Friday, April 17, 2015

Query Question: I'm popular, can I tell you?

If other agencies requested and/or are reading your manuscript, should you say or add this in your query letter to other agents? Does this make them pay more attention since there's interest? Or is the opposite true?


You mention it only if the agent requests the full, AND asks if anyone else is reading.
You do not mention it at the query stage.


53 comments:

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Or:
Would you ask an attractive prospect to the prom only to say, well, I’ve asked half a dozen to go already and they said they have to check with mom and dad first. Once the dress is bought and the tux rented it’s a done deal until the last dance and the limo leaves the driveway.

brianrschwarz said...

I definitely read a story from an agent about a worst-case check-in that relates to the OP!

Good author wrote fantastic book, and sent book to agent. Agent requested full. Agent read full. Agent liked full and began showing how amazing full was to boss. Meanwhile good author got frustrated with "long" wait, and on the allowed check-in date sent a nasty email that said this:

I don't see why you're having so much trouble responding to me. It's been 3 months and no other agents had any trouble getting back to me within their allotted check-in times... What is your problem?

Needless to say, he got a polite form rejection 10 minutes later.

What was most silly to me is how the authors statement showed his hand so completely. He might as well have said "Listen jerk, everyone else rejected me two months ago... what's your issue? What, do you think you like me or something?"

I don't know in which world this would ever be the right play... Us writers get antsy, and we want to get responses, and that feeling works against us in every possible way. Fight the urge.

2N's, you had me laughing off my seat after your prom analogy!

Julie.M.Weathers said...

I never thought about telling agents others were reading UNLESS the agent specifically asks. For instance, a couple mention in their guidelines they want to know if anyone else is reading. Then, of course, I would disclose.

Brian, if there is one thing I have learned in this business, it's patience. The day before yesterday I got a request for a partial. I had already color coded her red, closed no response since I queried in Nov.

Apparently the query got lost and she found it when she was cleaning out emails. She apologized and asked if it was still available.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: Since the questioner was talking about the query stage, wouldn't this be like the guy saying, "Hey, you want to go to the Prom with me? I've asked some other girls, and 5 of them said yes!"?

I guess the idea is every agent knows you're not querying exclusively, but every agent likes to feel as if they're the only one. Especially if they fall in love with your idea and request a full. They want that buzz of "first discovery"--this is a hot new talent and I saw it first. It's only after they request the full that you tell them some other agents are looking at it. Then they know they have to read and get back to you quickly if they're going to beat out the competition.

That's my understanding, anyway. :)

brian: Which planet? Carkoon... :)

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Two Ns has it right. The whole Dance of the Query is like nothing so much as high school romance, with all the insecurity and fear of rejection and "does he like me?" and "If she says this, does she mean that?" The only difference is the acne. I hope. Restrain yourself and try to be a grownup about it. It's a business, not a prom. Business rules apply.

MB Owen said...

What's that mean anyway? I'm popular on Twitter? I have 1.7 million followers? I'm a person you would recognize in News? My movie's coming out next month?

If he/she's writing in non-fiction + needs a platform that would be especially helpful but I'm assuming that's not the case.

REJourneys said...

2N's: great analogy. After a certain point of asking people to prom, I'd say 6 perspective dates max, that's when it's time for the person to find a group of people to go with and enjoy the single life because word does get around about who asked who.

Julie: congrats on the partial! You are right about patience. I marked a lot of agents as "no" because it had been months since I sent them a query, only to find an email from them a few weeks later.

MB Owen said...

REJourneys: Regarding Patience + Something else: I once received a Rejection after 8 months. Twas like getting hit with a boomerang you forgot you threw.

Colin Smith said...

So from Julie and RE's experiences, are we to understand that no response doesn't necessarily mean no, even if the agent says it means no? No response could mean "yes, we just lost your query, or were really busy and didn't get to it until after the stated 8 weeks (or whatever)..."

AJ Blythe said...

Brian, your story made me cringe. What a wasted opportunity.

Julie, all the best with your partial request. Hope she loves it!

This woodland creature is off to the woodlands for the next week. Not sure how the internet will fair in the bush so expect radio silence from me until ANZAC Day (26th for those non-Aussie/NZers).

brianrschwarz said...

Colin,

I stand corrected. Carkoon it is!

MB, I was cracking up at your boomerang comment! That's perfect!

Julie, congrats on the partial! That's really exciting! I aspire to be as patient as you! And also to learn to color code.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Julie-yes, best of luck with that partial and hoping they'll request the full.

