Saturday, April 07, 2018

When the junior agent is your point of contact

About 6 months ago, I queried a well-established agent at a large agency. He liked my story and asked for more manuscripts, but passed after reading the rest. Admittedly, I committed that newbie blunder of submitting before I was really ready. I did not have a strong stable of pieces to back up my first.

Now, though, I do, and I would like to re-query him. Here's my confusion: I never actually corresponded with him directly, but rather with a more junior agent who acted as an intermediary. When I re-query, should I address my query to them both? The truth is that I would be thrilled to be represented by either of them.

Also, on a more minor point, after corresponding with the more junior agent a couple of times, we were using first names rather than the more formal Ms. Xyz. When I re-query, should I revert to the more formal standard?

Were you invited to re-query when you had more work to show? If not, don't assume they are looking for another query.

Also, if you never corresponded directly with Senior, my guess is he hasn't seen your work at all. It was the junior agent.  Absent the phrase "Senior Agent has asked me to" you should assume the person reading and assessing your work is the person signing the email.

Somewhat like the QofE has staff to answer her mail, Senior Agents have minions whose job is to scout around for good stuff. If it works into something good, Senior Agent might swoop in, but as you say, you didn't have your best work then, so Senior didn't swoop.

And of course, it's entirely possible Junior is starting to build his/her own list under the supervision of Senior. That's exactly how my assistants got their start.

And thus, any future queries should be directed to Junior. And call her/him what you had been. It's weird to revert to formality if you're on a first name basis.


Sherry Howard said...

Have you ever driven through a ghost town? That's what it felt like to see the comments empty right now. In my head, Twilight Zone music is playing, and I'm wondering what happened to all the early commenters!

Kathy Joyce said...

I'm usually an early commenter, but slept late this morning. Delicious! Just caught up with all the posts I missed earlier in the week. Write on all!

OP, I'm confused. The agent asked for additional manuscripts after reading the first? Meaning a revise and resubmit of the first submission, or different work altogether? Is this a thing, that you need multiple manuscripts to get one accepted? It feels like the goal post just moved to a different county.

Megan V said...

Funnily enough, the ghost town near me is actually populated.
And it has a ton of visiting burros.

OP: I'm with the QOTKU stick to the less formal names unless its been years since you last dropped a line. Best of luck in the query trenches!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I meant to comment. Sorry. Liverpool and revisions regarding bits of ship distracted me. I'm all better now I think. This sounds like a pass and time to move on to the next agent/agency on the list. Rejections are not fun, but this sounds like a rejection. So call the junior agent by his name and move on.

Also, is it common for an agent to reject you based on your backlog instead of the book you are querying? That seems odd and frightening. How many books should I have finished and ready to go before I query? I have one that is about ready. I have five that need work. And bits and pieces for six others. I would not send any of these 11 to an agent or editor until they are well-revised and much further along.

OT - I feel like we've covered this before but can anyone real quick tell me on a requested full.

1. Include Table of Contents (This is fiction in parts and chapters so it could have a table of contents but it does not at this time)

2. If a table of contents is included, should it be counted in the word count. I don't wish to inflate my word count anymore. I am a hair breath's short of 125K and I wish to stay under that for the sake of a debut.

3. Also, is it common for an agent to request both full manuscript and a synopsis at the same time? If so, should I inquire about the size of synopsis? Is there a general guide for how long a synopsis should be. Mine is four pages, single-spaced. Is that too long? Should it be double-spaced? I think I read a synopsis is meant to be single spaced?

Thanks. I am preparing to deliver some requests from pitches and delve into the query gauntlet again and I want to be truly prepared. I am already truly scared which is the way I understand most agents like it.

Claire Bobrow said...

Kathy: I can't be sure, but OP sounds like a picture book author. It's typical to query with one picture book manuscript. If the agent is intrigued they will ask to see more work, typically 2-3 more stories, to see if they're equally enthralled and feel the author has a career in the making.

Whatever you're writing, good luck with your work, OP.

Julie Weathers said...


A friend of mine was going to a horse sale once and had another buddy of his driving. There's a little town in Texas, probably many of them, that has a historic courthouse they decided to keep and have built streets around it in a circle rather than tear it down. So, all points lead to this kind of creepy looking old courthouse and you have to drive in a circle to hit the highway going out of town in whichever direction you're going.

Tommy woke up in the wee hours of the morning and noticed the courthouse when they stopped at the stop sign and then circled around to get back on the road.

Co-pilot got turned around and wound up back in the same town about an hour later. No, problem, things happen.

The third time it happened they decided to stop at the courthouse and ask an old man who was sitting on a bench enjoying the sunshine for directions. Tommy said, "Sir, we're kind of lost. This is the Twilight Zone, isn't it?"

That's kind of how it was here today. I circled around a few times, but decided to wait until other people commented.

OP, nothing to add to what Miss Janet said. I always default to formal address until I've been in correspondence with someone for a while or they invite me to use their first name, but you already were.

