Thursday, April 03, 2014

Query Question: batch queries

When writers are often advised to send queries out in batches of perhaps ten or so at a time, it's unclear to me how long one should wait before sending out another batch. A few agents respond quickly (with a decline) but many say that they may be back in ten to twelve weeks - if they're interested.

So - that's a long time time (maybe 3 months) before sending out another batch - and we have to be open to the distinct possibility that there will be no response after that time, because the agent isn't interested.

What's the best timing on batch querying for a writer?

Ten to twelve WEEKS on a query?? Zoinks, that's really bad.  I thought 30 days was the time limit on queries and twelve weeks on a full (please do not look at my stack of requested fulls--12 weeks is just a fond memory.)

Truthfully, I don't know the answer to this question because I don't send queries like you do. I get them, read them, set them on fire, and talk about them, but I don't send them. (Well, ok, I do if you count editors, but I send all those at once and assume everyone will want to buy--different ball park.)

I think the answer is more likely to be found at the place where writers hang out: AbsoluteWrite Forums.  I'm not sure which thread will be useful for you, but I bet there's been a bunch of discussion about this.

And I'll also wager that the readers of this blog will have some ideas.

Readers? Let me know what you think about this.  (I'll be over here reading my queries and replying in 24 hours)


JeffO said...

When I was querying, I did a batch of 10 week 1, then did another five each week. However, I also would assess the results as they came in. After getting a raft of form rejections (and interpreting some of the silence), I took a break and revisited my query and tried over again.

There is something to be said for spacing them out a little more, as it can give you time to consider whether your query or first pages need more work, but ten to twelve weeks seems waaay too long in my view. Maybe two weeks between query rounds, but not ten. Good luck!

Valentina Hepburn said...

I send my query out in batches of ten at a time, to gauge response. A least then you get a chance to update or improve your query if needs be. I'm always so confused about timings and when one should or shouldn't expect replies, because I read so many conflicting things. Currently, my full has been with an agent for nearly six months. I know they've received it because they kindly let me know, but I've heard nothing since. I sent them my query in May last year and didn't hear anything from them until 4th October with a full request. I know all the reasons why nudging isn't a good idea - apparently six months is OK - and to be honest, I'd rather not. But I need to know, don't I? Or am I being unreasonable? I know agents are busy, and I know this agency has a lot of clients which I guess produces a lot of work.

Anonymous said...

The reason to send in batches is to gauge how well your query is working, and make adjustments if you get several quick rejections. If you send a batch of 10 to start with, as a rejection rolls in, you can send out another to take its place. However, after 5 or 6 rejections, take another look at your query. Is it the best it could be? Ms. Reid mentioned and that is a great place not only to ask questions, but to get your query out there for others to rip, uh, I mean, offer guidance and council on. It's under the Share Your Work thread, and you need to subscribe to participate.

Laura said...

I do 5-7, wait to see if I'm getting rejections or requests, then send another batch. I don't wait for everyone to respond before sending more, because some agents don't reply at all, and some have really long reply windows.

In each batch, I try do to a couple with letter only mixed in with those that want pages, so I can try to gauge which needs more work.

Also, check QueryTracker to double check whether your agents are behind - especially those that don't state a response time.

Unknown said...

I think the key is to remember that the batches and waiting are for you, not for the agents. Waiting gives you time to determine whether your query is working, get more feedback, and have belated revelations about how to make your first page SO MUCH BETTER.

If, after one or two batches, you find you're getting a request rate you're happy with, then I think you could start sending out one every X days rather than waiting for one to come back before sending out a new one. That way, you still pace yourself, but don't wind up stuck if you submit to a bunch of slow responders or no responders in a row. But if early batches come back with no requests or a low request rate, it's time to stop querying and workshop your query letter and/or sample before you try again.

That's my take on it, anyway!

Wendy Qualls said...

Besides fine-tuning, the other good reason for batches is that a lot of agents work in groups. Some of those agencies say "a no from one of us is a no from all," but it seems like most of them allow you to query, be rejected, and query someone else. Keeping careful track (and sending in batches) helps you hit more than one agent there, if multiple agents look like good fits for your work.

I highly recommend - not only does it do a lot of the work for you, but you can also check the comments section on any given agent and find what kind of response times they usually have. Other people leave comments about when they queried and when they heard back (if at all), so you have a better idea of when to close out a query and when to keep waiting.

whiporee said...

Here's the current discussion at AW:

Janet's mentioned there (okay, mentioned by me) and there's some back and forth about how many and whether to use a personalized one or not. Not the most active thread -- and it appears in Rejection and Dejection, which isn't a great sign -- but the consensus is there's no consensus.

When I was querying, I was sending about 10 a week, using the same Shark-inspired letter every time. Others over there disagree.

Joelle said...

I always understood the idea of "batches" to be that you had some out, but didn't flood the agent world all at once. When I was querying, I sent out about six to eight to start with. When one came back, I'd query the next person on my list. And so on. That way I always had about six to eight out at any one time. In case you're curious, it took me 42 queries, 12 requests for partials/fulls, and 2 years and a NEW book I wrote during all that time before I landed my second agent (first one didn't work out six months previously). Stay after it and KEEP WRITING SOMETHING NEW!

Laura said...

As someone else said, waiting between query rounds is for you, not the agents. It's so you can make changes if your response rate is poor.

First, use Query Tracker for research. You can go to the Reports tab or the Data Explorer for each agent and see their recent response times, by day, wordcount, and genre.

Some agents do not respond to queries unless they want a partial/full. This is why it is important to query intelligently. You can set expectations and save time - you're not waiting forever for non-responders to reply and holding back your MS in the process.