MB: Ha! That boomerang analogy cracked me up too.

Dena Pawling said...


Carolynn, I met my husband at a friend's wedding, the summer after I graduated from high school. I was a bridesmaid and he was an usher. About a week after the wedding, he called me.

Him: “Hi... um... would you like to go to church with me? I've asked everyone else I know and no one else can come.”

Yes, that's how he asked me out on our first date. I've teased him endlessly about it, too. We've been married now for more than half my life.

I still don't recommend it in a business situation.

Brian, your story is OUCH! But I bet that agent was glad the writer dropped the bucket of water on her fire BEFORE making the phone call.

Loved the boomerang analogy.

Donnaeve said...

Julie - congrats on your partial! That's WHOOP! worthy.

Brian, your story made me cringe on behalf of the author who really, really stepped in it and is likely still trying to scrape THAT off their shoe.

MB - the forgotten tossed boomerang gave me the image of it coming back to clunk someone in the head unexpectedly and had me laughing. "Huh? Where did that come from???"

As to 2N's great analogy, I'd say there's nothing like flashing your loaded dance card and suddenly, no one on it shows up to twirl you 'round the room.

MB Owen said...

Donnaeve - Yes. It was exactly like that. (!)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Dena, ain't true love grand.

Hey, last week I got a rejection from an agent I didn't remember submitting to regarding a novel I shelved a year ago. I had no idea that card was still on the table.

Which makes me think, maybe all those "no reply means no" are really "I'm a slacker and I'll reject you when I get around to it." That's encourage
ing. There's always hope.

Eileen said...

MB, I've been boomeranged a few times. Thanks for letting me know the correct technical term for it.

MB Owen said...

Eileen: It should be patented + used by every writer: "I've been boomeranged."

Jenny Chou said...

Congrats, Julie, on your partial request! Thrilled for you.

REJourneys said...

MB: The forgotten boomerang...I feel that comparison could work in many situations!

Dena: Your story is great! Definitely not recommended in business situations.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Congrats to Julie!

I hope the same for the OP. Great question. Only if asked. A closed mouth gathers no feet.

Karen McCoy said...

Congrats Julie!

"I've been boomeranged." Ha! Perhaps Hammy the Squirrel can put this woodland creature analogy into literal terms:
Hammy's Boomerang Adventure

Great question from OP. When there's blood in the water and lots of people are sniffing it, it's probably best to tread lightly (unlike that author from Brian's example--oy).

bjmuntain said...

Congrats, Julie! Best of luck.

And I've been hit by that boomerang a few times... but I'd rather be hit with it than have the offside hope that 'hey, maybe they're still reading it or haven't read it yet'...

We didn't have dates at my prom. (It wasn't really a prom. We called it 'graduation'. It included the ceremonies and dance.) I stuck around for the full dance - I always liked dancing. But most of the other grads left early to go to the real party. It was a 'safe grad', where the kids gathered in one place with chaperones, designated drivers, and booze. For most kids my age, the booze was more important than the dancing. For me, parties that were all about the drinking bored me to death.

So to me, querying isn't like a prom or a personal relationship. It's been all business for me, like applying for jobs. Of course, getting an agent would be the absolute BEST job (or business relationship) and so I put a lot of time and effort into it. But rejections don't break my heart. They're disappointing, sure. Sometimes they hurt. And yes, they make me rethink writing sometimes. But I can look at them as a job I didn't get, and move on. Something is bound to come along.

Agents all know that other agents are being queried. I've heard that agents want to know if someone else is reading the full before they put in the time to read the full. I like Janet's answer: only if they ask. If a full request is like an interview, I wouldn't necessarily tell the HR person from another job that I have another interview. But if they asked, I wouldn't lie.

Following that analogy, I've noticed that many job postings say they'll only be contacting those they're interested in. This could be like the 'no response means no'. The only difference is: a job posting nearly always has a closing date, so if you didn't get a call a week or two after that, you know you didn't get an interview or the job. Since agents are always looking for clients, they don't have a specific closing date, so this leaves a lot more uncertainty on the part of the author.

Just musing out loud here. My brain is starving for caffeine, but I will not give in. Until tomorrow. Tomorrow, my tummy should be healed enough it can handle coffee again. If not - too bad. It's coffee time tomorrow.

Karen McCoy said...

bjmuntain's excellent post brings me to a question. I like the "don't tell unless asked" strategy, but it also brings me to the following hypothetical scenario:

Say Agent B doesn't ask if anyone else is reading, and Agent A requests representation while Agent B still has the full. How does the author bring this up without burning possible bridges?

