Thursday, November 12, 2015

How many is enough?

How many requests for fulls/partials should you get before you pause querying or should you never pause?
I currently have 3 fulls and 8 partials out. I feel relatively confident in my manuscript after about my 100th revision. But I do statistics for a day job, and I know that it's partially a numbers game, mostly subjective, and partially luck. So is there an etiquette to this? A general guideline? Just trying to figure out what is professional and respectful, while giving me the best possible chances. I appreciate any thoughts / advice you have.

This is the kind of advice where my opinion doesn't matter at all. As long as you've queried me, I'm fine.  If you haven't queried me, you need to send at least one more.

That said, your question has merit.  The people you should ask however, are writers.  They're the ones who, armed with Excel spread sheets, industrial strength livers, and voodoo dolls in the shape of sharks, have more information (data points you statistical people call them) than I do.

My answer is simple: 100 queries at least.
And query till you just can't bear it anymore, then send one more (query #Gazillion +1)

Meanwhile, as you query, you're working on novel #2.
After you've sent Query #Gazillion +1, you'll start to query novel #2.
Query, lather, repeat.

I hear a lot of stories about people who found an agent only after a very long process. I hate to see you stop before you've gotten to QGazillion +1 because you think there's a magic number.

The comment column though is the place where you'll hear from the people in the trenches. Pay attention to what they say.


Marc P said...

Statistics were invented by the Tobacco industry. Don't put your eggs all in the Query basket as a methodology of carrying on or throwing n the towel. It's a passive way to seek representation and important as it is it should be part of a strategy. When peoples hands touch there is a chemical reaction that statistics prove transfers print to the brain and heart better. Find out the statistics for published writers and how they got the deal and the agent. There are may mickles that make a muckle! Or ways to sing a cat.

Lucie Witt said...

Dispatches from the trenches:

I would not stop querying until you (hopefully) get feedback on your fulls and partials.

I have a WIP I finished writing in 2011(ish). Queried, and feedback led me to substantially revise. Started anew. Queried approximately 25 agents, had multiple full requests (one, sent 5/2014, is still outstanding - patience isn't just a virtue when you query, it's a necessary survival skill). Based on that feedback, I knew I had a ton of work to do yet again, and I decided to temporarily shelve said book and focus on my current project.

(Of course during all this, I stay writing new things. Always writing new things).

Then came an opportunity to revise (surprise R&R), so here I am, working again on that same book.

To sum it up: there is no magic number, pay attention to feedback, and put aside as needed. I would not shelve a project until (1) consistent feedback on fulls/partials that the book needs lots of work - NOT just one opinion, and/or (2) at least 75 queries sent.

Hope that helps. Best of luck.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I love a topic I can actually speak to. It seems I have similar circumstance to Lucie. I have 2 fulls and 4 partials out right now. 4 of those were from WDC (conference pitch sessions). One agent with a partial has advised me it will be a while before he gets to my stuff right out the door. A first full came back with edits galore and invitation to resubmit after revision. I have also been advised by several agents that my word count was a bit high for a debut book. After discussing it here with all these excellent woodland creatures, I added trimming word count to the list of edits. I wish I had received that feedback prior to sending other requests- but part of the process I suppose.

I queried a couple dozen agents in this last round (my first post QOTKU round so let's just call it my first round). Lots of rejections 8% response rate so far. Query must need work.

So I am revising everything for next round- query letter, synopsis, manuscript. Then it'll be another dozen or so queries. And rinse and repeat. My thinking is I don't want to burn through my list of agents to query in one fell swoop. Especially if last round yields feedback. So until you have an Offer to Rep, signed and sealed in blood, keep querying and making adjustments as needed. You are too close to stop now.

And as Lucie says, in this business, patience isn't just a virtue, it's a survival skill. I nominate Lucie for next week's sub-header for that. Hope this helps, OP. You are close so just keep swimming.

nightsmusic said...

And query till you just can't bear it anymore, then send one more (query #Gazillion +1)

This! You need to query until you think your heart will break from it, then send just one more, because that last one could be the agent who has been waiting for your book to come.

I sent several queries and was fortunate enough to get responses for 2 fulls and half a dozen partials, but the story ended up being repeatedly turned down because, "I just can't sell this now though I love it." So I finally stopped with that one and moved on. I've seen the market changing again so I might re-query and see what happens this time round. It still might not be the right time for the book, but I know it's good and someone eventually will love it enough to give it a shot. In the meantime, I'm still writing.

