Thursday, January 11, 2018

Exceptions to "Don't Query Two Agents at Same Agency"

A mega-agent at a big agency requested a full of my book in January 2017. They didn't respond to me "Hello, did you get the MS" email/ nudge mid-year. (I'm usually opposed to nudging but did so because another agency didn't get the full I sent around the same time). Fast forward: I wrote another book and will probably be querying it in early 2018. Another agent at this same agency would be great to query. I think book 2 has a better probability of getting signed.

Agent A sometimes requests fulls and signs someone within a week. Sometimes they take 6 months or a year to reject. Sometimes they don't respond at all. (They almost never sign anyone).

Their website says to not query two agents at the same time, but what if they are two different books? Can't I just query B without having any additional correspondence with A? I prefer to work under the "if no response by X, assume rejected" rule because it doesn't render the writer powerless or put them in an awkward situation. I hate this stuff--it feels like repeatedly sending texts like "hey just checking again--are you sure you don't want to go to prom with me?" I mean if they wanted to go to prom they would respond.

I agree that failure to resond is should incur a penalty for unneccesary rudeness. (Hang on, I need to check my inbox for any unanswered emails before I get all fired up!)

And if an agent has failed to respond to both "didja get this" and "do you want this" within a year, then s/he has de facto passed on this.

If you were querying your first project to another agent, you might run into issues but you're querying a new project so my advice is go for it.

And I STRONGLY encourage you to get over your reluctance to nudge. In the last month alone I've been glad to hear from some writers who needed to nudge about one thing or another. Stuff happens and email can disappear never to be seen again.

I've blogged about this before and it hasn't gotten any better.

The thinking behind "don't query two agents at the same time" is so authors don't just query all the agents at one agency at the same time, leading to a lot of wasted time if each agent reads and requests.  I've seen authors ignore this here at New Leaf. We have a central query email and if you query all the agents here at the same time, we all see it.

Frankly, that tells me you haven't spent a single minute trying to figure out who is a good match. There's almost nothing that overlaps on Suzie Townsend's list and my list (although I love the books she reps and sells) There's certainly some overlap with JL Stermer, but again, a book that's suited for her is most likely not suited for me.

My long standing advice to query everyone does NOT mean query everyone at the same time. IF JL says no, you might expand your reach and query me. In other words, start with the agents you think are a good match and work down the list.

And of course the first rule of querying is query me first cause I respond to (almost) every query.


Timothy Lowe said...

I have long wondered the answer to this question. Just yesterday I nudged an agent who's had a full of mine since July. She's at a large agency that I would like to query another book with but have held off for this very reason.

Good luck, OP. As someone who can still see improvement from MS to MS, I think you're on the right track in focusing on your new project.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Oh boy. OP, after a year, I say let ‘er rip and send new book to agent B. If agent A responds after, send Writer’s Tears to soften the you snooze you looze blues.

Kathy Joyce said...

How disheartening that the agent requested a full and never read it. How unprofessional to not respond. Good for you OP, to keep writing. I hope Agent B sells your new book for a billion dollars.

Gayle said...

Ugh. Not responding to queries is bad enough, but not replying to a full? That is a real bummer.

If an agent doesn't have a time limit on their response like "if you don't hear back in 8 weeks, it's a pass" I close it out at 6 weeks, which isn't very long, but I only sent a new query out once I have a response, so... yeah. Obviously, it would be longer for a full.

I signed up for the premium Query Tracker, which should give me a better idea when a no response agent moves past me in their pile of queries, but I'm not sure it was a healthy choice. I'm checking it so many times a day to see if anything has changed in terms of where I am in this visual digital queue. They have a similar way to look at submissions, I think, but I don't have any yet so I can't really speak to that.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

One of my all-time favorite posts is Janet's Be Imperfect rule for writers. It does seem to occasionally clash with other, very sensible advice (for pete's sake, follow the query instructions on the website), but a good rule of thumb is to be professional, be courteous, and be bold. If you make a mistake while following those three rules, so what?

I go out of my way to be as unobtrusive as possible in real life (one of the side-effects of social anxiety). There are times, though, when you just have to risk annoying someone.

Casey Karp said...

