn’t think it was “the right fit for our agency at this time” — these terms are so flaccid that no matter how much they liked the premise, my presentation certainly failed to excite them. In my opinion this demands at least a six-month wait, and lots of change to both product and pitch.
    If any agent ever gives me a response saying: “This story has promise, but its problem is X, and I suggest you fix it with Y,” then I’d work my keester off and re-query quickly.
    So I don’t think thinking in terms of time limits is productive. It should be more complex than that, and since you don’t have time for that, you should clearly place the burden of navigating the complexity onto the author. Blacklist any authors who can’t or won’t cooperate.
    2) About when and whether you should blacklist: This is, I think, what all the other questions revolve around. Blacklist anyone who disregards the professional rules you set for your business. I don’t give a Nigerian spammer the benefit of the doubt, that maybe next time he’ll convince me to do business with him. Why should you do the same for someone just because they’ve written a novel?
    But I wouldn’t end it there. Make a specific subset of rules just for re-submissions. Resubmissions, not marked as such, should lead to immediate blacklisting. Tell re-submitters to say how much time has passed since their last submission. Also tell them to specifically cite, in 50 words or less, the improvements made since last time. These can be vague or exact, slight or extensive, but put people on notice that you make a subjective judgment about whether they’re wasting your time. If you decide they are, politely ask them not to contact you again, wish them luck, and blacklist them.
    3) How many times do you think it’s okay to re-query an agent?
    4) Should a re-query get the same weight as a new one?
    Same answer for both: anything goes as long as the agent believes, in their professional judgment, that their time isn’t being wasted. And if your criteria for that judgment are clearly described, no rational person has anything to complain about. As for the irrational people, don’t worry about them — they’re going to complain no matter what you do.

  34. I queried you once about a year ago and never received a reply, so sometimes I’m tempted to requery. I have not requeried because I don’t want to be a pest, and yet not receiving a reply does leave me hanging a bit…
    If I’ve received a definitive no, I never re-query, even if my ms has been substantially revised.

    • Occasionally, some queries do get lost. Or the replies get lost. Spam filters or post offices have been known to just eat the mail. I certainly think a requery in that case is reasonable. And I reply to every query that makes it to my desk. I don’t have any outstanding queries left from last year so either yours never got here or the reply went MIA.

  35. requery or not?
    Definitely re query if the agent has indicated that would be acceptable.
    Under the circumstance of intense revision.
    I think, at a max 3 queries (kind of a 3 strikes you’re out) but these must be thought out. Actually there should only be the need of one requerying, but I can see someone over correcting and having to step back a bit. So 3 max. 1 if at all possible.
    Personally, I wouldn’t requery an agent unless told to do so after revision. To me, if it wasn’t right for them the first time (and they didn’t ask for a revision) then why would I use up another stamp?

  36. Don’t query your #1 First
    I made the mistake of querying my first-choice agent (Caitlin Blasdell) first. She requested a partial, but then passed on it. I haven’t sent out any more queries, but have been rewriting and polishing prose.
    I hope she doesn’t see it as unprofessional, but I plan to query her again, but only after I start getting some Full requests from other agents. That would confirm (at least in my mind) that I’m a serious prospect and not just wasting her time.
    But if I had to do it over again, I would’ve waited to query her. My theory is that you learn a little bit every time you query (unless you do a mass query), and you should save your best for last…or maybe I should say you should save your last for the best. πŸ™‚

    • Re: Don’t query your #1 First
      I did the same thing! I look back now and regret it, but there’s no taking that rushed step back. I have a query I’ve been working on for weeks because I don’t want to make the same mistake twice. I’ll hold onto it until I’m certain it’s ready rather than letting the excitement push me to send it prematurely. Again.
      The hardest part, in my opinion, is not the rejection. It’s wondering if things might have been different with my first choice if I’d given my original query the appropriate time and editing before letting the excitement win the first time around.
      Good advice. Wish I’d read it a little sooner.

  37. Just give warning.
    I think it’s fine to block them as long as you give them fair warning. Something along the lines of “If you send me a query for this book again, I will block you.”
    You might want to include a link for a post about how not to annoy an agent.