Don't give up until you can't stand sending it one more time.

Donnaeve said...

FIRST! Attention QOTKU - spelling alert! "industrial strenght livers," No thank you necessary. :)

I can't comment on this b/c my path to an agent was different. Having said that, I've read enuff stories about the query process to know there is no magic number, there is no specific thing other than to NOT QUIT until you've exhausted all possible routes. When I read a question like this, I always think of Kathryn Stockett, (THE HELP) and many others who received a HIGH number of rejections before they landed THE ONE. Like we've repeated ad nauseum out here in woodland creature land, you can't win if you don't play.

Dena Pawling said...

I think there are two questions you need to ask yourself. (1) Have you received any rejections or R&R yet? If you haven't, you might want to pause querying long enough to see if you get any feedback that makes you want to revise before continuing. And if you have received feedback that indicates you don't need to revise, (2) have you queried all your “dream” agents? Not that we're supposed to have dream agents, but I think we all have them. Are there any agents you would kick yourself if you didn't query? Be sure to query those.

Because of the time it usually takes for agents to read your work and get back to you, I don't think you want to wait 4-6 months or longer, only to keep getting rejections on your partials/fulls and have no new queries out there. But conversely, if your manuscript needs revisions, you don't want to burn thru everyone before you have a chance to revise.

Congrats on the interest tho. That's awesome.

Colin Smith said...

I concur with my fellow woodland creatures (and that includes EM's nomination of Lucie for subheader of the week). I've been in the query trenches a few times, but my own experience wouldn't be of use to Opie. I queried a lot of agents with my last novel, but not 100. However, after the less-than-a-handful of requests came back "not for me," and form rejections/crickets from the Normans, I did a serious re-think. Either a) the novel's not ready for market, or b) the market's not ready for the novel. Probably a lot of a) and a bit of b). So I re-evaluated my writing career (as one does at least three times a week when querying), and decided to stop querying and shelve the novel. That's why I can't really relate to Opie's situation since s/he is evidently not in the "rethinking my life" stage. If I was in Opie's shoes, however, I'd keep going. The more agents you have reading fulls/partials, the more impressive it looks, and the greater likelihood one or more of them will say yes to the ms. :)

All the best to you!

S.P. Bowers said...

For me, I queried until one day I woke up and knew it would be okay to stop. I was at a point where I could move on. I had already learned enough writing the next book to know the first book wasn't there yet, I was ready to let go. So go with your gut. And if you're still wondering, then keep querying. Because you'll feel peaceful when it's time to stop.

Sarah G said...

OP - I read your question differently than the other replies. It doesn't sound like you're thinking of stopping, just maybe pausing to see if any of your partial/full requests bite before continuing?

Based on comments and other posts here*, sounds like you should keep querying. If you get an offer and still haven't heard back from a preferred agent, then you have some leverage to go back and light a fire under their email.

*definitely not from personal experience :)

Joyce Tremel said...

Three fulls and eight partials is pretty impressive. I'd only take a query break if one of these is out with an agent you'd sign with in a heartbeat. Otherwise keep querying!

Kara Ringenbach said...

This scenario sounds like a good place to be! At a risk of being slightly off topic, or at least not helpful to OP... I haven't yet had the joys of querying, but I know it's extremely difficult to land an agent at all. So when someone talks about 'finding' an agent after 100 queries, does that mean ANY agent, or one that the writer thinks is a good fit, too? i.e. does the writer usually choose as well?

I think I can hear all the experienced writers chuckling across cyberspace :)

BJ Muntain said...

I'm wondering if OP isn't meaning they should pause simply because they have a lot of fulls and partials out, in case one of them works out.

My thoughts? No.

There's no etiquette to it. It's like job applications. You don't rest until you have a job. With querying, you don't rest until you have an agent (or an editor, though you're better going for an agent first). You don't know if those partials and fulls are going to work out or not. Keep querying, even if you're fairly certain you'll have an agent before others get to your query. Because you don't KNOW.

You might be thinking, "Well, what if I send these all out, then get a couple offers of representation? Wouldn't it be fairer to not send these out?"