Colin Smith said...

Karen: I don't presume to speak for Janet, but I believe it would be in line with what she has said before that a courtesy notification would be appropriate: "Thank you for requesting my novel. Please find it attached. Just FYI, some other agents are looking at this manuscript."

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Karen: Or, and I believe I'm remembering correctly and that Janet has addressed this too, simply let agent B know that another agent is interested in representing you.

And perhaps someone else remembers the scenario after that as I believe the author may then have a choice to make between 2 agents?

brianrschwarz said...

Correct. It's normally courteous to send an email to all agents when you recieve an offer of representation and take the time to carefully consider if you want to sign with agent A (while secretly hoping agents B, C, and D will come running to the bidding table for you).

I've heard varying opinions on whether you shuold only send courtesy emails (which should be boldly titled RE: OFFER FOR REPRESENTATION) to agents who have a full or even to agents who have only your query.

If it were me in that position, I'd send an email to anyone I hadn't heard from on that book, regardless, just to be safe.

brianrschwarz said...

By *all agents* i mean all the agents you queried... not every agent you can find on earth, or Carkoon...

Kate Larkindale said...

I got a full request from an agent after the book I'd been querying had already been published. So it must have been at least 18 months after I'd sent the query. I figured if they hadn't replied in 6-9 months, they weren't interested and marked it as a pass.

Guess I shouldn't have been so quick to do that….

bjmuntain said...

Some good thoughts, Brian.

I think the courtesy of contacting other agents in that case is more for the purpose of keeping them from wasting time on something they won't get, more than it is to get a 'bidding war'. After all, agents don't actually bid for anything - they set up bids with editors. Your only hope is to get the best agent you can attract.

So let's sort this out. Author receives an offer of representation from Agent A. A full was requested by Agent B. A partial was requested by Agent C. Agents D, E, and F were queried, but have not yet responded.

So far, Agent A has, obviously, spent the most time on your novel. Agent B might spend a few hours on it. Agent C, maybe an hour. The other agents, maybe less than a minute. That's if they've even reached your query yet.

My thoughts would be:

1) If you accept Agent A's offer, then to keep Agent B and Agent C from spending any more of their valuable time on it, let them know.
2) If you haven't accepted the offer yet, and if you'd rather have an offer from Agent C or Agent E, then:
- E-mail agent B, to say there's an offer on the table. After all, they've already got some time invested. Maybe they'll offer, too. If they're not that into your novel, then they won't waste more time reading it.
- E-mail agent C, for the same reasons as B, but also to see if they might offer, too.
- E-mail agent E, in the hopes that this will put your query to the top of the queue, and they'll decide to represent you.

I wouldn't bother contacting Agents D or F. They only have a query. They'll read it and make a quick decision to ask for more or to reject (and the latter is most likely, anyway.) If they're interested enough to ask for more, that's when the Author tells them that they have an offer they're considering. Or that they've accepted an offer. At this point, these agents have only put in a few minutes of their time. You're saving them any further time expense by telling them it's too late.

I see an agent's inbox as being crammed full of messages from current clients, editors, colleagues, and non-clients. They sort out the queries from the other e-mails, to look at when there's time. Then, over lunch or something, they'll read through the queries, and make their decisions to ask for more or to reject.

So what happens if they get a withdrawal notice before they've reached the query? Do they then have to go through the list and find that query and delete it? Do they keep a note, so when they get to that query they know to delete it? Isn't that more work than a simple rejection when they reach it?

To me, a query is like a feeler you send out to see if there is a chance of contact. I don't see a query as being a contact until a response. Unless the agent is hemming and hawing over asking for more (and I don't think they have a lot of time to hem and haw), you'll probably get a response as soon as the agent reads the query. Contact.

After that, you're in a tenuous business relationship, where you want to make sure they're kept in the loop and so don't waste any time reading something they won't be able to represent. You, also, would expect to be kept in the loop from their end. This is past the query stage.

I know, Janet likes to point out that our time is as valuable as an agent's time. That's true. So I see contacting agents that haven't yet responded as more work for both the author and the agent receiving the notice, and thus more valuable time spent - on both ends.

Anyway, that's how I see it. I'd be interested to know if I'm right, wrong, or a total imbecile.

Colin Smith said...

Kate: I don't think it's your fault if the agent took 18 months to reply to a query. If they're a no-response-means-no, what else were you to think? I don't mean to sound harsh but it's their loss, not yours. :)

Colin Smith said...

bj: It's possible agents who only have your query would like to know if another agent has offered representation. I agree the likelihood is they'll pass since they haven't even read the ms. But there's a chance one or two might jump on your query and request.

