Monday, January 26, 2015

Query Question: "next work" subject line

I queried a project that resulted in several requests for my full manuscript. Ultimately, the requesting agents passed, but several were generous in the rejection--they detailed their reasons, complimented my writing, and ended with an invitation to submit future projects if I didn't find representation through the current manuscript. I did not. Now, I have a new project and would like to query these same agents.

Barbara Poelle fielded a similar question in her recent Writers Digest column. She outline what the author should include in the body of the query, but didn't address the subject line. Is there etiquette for this? Or does it remain a standard Query: Project Name, Author Name?

One of the agents I want to revisit is currently closed to submissions, so I suspect any query sent to her would merely be deleted unless there is some clue in the subject line that she has asked to see subsequent work.

Or am I merely a poor deluded soul who didn't recognize a polite boilerplate statement to ease a rejection?

no no no, you are not deluded, you will have to try harder to be clueless, sorry.

If an agent asks to see the next work, that's something you want to keep track of.

Your question about the subject line is timely as well, given how many agents now read queries on their phones.

Here's how you do that:

Re: Query for TITLE (the next project from) AUTHOR

The FIRST line of your query is:

On DATE you were kind enough to say you'd like to see future work. This is the query for my next novel.

Then you begin your query as you normally.

Standard querying calls for starting the query with all the housekeeping stuff at the bottom, but this is the exception to that.  Let the agent know right away that she's seen and liked your work.

I can track all my email conversations with queriers going back years so when I get a query like this, I look up the previous project and re-read my notes.  There's a LOT more leeway for someone querying a project if I've already seen and liked previous work.  Leeway means I'm much more likely to read something including all the pages even if I don't think it's a good fit.


Christine Sarmel said...

My bookmarks page is filling with shark wisdom. Thanks for the info!

Sarah G said...

Mz Shark, the poster mentioned that the agent she is interested in is currently closed for querying. It sounds like she may query anyway with this next work. What are your thoughts on this situation?

Unknown said...

What if it has been 7 or 8 years since the agent said they would be open to seeing further work (took time off writing for school stuff)? Should you still mention it or pretend it never happened? Thanks!

Anonymous said...


That's a good question.


Thank you. This question came up on B&W once. But, of course, every question comes up there given enough time. Then someone pulls out the holy grail and says, "Janet Reid sayeth...."

Colin Smith said...

Congratulations, writer friend! Clearly your work has received agent interest even if not an offer of representation, and that's something to be pleased about. Sure, it's not "The Call," but several requests, generous rejection comments, and offers to look at subsequent projects would encourage me. So I hope you feel as encouraged as you can get this side of a agent contract. :)

I'm glad you asked this because Janet's response confirms something I've thought about for a long time when I query: how do agents read queries? My impression was that it wasn't snuggled up by the fire on a cold, snowy New York evening with a bottle of Scotch and a favorite furry friend nestled in the lap. In other words, agents are not always reading queries under ideal circumstances. That's why it pays to keep the query brief, make it compelling, and leave the relatively unimportant "housekeeping" stuff until last. Clearly, the fact that you're responding to a request for future projects is NOT unimportant housekeeping.

Good question and very useful response. Thanks! :D

Karen McCoy said...

Raggedy Sarah: I've been in a similar situation, and I think in this case "closed to queries" means "closed to unsolicited queries." This would not be an unsolicited case, and this agent (who probably has an intern to help filter queries) would likely be open to this kind of request.

But this is just a guess. I defer to Mz Shark for full expertise.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: "The holy grail" in this case being THE ORACLES OF QOTKU (5th Edition) ;)

Anonymous said...

This is really very encouraging news, IMO, for the questioner/querier.

I'd also like to commend them on the fact that they moved on and wrote another book, because, when you write something that initially gets such a favorable response - even w/out The Call - it can be hard to let that work go.

I say well done to that, and the best of luck when querying again.

Stacy said...

I second donnaeverhart.

Sue Coletta said...

