Wednesday, October 11, 2017

More on querying agencies with "one and done" policies

I have a question about one and done agencies. In other words, if you query one agent from our agency don't even think about querying anyone else here. Now that I think about it I have two questions, maybe three but they are all related.

If an agency has a one and done policy but you (and by you I mean me) have made a MAJOR revision to the point where the plot is the same but the novel and style is not. Is it okay to query another agent at the one and done agency since it is substantially different from when you (and by you I mean me) first submitted to the agency over a year ago?

While I was typing I had a second thought pop into my head. What if you queried an agent at a one and done agency and that agent since left, are the other agents at that agency now fair game?

Sorry to be long winded but that last question leads to a follow up question. What if an agent you (and by you I mean me) queried in the past while at another agency moved to a one and done agency I have not queried yet, am I @#*& out of luck at that agency?

I'm confusing myself but you are brilliant so I'm sure you can keep up.

So here is my question. Should I stick to querying agents I haven't queried at agencies that I also haven't queried yet or can I expand my net since my novel is not the same novel I queried a year ago? I'm afraid of angering the Query gods and having plagues bestowed on me.

It will help you to know WHY some agencies have a one and done policy.

Some agencies have a pooled query in-box. All queries land there and are then sorted out to various agents depending on who's looking for what; who's busy; who's looking for anything they can sell etc.

If you've queried here, your query has been assessed and delivered (we hope) to the agent that best fits it.

Thus, no matter what, you're done here.

Some agencies on the other hand ask that you query one at a time so that three different agents are not reading the same material and worse requesting the same material. Time is a scarce resource and if an agent finds out she's third on your priority list AFTER spending six hours reading your manuscript she's going to be damn unhappy.

Here at New Leaf we ask you query one agent at a time for just that reason.

Some people don't follow those guidelines, and what they don't know is that we see ALL their emails so we know they've ignored that request.

It's not a good way to get started.

Now, to your specific questions:

1. Unless asked, you generally don't send a query for a revision. "Asked" means the agent specifically says "I'd like to see a revision"

If you've revised the book so it doesn't resemble the first one, call it something else and query like it's a new novel.

2. If the agent you've queried has left the agency, you can query another agent.

3. If the AGENCY you queried is one and done, no matter which agents come and go, you're done

4. The publishing gods won't eviscerate you for this. The publishing gods eviscerate you for hubris and idiocy and twice for hubris combined with idiocy. You're neither.


CynthiaMc said...

I'm confused. How can there be a major revision that ends with the same plot but a completely different novel?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I had a similar question, at least one that relates. So if a writer is querying (one that can actually draft a proper query letter) and they have a relationship of sorts with an agent at an agency with many wondrous agents. However, the agent the writer knows does not much care for the writer's genre. However, there are one or two agents at the agency that love the writer's genre. Should this writer query the agent they know or one of the agents at the agency that seems, on paper, to be a better fit? Or would the agent the writer knows simply pass the query to a more appropriate agent if she or he really did not want to deal with the writer's genre? Did any of that make any sense?

Must find coffee...

Colin Smith said...

OK... so I get the general principle here. If the agency's a One-n-Done, then you email a query pool (e.g.,, and presumably a smart-and-savvy intern or assistant will read the query, and forward it to the appropriate agent.

It sounds like that's what you (and by you I mean Janet) mean by:

If you've queried here
[and by "here" I presume you mean "New Leaf"], your query has been assessed and delivered(we hope) to the agent that best fits it.

Thus, no matter what, you're done here
[and by "here" I presume you mean "New Leaf"].

But you (and by you I mean Janet) go on to say:

Here at New Leaf we ask you query one agent at a time for just that reason.

And sure enough, if you look at the New Leaf querying guidelines, you give a general email address (, but you then say:

The word “Query” must be in the subject line, plus the agent’s name, ie – Subject: Query, Suzie Townsend. Please also include the category (ie, PB, chapter book, MG, YA, adult fiction, adult nonfiction, etc.)

So you sort of have it both ways at New Leaf. Yes? You have a query pool, but the query can (or should?) be addressed to a specific agent? Which seems a little confusing. Are you a One-n-Done or are you not? It would seem to be you would have to be a One-n-Done if you're a NORMAN too. Otherwise, how would you know you're clear to query the next agent unless you receive a rejection from one?

What gives, Sharkey? :D

Oh, and all the best in the query trenches, Opie!!

kathy joyce said...

