Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Friday, October 04, 2013

Question: This? That? The other?

We authors query a novel to multiple agents simultaneously--standard practice.   What is the etiquette status of querying multiple agents with different projects?  Fr'example, I query Agent A with my Regency Romance and Agent B with my epic Fantasy and Agent C with my YA.  At the same time.  Both books are complete and polished.   Is this acceptable practice, or considered a no-no?

I'm wondering about the level of awkwardness in informing an agent that another agent has offered representation on a different project.

No, I haven't been foolish enough to do this, though the temptation tugs at the corners of my soul. Curse these finished books looking for homes.



You can query any agent with any project you want. There are no Query Police to enforce my ideas about what you should do. (One of the many things I will attend to when crowned Queen of the Known Universe, of course.)

But your question assumes a fact not in evidence:  you can write at a publishable level in not just one category but three.

I don't think that's possible. Not for a debut writer.

And if you point to authors who do that (and there are some) I'm going to ask you to look carefully at whether they wrote all those books at the same time, or started after they had an established career.

I'm not saying you shouldn't try your hand at several categories. Write what you love and let the chips fall where they may.

BUT when you get ready to query, you're asking to have your work considered not as a passion project but a publishable book.  To know if your book is publishable you need to know the category VERY well. That means reading, and paying attention to what's selling, and what's not.  Unless you've cloned yourself or figured out how to add six hours to every 24-hour day, you simply don't have enough time to do that for more than one category.  If you're the parent of children still at home, hold down a job, and don't want your spouse to forget your face, you have even less time than those of us who eschew having a real life.

There's an understandable urge to query and just see what happens. I strongly urge you not to do this to yourself. Hearing a raft of No or worse, deafening silence is hard under the best of circumstances. Doing it for three books at once would wound the strongest creative soul.

The answer to your question is: yes you can.
My fervent hope is you may not.

10 comments:

Christie Murillo said...

Very helpful information-thanks for this! Question: should you mention in a query that you have more than one completed project? For example, I have 2 YAs and I am querying the stronger one. Do I mention the other or only if an agent is interested? This info is on my blog but you never know if an agent looks you up in the query stage...

Colin Smith said...

I wonder if the questioner shares the concern of a previous questioner that a single agent won't be able (or would be unwilling) to represent an author who is unable (or unwilling) to stick to a single genre. We know agents specialize, and that often leads us to think that a "YA Agent" won't represent my Adult Thriller, so I have to find separate agents for both.

You addressed this question before. And I think the answer is: query your best work, and discuss your career with the agent who calls you. As I understand it, agents represent authors, not books. They want you for your career, wherever that goes, because they believe in you as a writer. Yes, they want you to write in the genre they know best and for that reason, you query your best novel to the agent that best represents that genre. But that doesn't mean that same agent won't represent you for anything else you've done.

Janet Reid said...

Christie, the general rule of thumb is focus on one book per query. You don't have a lot of space in a query. Concentrate on showing off the best book you've got.

Sometimes it feels like authors offer books the way the linen dealer offered prices Casablanca

DK said...

Wouldn't you rather be Queen of the Unknown Universe?

BP said...

Love the Casablanca clip - that's international market heckling at large! :D We've had the same water bottle sold to us for 3, 2 and $1 in the grand space of a minute. ;D

What about writing across formats, not genres (ie novels, screenplays, poetry, etc.)? I like it and it seems to give my restless mind something to feast on erstwhile stupid plot holes and format limitations get my goat.

donnaeverhart.com said...

"Doing it for three books at once would wound the strongest creative soul."

(The shark dropping gold nuggets again. Where are your pockets?)

I pictured how this could go...the waiting, the nervous refreshing of the email account, more waiting. Weeks go by. The awareness that all three books, maybe years of work, the possibility of never hearing a word. All that work... and no responses. It would be sickening (to me anyway)

Janet Reid said...

DK, well ALL of the universes known and unknown really, but I'm starting with a reasonable goal: Ruler of the KNOWN Universe.

Also, get off my lawn, whippersnappers!

NotaWarriorPrincess said...

So, you're saying if I look in the mirror and I do NOT see Ursula Le Guin looking back at me, I should probably not do this? Ok.

That said, I fully intend to inundate my agent with various genres other than the one I'm working on now (seriously, how much "bio" does one person get to "graph," especially if it's of the "auto" type?), as soon as we are both rolling in bucks from said agent's mad selling skillz.

candidkathryn.com said...

Kudos to the writer able to multi-tasks at this level; I’m walk-and-gum-chew-challenged. Can’t imagine a multi-query situation.

Janet Reid said...

NotA, well, sure, once the auto is driven to the destination, you get to update your bio with new work. But that's sequential, not simultaneous. My interpretation of the question was simultaneous queries.