Oh, my! I've received several responses like this. Including my all-time best rejection from you. Actually, you called it a "redirection to another agent and not a rejection". That one I'm thinking of having framed. :D I hope I can find those other responses now. I had no idea. I thought they were just being nice. Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

Sidebar here - I've just heard such "alarm" in the voice of a weather forecaster on the news about the impending BLIZZARD for the Northeast.

Ms. Janet, and all who reside there, I hope you all will stay home and be safe and that you have good solid back up plans for keeping yourselves warm. It sounds as if this storm is going to cause not only several feet of snow, but 10 ft high snow drifts (possible) and WIDE SPREAD POWER OUTAGES due to sustained HIGH WINDS. I only capitalize b/c the weather person was practically yelling those points and just sounded very concerned.

Water, blankets, flashlights, candles, non-perishable snack foods, battery operated radios are a must. I know from hurricanes/ice storms down here how bad it can get after several days of no power. Be safe, be smart.

Lilac said...

Oy vey, Donna. Please take care Janet and all who reside there, and stay safe and warm.

Janet Reid said...

6:11pm Monday night. So far so good. Power and heat intact. The electric lines in Brooklyn are mostly underground now so the wind isn't as much of a factor here as it is in the suburbs.

Thanks for all your warm wishes!

Bonnie Shaljean said...

The weather in NY is all over the British and Irish news too - thinking of you, sending virtual heat waves across the Atlantic. Stay in, stay safe, stay warm, and think of all that reading you can catch up on. B xxx

Anonymous said...

We've just been listening to the news about the proactive measures taken by NYC and surrounding areas like extra ambulances, all essential personnel being put up at hotels, already plowing streets to stay ahead, extra snow plows and 15 hour shifts and on and on.

Happy you're home, and safe! And the power lines underground? That IS good news. I love nothing better than snow - as long as power stays on. Will be thinking of everyone from VA on up the coastline!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

We live in the middle of the woods along the Connecticut shoreline. 1000 ft driveway (fun to plow, :(
Got out of work early, everything is shut down, roads are white. Highways will be shutdown at 9PM. We are hunkered down and waiting. In 2013 we got 32 inches in our front yard. I love this stuff as long as we don't lose power. Please QOTKU, keep our lights on.
It's mighty cold out there.

Regarding this post, I 3rd Donna.

DLM said...


You liked my debut farce on the Saga of the Pants (, and I have written a new work, My Dream Black Pumps. I hope the subject might be timely (good black pumps are, indeed, timeless), and that you will consider this follow up, as you were so kind in the past.

Gossamer the Editor Cat
(and mom)

*Irresistible photos attached instead of ms*

Colin Smith said...

@Janet: Very glad to hear all is well with you. Keep warm and safe! :)

Lilac said...

Thank you so much for updating us, Janet. I hope you have a nice fire place to curl up in front of. :-)

LynnRodz said...

I love the snow, especially when I'm inside watching
it fall outside. Here in Paris the news stations are showing NYC like a ghost town. I'm glad you're home, Janet, safe and warm!

AJ Blythe said...

Haven't heard about the east coast blizzard conditions here in Oz. Hope the power lines keep on doing their thing. Stay safe all!

On the topic of the blog post... Thank you, your sharkliness. I, like Sue Coletta, didn't realise the significance of those comments. Definitely noted now!

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I third donnaeverhart and second Stacey. Congrats.

A few days ago I read on Brenda Drake's blog a story about a writer who participated in PitMad a year ago(I hope this is no rival to the shark, just quoting reference). The writer sold a different MS to an agent but it all started with one she queried a year ago on PitMad. She hadn't even participated in the latest contest.

She didn't send 610 queries.

I wish it would snow here, I love the sound of falling snow. Do they give names to these kinds of snowstorms?

Keep warm and query on.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Ms. Reid. I never would have hit on a simple "Next Work" phrase for the subject line. I owe you a scotch.

As always, your sage advice is greatly appreciated.

Stay warm.

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