Are you querying literary agents? If so, you might want to ensure you’re up to speed on things you should know during this stage. Take a look.
-Agents from different agencies (and sometimes the same agency) don’t have the same submission guidelines. You need to read them all and follow each one. If you don’t, an agent will think you’re not professional at best, or lazy at worst. Either way, they won’t want to work with you.
-Some agents (or their assistants) read queries in the order they’re received. Some pick through the pile randomly, or they search for a specific genre they’re dying to have at the moment. This makes it hard to figure out when you’ll get a response. Be patient.
-When rejecting a query letter, most agents send a form rejection. Don’t take this personally. Some will give feedback, but that’s pretty rare at the querying stage. Don’t expect it. But, thank the agent if she takes the time to give it to you, even if you don’t agree with her feedback. Be polite.
-Some agents don’t reject query letters. If you don’t hear back from them, it’s a pass. Most of these agents state a time frame so you’ll know if you haven’t heard from them by then, they’ve passed. However, some don’t, so it’s a guessing game.
-For some agencies, a no from one agent is a no from all. This means you shouldn’t query another agent at that agency with the same project. If the agent you queried had thought someone else in the agency would be a better fit, she’d have passed your query to that agent.
-Many agencies will allow you to query more than one agent at their agency but not at the same time. You must wait until you’ve received a rejection or the time frame has passed before you query one of their colleagues.
-Often, an agent will give some sort of personal feedback when she rejects a full manuscript she requested. This isn’t always the case and shouldn’t be expected. In fact, a few agents won’t even reject your full manuscript. You’ll just never hear from them again, even if you nudge and ask the status of your manuscript. This can be frustrating, and you’ll probably wonder if she even received your full in the first place. She probably did. She’s just not that into it. You have no choice but to move on.
-Agent response times are all over the place. Some will read queries quickly and request material, only to sit on the partials or fulls for months. These are busy people. The fact that they haven’t read your requested material as quickly as they read your query doesn’t mean they aren’t excited about your story. It’s simply their process.
-Other agents will take between one and three months to read the queries and request. Some will then jump on the requested material, while others will take a while to get to their requested pile. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long it takes for an agent to read your work, it’s not an indication of their interest. If they hadn’t been interested in your manuscript, they wouldn’t have requested it. Period.
-Query Tracker is a great way to see roughly where you are in the querying line. Of course, this only works for agents who read queries in order. But, it’s neat to see that So-And-So queried the same agent a few days before you did and just got a request or a rejection. It tells you the agent will probably get to your query soon. There’s more to Query Tracker than this. Check it out. It’s a great tool for querying authors.
Come back next week to read the next part in this series.
Editing Update: My next available slot is February 13. Book now.