Again, no. You're not taking up anyone else's place. And if you do get offers of representation, you just e-mail those others you've queried and withdraw your query. Janet's said that often enough, and yesterday, I saw a post by Jennifer Laughran that said the same thing:

Jennifer Laughran's Ask the agent blog

And if I'm wrong about what the OP was asking, then there's a lot of much better advice than mine from everyone else here.

DLM said...

It's possible I misinterpreted, but I took the question to mean "pause querying (to revise my query and start again)" ... Since the word was not "stop" I didn't read it as "give up." Either way, to MY eyeballs, three and eight out looks like a GOOD response, really. OP is getting bites, that's what a query is supposed to yield. If there is a problem here, I am not seeing it.

Now, if the three and eight yield eleven rejections: it's not because of the query, and that may be a good point to pause, especially if in the interim no other requests are forthcoming. But even then: it takes rejections on fulls and partials to get to the yes, so you have to decide what to evaluate and where your "deal breakers" lie in pursuit of this work as it stands.

As an aside, any submission with no response after a year and a half is a no for ME - I no longer care what the agent herself presumes to think. I know we all get behind, but a year and a half is too long. I don't want to work with that person.

As another aside, OP did not say they'd sent 100 queries, but that they'd revised 100 times. We don't know the total number of queries from which the requests have come.

I'd like to say here what I didn't add to yesterday's thread: Janice Gryner, thank goodness you are safe!

Colin Smith said...

Kara: I've not yet been in the situation where I've had offers of representation, but you have the option to say "no." It seems the most common senario is a single agent will offer rep, and the writer accepts. However, it's not uncommon for a writer to have multiple offers of rep, or, when the writer informs the agents currently holding requested fulls/partials that s/he has had an offer, other agents will read and offer. But one thing I've learned from this blog is this: you're not the beggar at the publishing banquet. You don't HAVE to accept ANY offer from ANY agent/editor. Agents are just as anxious about you accepting their offer as you are about getting an offer. If an agent offers, and after talking on the phone, or further research, you decide that agent isn't a good fit for you, you can say, "no." Even if they are the only agent to offer.

BJ Muntain said...

Kara: Even after sending out a hundred or a Gazillion queries, you want to be sure the agent is a good fit. You don't want just any agent. Janet has spoken here on her blog about what can happen if a writer and agent don't click.

It would be terribly disappointing after 100 queries to get an offer and have to turn it down because the agent's style and yours don't mesh, but sometimes that's best.

People have likened seeking an agent to a high school prom/graduation dance or dating. (I think dating is more relevant: a prom or dance is a one-time affair. Dating will hopefully lead to something more permanent.) If you dated a hundred prospects, and none of them turned out, you might be tempted to just take the next one that comes along... but you know, deep in your heart of hearts, that it would be a mistake to take the wrong one.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and yes to what Diane said: An agent who doesn't respond to a full/partial request after 18 months is a no--at least from me, if not from the agent too. :)

InkStainedWench said...

I hope I am allowed to hang out here even though I gave up querying (at about 75). I get inspiration and useful information from the Shark and all you woodland creatures.

I had one partial and two full requests. The feedback was consistent enough that I was able to revise and punch up the manuscript, after which I sent out the same query and eagerly awaited the opportunity to share the improved version of the book.

Silence. Nothing. Not even form rejections. I could see the bottom of the barrel coming up to meet me, regarding reputable agents in my genre.

So I began querying publishers a few months ago and have received one request; one other accepts the full ms as part of the initial submission, so two are reading.

Updates as warranted.

DLM said...

Kara, see my response above regarding waiting around on an agent for a year and a half on a submission. As for me, that'd be an automatic no well by about a year, or less if I had another offer - I would not even say "answer me by (deadline)" I'd just say "bye now, sorry you missed out" because - seriously, do I want to work with Pokey McSlowenstein? Not badly enough to trounce Speedy McGreedyforme's interest.

I consider the lists of agents I research to be very much like my own slush pile. I look for reasons to eliminate agents from my list to query just as much as I look for reasons TO query them. Your website is alarmingly pink and flowered, and all your histfic features pneumatic models leaning back in the arms of post-Fabio stud cartoons? I'm not querying you, my histfic is not something you'd enjoy. Your interviews all date to 2011 and indicate a more giggly and offhand tone than seems helpful - and your bio doesn't indicate to me pretty firmly that my genre is in your wheelhouse? That's a no.