EM, interesting question. My follow-up is, what constitutes "knowing" an agent, from an agent's perspective. I mean knowing well enough to query out of genre. (This seems like a favor of sorts. "Will you pass this along for me, with an 'I know her' comment?")

I suspect many authors think they know agents, and agents think otherwise. (Not saying this is the case with you EM; I'm speaking generally.) So, what's enough? We exchange twitter comments? I follow and comment on your blog? I purchased or bid on your services? We met at a conference? My mother's uncle's sister's husband went to high school with your cousin?

Julie Weathers said...


The Big New York Agent who had Far Rider and made some detailed suggestions about it: expand the magic system, it intrigued him and he wanted to see more of that, expound on some characters who were in minor roles and flesh them out more, take out some adult scenes, turn it into a YA.

It will still have basically the same plot, but it's going to be a different novel. I'm not sure I would re-query the agents who already rejected it, but there are lots of agents I didn't query who handle YA who didn't see it.

I don't know. It's down the list of my priorities right now.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...


As a plot is but one element in a novel, if other elements change, it will become a different novel. One only needs to see all the Cinderella retellings out there to know this.

Writing in a different voice and changing the POV will definitely make it a different novel, possibly one that will have a better chance of selling.

CynthiaMc said...

Julie and Heidi - thank you. I see what you're saying, it just feels weird to me. I'm a bottom-line person so to me 50 bazillion retellings of Cinderella are still Cinderella to me. That's why I can't go to the movies with anyone. Two minutes in and I'm spouting the entire rest of the plot. Same with TV.

CynthiaMc said...

Man I wish we had an edit button. And I wish I had time to repost this so it made more sense but I don't. Be careful out there, everyone.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Maybe you'd enjoy more character-based stuff where plot isn't the dominant feature.

John Davis Frain said...


By "here" in the first example, I believe we (the royal We, as in Janet) are referring to the agency that Opie queried.

I'd be longer and more confusing, but I have to run or I'll be late for a meeting. Grrrr, clients.

Julie Weathers said...


It probably is weird. In the case of FR, I'll have to cut an arc, add a character, flesh some out (mainly the ones in the magic academies), cut about a third of the story and end it far before the big battle. It will have many of the same characters and somewhat the same plot, but be much different. I think even those who read it before would read it as a new book.

This is the reason I haven't tackled it yet. It's going to be almost like writing a new book, but I'll be cannibalizing parts of the old one.

Mister Furkles said...

Actually, something the agents and New Leaf don’t know is that the one-and-done agencies have a mafia retainer. If you query them again on the same manuscript, they send one hundred thousand dollars to their mob agent and he arranges your assassination. If you’re a one-and-done, it’s what you do.

Maybe rewrite the query, change the title, change your name, and move to a new address and then you might be safe to re-query the O&D agency. But if they also have the NSA on retainer, this won’t work.

Okay, that doesn’t happen.

As long as you are reasonably polite and wait a reasonable time, you may send a revised query and what’s the worst they will do? They can do no-response-means-no, or they may send you a polite rejection which translates into English as “Your query sucks and so do you.”

Now suppose J. K. Rollings had revised the first Harry Potter and sent a query to a O&D agency that had previously rejected her. They would consult the psychic they have on retainer and seen that the HP series would generate billions. The O&D would have sent a polite rejection stating “Go away, we already rejected you and we don’t want none of the filthy scores of millions your crummy books will make a representing agency.”

Okay, they don’t have psychics but that might be a good idea for them. Who could predict the success of Twilight or Shades of Grey?

Steve Stubbs said...

A question regarding yesterday's topic. Some critics seem to think the tension in a story has to be constant and relentless. A more sophisticated view I heard from one of Alfred Hitchcock's people one time is that the storyteller should build tension, then relieve it, tben build it, and relieve it. I say that is more sophisticated because I happen to agree with it. If I agreed with the continuous tension view I would say that is more sophisticated.

Nothing but nothing but nothing relieves tension like humor.

So is it OK to insert a few yukks into a dark story?

Bear in mind every page should entice the reader to read another page - and another - and another - and another. Say something amusing - and humor is only one way to be amusing - and people will read on in hopes you do it again.

Does anyone have an opinion.

Colin Smith said...

