Thursday, April 09, 2020

pulling the plug on querying agents?

I hope you doing well with all of this COVID-19 drama.  In your opinion is there a rule of thumb for pulling the plug on querying agents?  Total count?  Time?

My usual rule of thumb has been send 100 queries before pulling the plug.
But I set that standard back in 2005, and I think it's time to reconsider.

First, in 2005, there wasn't as much job shifting among agents. An agent stayed an agent. Sure some quit, or died, but those were the exceptions.

That's not the case now. Several agents I know have gotten out of agenting simply because they couldn't support themselves.

That means a smaller pool to query.

The now-common practice of no response means no also cuts down on how long to keep at it. I'd give those agents 90 days UNLESS you can query someone else at the agency; then I'd give your first choice 45 days.

So but total count and time are in flux right now.

The real question though is when is too soon to throw in the towel.
You should query at least 30 reputable established agents before reaching for the towel.

If you query six at a time, that's five rounds of 30 days. Allowing for the hols, and whatever this thing is we're faced with now, I'd say you should query for at least six months before you start thinking about Plan B.

Any questions?


KMK said...

To all of the commenters who’ve offered help, support, pre-orders, and good wishes since yesterday: THANK YOU. I posted yesterday mostly to warn other writers to take offers of attention from people they don’t know with a grain of salt…and was just amazed to receive so much encouragement. This blog community is truly wonderful, and I don’t have the words to tell you how much I appreciate the support. And to our QUOTKU, thank you for fostering this place and these writers. You’ve all saved me more than once, and I hope I can someday return the favor.
P.S. I tweet under my main character's name: @DivaEllaShane, because of possible trolls from my day job, but I'm going mostly dark for the first few days of Passover, so please don't be offended if you follow and get nothing.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I think I have a total of 30 agents on my list to query so far. It was hard to find those 30 as quite a few that were originally on my list were already closed to queries before the world decided to implode. I know they exist but it is hard to tell who is in this for the long haul. And what will happen to agencies after this is all over? Will agents play an agency version of musical chairs?

I am taking a breather. For whatever this thing is ...want the dust to settle. And take the time to polish my WIP if I find it needs more. It always does I suspect.

I really thought there would be zombies...

nightsmusic said...

I'm not querying at the moment. I just dropped in this morning to say we had an absolutely glorious, beautiful, 70 degree day yesterday. I finally felt alive again instead of a mole in the dark.

This morning, it snowed.

Welcome to Michigan...

Matt Adams said...

I have nothing to add to Janet's post, but I did want to offer everyone who celebrates it a blessed Holy Tridium. It will be odd not being at Mass tonight or tomorrow, or not doing the Vigil Saturday night, but the family has found a few sites that are broadcasting, and I think Easter morning will be a needed burst of sunshine for all of us.

And just to add, I think it will be hard to top this Lent!

So whether you celebrate or not or believe or not, this is a time for renewal and rebirth, and I hope this marks at least the end of the beginning, if not the beginning of the end.

Kitty said...

Thanks, Matt, and a blessed Holy Tridium to you, too. St. Mary's here streams mass online, which I really appreciate. And they still hold confession. Fr. Jones blessed the palms and placed them in urns and situated them near the entrances so we could pick them up. I mailed my offering envelopes at the beginning of the month. I wonder what God has in store for us?

Fearless Reider said...

I thought so, too,EM -- at least with zombies we wouldn't have to worry about asymptomatic spread.

Our priest encouraged us to make home altars for this strangely desolate Holy Week. My husband made ours, and to no one's surprise it includes LEGOs. I'm trying to think of our empty churches as the empty tomb. We will rise again.

Jennifer Rueff said...

Janet, I'm glad you mentioned querying other agents at the same firm. When you query this second agent, after being declined (hate the word rejected) or NORMANed by the first, do you mention that you've already queried that agent in your query to their co-worker? I'd think not, but thought it best to ask.

Thanks for keeping us all a little bit saner during this odd period. I try to keep things in perspective and be grateful that I have shelter, plenty of food, and the luck to live with my best friend. Some days worries about the virus, economy, and politics keep me from writing. But my WIP always finds a way to pull me back in. It helps to realize we're living through history, something future generations will learn about in school.

Steve Forti said...

Well, for those of you looking for zombies, I mean, it IS Easter weekend...

Brenda said...

70 degrees! We still have a foot of snow. So jealous.
Plan B it is. Back at it this morning.

CynthiaMc said...

Our cathedral downtown is streaming Holy Thursday,Good Friday and Easter Vigil services. Our parish is streaming the Mass I usually attend on Easter. First time I won't be singing for all of these in...a long time. Our choir director is sending us warmup videos. I think he's afraid we'll forget how to sing. (So am I).

