Thursday, August 01, 2019

I should have subscribed to Publishers Marketplace BEFORE querying

 I was going to send you a pic of our Newf with a visiting Bernese/Pyrenees mix puppy in order to cause fluffiness-overload induced spontaneous combustion (your only known weakness) and rid the writing community of your menace forever, but Newf wouldn't cooperate. 

She took one look at everyone paying attention to the puppy instead of her and went to sulk in the bathroom. I tried putting her on a leash to get her near him; at ten feet away she actually braced her feet and started telling me off. Loudly. She's still mad, four days later.

Next, queries. In hindsight I queried before my manuscript was ready, without nearly enough input from other writers into either the pages or the query, and without really having a good idea of which agents I should be querying. 

I'd consulted several online lists of agents and gathered names as I read agent-related tweets and blog posts. Once I had a list of potential agents I researched each one online with a checklist. That meant I read each of the following, if available:

- Submission guidelines on their agency page
- Their page on
- Their social media posts on Twitter and Facebook
- Any interviews/podcasts they'd done that could be found with a simple Google search
- Some google searching on the list of books they'd already sold, if any.

I then queried any agent that was open and said they represented my genre, Adult Sci-Fi. It took me on average about 30 minutes to figure out if an agent was one I wanted to query. Much of the time I'd read things like "I rep all commercial genera fiction" on their agency page then read "but I hate Sci-Fi" in an interview they'd done three years ago. Actually querying 26 agents this way meant I did research on about 70. Those 26 queries/agent pitches at conferences got me one request for a partial, which was promptly (and deservedly) rejected, and one request for a full after I'd fixed the obvious mistakes. That's still out there, so fingers crossed...

There is one bright spot in the wreckage though. I've made very significant revisions to my MS and I got help to un-screw my query, so I can re-query the agents I sent a hot mess a year ago. 

In order to make sure I didn't repeat mistakes during the salvage operation I figured this time I'd spring for a month of Publisher's Marketplace.

Twenty five dollars and an hour of research showed me just how much harder I'd made my life by querying without it.

- Eight of the agents I'd queried were good prospects.
- Ten agents didn't rep anything even remotely close to what I'd written. Querying them was a waste of time guaranteed to result in confidence-battering rejection.
- In 'other' I found three via their social media presence the first time around. A PM search gave me cause to doubt that they were even legit agents, at least recently. I also left the comments in there in the hope that they'll help some other writer about to go on query brace for the really sub-optimal responses they're going to get.

In addition to a wealth of info I couldn't get even being pretty diligent without it, PM let me cut down my search time to something like ten minutes per agent. A simple check for previously sold books, and what they are, is an effective screen most of the time. Even if I was still busing tables for minimum wage I'd try and pick up a few extra hours and subscribe for a month; I'd save that much time on research and also a heck of a lot of sanity.

Equally important, a PM search allowed me to conclusively prove you exist. That finally put to rest the vicious rumor that 'Janet Reid' is really an online persona created by Jeff Somers so it'd look like he has somebody to talk about dino porn with while drunk. Figured you'd want to know!



E.M. Goldsmith said...

I should probably re-subscribe to Publisher's Marketplace, huh? Yep, I will go ahead and do that. Thanks, OP for the reminder. I keep scooting over to the edge of the query trenches and getting the worst vertigo. This will probably help.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

This is excellent advice, Treasure Chest!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Awwww, poor Newf. Temporary puppy? Hopefully Newf will recover her equanimity. What little we can see, she looks gorgeous.

Thank you, OP, for this recommendation. It's still far off in my future but good to know how helpful PM is from someone in the trenches.

NLiu said...

I am so glad I read this. Thanks, OP!

And: cute dog.

mreditor said...

It's actually the other way around - I'm a persona of Janet's who *writes* dino-porn while she 'sleeps' and leaves it conspicuously on her laptop screen.

Timothy Lowe said...