Were I fortunate enough to have multiple offers to sift through - well, everybody's going to have to be eliminated but one. Or, having researched only to a certain point for querying, when I find an offer in hand but on further investigation I'm not sure this agent's business practices pass my smell test - again, no, and thank you so much for taking your time with my work.

Inky One, you'd better not abandon us. I "gave up" too, but that only means that right now I am between buffetings (erm, queryings). Now all I have to do is finish the WIP then I'll be moaning about the 33 agents who are vying for my new work ...

Or something.

Donnaeve said...

I haven't read the comments after Diane's (DLM) response about how she took the OP's question, so apologies in advance if I'm regurgitating what someone else said.

I took the OP's question the way I did partly b/c of QOTKU's answer. As in don't stop querying till "you just can't bear it anymore then send another."

So, sure, maybe pause and wait for replies back from the fulls/partials, and go from there, or stop/fix what you sense could be the issue and start again.

Donnaeve said...

And I will add before I go scrub toilets...

Kara, "No agent is better than a bad agent."

Notice the quotes - not sure who to give credit to - likely said by QOTKU.

InkStainedWench said...

Thanks, DLM. I can't quit ya! And there WILL be another book.

Your slog through the Mire of Unsuitable Agents is familiar, and why I quit. Since my book includes neither vampires nor recipes, I was running out of prospects.

DeadSpiderEye said...

In nature there are two strategies for successfully populating the world with your spawn. The first is embodied by ovoviviparous creatures, amongst others, they cast their offspring to the wind and let them fend for themselves. Another strategy is characterised by investment in the fate of your offspring through intensive nurturing. That's the analogy over, so let's be explicit, a moderate number of carefully considered submissions is always going to return a greater rate of success, by several exponents I should imagine. They key distinction being, carefully considered, just what that consideration should encompass, is a question that should be subject to some thought itself. Those who've reconciled that conundrum with success, can go ahead with their few carefully selected prospects with confidence, every one else is a carp competing to be a parent, in the margins of a lake. Shark, by the way, are I believe mostly viviparous, although not the most attentive parents.

Robert Ceres said...

I got one full request from an agent within an hour of querying. Because of her complimentary lightning response, I paused. Then came two full requests from previous queries. From these three queries I now have one lovely rejection, one outstanding R&R, and one form rejection. Two sets of great feedback! Had I not paused I would have missed it. Now what? I continued waiting. But, things take a long time in this industry, so I’ve started sending out a few queries again. With a stronger manuscript my percentages are up. Do I feel a little guilty?

Sarah said...

I'm not a usual commenter, since I read via RSS feed. BUT I do have a spreadsheet from my agent search. I didn't see where the OP said how many total queries those requests came from, but I think if you are getting multiple requests it's a good sign. I sent 27 queries and had 8 full requests.

The reason I wanted to comment is to say I'd be really wary of waiting for feedback. Feedback is like the Great White Buffalo for me. I don't know who these lucky souls are who get helpful feedback on rejections, but I've never been one of them. I get one sentence emails with, "I'm passing, best of luck though." And THEN I want to say this doesn't necessarily mean anything deep about the quality of your book, because a year later, this was an MS that got 3 offers of rep, 3 offers of publication, and a whole pile of NYC dollar bills.

So. Keep querying. I think it's definitely a mistake to pause waiting for feedback you may not get. If your heart is set on one of the agents who has a full/partial, it's also a mistake to pause, IMO. Because one of your other queries might yield an offer, and nothing makes agents actually read your requested material faster than that. An offer from someone else may help you get the offer you want more.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

On break no time to read comments.
With all your fulls and partials out I'd say you are doing just fine. If it all falls through just ditto your efforts.

LynnRodz said...

It's like job applications. You don't rest until you have a job. With querying, you don't rest until you have an agent. Well said, BJ.

If I understood correctly, I don't think InkStained said she was quitting. She stopped querying agents and is now querying directly to publishers. Good luck, ISW.

OP, sorry I can't give you any advice here, I haven't been in the trenches yet. (If all goes as planned, I'll dive in at the beginning of next year.) I do listen carefully to those who are there, or have been, and what they have to say. It looks like you're off to a great start with 3 fulls and 8 partials out, if I were you I would keep querying. Good luck.

Yea, for you, Sarah! It's what everyone hopes will happen.

Adib Khorram said...

My philosophy has been to only pause if I've received some sort of feedback.

