Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Query Question: querying after another agency member said no to a full

On some agency websites, the submission guidelines state that should an agent turn down a query, the author is allowed to re-query another agent at that same agency. What happens after a full or partial manuscript is requested? If the first agent turns you down after reading your full/partial, is it still okay to query another agent at that same agency?

There's no right or wrong answer to this since it depends on the individual agent and agency involved. My advice is always to Query Widely. That means if they don't say "don't do it" then go right ahead.

I'm always looking for good projects. If one of my colleagues was short-sighted enough to miss your brilliance, well you should have queried me first, but at least query me second.

Don't be afraid of offending agents. There's no blacklist, there's no such thing as the Query Police. There are couple ways to shoot yourself in the foot by querying stupidly but you're clearly not in that category.

If you spend a lot of time fretting about doing the right thing, you're going to miss out. Be bold. Query like you have the answer to my prayers.

In fact, this is important enough to be included as a Rule for Writers: Be Bold.


Ardenwolfe said...

I loved this answer.

Anonymous said...

And, of course the question and what to do about it simply points out that it's all so subjective.

What smells like the rot of a thousand garbage bags to one, might smell like a fragrant blooming magnolia blossom to another.

What looks like blobs of projectile vomiting on a wall is glorious impressionistic art to the eyes of another.

What reads like the scribblings of a psycho to some will be the book to win a Pulitzer. (Disclaimer: I have no particular book in mind, just sayin')

"Query like you have the answer to my prayers."

This reminds me of something I read a while back about agents wanting to find new voices, or a new way of telling a story. And the key word was WANT.

JeffO said...

"Query like you have the answer to my prayers."

But don't, presumably, say "I am the answer to your prayers!"

Susan Bonifant said...

I did this. Without a guideline that said not to, I queried a second agent who asked for fifty pages.

Nobody should be obnoxious on purpose, but in a case where you might or might not do exactly the right thing, I say err on the side of possible success.

"Why not?" is a very good answer to a lot of questions.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"Query like you have the answer to my prayers."

Dear God,

Please let me write like I am the answer to someone's prayer. If you do I will pray every day, go to confession, donate to good causes and become a nun.

Thank you for your time,
One of your greatest fans

PS Please overlook that I am not Catholic

Kara Reynolds said...

I once had 2 agents from the same agency request my MS from different contests a few months apart. I let the 2nd agent know the situation, and she said she would be interested in the MS even if the other agent passed on it. Keeping communication honest from the beginning is important.
Both of them ended up rejecting me, but at least it wasn't because of a gaffe on my part. That MS ended up being put in a drawer, and I learned about being choosy with the contests I entered.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: But do you have a particular piece of art in mind? Or is it just time to take out the trash? :)

Kara: I had a similarish experience. An agent who was closed to queries Tweeted an offer to look at queries if you sent them to her that day mentioning the Twitter offer in the subject line. It happens that I had already queried another agent at that agency, but had not heard back from them in over four weeks. I queried, but explained the situation. Agent responded saying that was no problem, gave me a very nice personalized rejection (I would have signed up with her in a heartbeat, sad to say)... and a few days later, her colleague responded with a rejection, but also an apology for taking so long to respond.

So, when it comes to querying, if the agent doesn't say NOT to, then do it. You've got nothing to lose. And if they don't like it, well, they should say so! :)

Dena Pawling said...

Please see below.

(Your idiotic co-worker never bothered to reply to my brilliance, hence the forward, which I am sure you will excuse.)

>>>Dear esteemed literary agent:

>>>I am pleased to present to you my number one blockbuster best-selling
>>>fiction novel which I slaved over for two long months to be able to give
>>>you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get rich and retire to the South of
>>>France. I can tell you are a rare gem of the usually-inferior-gender and I
>>>know you will pounce on this masterpiece immediately. Therefore, I have
>>>been so kind as to attach it in full to this communication, complete with
>>>animated gifs (so don't let the .exe nature of the file frighten you away,
>>>dear lady).

>>>You may display your appreciation and undying admiration by depositing
>>>my advance into the below bank account. I have linked to it directly herein,
>>>to make your life just that much easier, because I know these things can be
>>>complicated for your gender. You may thank me by reply to this
>>>communication. A formal letter and gift by courier are not necessary.