Good luck.

Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Smith said...

I think you have your answer, Opie. All the best to you!

Sherry: Your comment made me think of THIS.

Elise: I say (not Janet), if your work of fiction doesn't NEED a ToC, don't include one. In fact, I wouldn't even bother with one until you're talking with an editor (i.e., you have an agent and your novel has sold). The purpose of a ToC is to help the reader find a particular chapter. If the list is keyed to page numbers, well, you won't know for sure how the page numbering will map until the publisher typesets or whatever they do these days. So, I say don't even include it in your MS, unless you have some compelling reason why it has to be there.

As for the synopsis, I'm not surprised that an agent might ask for a synopsis, too. As I'm sure you recall, the point of the synopsis is to give the agent a satellite's view of your novel, its mountains and valleys, and the end destination. She may be so absorbed in your ms, she never reads the synopsis. Or she may read it first to see if it's something she will like before digging into your prose. Especially with fantasy, and the typically large word-count, I could understand an agent wanting to see the synopsis before investing time in a ms she may not enjoy. But that's just my feeling. Janet may have much better thoughts about this.

As to the length of the synopsis, I'd say no more than 5 pages, and as short as you can make it while doing justice to the plot. If you can do a single page synopsis, then great, but I don't think 3 pages would be too long, especially if they've not stated explicitly how long it needs to be. If you find yourself writing a long synopsis, you are enjoying it way too much, and I have a 1-800 number you can call for help with that. :)

If I recall, the synopsis is supposed to be single-spaced. It's a functional document, so I don't think format is as much of a concern. But I could be wrong.

Craig F said...

Did My Queen get a promotion? It used to always be QOTKU for queen of the known universe. Today I see QOE, which I presume means Queen Of Everything. If so, congratulations.

OP: I think that the assistant is impressed with your work. If you go to conferences, continue to. That assistant might be looking for you when he/she/it hangs out a shingle of their own.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin Thank you. I will not bother with ToC. And I will shorten my synopsis. Now that I am about to face the query gauntlet again, I am second guessing myself on everything.

BJ Muntain said...

Folks, don't worry about not having a number of pieces to send. If you're querying adult fiction, you only query one book per query. So you only *need* to have one book. If you happen to have others, that's something to talk about when discussing representation.


1. No. No table of contents for fiction.
2. N/A
3. It's not uncommon for an agent to ask for both a synopsis and a full request. If they don't give a specific length, I'd go for 500 to 2000 words long. Spacing doesn't really matter, as long as the agent hasn't specifically requested it.

Adele said...

I assumed Opie was submitting short stories. I've never submitted short stories so I don't know how it works, but I could see the junior agent wanting more than one.

John Davis Frain said...

Claire, thanks for clearing things up (I think). Looked like there was a step left out of OP's initial address, but picture books make sense if an agent wants to see additional manuscripts.

And then, after only SIX MONTHS, OP had additional manuscripts. Wow, I thought, you write faster than me. Scratch that, I can write faster than that too. You EDIT way faster than me.

Sounds to me like the worst thing that can happen if you query the junior agent is a No. The best thing that can happen ... well, let the sky be your limit. Good luck, OP.

Happy Writing Saturday, y'all.

Endless Fairytales said...

I don’t usually comment, but it was weird to get up and see so few comments this morning. I need all you wise people! Glad there were more comments when I got on later. By the way, hey all! I’m Jolie. I’ve been reading this blog for a couple years, but I usually arrive late to the party after the conversations are over. I’m so grateful for our Janet and all the time she takes on this blog and also to all of you. I enjoy learning here!

Colin Smith said...

Hey, Jolie! Thanks for popping out from your shell... not to imply you're a tortoise or a turtle or something like that... I'm sure you're a real person... but ANYWAY! Nice to meet you. Please avail yourself of all the writerly goodies on offer, including, but not limited to, the Treasure Chest. If you wish to make known to us all where you can be found on social media, jot me an email and I'll be happy to add you to our List of Blog Readers and Their Blogs. "Blog" here is, of course, not exclusive to that apparently-dying forum (see the discussion here this past week). We take the term to encompass Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, or whatever you may use. :D

The Sleepy One said...

I also assumed OP is a picture book writer because as Claire said, agents usually want to see several manuscripts before signing a client. And reading three picture books is very different than three novels.

As far as a synopsis, EM, I think you're fine with a four-page synopsis. For fun, you could try stripping it down to two pages and only cover the major plotline and see if you like this version. And yes, they're usually single-spaced.

Endless Fairytales said...

Haha, thanks Colin! I emailed you with what I have. I need to get working on setting up a lot more. Thanks for adding me and for the welcome:)

Colin Smith said...

Jolie: You're now on the list, and you're very welcome. :)

french sojourn said...

Julie: It's exactly the opposite in Maine. There are on record, (Bert and I, to be specific.) examples of people getting turned around. Then they ask for directions, and are trold "you can't get there from here."

Happy weekend Reiders!