What I would recommend is that you build out your 5- or 10-person 'rounds' with a mix of short-term (two weeks) and mid-term, and maybe a few long-term (2 months to never) responders. That way you have a steady, rolling stream of responses to help you gauge any issues with your query. Do a few rounds this way, perhaps a week apart.

If you queried two short-term responders every week, for three weeks, then within about month, you have at least 6 responses to think about. You can then adjust your querying accordingly.

wytwave said...

My rule with submissions (of any sort) is to keep a certain number in play at all times and revise as needed. I've just started sending out queries, but like poems and stories, I plan on sending out one more each time I get a rejection of some sort so that there will always be ten "out there". And, if those rejections (form or otherwise) are all that's coming, I'll revise along the way.

Sara said...

What Joelle said. It's not about batches, it's more of a revolving door. It's nice to have about 5-10 queries out at a time (This is a general guideline. You should do what you're comfortable with. I tend to stick to 3-5) Send new ones out as you're ready and as you hear back. But again, do what works best for you.

S.P. Bowers said...

Oops, sorry. (Sara 12:57) The above commenter was me. I was logged into the wrong account. Sorry.

Steve Stubbs said...

Well, I am a heretic, but you might welcome a dissenting opinion.

I would suggest sending out ONE query. The agent will not push a button and send a form rejection, but just delete it and forget about it. His or her web site will say, “simultaneous submissions not allowed, Wait six months for a response and when you do not get one, assume I think your work really sucks. BTW, all rejection in the publishing biz is personal rejection. So be sure to take it that way.” You are not sending out simultaneous submissions, so you are obeying the guideline, but you should wait less than six months IMO. Wait one week. Then look at your letter again.

You will be reading it and thinking, “OMG, this query is crap! I can’t believe I wrote anything this bad. It looks like a two year old did it.” That is called Insight. It is a Good Thing. If you can see the flaws you are getting a lot better. Archive a copy for reference and apply your new insight to write a better one. Then send out ONE query. Wait one week. When you get no response (not even an autoresponder “I got your e-mail” response because that is too accommodating) look at your query again.

Think, “OMG, this query is really crap.” You are getting better again. See that for the Good Thing it really is. Archive it for future reference (do NOT discard it) and apply your new insight and rapidly developing query letter writing skill and try again. You are taking advantage of the psychological phenomenon that writing cools off when you don’t look at it, and you can see it more objectively.

Reiterate the procedure.

While waiting for each No-Response-Means-No non-response, look over the MS you are trying to sell. Be completely honest with yourself. If it does not work and you can see that, re-write it

Every time a query is rejected, you just torched a bridge. Sending out batches of queries that don’t work seems silly to me. Stagger the process and perfect your skill.

Li said...

I found these comments really helpful, thanks to all who took the time to respond. (As I haven't gotten to query stage yet, I have nothing to add to the conversation. Just stalking.)

Rachael said...

I send my first queries out in a batch of ten and then smaller batches after that as rejections come in/queries are written off as "no response." That way I have about ten queries out at any one time. I also find that sending out new queries lessens the sting of rejections.

Unknown said...

Firstly many agents and agencies DO quote 8-12 weeks for QL reply time and many, many more take 3, 6 even 9 months to reply. Naturally I "write off" agents after a certain line, for me it's 5 months.

As to the question of batches.
I tend to send 1-3 a day for 5-7 days, then wait for about 2-3 weeks. Even though not all reply in this time, often several do. If I'm getting some requests, I know there is "something" working in my QL.
At that point I try to fine-tune my QL and send a second and third lot, over a 6-week period.
During this time, I've usually had some feedback on a partial or two and use this as a basis to decide if my MS is drawing in an agent as much as my QL.

My current "finished" Ms is now off the QL treadmill. I've had a really good response to my QL so I know it's doing it's job.
I've had several requests for partials and a few have turned to fulls, but no offer. Though it's not all bad-news. Several of the agents who had partials/fulls have given me wonderful feedback, a few offering to re-read at a later stage.

So I'm revising again.
When done, I'll go back to the 10-odd QL's in week one, 10 more in week four etc.
(For me) there is no point in sending out 100-QL's and swarming agents, potentially burning opportunities and over-exposing my MS, if it's not "quite" there.

The best we can do it dip our fishing lines into the ocean of agents, hope for a few nibbles and eventually come home with a big-fat-fish :)

Anonymous said...

I honestly send out as many queries as I'm able to get done in a day, and then do the same the next day and the next, etc. Like others have said, the value of doing it in batches is that you can reassess your query if you're getting a poor response. I've found that, while many agents say something about their response time on their websites, many of them respond right away anyway, and even more just don't respond at all, even with a form rejection. Since you really can't know when or if you'll get a response, it's not prudent to wait on them before sending another batch.

Also, someone above suggested sending only one query at a time based on agents' requests for exclusive submissions. I would not recommend that. In order to have your best shot of landing an agent, you really have to query dozens of them. Query every single agent in the book who represents your genre (unless there's some glaring reason not to). If you only query one at a time, and you wait even one week in between submissions, it could take you almost 2 years to finish querying. I think that most reputable agents understand that it's in your best interest to query widely (and if they want to be your agent, they should want what's best for your career).

So my advice is, if you're just starting to query, send out maybe 10, wait a week or two, and if you're not getting a good response then re-work your query and send 10 more. Once you're confident in the quality of your query, just keep sending as many as you feel comfortable sending every day (or every week) until you're finished.

Valerie said...

i don't think it matters whether you send it out in batches or not. i like it because if you get a few rejections you can think "well, i've still got some out there and this next batch will be better". I'd just send them out whenever you want.

i recently (last week) got a rejection letter from an agent i queried a year and a half ago. :( while i appreciate the time it took to put a stamp on the stock letter, i was already pretty aware that it was a rejection.