Just a quick add-on. The enhanced features of Querytracker premium (an upgrade from their free basic service) finally pointed me in the right direction: a few days after I upgraded, I landed an agent. For one, it narrows agent interests more precisely.

All I had to do was enter "weird as shit" in the category and I started getting requests.


On a serious note, I saved the PM subscription until the offer stage. Expensive, but invaluable.

Anonymous said...

"weird as shit"

Well, so much for trying to do this on a shoestring ...

Subscription to Writer's Digest
Subscription to PM
Hundreds of dollars for conferences
And there are plenty of "author coaches" out there who are happy to charge, for all I know, a grand to help you land an agent.

Still, it's good to have this input and know that PM is one subscription that is actually really helpful.

Pardon the rant.

Craig F said...

If this is about advertising, Query Tracker will let you filter agents for free. Sign up and you can plug in sci-fi and get 167 agents that say they want it.

Poor Newf.

Panda in Chief said...

Completely OT, but did you know there was such a thing as a carpet shark? Me neither.

There is no end of things you can spend money on in the writing biz. I pick and choose conferences carefully. I'm focusing on smaller skill/craft based retreats, rather than big conferences now. The best thing I ever spent money on was a mentor program through the Nevada chapter of SCBWI. I learned tons, whipped my WIP into shape and signed with my agent.

J. F. Margos said...

Y'all! Not only is PM worth it, but it's LESS EXPENSIVE if you pay for more than one month in advance. Yep. It is. You save $10 total for 6 months, or $25 total for 12 months.

I look at it as a very valuable investment in my "Capital D" Dream.

Also, it's tax deductible in the pursuit of full-time writer-hood (or part-time writer-hood). Check that out on your Turbo-Tax (I have CPA, but hey, I know everyone can't afford that action).

You not only get that oh-so-valuable search feature, but you get the handy-dandy daily email with all the latest news and deals on it. It is a wealth of information.

PM did not pay me to say any of this. I've just been using it a while and I think it's awesome. :)

KMK said...

To Jennifer, from someone who is normally a lurker, but who would not currently have an agent and a three-book deal without the Queen of the Known Universe's blog and advice. I didn't spend a dime on the subscriptions, advice, and coaching because we just didn't have the money for that. Follow the Shark's advice: make sure you are REALLY ready, then query widely -- VERY widely -- listen to comments if you get them and if they make sense to you, and don't give up too early. Could some of those pricey resources have helped me avoid those 200 rejections over three different projects? Maybe. Maybe not too. What I needed most was what some famous dead person called "the courage to fail one more time." You can't buy that.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...


Your comment was the single, most inspiring thing I've read all week.

Thank you.

Timothy Lowe said...

I too am loathe to spend money. QT premium is pretty cheap. I think I remember it being about 20 or 30 dollars a year. PM is expensive in comparison. But, to echo KMK, yes. Write something good and don't give up on it. If you are in a lesser than mainstream category, like sci-fi comedy, the premium subscription allows you to filter by two genres: sci-fi and comedy.

It helped me quite a bit.

Brenda said...

Spelling, schmelling.

I hear you re: PW, but $275 a year? One year of unlimited MasterClass costs less.

Anonymous said...

*sighs* Thanks for the good advice. I know that what you say is true. At least, I know it's been said, many times, by people I respect.

I'm just experiencing a letdown because I've hit my querying goal with WIP #1 and have now officially been told 101 times that my baby is ugly. (I now think that's because it doesn't have a killer first sentence, thanks to Janet's post a few days ago.)

So ... next steps ... probably querying WIP#2, which has a stronger opening line ... just as soon as I finish revising, figure out comps and the horror of a synopsis. :)

And the complaining. We can't forget the complaining.

Best to all.

AJ Blythe said...

The problem for me is the exchange rate. $25 USD nudges closer to $40 down here. So I am very picky about what I spend my dollars on internationally.

I'm really good at research, though, so I think I'll manage (and I have a query tracker file ready to go when I do start querying).