Friday, March 06, 2015

Query Question: intra-agency referral

Is it unreasonable to expect intra-agency referrals when one agent rejects a query or passes on a partial or full MS but thinks an associate may be interested? I believe that the rejecting agent would not be burdened with much extra time, and could possibly earn valuable extra credit points for a comfy (rumored) afterlife existence. 

It's not reasonable to expect anything other than a reply to a query. Anything else is a bonus.

Very rarely will I reply to a query with "Agent X here at FPLM might be a better fit." When I do, it's NOT a referral, it's a redirection. Agent X handles dinosaur porn, I do not. I have not read your pages of dinosuar porn, and even if I had, I have no way to judge their merit.

And what you think is not "extra much time" isn't. Inevitably there is a back and forth with Agent X so s/he can know how much I've read, and if there are any special circumstances ie it's my mom querying the dinosaur porn so X has to be polite etc.

And I'm not depending on earning afterlife points in my query queue. I earn those when I negotiate contracts.


Lisa Bodenheim said...

oh ouch! Agents EARN afterlife points from contracts NOT queries. Some kind of merit system going on here that I did't realize. (and maybe somehow it all relates to kale, lima beans, and bleu cheese? Not to mention vacations with Amy?)

But, on the serious side, I learn so much through this blog. Glad other people have all these questions I don't even THINK to ask. I'm just so not there yet.

Susan Bonifant said...

This reminds me of the control-what-you-can issue raised in yesterday's comment thread.

Unless the guidelines specifically discourage it, why not just select another agent and re-query rather than think/wish/hope an agent might/should pass along a submission?

Intentional disregard of known rules is one thing, but in the absence of clear rules, polite initiative will do more for us than trying to avoid an unintentional error.

Susan Bonifant said...

Oops. I did that speaking for the universe thing again. Sorry.

Unknown said...

I'm laughing so hard.

I like to follow agents on twitter, because it's like a good variety show. I miss Carol Burnett. Every now and then an agent will be reading queries and you'll hear this heavy sigh or maybe a head exploding.

"No, if I am not interested in your project, I can't give you a list of who might be. You can Google it as easily as I can."

If agencies pass the query to someone else in the office who might be interested, they say so in the submission guidelines. Then, it says something like, "A rejection from one is a rejection from all."

Others have instructions like, "Only query one agents at a time."

Instructions are good and they're usually easy to find...unless you have horses.

"Julie, what did you do with those instructions?"

"I didn't have them."

"Well, they aren't here and I just had them."

"Did you leave them in the pickup?"

That's when I hope he didn't. It's parked in the middle of the mare pen with the windows down. Diamonds is walking around with a hammer in her mouth. Cowgirl has pulled all the halters and lead ropes out and has them scattered hither, thither and yon except the one she's carrying in her mouth so someone can put her halter on for her. There's only so much a horse can do by herself, you know, and if there's a halter out, you're supposed to put it on her.

Gloves, sunglasses, coffee cups and all the myriad things in a pickup are everywhere. Skidboot has a piece of paper in her mouth that looks suspiciously like instructions and is waving it up and down like a flag. Mercury and Cat are doing the Jurassic Park raptor thing and biting at each other to see who gets to stick their head in the driver's side to pilfer whatever else may be left. Nickel has claimed the passenger side and she's the top dog, so no one is challenging her.

"Don, I think Skidboot has them."

"Skidboot. Come here. Stop walking away, dang it. Give me that paper. Ignorant horse. Whoa, dammit."

But, you know, unless you have horses, instructions are usually pretty easy to find.

The OP did lead to another question, though. A friend made the finals in a twitter contest. She got requests from three agents. Go, Melissa! One of the agents requesting is at an agency where another agent already has the manuscript. We've advised her to send a note and pages to the contest agent, but explain Agent 001 already has it so everything is up front. Things get murky when you can't find the instructions.

Colin Smith said...

Over the past few weeks, I think a general rule has emerged when it comes to following submission guidelines: Unless the guidelines say otherwise, do it. Within reason, of course. Most submission guidelines don't tell you not to send your query via strippergram. But that may not go down well with the prospective agent. :)

BTW, the Flash Fiction Friday post on my blog today is dedicated to you all. (That's y'all to those in the South.) :)

Rachel and Mark said...

Dear Janet,

Dinosaur porn.


The perpetual 12 year old boy in me.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Wait a minute, you mean if I query an agent, they don't send my query/masterpiece to every other agent they know who might appreciate my brilliance? They don't discuss my excellence, along with the procurement of toilet tissue and paper towels, at office meetings?
I've been living under the assumption that the traditional publishing world awaits me with unwarranted enthusiasm.
Oh the disappointment of the real word.

Mister Furkles said...

Not just horses. Our Golden eats instructions, coupons, and refund checks. He also eats wallboard, rocks, sofa cushions, ...oh, and sometimes dog food.

And we all [that's first person y'all--though I prefer 'yawl'] have the impression that it is unreasonable to expect anything other than a form rejection. Whatever else--except letter bombs--is a bonus.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and this:

"It's not reasonable to expect anything other than a reply to a query."