>>>Please complete the deposit within the next 48 hours, to avoid “unfortunate
>>>circumstances”. It would be a shame to have our first meeting be so
>>>unnecessarily confrontational.

>>>I am the answer to your prayers. I know you will make the right decision.

>>>[Link to bank account]

Book.exe 8.2 MB

Unknown said...

Garth Nix when starting out had the same advice: Query Widely.

A bit like fishing.

KrisM said...

Am relieved to hear this!

Quick question- do you recommend the author mention that she'd queried the first agent in her query letter to the second agent?


Lisa Bodenheim said...

donnaeverhart: ewwww, comparing projectile vomit to Monet? Never. Oh, wait, you said "what looks like blobs of projectile vomit" OK, got it.

2Ns: Ha, I'm not Catholic either but yes, I wanna do all I can to write like I'm an answer to someone's prayer (and mine!) too.

In addition I like the key phrase in front of that well-received command. "Be bold."

Megan V said...

"Query like you have the answer to my prayers."

Dear Amazing Literary Agent,

My deepest regrets, but the answer to your prayers is no. No you may not have another cat. No you may not have warm weather. No I will not send you the winning lottery ticket. And no, I will not kill your husband because he's snoring too loud.

That said, I have this truly astounding manuscript. Please review my query and the full at your leisure. Surely if you have enough time to pray you have enough time in a year to review my work.

A writer with the answer to your prayers.

Anonymous said...

Colin - ha! That's cute. :)

Actually, I think there was an exhibit somewhere that did use trash. Don't forget..."one's man's trash is another man's treasure."

As the flea market sign advertised.

Lisa, maybe I should have said green blobs, a.k.a. lima beans vs projectile...? I mean, some here would hurl if forced to eat them.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: I'm sure you're right. There are artists who use trash to create their pieces. Not usually the kind of thing that speaks to me, but it appeals to some people. But I guess that's the point. :)

And as a lima bean fan, I must object to the equating of said tasty morsels to projectile vomit. Unless, of course, they've been attached to an art gallery wall for a few days. They don't keep that well.

Susan Bonifant said...

On Kris M's question of whether to mention the first agent queried, I would say don't, unless it's suggested.

Why suggest your work was rejectable in any way when we know (because we've been told and told and told and told again) that it is a subjective process?

Colin Smith said...

Here's a related question/thought that also relates to my thoughts/concerns about #MSWL which I won't go into here:

What does it mean for a query to be the answer to an agent's prayers? Does this mean it's the kind of thing an agent has been hoping to see because s/he likes that kind of novel? Or is it the kind of thing s/he's been hoping to see because s/he knows of editors that are actively looking for it? I wonder sometimes if agents give detailed manuscript requests because they have an empty spot on their shelves, forgetting that their love of the manuscript doesn't guarantee the book will sell. Isn't this why agents reject great queries? It's not that they don't like the concept or the writing, but either a) they know they can't sell it, or b) they love it, but not enough to convince an editor to take it on.

So, surely the answer to an agent's prayers is the manuscript that s/he loves (even if s/he wasn't looking for that genre or premise), and one the agent knows will be a relatively easy sell to a publisher?

Whenever I see agents asking for "Gilmore Girls meets The Walking Dead set in a high school," I wonder: is this what she wants because she thinks this would be cool, or is this what she wants because she's just been talking to an editor who's looking for just this thing? Hopefully it's both, isn't it?

Karen McCoy said...

Ha, the hilarity in Dena's comment never ends!

" I have linked to it directly herein,
>>>to make your life just that much easier, because I know these things can be
>>>complicated for your gender."

And thanks to John Oliver, now there's also "ponies!"

Colin Smith said...

Susan: I agree. Query every agent like they're the only agent you're querying. They know they're not, but I think that attitude helps answer questions like this.

Dena: Excellent!! You may not comment as much as some (*ahem*) but your comments are priceless. :)

Unknown said...

On my way out the door in a moment, but the comment about sculptures made of trash, among others caught my eye.

I'm the Charlie Russell type, but I love there.

Colin Smith said...

Wow--those are cool, Julie. Thanks for sharing. Have a good day! :)

Unknown said...

