Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Choose?

Now that I'm getting close to actually pushing that send button I've been contemplating my plan of attack, so to speak.

A few years ago when I researched querying I read a lot of advice about only querying a few agents at once, some even suggested one at a time. Back then I thought that was ridiculous why wouldn't I want to query as many as possible at once. As with everything, time and experience has made me wiser. Now I see the wisdom in those words.

If you send out 20 queries and they are all rejected you don't have a chance to revise your query or revisit your submission before trying another agent. And although you can submit again you probably shouldn't unless you're completely changing your manuscript, so I'm starting to feel a little stressed about who to send it to, because once it's sent there's no redo.

So here's my question, there are so many great agents out there. How do you decide who to query first? What has been your criteria for choosing? Do you start with the bigger profile agents, the ones who have blogs with tons of followers or do you look beyond that and research what they represent and how well they've done with selling the authors they represent.

If you have an agent how why did you pick them to query, if you don't do you know how you'll choose?


Chantele said...

I took a break from writing for a few months during the first trimester of my current pregnancy. My advice with querying, would be to research agents representing books similar to yours, and doing only a few at a time. Also, the "big" agents with blogs offer a ton of advice about querying and revising and what not, so I would check those out too. I excited to get back into writing, now that my morning sickness isn't as bad as it was. Good luck!:)

Dara said...

I'd only go for a few at a time--probably around 5 or so. Make an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them too!

I'm sure you've gone to sites like AgentQuery and QueryTracker, right? Those are good sites to help narrow down which agents to send your project to. I'm no where near this step yet but at least that's what I plan on doing when the time comes for me to send out the queries.

Jessie Oliveros said...

I was told by a published author to query widely. Of course there is less stress in querying only a few at a time. But the wait and then you re-query and have to wait some more! I guess that with querying a few agents, my question would be...are you going to wait until they all get back to you to begin sending out more queries? That could be months and months. Then again, I see the wisdom in having a chance or revise and make better, especially if one of those agents provide really helpful feedback. I have a couple agents in mind because I think my book is similar to what they represent. I'm excited for you to start! Press that send button!

Susan R. Mills said...

I think you are thinking along the right lines. I wish I hadn't queried so many agents the first time around. Like you said, you don't get a redo. I did a lot of research before I queried. I only subbed to agents I felt would be a good fit.

Mim said...

I plan on doing ten at a time. I've got a list of agents that I've found from poking around online, going to conferences, and from finding out who agents my favorite books. A lot of it is going with your gut, but I'm also praying about it.

Natalie said...

I made a list of the my top 20 agents and then I started with #10. This way I didn't burn through my top choices before I had a chance to test my query. When I got my first full request I sent to my #1 agent (she represents me now!), and all the others high on my list. I sent batches of 5 at a time, every week or two, and kept sending even when I had several fulls out.

Good luck! Querying is a fun process but it gets a little discouraging at times too. I hope it goes well for you!

JKB said...

Hm. Excellent! You're getting ready!

Here's what I did, for what it's worth:

1. Went to,, absolute write forums and verla kay, and read through their background info on all the groups (after making a list of ALL POSSIBLE agents from

2. After that I went online and searched down particular ones that seemed interesting to me in some way. In all honesty, go with your gut. It doesn't matter why.

3. Prepared my query letter (ad nauseum!!) and worked up a *general* yet *targeted* mainline pitch as to why I was contacting most of them. For particular ones I had a separate sentence as to why I woul like to be repped by them.

4. I set up all this on an excel sheet, btw. That way you can do name, agency, date sent, date received, when you sent out full/partial, etc. You can keep better track that way.

5. Sent out 5-10 FIRST. Then I only sent a new one out if I got a refusal. As long as you did that, I found, I always had movement on my query and book!

6. And yet, after all this, I found my perfect agent Marlene just by happenstance from a Publishers Marketplace notice that she was setting up shop. Something about her website and her tone was it for me. And when she had to duke it out between three other WELL known agents, she still won. It was karma.

one thing, too: it's *not* necessarily true that you want one of the big-name agents that blog or tweet or are really prominent. You have to consider what you want out of the relationship. Do you want hand-holding? Do you want email or phone? Do you want lots of follow up? Editorial?

All that comes into play and should when you get your offer. Talk with them before jumping in, because a bad agent is worse than no agent at all.

And it seems I've written you my next blog post. HA!!

Patti said...

All great advice, I spent a good hour last night compiling a list. I'm really beginning to believe in the whole intuition or go with your gut philosophy.

And Jen I think that would make a great post.

jenniferneri said...

Do you have any particular novels that you compare yours to? I would begin with those.

In Canada, we have a total of 10 agents who represent adult fic. I sent out five at a time. After having 3 fulls rejected, I am now heading into the US market and find it overwhelmingly large. I am narrowing my search, beginning with a few of the larger agencies that publish books that I can say are similar in one or another to mine.

I am also using the Writer's Market. Although not complete, I find it a useful.

As a side, I have tried to leave a comment on other posts but they keep getting lost. Hopefully this one won't!

Oh, yes, and you most likely have this site, but just in case:

Patti said...

Jennifer: I looked at the Canadian Market but was told that you don't want an agent in Canada because it limits who will publish your book. Smaller houses won't look at you. So I've decided to head south, hopefully being Canadian won't hurt my chances

jenniferneri said...

I didn't realize you were also Canadian!
All the best with it!

K. M. Walton said...

Like Jessie, I too was told by a published author to query wide. Another recently agented writer shared that she queried close to 125 agents before her first offer came.

I wish you much lower stats & a speedy querying journey!!!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I dont have a magic answer but it looks like you already have a lot of great advice. Good luck!

Jody Hedlund said...

I agree with Karen. Looks like you've gotten some great advice! Mine would be to make sure to research carefully each agent before sending. Tailor each query to that specific agent's requirements and make sure they represent what you write.

Heidi Willis said...

I don't know how I missed this one... I must have been busy taking care of the flu-of-the-week child.

In any case, I don't know if I have anything to add. I did what most of these people said - compiled a long list, narrowed it down to my favorites, sent out a few at a time, and whenever I got a rejection, I sent a new one out.

I got lots of full requests, so I figured my query and first pages were okay. Unfortunately, I also got lots of referrals and kind rejections, and have ended up without an agent.

One did offer to represent after I had the pub contract, and she's the one I'd go for if I decide I want an agent later on. Because through the process she was really nice and loved my writing and was prompt and personal. It's like Jen said - sometimes it's just karma.