Steve: I don't see why you couldn't, as long as it works. And that's the tough part. You as the writer should have a sense of the type of humor (if any) that fits the story. And a good beta reader can also tip you off if the humor falls flat, or is misplaced. There are different ways to add humor to a story: jokes, a light-relief character, a situation, misunderstanding, confusion, etc. And sometimes humor can have the opposite effect. A character cracking jokes as he's about to turn a corner and be murdered can be horrific if the reader already knows what's waiting for the poor guy.

So, yes... it depends. As long as it works. Isn't that a good writerly answer? ;)

kathy joyce said...

Steve, I think humor is a great way to relieve tension, in books and in real life. But the humor has to fit the situation. If a murderer has just finished off his victim, he shouldn't tell a silly knock-knock joke. But, a dark and twisted joke would be fine.

Craig F said...

Good character development can be used to throw some humor, either dry or smart-assed, into a dark situation. Sometimes that will be all that is needed to let a reader catch their breath.

I tossed a sci-fi query at Ms. Volpe back in August. All that I have gotten back is that returned receiver notification. To keep from going further bonkers while waiting for responses to that query I have also started writing a query for the thriller that started the whole thing ( a trilogy of trilogies that go from straight thrillers to speculative and then sci-fi).

Will the query police come after me if I send it to the same agencies as the sci-fi query, particularly you, my Queen?

Colin Smith said...

Craig: In case you didn't know, Janet's the only NL agent I know who responds to every query. The website says they are a NORMAN agency... well, they don't use the term (yet!!), but that's basically what they say. Which is why it seems to me the agency has to be "One-n-Done" if it's NORMAN. Otherwise, how will you know you're free to query Janet if you'll never hear from Ms. Volpe unless she's interested... in which case you wouldn't need to query anyone else at NL?

BJ Muntain said...

Janet has said in the past that New Leaf is *not* a 'one-and-done' agency. They're a 'one at a time' agency. I think you'll find that most agencies prefer you only query one agent at that agency at a time.

EM: Query Janet. She wants to see queries from all genres, because she's just as afraid of missing something terrific as we are of angering agents. And New Leaf is not a one-and-done. She'll either pass you on to someone else, or you'll be free to query someone else.

BJ Muntain said...

Colin: If an agency is NORMAN, they will usually say 'after a specific amount of time, consider it rejected.' If, they don't say this but you never hear from them, they are not 'officially' NORMAN. In which case, wait a reasonable amount of time, nudge once or twice, then query someone else at that agency. Assuming NORMANcy can be a mistake.

Craig: I advise waiting for the recommended period of response before sending the thriller to the same agency. Many agents/agencies say to send only one query to the agency at a time. However, if you're querying a one-and-done agency, you just need to understand that it's one-and-done for THAT novel only.

Timothy Lowe said...


Mark Twain once said "the secret source of all humor is not joy, but sorrow."

Now, I have no idea what the hell that means, but I enjoy a good laugh, even when somebody is knocking somebody else's head in.

Humor indicates self-awareness. That's a very good thing for any writer.

My two pennies.

Claire Bobrow said...

Thanks for asking the question, OP. I'm glad to get clarification on "one and done."

Steve: perhaps this isn't exactly what you mean, but humor and horror are interwoven to great effect in the movies 'After Hours' (1985) and 'Fargo' (1996). I don't think they'd be as scary without the funny parts. I'm not as well-versed on books that do the same, but surely they exist.

Pardon the late comment. We're breathing a lot of smoke here in San Francisco, and feeling bummed out for those folks affected by the fires. Ugh.

Steve Stubbs said...

Many thanks to everyone who responded. I think a joke in a query would be risky because you have so little real estate to work with as it is. I donotice there are occasional jokes in the TV show TRUE BLOOD.

One ep that comes to minf has two sheriff's detectives discussing a recent murder. One says the victim was watching TV and his wife came and blew his brains out. When the other asks why, the first detective says, "Well, she wanted to watch something else."

Bad dispute management skills.

OK, I'll put a few howlers in my WIP and see if anyone except me thinks I have a sense of hum

John Davis Frain said...


I thought McDonald's used secret source in their Big Macs. No idea Mark Twain came up with it long before Ray Kroc. <<<--- Sorry, I'm just trying to stay on topic here.

Colin Smith said...

BJ: We only respond if we are interested in seeing your work sounds like NORMAN to me... but I guess Janet can give us the definitive scoop. :)

Mark Ellis said...

Jack Nicholson in The Shining: "Here's Johnny!"(Wasn't in the King novel, a Stanley Kramer script adjustment.)