Oh, you guys. You crack me up.

Lilac said...

You crack me up, too. :-)

And I am a nun. So what if I'm Jewish? ;-)

Colin Smith said...

Lilac: A Jewish nun. Mmm... there's a story there, I'm sure. Why would a Jewish woman be a nun in a convent? Thanks. My devious writerly mind will be chewing on that one the rest of the day... :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Arrrrrg, Donna, those darn lima beans ! Impressionistic, hell nooooo, de-pressionistic.

Lilac, as far as I can tell you're a shoe-in.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: Just what you need to brighten your day: How to color lima beans to use in art projects. I'm sure you could do some wonderful impressionistic pictures employing pointillism using colored lima beans! :)

Christina Seine said...

Okay those lima beans are actually beautiful. I knew God created lima beans for a reason. Nothing can be 100% evil.

Also, I am printing out that last line: "Be bold. Query like you have the answer to my prayers." It gave me a little pre-coffee rush of adrenaline (remember, we're way behind the civilized world). I am going to tape it to the top of my monitor and cling to it like a cat in a wet bathtub when I start sending out queries in a few months. Thank you Janet!

Lilac said...

Colin, there is definitely a story there. And I feel honored that your devious writerly mind would be chewing on this for the rest of the day...I promise to tell you more when we meet. ;-) What I can say now is that I'm not a conventional Catholic or Buddhist nun, for that matter. So no convents for me. I'm an urban nun or as I define myself: a New Age Jewish nun who loves fashion. ;-)

By the way, a French woman beat me (kind of) to publishing a book about refraining from "you-know-what" for a long time. Her book became a best-seller. At least according to the local news.

And amen, Carolynn.

Maybe I will convince the agent you abducted to take me as a client by sending lima beans his/her way, or rescue the agent.;-)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ah ha, someone to cook for my captive basement agent. Said agent is sick of my bologna.

Note, in order to spell bologna correctly I had to sing the Oscar Meyer song. My coworkers thought I lost my mind but then joined in. Hahahaha..what wacky bunch of Amy's coconuts.

Unknown said...

"Query like you have the answer to my prayers." Thanks for the tips on what to put in my query letter! I think I'll open with that.

"Dear Ms. Reid. I have the answer to your prayers.

Colin Smith said...

James: And Janet's reply will be:

"Jack Reacher and a bottle of whiskey? Send them over!" :)

Mister Mxyzptlk said...

Colin, Edith Stein was a Jewish nun. I think she might even be a saint by now.

Lilac said...

Ah ha Carolynn, with my cooking skills the agent will miss your bologna in no time. Plus, I'm a vegetarian: you're a shoe in.

But now that we have a Jewish nun, a secreted agent and depressionist lima beans, I think the agent will end up signing all of us. ;-)

Mister Mxyzptlk: Edith Stein converted to the Roman Catholic Church. :-)

Anonymous said...

Just back from visiting my ailing father. Great way to end the day, snort laughing at the antics out here.

We're serving lima beans here tonight, anyone care to join us?

2N's? Ouch. Okay, okay, a quiet no works. Geez.

Colin! Step back from the pot! (the lima bean pot that is)

Craig F said...

You are going to offend an agent if you keep making remarks about the Queen drinking whiskey.

She is a scotch drinker. If, however, you have bought her gift bottles of sour mash I will drink them for you.

Carolynn, I'm almost sorry I brought Lima Beans up again but I had just started a new crop of speckled ones.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

OMG Craig, you mean people actually grow them? I thought they were Yeti spoor.

Colin Smith said...

Craig: I have a feeling QOTKU would drink sparkling lima bean water with Jack Reacher, so scotch or whiskey won't matter. ;)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin, I used to like you.
Sparkling lima bean water? I shall refrain from all piss jokes, thank you very much.

Colin Smith said...

*Packs bags for the Great Pit of Carkoon*

deborahwrites said...

I've noticed that in some replies, the agent uses the word "I" and says that certainly others may have a different opinion. In other letters, the agent uses "we" or "agency" and I take that to mean "no need to query anyone else at this agency." Have others noticed this distinction? It's hard to get enthusiastic about querying an agency she the "we" "us" and "agency" words have been used.