Again, I'm just thinking about things I've read here and elsewhere--I have no deeper insight into how literary agents operate than any other woodland creature. :)

Amy Schaefer said...

Years ago, I applied for a job at a Big Company. And I got rejected. Which was fine, but they kept rejecting me. Day after day, slim white envelopes arrived in the mail. My CV moved through the company at a furious clip, gathering rejections from every HR manager who clapped eyes on it. It passed from being hurtful and annoying to being hilarious. By rejection #6, my husband and I were racing each other to the mailbox each day, eager to see who had turned me down this time.

I got a different job, years passed, and it was time for us to move away. I'd long put Big Company out of my mind. As we were packing up our apartment, one last slim white envelope arrived. The writer apologized on behalf of Big Company for the long delay, but my CV and letter had fallen behind a filing cabinet, and had just been discovered. Was I still looking for a job?

And thus I learned to let rejection wash over me like a wave, and bob up again once it had passed.

Colin Smith said...

Amy: That's hilarious! Wow... were they about to offer you a job? Out of guilt, maybe? That would have put you in a strong negotiating position! Oh well... an interesting way to learn about rejection. :)

brianrschwarz said...

BJ, I agree with you completely. Your version is more lengthy and specific. Mine left something to be desired in part because of my lack of caffeine.

At the end of the day, if I get an offer for rep from any agent, you best believe I'll be sending my top 5 agents a note... I might even query them first... ;)

Then again, I'd probably get stranded on Carkoon for that move... :) But hey, Janet says be bold and be imperfect. I'd rather waste 5 seconds of an agents time as they reply "no thanks" than forever wonder what might have happened if I had sent that Offer for Rep notice. :)

As Colin stated, I'm speaking from a position of ignorance. :)That'd just be my move.

MB Owen said...

KAREN: HILARIOUS! I was that squirrel: I AM that squirrel. ha! So funny.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Thank you all so much for the kind wishes. I am now doing another woodland creature dance of delirium.

The 50 pages ends at a very awkward place. Very awkward. It makes one of my characters look like a total jerk and this look like 50 shades f yuck.

Now I'm trying to figure out how to rewrite this chapter to keep the integrity of the story without being so stomach churning. Maybe I'll just send 48 pages.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

BJ is right, but I've also seen stories like Colin mentions where an author tells everyone who has queries or requested material they have an offer. Someone with a query requests and makes an offer to rep also.

In my case, if I get an offer or rep, I'll contact everyone who has anything active and let them know. It's the courteous thing to do according to The Phi Iota Epsilon Southern Writers Guide to Etiquette book I am currently writing.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

@ Julie - Congrats on partial request. And ...I've been in the same predicament. I'm no expert, but what I did was send extra pages, ie - 60 pages.


@ Brian - Never a wise decision to burn your bridges (and/or britches? lol). A good lesson to be reminded of.

AJ Blythe - Have fun in the outback, sheila! (Is that word still used?)

@ Kate - I thought 8 months was unheard of, but 18! Jaw drops to floor.

@ Janet - Simple, sound, solid advice. Ta, Luv (with all the Aussie talk, the Aussie in me comes out!)

DLM said...

Amy wins the internet today. I've had that happen too! "Nice work, Big Employer. NEXT!"

Slowest rejection I ever got was about 3 months, perhaps a week or two past the outer limit of the "12 weeks or no-means-no" guideline an agent set, but it was nice to get the confirmation though I'd written her off already (with one silent tear ...).

Longest period it's ever been *for me* between query and full or partial request is about three days. I've NEVER had a request on anything a week out, and I have done some querying y'all. It's nice to hear some agents do reach out after longer periods - but I'm still considering all the queries I've put out there on AX as dead in the water. In the process of trying to let that novel lie fallow and concentrate on the WIP (while dealing with the fact that AX just doesn't seem to be a good debut product right now), I *have* to consider all submissions rejected.

In other news, the WIP is giving me all the blushing excitement of a teenage-sweaty-palm kiss right now. So that's good. Now if I can just get it written in under 100 years.

Karen McCoy said...

Thanks to bjmuntain, Colin Smith, and others for their extremely insightful answers to my question! I feel like I inadvertently started one of those word problems I dreaded encountering in math class: "If Agent A leaves on a New York train at 4:30, and Agent B leaves Washington D.C. at 5:00 pm..."

Kudos to Amy too. Wow. Just. Wow.

