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How Many Agents Should You Query? Is There a ''Right'' Number?

Categories: My Writing Life, Queries and Synopses and Proposals.
How many agents should you query?  This is a question I myself am facing right now, as I search for Agent #2 for my middle grade novel.  This is a complicated matter, and there is no “correct” answer; however, let me tell what I’m doing right now and why—and I hope that will help you on your journey.



When I first started to quer
y kids agents a month ago, my plan was to target very few reps—people I had met in my travels, who were awesome reps to handle the book.  So that’s what I did.  All was well.  Then three things all happened quickly that made me rethink my strategy:


        1. I got my first rejection.  The rejection listed a few compliments about the book but ended with “I didn’t connect with your main character as I hoped as I would.”
        2. A recent guest column on this blog quoted an agent saying that securing a rep is a “numbers game.”  This is something that Janet Reid has said before, too.
         3. Agent Nathan Bransford announced his book sale.  In his column, Nathan details the process he went through to publication.  He says he had to contact 10 agents before one agreed to take him on as a writer.

What does it all mean?  It means that if you’re writing fiction, someone has to really fall in love with the story to take it on.  Especially now in a recession, they really have to love it. I mean—come on—super-blogger Nathan Bransford with his awesome platform has to go through TEN agents to find one who will rep his middle grade book, a supposedly growing category of books?  Insane.

All this made me rethink my strategy.  I couldn’t just contact two or three agents.  So I contacted several more, but not a lot by any means.  I’ve always said that the fewer agents you query, the more that you have done your research.  Secretly, I was an advocate for contacting only a few, targeted agents.  But no more.  If you’re writing fiction, you have to cast a medium net at least, and whether you query all at once or over several “rounds” is up to you. You have to find someone who falls in love with your story—and that ain’t easy.

Want more on this subject? 

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5 Responses to How Many Agents Should You Query? Is There a ''Right'' Number?

  1. Luke says:

    Chuck,
    Love your blog and all the work you put into it.

  2. ouis vuitton says:

    will be happy to be proved wrong with this one…. but having done survival training during my Army days, I have to admit to a raised eyebrow with this as well.

    I saw on the news that the money they dumped at Shire was fake, to represent the money he had raised. It wasn’t the actual money.

    Er, are you having trouble posting something?

  3. Traci says:

    This is a very timely post for me as I am starting my journey of querying agents. I have several queries out already and have been debating about sending out more or waiting to hear back from these select few. I’m query a middle grade, so I think I send more queries out.

    Thanks for all your wonderful posts. I have found so much helpful information here.

    Traci

  4. I am also interested to hear how this pans out for you. Keep us in the loop as you go along. I have my list of 27 agents ready to begin querying my middle grade novel when it is complete. But sometimes I worry 27 won’t be enough.

  5. Becky Mushko says:

    Those of us with middle grade novels hope you’ll keep us updated on your progress. I queried a dozen agents—two or three at a time, except for two exclusives—until I stopped querying to enter my manuscript in two contests. However, I’m compiling a list of possible good agent fits (thanks to several of your posts) to use when my novel becomes available again.

    I learned yesterday that my novel is one of three finalists in the Smith Mountain Arts Council/Lake Writers Novel Contest. If it wins, I’ll be sure to mention that in my query. But if it doesn’t, should I mention in queries that it was a finalist? Or is the contest not important enough to count (top prize is $1,000)?

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