letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 242
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: thriller

Still 500+ queries to go…

Let’s talk referrals. Right now there are a number of agents, who for various reasons, have had to close queries, and probably some more agents who are considering same. But even if they decide to do so, they usually make a statement that they are still open to referrals. So, they must consider those to be something special, right?

For agents still accepting all comers, does a referral get you a closer look? A faster look? Sometimes a combination of those two? In all likelihood, yes. But only if it’s an actual referral.

What do I consider to be an actual referral? When someone known to me has read something and said point blank that the material should be sent to me and that their name may be used in connection with that submission.

If the person has read the book but not suggested specific submissions, but offered a statement to be used in queries, that’s not a referral. Even though it can be used as a way to strengthen the pitch. Advance praise and blurbs are definitely notable.

If they have not read the book but suggested a submission to one or more people, IMO, that’s not a referral of the work, but still a helpful thing for them to do to assist in getting it (hopefully) to the right people. On the other hand, I’ve heard stories where people (authors mostly) have been badgered so much by someone that they’ve given them a list just to get a few moments of peace. That’s sad.

Don’t fake a referral. In my case, my clients will mention to me if I should be expecting someone to name-drop. And if I’m not convinced, I can always ask about it. The same goes for other agents of my acquaintance. Or editors. Or even authors and writing instructors I’ve met at conferences.

If I’ve never heard of the person that gave you the referral, how much weight do you think that will have?

If the person giving the referral was paid to edit the book, what might that indicate about their bias in the situation?

If I discover that the referral is a deception, what effect do you think that will have?

Referrals are a gift. Not a right -or- a privilege. They are a vote of confidence. The person giving the referral is using their reputation on your behalf. That’s why they have any meaning at all.

10 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. Good info about referrals! Thanks.
    Questions: Do you feel an obligation to treat referrals differently than a “normal” person’s query? Do you provide more personal feedback, or are you more apt to request/read more pages for referrals? Do many of your clients refer people to you?

  2. Amazed
    You mean *gasp* that telling you my ex-brother-in-law George said it was the best book he’s ever read doesn’t carry any weight? Well……..shucks.

  3. If the person giving the referral was paid to edit the book, what might that indicate about their bias in the situation?
    I always especially like that one.

  4. Whaa? Why fake a referral? That’s just insane. It’s sad that some people would do that.
    Work hard and write good work. That’s it. Sheesh.
    Frederick Douglas said it best: WITHOUT STRUGGLE, THERE IS NO PROGRESS.
    ~Tyhitia
    http://obfuscationofreality.blogspot.com/

  5. I can’t believe people actually fake referrals. That’s just strange, IMO. I mean it’s obviously unethical, but you’d have to be stupid to think an agent wouldn’t pick up on it.

  6. Excellent stuff, as always 🙂
    I’ve only ever had one referral, an agent/friend who doesn’t represent MG/YA read my book and referred to another agent. She made a point of telling me to use her (my agent/friend’s)name in the query.
    Sadly, I got a form rejection from a slush reader within a couple of hours 😦

  7. From the other side of the coin, it seems to me that a referral–of the genuine type you were blogging about–could actually be a bad thing. I think, as a writer, it’s the lack of control that bothers me. If I query an agent, it’s because I’ve done my research, read their blog and/or met them at a conference and I’ve had a chance to assess my gut feeling about them.
    If I get a referral, even it’s to a legitimate, successful agent, basically someone else is making that decision for me. It’s like being set up on a blind date. No one agent is going to appeal to every author. And maybe I’m already aware of that agent, and they’ve said something in their blog that turned me off or I’ve got another legitimate reason for never wanting to do business with them. Then I’m in the position of telling the person who gives me the referral (let’s say it’s an agent who has passed along my query to colleague at the same agency) of saying, “I’m not interested.” while trying not to insult both the agent I queried and the one he/she referred me to.
    Is it considered rude to turn down a referral? To say, “No, thank-you.”
    A referral is, as you say, a “gift”. But what if you never asked for that gift and it just winds up putting you in the uncomfortable position of refusing it?
    -SarahT.

  8. I hope they at least faked the referral from someone famous or dead, like Abe Lincoln.
    You don’t want to piss off the ghost of President Lincoln, do you?

  9. My old agent and I parted ways on great terms. I just wasn’t writing the same type of story she was interested in. She gave me the names of a few other agents to try, and said I could use her as a referral. I did so.
    That’s legit, right?

    • As long as it’s an honest referral, from someone honestly in the business, why wouldn’t it be? I suppose it happens that agents can’t take work they consider salable, due to reasons beyond their control — why shouldn’t they refer it?
      Sounds like a good idea. I wish I’d thought of asking my old agent to give me referrals. I’ve completely lost track of him now though, he’s been out of the business for many years.

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