Say your requests turn into rejections. If all are saying the same thing, that's the time to pause and consider if there's merit to the comments. If so, revise and then start sending again.

Your fulls could be out for three months, five months, maybe a year. That's a lot of time you could be getting more requests. Without knowing that your manuscript needs work, you're robbing yourself of the chance to find a great fit. Maybe the agent you are going to query next is the one for you.

Construction vehicles! That's a new one.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

OPIE - Your type of question hopefully will be one I will experience too :) . I read it as "Do I pause querying i.e. publishing etiquette when someone requests a full/partial, to give them a chance to respond first?"

I like BJ's answer - that you consider this as a job application and you don't stop until you nail it. I can do that.

So can you OPIE - Congrats on receiving requests - a sign of a good things to come!

And thanks DLM - Im glad I'm here too :)

Elissa M said...

Working on other projects while you wait is, in my opinion, the only way to stay sane when querying.

OP, if the agents with fulls and partials include agents that topped your list of "best fit for me", then I believe you should pause for feedback. As others have said, sometimes it helps the query process if you get some agent reactions. Revise and resend requests are especially helpful. If you're unsure about these agents, and research hasn't given you more information, I'd send out more queries.

Always, always, always continue working on other projects.

WriterMinion said...

I love Janet's answer to the question, it is both reassuring and refreshingly practical.

That being said, it also raises a question (touched on by Colin and SP, among others). That question is how and when to recognize the fault is not in the query, but in the novel?

My first book went out to...oh...40 or so agents, if I remember correctly. It received a couple of requests for partials, but that was about it. Instead of continuing with that process, I looked hard at the manuscript and realized just how not-ready it was (not-ready to the point of needing a complete rewrite, to be honest). With Stephen King's million word advice ringing in my ears, I put aside and started on the next one.

That second novel is what I'm readying for the query process now. This time I am following the second part of Janet's advice as well and working on the next book/story. The hardest part, honestly, is budgeting time between the revisions to query/synopsis/manuscript and actually working on the next dang one. Oh, and making some money, bank thinks I don't do enough of that part.

Ardenwolfe said...

The answer also depends on the feedback you get from those partials and fulls. From my own experience, I heard a similar melody. "We love your writing, but we don't know how to place it."

That made sense to me, after a lot of frustration, because I had a hell of a time trying to figure out the genre as well. So, after around 200 queries, I decided full speed ahead on another novel, one without question as far as genre, and considered the other novel a foundation and growing experience.

And maybe one to fall back on when a future agent asks me what else I have.

Again, the answer depends on you. But when you're absolutely sick of querying the same novel, and the feedback is consistently the same, you'll have your answer then.

It's an ugly thing, but sometimes you'll go through multiple novels before you find your way into publishing.

And along the way, you'll find your voice and yourself.

Anonymous said...

"How many requests for fulls/partials should you get before you pause querying or should you never pause?"

I think that depends on how many rejections with comments you've had. From my experience, even on fulls and partials you aren't guaranteed any useful comments. One was it was too similar to something he already had. Well, there's nothing I can do about that.

"Dialogue is cliche and the voice isn't unique." First time I've heard that. Usually, dialogue, voice, and characters are what stand out in a good way.

It's all subjective, so I'm not going to make any changes.

For the most part, it's just, "I didn't love it enough to take it on." That's generic enough I don't know what to change, if anything.

Three fulls and eight partials means one thing, your query is doing its job. I don't know what percentage of queries that is, but I think that's a good indication. Supposedly, a 20% request rate is considered good.

I usually set a number of active queries I want out. If a rejection comes in, another one goes out so I have x out in the nethers at all times.

The question to me seems to be, are you waiting for feedback or are you waiting for a yes?

If you're waiting for a yes, you never slow down. In the comments on Query Tracker, one agent had a full for 716 days before rejecting. That's nearly two years if you decide to put things on hold for dream agent Double O Slow.

If you're waiting on comments, that's a judgment call, but I wouldn't based on my experience. I'd keep querying.

Calorie Bombshell said...

Applying statistics to anything created by the heart and soul will be the ruin of civilization as we know it. I may be overstating this, but don't allow evil statistics to contaminate your creative process. Your query has generated requests for partials and fulls. That's amazeballs! I would keep querying until you receive the golden "offer" of representation. As Michael Jackson once sang, "don't stop 'til you get enough." Good luck.

