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The Calm before the Storm

July 5, 2010

I have completed the majority of my agency list. Phew, it was a lot of work! I recommend people start on their lists early if they intend to send out queries to many at a time. It took me at least 30 hours all in all to find the agencies, read through their submission guidelines and choose the agent I wanted (by reading the profile of each agent). I also wrote down their email addresses.

–> Start on your agency list early.

I had a whole Word page with names of last-minute agents that I found last Friday and decided to go through it yesterday. I’m so glad that I did! I ended up with 56 agencies, and that’s excluding the one-man ones and the snail-mail ones. Going through that list increased the number in my snail-mail folder though. Why do agents still request forests of queries/manuscripts? I simply love the agencies who request emails only, because they don’t want paper wasted.

–> Prioritize.

I haven’t personalized the query letters yet, but I intend to. They have very different requirements: some request the query letter only, some want 5-10 pages, some 50 pages, one wanted the entire manuscript as an attachment, and some want 1-2 page synopsis, etc. Most don’t accept any attachments, but a couple do. I’ll have to read each guidelines very carefully to have a chance.

–> Read the submission guidelines carefully and personalize the query letters. Don’t send out mass-queries (Cc’s and Bcc’s).

Some agencies request exclusive queries, and I decided to ignore those agencies. I might try them if all the others decline. There was actually one agency that said something like “We request that you query more than us. Writers shouldn’t query exclusively.” That made me laugh and the agency earned my respect immediately.

–> Query more than one at a time.

Some agencies forbid querying more than one agent at their agency (no from one means no from all), but some only forbid to query more than one at a time. Janet Reid says to query the others regardless. I suppose I might try it if the agency is big.

–> Query one agent within the agency at a time.

I have also decided to include a line in my queries saying that I’m sending out multiple queries, just to have everything upfront. Some specifically say they want to be told, but others don’t mention it. At first I thought that they’d put those queries aside and focus on the ones submitted exclusively (as some claim to do), but now I’ve come to a different conclusion. I think that they want to read the multi-submitted ones to be able to snatch up the writer before anyone else does, if the query letter sounds promising. I haven’t been able to verify this, but in at least three guidelines there was a text asking writers to let them know if they’ve gotten proposition of representation elsewhere, so that they might make a counter-offer. That means that, say, if I got an offer from Agency X and I also queried Agency Y some time ago, but hadn’t heard from them, I’m supposed to send an email to Agency Y and tell them about the offer in case Agency Y wants to have a go. Maybe I’ll ask Janet, Rachelle, or Kristin about it.

–> Let the agencies know that you’re querying others, too.

The reason I checked the submission guidelines first was to put aside the snail-mail ones. I bookmarked them to list them later. Obviously I’ll try the email-ones first, because they’re faster and don’t cost anything, but there’s one in particular I’ll want to snail-mail, and that’s the agent of the House of Night series, since that’s my genre.

I also bookmarked in a separate folder “one-man agencies”. That doesn’t mean that I prefer the bigger agencies, it just means that I’ll do more background search on them, and that’s work I’ll have to put aside for a bit.

So what I did was I made five folders in my bookmarks and five Word sheets. I used the same names on the sheets and the folders (Contact 1, Contact 2, etc.) and bookmarked all the ones on Contact 1 sheet in Contact 1 folder. This is to help me later when I have to work my way through the submission guidelines of each agency. I didn’t write the agencies down in any specific order; I intend to query them all. Of course some seemed more like a perfect match for me, but it won’t hurt to send to others to see if they’re interested.

–> Keep a good, organized list on your agencies.

I searched through my genre on PublishersMarketplace, QueryTracker, and AgentQuery and listed them all down. Then I had a webpage of Predators & Editors open and checked each agency to see if they were legit, or had any specific warnings. There were only a few that I took off my list because they seemed iffy. I also eliminated those that take reading fees. I could have done this if they contacted me back to offer representation, but I decided to save myself time so that I won’t have to work my way through their submission guidelines only to learn that they’re dishonest.

–> Check your agencies in Predators & Editors.

So, what’s next? I got back the critique on my query letter and first five pages. I wanted to have the query letter edited to be absolutely error-free, and I got a few pointers with it. I also decided to send the first five pages, because I’ve made a lot of changes to it since I had the whole manuscript edited. Next up is to apply those changes and then my letter will be ready.

–> Make sure your letter + material is error free.

I have made a full proposal as well and wanted to be able to offer it in the query letter, but since something came up with the editor, I might have to give it a pass. It’s no big deal, really. The agencies only request a query letter, sample chapters/pages, and possibly a synopsis, but never a full proposal for fiction. I just wanted to show that I’d worked hard on the proposal, so less time would go into that after I’m signed.

–> Full proposals are not necessary, but nice.

Task for the day: Apply changes to the query letter and personalize 2-3 letters, but don’t send yet.

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From → Finding an Agent

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