The good news is, I still have a job. The bad news is, most hospitals are bleeding money right now. The good news is, our system hasn't seen a lot of covid cases (and we hope it stays that way). The bad news is, our patient census is way down so we're doing a lot of flexing. The good news is that means I get a 4-day weekend.

Did anyone catch the space station flyover last night? Very cool. NASA is good about letting us know what's going on if you look up.

Today is gorgeous. I'm writing in my garden office while 3 freshly bathed dogs dry in the sun. I am writing things I hope will bring a smile to everyone's face one day.

Wishing good health and a blessed Triduum to all.

The Noise In Space said...

Wow, from 100 down to 30. But that actually makes me feel a bit better--I couldn't find more than about 40 relevant agents to query for my last project.

I'm also in the 70 degree club atm--it's mostly sunny, but very humid and buggy down here. I'm wishing the work clock would tick down faster--I'm baking a hummingbird cake and a braided Easter egg bread this weekend, and trying to finish up a stained glass rabbit.

Happy holiday weekend, everybody!

Craig F said...

I am using this time to send queries to all of those who advertise as NORMANS. I'd skipped them before, but it seemed like the thing to do. Maybe I'll be surprised, I could use a happy surprise about now. The BIG SURPRISE is getting kinda tedious.

There are garden varieties of zombies around.
1) The phone zombies were here before we noticed the apocalypse. They are still violating our personal space by having no attention for the world around them

2) The toilet paper zombies appear to be morphing into something else now. That is a bad sign, for zombie to have an evolutionary morph.

It is hard to tell, yet, because now they are not the only people wearing masks in public.

Anonymous said...

What? You mean I've been banging my head against the wall unnecessarily?

Seriously, Janet's comment, years ago now, of "don't give up until you've queried at least 100" was invaluable to me as a marker of what to shoot for. I would NOT have been that persistent without that little bit of advice. I've queried 100+ for my first book, and now coming up on 70 for book #2. I saved their contact info, then would check the web sites before I queried them for book #2. Many had indeed moved on or dropped out, but the agencies were still there, sometimes with new agents whose MSWLs sounded (misleadingly, as it turns out) as if they were looking for my sort of thing.

I also followed Janet's advice to "query widely." I write genre-benders, which allowed to me query agents who expressed interest in SF OR fantasy OR family saga OR literary ...

So I had no trouble getting to 100 rejections ... excuse me, declensions (declines? Declensions sounds like Latin).

Now, just as Janet's earlier advice helped set the course of my plans, this post is one of my many little signs, encountered in different places recently, that it's time for a new plan. It may be time to stop querying and try something else.

I think I'll still plough through the last 30 queries for book 2, just for the heck of it. But then ... well, this is a strange time, a time when many people will be shifting careers, even, dare I say it, opening new businesses?

Lauren Alsten said...

My comment is about requeries: If after the 30 passes, an author steps back and invests time in a substantial rewrite, including the entire first chapter, what's your take on trying again? As an agent, would you consider their requery a minor nuisance, a chance to reconsider, or shark-food fodder? AFAF... of course.

John Davis Frain said...


If perseverance is the name of this game, then 30 feels like you're going home in the 4th inning, trailing 5-0.

Not everybody is going to come back from a 5-0 deficit, but somebody will. I'd much rather be the somebody than one of the guys who quit.

30? Really? I'm just getting warmed up at 30.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Scientists have revealed the discovery of four new shark species that have evolved to walk along coral reefs and even on land. Fortunately, they have not figured out how to deliver candygrams in person. Or rejections.

Onward, y'all...!

AJ Blythe said...

My query benchmark is 100 rejections/Normans. That means sending out more than 100 queries - I've curated my agent list at 150ish. Mine you, I made my query list pre-covid, so I'm not sure how many on it are still accepting queries, but as I was planning on checking each right before I hit send, I'll worry about it then.

Still aiming for some time in May to start querying.

It's currently mid-morning Good Friday here. Cool (mid 50'F or 14'C) and wet here, so perfect for staying in - isn't it lucky that's what we have to do? ;)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

The last time I queried, I stopped at around 18 or 20, I think. That novel, while I like the story in general, still needs more work I think. Or could be trimmed to a novella. Or could benefit from a second POV (see? I don't have these thoughts if I think something's done.)

With Girl Hamlet here, I'm up to 16 agents. I've gotten one full request and 6 rejections so far (that does include a rejection on the full, sadly.) I only just started in February, which feels like a million years ago. I do really still feel as though I've done my absolute best to bring this novel to completion, with my only second (third? fourth?) thoughts being what breed of dog the main character has. We'll see how I feel at 30 agents! That might be when I start looking at publisher open subs, and then perhaps after that (if there is an after that) is when I'll just shrug and self publish.