Yes, Janet. Keep fighting the fight! :)

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Hold on. There's an agent at FinePrint who handles prehistorerotica (or as you so crudely call it here, dinosaur porn?) Who? Is it Peter Rubie? Because I've been trying to place M√ČNAGE A TRICERATOPS for almost six months now.

Unknown said...


Apparently there is quite a sub genre of dino porn. I have no idea how I stumbled across it. I think it was when I was madly searching for dino mega blocks like my youngest son had when he was little.

Anyway, it's the typical voluptuous woman being ravished by rampaging romantic dinosaurs. Taken By The T-Rex, Staked By The Stegosaurus, I Was A Lychorinus Love Slave. Gads, it's...creative.

Unknown said...

Mister Furkles,

We had one of those, also. Hank. We had to put him up any time we worked on something. He walked away with an open bag of 1,000 screws one day we absolutely needed to put a building together. Follow the little silver trail.

Have you seen the shame photos where the owners put the sign around the dog's neck? You're a candidate. Thankfully, Gage the Wonder Dog's only vice is to wake me up at odd hours.


Eileen said...

Good to know the difference between a referral and a redirection. But, even if you have a true referral, that doesn’t guarantee a reply, either. A few years back Editor Fabulous requested a full of my MG, only to move to a different imprint with a focus on YA. She kindly passed my pages on to Editor Wonderful, who emailed to say she was looking forward to reading the pages. Unfortunately, I never heard from Editor Wonderful again. After sending three professional and politely-timed follow-ups over the next year, I finally gave up (not on the manuscript, just on Editor Wonderful). I am hoping that writers earn afterlife points for stoicism. In other news, I think Julie’s horses would make a good sitcom. And Janet, please expect my query for Fifty Shades of T-Rex.

Karen McCoy said...

This is what a former colleague of mine refers to as a limp cat.
(Here's a link to a Peanuts comic for reference.)

Here's hoping we can all carry our own limp cats (i.e. manuscripts) with pride.

Jenz said...

So when you reply with "Agent X here at FPLM might be a better fit," I may then query that agent and personalize with "JR suggested you may be a good fit"?

I had something like this happen at a conference, an agent just suggesting a few names. I know that's not a referral, but I was never sure if I should include that in the query, or how to word it if I did.

Christina Seine said...

I read an article recently in which a writer opened his/her query with something like, "Jesus told me to send you my manuscript; He said you were the agent for me." The wonderfully snarky reply was along the lines of, "Funny, He didn't mention that to me when we had lunch yesterday." I don’t remember which agent it was but I did laugh out loud.

I'm not implying the OP's question is at all silly. But I wonder how much (if any) credibility agents give referrals, barring, say, a phone call or email to the refer-ee from the referring agent. I think there is a huge gap between “suggestion” and “referral,” but it would be easy for the writer to blur the two, especially in the emotionally high-stakes world of querying.

To further confuse things, the whole genre thing is SO easily manipulated. What I mean is, if my dream agent doesn’t rep dino porn but she does rep historical fiction, hey, what’s more historical than dinosaurs? If the MC is a female, you’ve got women’s fiction. Heck, if you’re a man, it’s literary historical fiction (if that’s what your dream agent is seeking). I’ve seen that happen, literally right in front of me, at conferences. So when the agent blinks a few times in confusion and says, “But my website clearly states I don’t rep dino porn. My friend Barbara does – you might try her … ” the writer walks away with a smile, thinking they’ve just gotten a referral.

Regarding the afterlife, I think this blog has definitely earned the QOTKU lots of extra credit points. It’s a good deed every day.

Kregger said...

I thought Dino porn was a spin-off from the Flintstones?
I never heard of the genre until it was highlighted on Lousy Book Covers.
I suppose it's no worse than being intimate with a fully armored Roman gladiator, werewolf or unicorn.(Sorry vamps, you're too touchy-feely.)
If everyone would forget about what happens below a dinosaur's belt (if they wore one or pants as a matter of fact)and consider the emotional connection between two individuals of a species as beautiful, the world would be a better place.
Maybe, just maybe...someday it will be legal for inter-species marriage.

Amy Schaefer said...

My six-year-old invited a friend to sleep over last night. The two of them started making dolphin noises within three minutes of arriving home... and it was only 3pm. These were not soft, gentle whistles and clicks - the girls were apparently trying to signal each other over the full extent of the ocean as they galloped around the house.

So I'm a little tired this morning. The ocean extravaganza continued well into the night and eventually involved a soccer ball, a box full of buttons and a gross of stuffed animals. And here you all are, chatting about dinosaur porn. I can't take it. The world is against me. I'll be out on the porch with my coffee.

P.S. The girls are now quietly curled up in the living room, reading National Geographic animal books to each other. WHY couldn't they do THAT last night?

Joseph S. said...