MB Owen: ME TOO! :) Too many boomerangs to keep track of!

Sam Hawke said...

DLM - I've had both partial and full requests months after querying and I see that happen in the querytracker stats ALL THE TIME. Don't write agents off just because they haven't replied to you in a few days. Agents who read their queries in order and get a lot of them might not even see your query for months after you send it.

BJ - I'd say if you get an offer and you still have active queries out with agents, you let them ALL know. The only circumstances in which you shouldn't is if you know you wouldn't accept an offer from them if you got one. And in that case, why query them in the first place? Give them a chance. It doesn't hurt and you never know, you might find your most enthusiastic and compatible agent is one who was a slower replier.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Ginger,

Extra pages won't help, unfortunately, it's at the end of a chapter. I'm just going to get creative with margins or something.

JW

Sam Hawke said...

Oh, and in relation to the original question (whoops, got sidetracked), I've noticed some agents do ask you to tell them at the query stage whether anyone else has the full manuscript. This is particularly common in the UK. But that's the only time I'd mention it at query stage. When I've had to do it I'v never known whether it's a positive or a negative! Some other agents have it, which means I queried them before you... but it also means other people don't think I'm rubbish...

DLM said...

Sam (and all!) sorry for the sidetrack - but thank you for the encouragement. Being in the process of trying to let go of AX - it's hard to tell if I'm being objective or just pessimistic. Thank Maud for new work.

Julie, meant to respond to you earlier. One, thank YOU too for your first post above. Who knows, maybe the queries I have out aren't really dead. We'll take that as it comes. As to the 50-page cutoff - end it at p. 48, or page 54. 50 is a guideline, not a commandment. It's easier for an agent to say that so they can get a predictable amount of material, rather than "three chapters" - which can be anything from a page and a half to two hundred ...

Amy Schaefer said...

Julie, I agree with DLM. Don't get cute with the margins; that isn't fooling anyone. Just choose a better cut-off point (+/-3 pages or so).

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Amy,

Margins aren't really set in stone. 1" to 1.5" is pretty much standard from what I read. No agent would howl if I did 1.25 instead of 1 or vice versa I don't think.

Julie

Sam Hawke said...

DLM, I feel your pain. But to give you an example, last week I got a request for a full (accompanied by an enthusiastic #tenqueries comment) by an agent 70 days after I queried. It's great to work on something else in the interim and not worry about it, but unless the query has passed the response time AND they're a no response means no agent, don't assume that they would have replied if it was going to be positive. Are you a QT member? You can see the averages for positive and negative responses for every agent, and honestly I've never seen more than a handful who have average positive responses of only a few days!

Julie, I'm with Amy on the margins. Don't worry about fiddling the formatting, just end it where it's best as long as it's within a few pages of 50. If they want to keep reading they'll ask for the full, they're not going to say well as it's only 48 pages, nope... :)

Craig said...

Since you have decided to query more there must be a reason. If you are questioning your manuscript because those who have finished reading it have passed, it might be time to run back through it.

It is hard to decide when your manuscript is finished. It is harder for you when others have decided it was not ready.

I think I would wait until all of those who made requests of you to finish before continuing. If you are impatient then you should see if you could ask questions of those who passed.

I would give querying a break for a short time.

Colin Smith said...

Julie, Amy, Sam, et al. The best advice (i.e., QOTKU's) as far as I recall is use 5, 10, 50--whatever the agent asked for--as a guide. If a natural stopping point is 48, or 52, don't sweat it. Unless they only asked for 5 pages. You get my drift. :) Don't mess with margins to make it 50 pages. Hopefully the agent is too busy reading your story to notice the page count.

Besides, odd margins will be the first thing noticed by someone who spends hours reading submissions. And odd margins could mark you as someone who flaunts guidelines--a potential trouble-maker. Creates a bad impression. And you don't want that.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Susan, did you see QOTKU quoted you under the header of her blog?

bjmuntain said...

Julie, you've already recieved a lot of advice in this direction, but I'll add mine, too.

General manuscript format is 1-inch margins.

I've worked on documents with images, and fiddling with margins and line-space in those circumstances worked well, as long as the changes weren't noticeable. But I could always tell. I still can.

As Colin mentioned, someone who reads the same format of submissions all the time will see right off the bat if the margins are different.

It may not be a game-breaker, but why give an excuse to hem rather than haw?

JEN Garrett said...

You got quite a community here, Janet. Even when the question and answer are straightforward and simple, you still have 54 comments by the time we lazy bones on the west coast check our email.