Craig said...

How many queries do you need? In the long run you only need one. The question is which one that is. Maybe it is the next one.

It sounds like your road is paved so there is no reason to pause except to catch your breath. Querying is like that old joke about marathons being 26.5 miles. It is the last .5 miles that get to you. Keep up the slog.

The Sleepy One said...

I feel for you, OP. I queried 44 agents for my project that is currently out. 21 requests (18 fulls, 3 partials). So far, I have 16 rejections and 4 outstanding fulls. At this point, I'm assuming I have four more rejections on the way, and I'm at peace with it.

I'm at peace because I know my current WIP is the best I've ever written. I should probably query my previous project more, but I need to decide if it needs a major revision or if its fine as-is and just didn't click with the agents who read it.

Kaitlyn Sage Patterson said...

I queried my first novel until my second distracted me, which ended up being about 35 queries. In that time I realized that my first novel (which I LOVE and hope to revisit someday) was not even in the vicinity of what's selling right now, so I put it away.

I sent 83 queries over 6 months for my second novel before signing with the first agent to request my full. BUT, in the interim, I had a bunch of full requests and rejections and an R&R (which pushed me to overhaul the book), and it wasn't until I re-queried said first agent that the stars aligned.

I tweaked my query as I sent it, changing a word or two here and there, futzing with my comp titles, and being the data geek I am, I went back and looked at which version of the query + comps was garnering the best response and tweaked more from there.

All that to say, gumption and stick-to-it-iveness seem to be the best prescription for this writing compulsion of ours. Best of luck, OPIE.

Lucie Witt said...

E.M. - Thanks for the nomination. Good luck with your partials/fulls out there.

John Frain said...


I imagine you might have your own plan. One way to go about things is to tell yourself that you want 10-12 queries circulating at all times until you find representation. Get a rejection, send a new one out. Since you've got 11 out right now, you might have hit that threshold.

If I were in your shoes, I'd take a pause here. Wait a month, see what comes. Sounds like you don't need to mess with your query, but maybe you'll want to change the ms.

But before all that, congratulations. You're doing a lot right. Pat yourself on the back! And then get back to your next ms.

Lucie Witt said...

Lots of great suggestions. Caveat to my initial post - I agree that waiting for feedback is a bad idea (see that full I mentioned).

Looking at my bible ... er, my spreadsheet, it looks like even with fulls out I typically sent 8 queries a month consistently until deciding to shelve (this would be low for some people).

Amy Schaefer said...

The only time to stop querying is when something in your situation changes:
-your query isn't leading to requests
-you get useful MS feedback from an agent or other reliable source and decide to revise
-you run out of appropriate agents to query
-you get an offer
-you've had enough

Otherwise, keep going, OP. As a statistician, you know that a large sample size is your friend. Keep chugging through your agent list, no matter how many requests are outstanding.

Lily Cate said...

You pause querying when you want to make changes to your manuscript, either at an agent's request or your own discretion. I think anyway.

I did not keep track of how many queries I sent out.(I know, blasphemy!) I began in late 2009 with a handful of queries, and sent out another any time I found an agent that looked like a possible fit. I had a consistent string of requests and R&Rs until I finally signed in mid 2013 with my now awesome agent. Just about 3&1/2 years.

There is an element of luck - you just can't predict when to get that manuscript to the perfect agent for you, and at the right time. Perhaps you're thinking of waiting to see if the agents that currently have your ms are going to offer representation, and hopefully they will. But there's no disadvantage to ending up with multiple offers, and you can't get an offer from an agent you haven't queried. You may very well get offers from more than one agent currently reading your work, and decide not to go forward with any of them. Meanwhile, more agents could be seeing your work, perhaps one that is going to be a better fit than any of the ones currently reading your fulls and partials. (I did not end up signing with the first agent that reached Phone Call stage of the query process. I am glad I had not paused to wait for that to pan out before moving ahead :)

In summary - I don't see any advantage to waiting, unless it is to improve the manuscript.

Sam Hawke said...

Like Julie, I always liked to have a certain number of live queries out. I started with ten, and every time I got a response (request or rejection) I'd send out another. It keeps things moving at a staggered but brisk pace and it gives you something else to focus on instead of obsessing over the agents considering your material or wallowing over rejections.