Totally agree with the consensus advice to go ahead and submit to Agent B.

But I disagree with E.M. about you-snooze-you-lose-ing Agent A. If she responds, treat it like any other response: if it's a reject, send a polite thank you. If it's some form of R&R, decide whether you want to pursue it. And if it's an offer, send appropriate emails to anyone else who's got either Book 1 or Book 2, and start your research.

Remember, just because you think Book 2 has a better shot, that doesn't mean Agent B is going to agree with you!

Sherry Howard said...

Congratulations on a full request! Celebrate those small victories!

Even with my handy-dandy spreadsheets for each book, it can get hard to keep up because I try not to think about it much. I hate to query and don’t do it nearly enough. But I write plenty, and now have a body of work if I ever do query the right agent. And, I have premium QT, but guess I don’t really understand it well enough to benefit because I don’t use it for much of anything except reports. If there’s a way to see specifically where I am in a stack of queries, I don’t get it.

Write on!

Julie Weathers said...

First, congratulations on the full request. That's some confirmation that should make you feel good.

Second, move on as everyone has said.

Third, don't query Agent 1 ever again.

I hate this no response stuff. I hate it worse when an agency has a "We respond to everything" policy and one of their agents didn't get the memo. Then after three nudges, you send the golden agent a polite note removing your query. Sometime later the agency has a Q&A on Twitter and you ask if they still have a we respond to everything in 90 days. "Yes, if you would read our guidelines, you would know we always respond within 90 days." Yeah, well, you should probably have a staff meeting.

Rant off.

Good luck with the new book and I'm glad you weren't just sitting around waiting on the first one.

Gayle said...

@Sherry Howard On each agent's detail page, there is a button labeled "Timeline" with an arrow. You click on that and you can see the last 30, 90, 6 months or year of queries and responses. You query is highlighted in yellow. There are no identifying details, of course, but genre and word count are included, if available.

You can see patterns emerge. It's really cool actually.

Of course, it only includes the data from people who use Query Tracker. But you can see that Janet, for example, last replied to someone using QT on 1/2/18 with a rejection on a Thriller/Suspense of 60-69k words. And she offered representation to someone recorded on 12/16/17 from a full submission sent 11/16. She has one outstanding query for a narrative nonfiction sent 1/7/18 with a word count of 80-89k.

Only as good as the self-reported data writers put in, of course.

Joseph Snoe said...

I'm not a nudger. I figure an agent either knows what she's doing or she doesn't; and either way a nudge won't matter. I realize that's a boneheaded attitude, but it's mine.

Hmm Speaking of which, the roof repair guy has not called to schedule an appointment.I better call and see what's the hangup.

Craig F said...

I have not dug my query trench deep enough for a positive response yet. I wanted to get the big names out of the way first. Most of them are self-centered enough to admit that they will only respond if they are interested. If they respond it will be a surprise, the thriller market is saturated.

If someone requests a full I will try to get some initial correspondence working. If that doesn't work I will nudge, eventually. I think I think that if this book goes anywhere it will be to a hungry agent and that will be a project for later this week. I have to sharpen up the trenching tool first, before digging much deeper.

Steve Stubbs said...

OP wrote: "A mega﷓agent at a big agency requested a full."

Why query mega-agents for a debut? If they are making millions off super hot bestselling authors, methinks working their buns off for a few hundred dollars would not be Priority #1 for them.

OP: "Another agent at this same agency would be great to query."

And has already seen your first query and co-snubbed you. Why not move on to another agency with no snub history?

OP: "They almost never sign anyone."

English translation: they are probably a waste of time.

OP: "Their website says to not query two agents at the same time."

So why not move on to somewhere else?

OP: "It doesn't render the writer powerless."

The writer IS powerless. The agent is in the catbird seat. That is why they have shotguns in their laps.

What your comments say to me is: (1) write off the first agency, (2) sell the new book somewhere else, (3) bring up the first book when you get a deal.

AJ Blythe said...

The frustrating, tiring merry-go-round that is querying. Good luck, OP, I hope you get a response with your second book.

Julie Weathers said...


"Why query mega-agents for a debut?"

Because maybe I'm the next hot thing coming down the line.

"The writer IS powerless."

So you keep saying.