  38. Personally, I think querying the same agent on the same project without extensive and truly viable editing that significantly changes the manuscript is a lot like asking to be rejected twice. I feel that I can answer your question specifically because I queried you, received a very clear and concise rejection two weeks ago, and moved on. That’s why I’m always thrown when I read that you deal with people continually re-query you (a dozen times…really?) If all of your responses are as professional and honest as the one I received then I will be the first to say that you’re doing your part. You responded with respect, but in such a way that I knew to seek representation elsewhere without being discouraged.
    I think you can give that blacklist idea another glance. It would seem neither unfair or unreasonable after a dozen emails. Call me crazy, but that seems a lot like spam without the catchy subject lines πŸ™‚

  39. Queries are scary (and I’m a poet – apparently)
    I can understand the frustration of literary agents. I work for a marketing firm, and we have vendors asking for meetings and more buys all the time. Sometimes I get frustrated and think,”If I wanted to buy your network – I’d call you.” Then I remember that they work off commission. This is how they feed their kids.
    I have just finished my first novel and I am beginning the entire query process. I’m terrified. I’ve just spent three years writing a book. I’ve spent every spare moment between work, and school, and family trying to get every word perfect. But it all comes down to the query letter, one page to make or break my dream. It’s dramatic, but it’s the truth.
    I’ve received two rejections with no explanation. I want to be respectful and not pester, but not knowing makes me tense. Was it my letter? Is it the content of the book? Do I not have enough credentials? I don’t know.
    I am waiting on other responses, but part of me wants to rewrite my query letter and resubmit before I even get my rejection (that’s optimistic). I won’t resubmit, but it’s hard.
    Coincidentally, if anyone is interested in giving me any feedback on my query letter, you’re harsh criticism is welcome.

    • Re: Queries are scary (and I’m a poet – apparently)
      Couldn’t help noticing the subject line. Is there any actual confusion when people look at your work, about what genre it’s supposed to be?

      • Re: Queries are scary (and I’m a poet – apparently)
        The title of my post rhymes – so I was attempting to be funny. My book is an erotic novel. It’s a bit gritty, so I’m not sure if it’s the content itself that is earning me rejection letters, or my query letter. Sigh.

        • Re: Queries are scary (and I’m a poet – apparently)
          Hmm. I’ve never heard of any agent or editor saying that “gritty” is a drawback in and of itself.
          How many queries have you sent out so far, and how much story do you generally submit with the query letter? “The first five pages” seems to be a pretty common requirement.
          My most recent rejections have gotten me to re-consider how to start my novel. I literally had action on pages 6-10, and characters fumbling around leading up to the action on pages 1-5. I changed that for the sake of future queries, but now I think it’s actually better for the flow of the story.
          In a case like mine, it might not be the query, or the *writing* of the story, but more of the way you’ve organized the story.

  40. Since my answers would be well within the ranges established above, do you mind a related question instead?
    My manuscript was requested by an editor. I know this doesn’t mean a sale necessarily, and I know that nothing moves quickly in publishing, so in the meantime I’ve been querying agents and working on the next book. If the editor did offer a contract, would it be okay for me to contact an agent who’d previously given me a form rejection on my query? And if I did, would it be honest or stupid to admit the previous form rejection?

  41. Is it okay to re-query? Sure but only if you have done the work required to re-query. And that work should take months. Sending out the exact same letter over and over again is the definition of insane. And I say if an agent get the same or very close to the same letter more than once then it is very reasonable to blacklist that email address.
    Agents are very, very, busy. We all know this. The time that is wasted reading and answering the same query multiply times, is the time that could be used to find the next great thing.

  42. i’ve never re-queried anybody. i didn’t think it was appropriate. but then again, i have not found an agent yet. maybe i should re-query?

  43. First five pages
    Going onto querytracker, I’ve noticed that requests for the first 5 pages, or the first 3 chapters, or the first *something* of the book, are asked for with the initial query. Jennifer is not the only agent who does this, I haven’t kept a careful count but it’s not uncommon.
    If you re-query an agent who asks for the initial portion of the book, your revisions should concentrate on that in particular. You should *strongly* consider changing the order of what part of the story should come first. It guarantees the agent a different experience the second time around, maybe they’ll be pleased by something that wasn’t in your first attempt. Moreover, giving careful consideration to the book’s opening is good marketing in any case.

  44. requery reason
    My thought about the re-query is that with the economy forcing agents to take on so few projects, perhaps it’s not that my project won’t be right…but that it might not be right, right now. Maybe in a couple of years once the economy is back to normal, and books are getting snapped up, I can try again with this idea. Meanwhile, I would certainly write new “stuff.”
    Would you agree?

  45. I think 2x a year should be the max. If the first one didn’t do it, take at least 6 months to edit before thinking of resubmitting (note to my fellow authors).

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