You're getting requests right now and it sounds like they're coming in at a good rate. Absolutely no reason to stop! If you get any offers on those fulls it is nice to be able to have a decent list of other people to be able to email and say hey, I got an offer, can you read my book quickly pls? :) And then you may have the fun of choosing between multiple offers.

Essentially, I see there being zero downside to continuing querying. Gives you more options if none of the existing ones pan out, and more options if they do. Options are your friend. Sometimes they're painful, but friends can be sometimes. ;)

Nikola Vukoja said...

Let's look at this another way.
You're not sending out queries, you're in the process of sending out job applications.
So, you've applied for (let's call it) 30 positions & had 4-5 ask to see you either for a first interview or a brief phone interview.
It's a long way from bended knee to the alter and for that reason, even though several of those jobs you are now short listed for sound pretty damn awesome, until there is a job offer on the table you will keep searching the want-ads and speaking to employment agencies and asking your friends to let you know of any openings in their industries.
Now, should you get to second interview stage for at least 3 of those interested, you might reasonably think, "OK, I now have 50-odd positions I am either waiting to hear about or waiting for a second call back, and I have 3 that are second interviews, unless something super extraordinary pops up, I think I'll see how the second interview goes before I send another batch of job applications." - translated, 3 agents ask to chat with you about your manuscript/project.
The main difference with queries is, instead of an initial 30-odd, you are more likely to make that 50-60 with another 10 odd each week for the next 3-5 weeks. The only time I would suggest making that less is if your genre/subject matter is niche and there are only 30 agents to send to in total - and don't, unless asked to, send to agents that clearly do not represent your genre. You're wasting your time & the agents and stressing yourself out over yet another form rejection that need not have been.

Em-Musing said...

...just the wisdom I need today as ponder to send out yet another query. Thanks!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

OT: Another writing contest this weekend but we will need a time machine to enter. Apparently contest opens 10/14/15 but it's November. Can someone braver than me tap the shark on the fin? I am sure she meant 11/14 but maybe we do need a time turner to enter?

Lucie Witt said...

E.M. - I, too was waiting to see if someone would tap the shark. I have a lovely time turner necklace but left it at home.

James Ticknor said...

I think someone did a long computation on and they calculated an average of around 62 queries before one was accepted. I have seen someone query upwards of 400 times before they landed an agent. I queried about 10 times before I jumped into the Kindle pool. I thought it would be a shallow pool, but it's a lot deeper than you'd think. Next time, I'm going to jump into the traditional pool with my agent floaties so the sharks don't get me.

La Mandarin said...

Some additional detail, as this was my question :)
47 total queries thus far
24 rejections or closed as no response per specific guidelines.
8 partials
3 fulls
12 in progress

Average response time (excluding agencies that don't respond): 23 days
Current success rate: 31%
47% chance of receiving a response on a Thursday or Friday

No responses on submissions yet, but all have been out two months or less so I don't expect yet.

I won't give up until I exhaust all resources, because I am obviously meticulous and relentless, but my question is truly focused on is there value waiting for feedback? Or should you just keeping searching for the perfect one?

Thank you Janet for posting this one!

Kaitlyn Sage Patterson said...

I found the feedback I got through my R&R invaluable, but I don't see any reason to slow your querying in order to wait for feedback you may or may not get. If you've had it read by a few CPs with critical eyes and knowledge in your genre and you feel confident in your manuscript, I'd keep rolling.

Anonymous said...


"but my question is truly focused on is there value waiting for feedback?"

I've had one revise and resend and the suggestions did help. The most feedback I've received other than that was a paragraph pointing out the things I did right, but saying the dialogue was cliche and the voice ordinary.

Other than that, even on fulls, it's, "Didn't grab my attention." "Didn't draw me in." "Not quite what I'm looking for." Now, they will sometimes mention something they liked. However, feedback that explains what was wrong or what I might change never came aside from the one time.

MANY rejections on fulls and partials were form rejections and some just never responded at all. Period.

If you're waiting on meaningful feedback I hope you have better luck than I've had.

BJ Muntain said...

I don't think waiting for feedback is useful at all. Chances are, as others have said, the only feedback you'll get is 'Not for me.'

