Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Top 10 Facts for the Literary Agent Query Process

So I said I'm not talking about querying here on the blog, and I won't. That is, I won't talk about particular queries and their success/rejection. 

But I thought I'd share interesting things I've learned so far in this query process (first Katsina, then Possum). 

Fact 1: Very interesting thing: Don't query two books at once. This was my own ignorance...but in my defense, I never even thought about it AND when I looked online this hasn't been addressed. So, if you're coming in from a google search:

Do Not Query Two Books at one time. 

Why? (I got this from a super-fab agent that has both Katsina and Possum right now). She said that if you are doing heavy submission processes on two different books, what happens when you find an agent for both? Do you have to choose between your babies? Better to decide which has the better chance (ACK) and submit that one. You can always bring up the other book when you're signed for the one. 

Does that make sense?

In the spirit of this information, I've stopped querying Katsina for now. I have some changes I need to make (at the recommendation of another super kewl agent) and want to try those, see how they would work out. Possum Summer seems to be the one getting more nibbles right now.


Fact 2: Not all agents will respond. This is just the fact of life. I've found that by steadily sending out queries (usually between 2 to 5 a day) I get a response within a week either way from those that want it. The others...just never respond. And if they like it, you get a response real quick after you send. 

Now, to be fair: I did receive a request for a partial for Katsina some time after, but that was a snail query. 

Fact 3: Snail queries are OB DA DEBIL if you are living outside the US. To all my agent peeps in the US: Please please consider email queries. I'll love you forever. Thank you. 

Fact 4: I love email queries. This does not mean you shouldn't research the agent. This does not mean you should not personalize the query. This does not mean that you spam ultra-mail all of the agents in the gods' known creation. This does not mean you write hateful email back questioning the agent's sanity when they reject you via email...look at it this way, at least you got a rejection back. This method simply means less costs and far more variety as well as instantaneous delivery. 

Beautiful thing. 

Fact 5: I can't think of a fact 5.

Fact 6: Oh YES I can! Ups and Downs. Youz gonna hab dem. But the important thing I've found is to save the nice rejections (and yes, you get them sometimes) as well as the partial request emails. Then, when I'm feeling like the looozer ob da wurld, I go and re-read them. It helps. And you'll be sad, but work out a sadness schedule. Seems to help me. 

Fact 6: Agents are people. I know, amazing, right? But for some reason I went into this process thinking they were the golden Gods of Mount Ajjent and I would never hear from them. I think I made a food of myself the first couple times I interacted with one outside a rejection slip. LOL

But seriously. Treat them with respect but don't grovel. It's YOUR book they want to read, remember.

Fact 7: Chocolate is your friend in this process. OH YES.

Fact 8: Critique groups are super cool. In fact, with truly stoopid-talented writers (like FOUR CORNERS!) you find yourself becoming friends with them, while still being able to say what did/didn't work for you when reading their stuff. And you help each other. It's a little pain-filled family all your own. 

Fact 9: Constantly clicking the Receive Mail button does not miraculously pull a response out of an agent that hasn't considered your query yet. :)


Fact 10: It's a tremendously painful process, but worth it. It will be worth it. Whine all you like, but don't stop querying and making everything better. The ones that don't quit will get it. 

Of this I am sure.

So there. I hope this helps those of you that are working on finishing and beginning to think about the literary agent query process. Be strong, and...



Stephen Parrish said...

You've learned some really good lessons. As for agents not responding, you'll get some late responses, even six months or more after you've queried. But you're right, the general rule is: if the response is slow, the answer is no.

Heidi the Hick said...

Brilliant list!

I've learned most of these the hard way too. But you've learned it all in a few short months. Therefore I have a #11 for you:


You're so driven and determined that you will get to your goal. Well I guess that's sort of what #10 was saying. But anyways, I fully believe that you'll get there. I mean, after 14 queries for my book (which is nothing, really) I only had one agent give it a month to consider it. And the reject it. The fact that you've got any interest at all is a good, good sign!

JKB said...

Stephen, I love that. If the response is slow, the answer is NO. That is so awesome, I might just .. well, gonna do it. Edited with a thanks to you. :)

Heidi, I think the interest is a good thing too, especially for my mental well being. It seems like all the things I"m interested in (and you know what they are) are such crap-shoots right now that sometimes I'm falling down. But you guys are so great! It's hard not to be excited when you've got such a great group.

And I just got a little more excitement in my life, which you got an email about . :)

Heidi said...

Great list!!

I love number nine! Yes... I've done that too!