Barbara Poelle wrote this:
• A woman sat down across from me and opened with, “Jesus already told me you would be my agent, so I’m not nervous at all.” I said, “That’s weird, when we had coffee the other day, he didn’t mention you.” And then I chuckled. She did not. And then my bladder loosened a bit in fear.

Christina Seine said...

Joseph: yes, that was it! Thank you! That one just cracked me up. And lo and behold, it's Janet's buddy, the Amazing Barbara Poelle.

Amy, I feel your pain. There is a direct relationship between how loud and energetic my five kids are in the evening relative to how exhausted/sleep-deprived I am. Something about the hour just before bedtime winds them up. What, are they putting adrenaline shots in toothpaste or something? In the winter here, when it gets dark around 3:30 in the afternoon, it’s not so bad; the kids eventually wind down because it feels so late. In the summer though, when it never really gets totally dark (sort of a deep twilight), people want to set up volleyballs games at 10 o’clock at night. On those long summer days, I don’t really fight it. But GEEZ, youth is wasted on the young!

Kregger said...

I believe the woman conversing with The Slithery Babbs Poelle has been querying this agent.

Ms. Reid, please remove the other blog's name if inappropriate.

This is from Slushpile Hell:

God told me to write this book and that it would become a bestseller.
Response:I talked to God. He said he was just fucking with you.

and also:
Dear agent, I’m a spiritual healer and author/scribe. I was guided by Jesus to email you this, who I’ve met in person many times, while touring throughout creation together!

Response:I’m jealous. I hear Jesus gets his tour guests killer discounts at hotels and theme parks.

KariV said...

So after reading through all the comments, my carefully drafted reply has been lost in an ocean filled with erotic dinosaurs, wild horses, and the thoughts of a future filled with loud children (my little is only 9 mos). Having had to go back and read the original question and response, I hope to remember some of the brilliance:

I'm under the impression (from reading instructions and guidelines from agency query pages) that most agents imply that they will pass along a manuscript within the agency themselves if they thought it was a good fit. I remember Ms Reid mentioning in her early blog posts about forwarding things to Brooks Sherman herself if they were MG but good (yeah, we're talking early). Point being, for the questioner: yes, it's presumptuous to expect that email referral. I'd imagine it's so much easier for Janet to yell to the rest of the office "hey were you still interested in dino porn?" and hearing no replies send a form rejection than craft a personal response to a query "referring" someone in her office.

Amy Schaefer said...

Long story short, a referral is a rare privilege, not an everyday right.

I'm finished cleaning maple syrup off the dining room chairs. Time for another coffee.

(And KariV, kids are delightful, dolphin noises and all.)

DLM said...

On the question of whether to mention a redirect - my instinct is not to. It's possible to interpret that as being someone's second choice (and possibly that the someone didn't research well before querying). It's also: not a referral. So it doesn't carry any particular value. I've tried another agent at an agency where I've queried someone else before, but actually that seems to occur most when there's a change in personnel. I don't mention previously trying the agency before.

BTW, Janet did cover referrals very recently. I apologize for being too lazy to find the link, but the migraine is about to have a birthday and I need to devote what steam there is in me to ... um, querying. Six more out on Wednesday and Thursday, though!


Craig F said...

Rule number 477 of 9,093,104: If you get anything more than a form rejection during querying you shall fall on your knees, praise the Queen and say three Hallelujahs.

As in all things writing you have to learn the rules so you can break them with panache. Bless your little Lima bean picking heart.

Tell them that it wasn't the Lord who made you write it. It was the Devil in her guise as the QOTKU. Then threaten them with wild horses and a remake of a Clockwork Orange with dinosaur Porn GIFS played over and over.

The Penultimus said...

Give Dinosaur Porn its due. It's no fad. It's been 160 million years in the making. Human porn, by comparison, is the real fad.

Colin Smith said...

I didn't know dinosaurs could read...

Unknown said...


Here's the thing. Brooks Sherman has the cosmic blue shirt. All things remotely of interest should be passed to him, including dino porn, but perhaps not lima beans. Maybe bleu cheese though, because it's blue...or bleu.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

One of my novels, I don't remember which one, was redirected by Ms. QOTKU. I thought I had died and gone to meet Jesus and his dad.
Though I readied a better query, mentioned the Q by name, nothing came of the shuffle. I figured either the Q thought enough of my writing to recommend someone, or my work was crap and she was pissed at the someone-else and I was the thorn in the side of agent-imperialism.
I like to believe she liked me, she really-really liked me but...
well you know the rest of the story.

Stephanie said...

I once had an instance where agent said she loved my manuscript, but her list was way too full and she was going to pass it onto another agent in her agency Who would love it just as much. I asked if I should query said agent, and she said no, the agent would be in touch directly. Needless to say, I never heard from either agent again. I probably should have queried the referral agent despite being told not to. But hindsight.
And just for the record, dinosaur porn is a very real thing. So is Bigfoot porn, gay unicorn Porn, and in one instance that I'm aware of, porn with a plane. Not ON a plane – WITH a plane. But the MC is a billionaire, so that makes it "literary." Lol.