If you do receive feedback and decide to do a major rewrite (taking a fair amount of time, but you think it will make it all much better and more likely to warrant a good response from agents), you can withdraw your query/material. Send an e-mail to the agents currently holding your work, saying something along the lines of, "I'm withdrawing my work to revise it as I've received important feedback with suggestions that will make the work much better", with appropriate title and the date you sent it (so they can easily find it). If your title wasn't in the subject line, you might give them the subject line too - again, to make it easy to find it.

If you're not revising it or shelving it, there's no reason, really, to 'pause' querying, barring life circumstances that get in the way.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading query tracker comments now on an agent I'm pondering. Someone said they received a rejection on a full with the comment she didn't connect with the voice. So, the author was fretting about how to fix the voice until someone else said that's the form rejection for all fulls. I wonder how many writers have gone into a tailspin trying to fix their voice over that comment.

I wish I could figure out where my notebook is with my rejection collection from a previous life. Some of them were pretty funny.

One was written like a Dear John letter. No, really, it's not you, it's me. I laughed, which softened the blow considerably.

And, it could be worse.

Donnaeve said...

Thinking of our friend in Paris, Angie... hope you are safe.

Anonymous said...

Yes, very concerned about our friends in France tonight... Angie, Lynn, Hank, anyone else?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Pray for Paris. And the Reiders there - stay safe. Let us hear from you soon.

Donnaeve said...

Hank's in the countryside...I just saw that Lynn's okay via FB as is Hank - he was posting a "Pray for Paris" if we hear from Angie...and any others we aren't naming.

LynnRodz said...

Thanks guys, just heard on FB Angie is safe at home as well.

Donnaeve said...

Good to know, Lynn. Thx for letting us know about Angie.

Nora said...

I actually blogged about this recently when I decided to close the query books on my last MS. For me, that number ended up being 96. The combination of lackluster response (1 full and 2 partial requests), running out of reputable agents in my genre, and knowing my MS was a tough sell (on the very very short side), I did not think it was worth the effort to continue. For the MS I am querying now, I queried about 50 before taking a break due to sheer frustration. Now I am returning to it, after the last year spent on the other MS, and I could query 50 more. Or 100 more, if I can find them. Or maybe only 30 more. But hopefully by then the next MS will be polished up and ready to go, so I'll only cry and eat ice cream for a few days...

I know that persistence is key, but there is also the other side of that which is self delusion. I think if I was getting a decent response (~10%), I would want to query much more widely. After 100 form rejections, though, it may be time to take stock and realize that's not a battle you're going to win. (But don't surrender the war!)

Stephanie said...

It took 69 queries total and exactly one year to get my agent.
8 full requests
11 partials
25 form rejections
The rest went unanswered (SO RUDE!!)

I did 4 full revisions based on agent feedback
I cut 20k words based on "debut ya authors can't have over 100k"
And I deleted 3 chapters at the beginning as per big huge agent's advice to get right to the action.
My biggest mistake was querying dream agents at the start, when unbeknownst to me, my concept was interesting and unique enough to hook a few big ones, my voice was great, but my pacing and tension needed a lot of work. I was too eager and too confident.
I also took a webinar on query writing (excellent move) subsequently tweaked the query about 15 times, and sent out in batches to see if the improvements were effective.
I figured if the great books out there took just as many rejections before they were picked up, then mine could either be a flop, or the next great one.
The most important thing is to listen to the feedback. They know what they're talking about!! Do those Twitter pitch things or contests where you can win an agent or author critique. But never give up. 20 queries is nothing. Don't even consider giving up until you've gotten to 100+.

La Mandarin said...

First of all, so glad Paris contributors are ok. So terrible to hear about what has happened.

Second, thank you all for sharing your personal experiences with me. It helps a lot. It sounds like, overall, most of the responses to partials and fulls fall into the "feedback lite" or R&R category, in which case, there does not seem to be a great benefit from waiting, though there are a few exceptions.

As to the query, I held off on querying some of my dream agents first because I was new to this and my first 10 letters were ok, but got some great advice from Holly Root in a webinar that basically told me to "take out the proper nouns" unless either absolutely necessary or they are already super familiar. And I am glad I did, because this one seems to be doing a better job!

I am also genre mixing, which walks a fine line, and will definitely take a certain type of agent to pull off, so I am hearing loud and clear "query until you can't take it". Good thing a large part of my day job is negotiations. If you hear an immediate 'yes', you didn't ask for enough!

So ahead I'll forge. Good luck to all of you forging ahead with me.