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How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There? : FAQs • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There?

Frequently asked questions. Go HERE and read the first thread.
WildcatJim
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How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There?

Postby WildcatJim » Tue May 20, 2014 8:26 am

Just curious how many simultaneous query letters you all typically have out there at one time? In the process of agent hunting for my new book and am having a hard time being patient with the old 4-8 week response time. Thanks.

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MookyMcD
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Re: How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There?

Postby MookyMcD » Tue May 20, 2014 10:53 am

I've only been through one round of querying, although I'm considering a second, so this isn't really the voice of experience talking. I have three fulls out right now, but it is taking a looooong time. That said, patience is a virtue.

I've seen this question asked on Query Tracker a number of times, and the broad consensus seems to be around ten. Subjectively, knowing the people who answered that way (including which have been successful at this little game) I think that's the right number. After about a month, you can write off a query as not responded to and fire another one off, or revenge query if you get a rejection, but don't have more than ten or so out at a time.

There are very good reasons for only having a limited number of queries out. As hard as I tried to perfect it, my MS had serious problems when I queried it. I was lucky, because my top choices all gave me basically the same set of R&R instructions, so it didn't torpedo me. Given the nature of their criticism, i.e., you need to completely rewrite the last third of your book, it should have. Problems with your query, first five pages, or even your full manuscript are easier to keep in isolation of you limit your querying. If you aren't going at LEAST one request out of ten tries, that's enough information to know there's something wrong with your query of first few pages.

So I wouldn't have more than ten out at a time, and if you don't have any positive responses after ten or twenty, I think it's time to go back to the drawing board on your query, MS, or both.

James A. Ritchie
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Re: How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There?

Postby James A. Ritchie » Tue May 20, 2014 12:06 pm

I don't think more than three or four is a good idea, if you've done your research properly, and I would never, ever send more than ten.

The trouble with sending out a bunch of query letters at the same time is that there are only so many really good agents out there in a given genre, and you want the best agent you can possibly get. I don't think any genre outside of romance has more than two dozen top tier agents, and of these the top dozen are better than the second dozen.

Two many writers think an agent is an agent is an agent, but it simply isn't true. Many agents are bad at what they do, other are only fair, and a relatively few are good. Only a handful in any genre are great, and have the clout to really get things done.

If at all possible, you want one of these. If you can't get one of these, then you want the next level, the merely good agents. Sending out a bunch of queries at once is fine, if the query is great, and if the manuscript the query is based on is also great. And I do mean great. How many you send doesn't matter if this is the case, because just about every agent who sees the query and requests the novel is going to be all over it.

But if you send out a poor query in a big batch, you can burn through every top tier agent at once, and you won't get a second chance. Your next batch will burn through all the good agents, and you won't get a second chance with them, either. You do not want an agent who falls lower on the ladder, and there are a LOT of such agents out there.

For this reason, if think sending out three or four queries at a time, five max, is the best idea. Send these to carefully researched agents, and see what happens. If you get all straight rejections, you need to rework the query before sending to other agents. If you get two or three requests for a partial or complete manuscript, you have a good query. If, however, all the agents reject the novel itself with forms, you need to work on the novel, particular the first three chapters, before sending it to more agents.

Here's the thing. A slow acceptance is infinitely better than a fast rejection. It's easy to build a massive collection of rejection slips, but tough to actually write and sell a good novel. Taking you time and doing it right is always faster than getting it wrong in a hurry.

New writer spend way, way, waaaay too much time worrying about how long it will take to hear from agents or editors. A week, a month, a year, what difference doe sit make, as long as what you hear is good news?

The best policy is submit and forget. Once yu submit something, what hap[pens next is out of your control, so don't waste a minute thinking about it. Spend every last bit of your time heads down on your next novel. Have it ready to go before you even sell the first one.

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mammamaia
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Re: How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There?

Postby mammamaia » Tue May 20, 2014 12:21 pm

i agree that up to 10 is a good, workable number... and with all the rest of james' cogent advice...
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Re: How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There?

Postby Laycrew » Tue May 20, 2014 3:50 pm

I say 10 is a good number. I did what Mooky advised, sending out new queries when a rejection or request came in. When I started querying in Jan with a new manuscript, the first 3 responses I got were requests. I knew the query worked. Then the rejections rolled in along with more requests. I looked up agents on querytracker.net. There you can tell which agents tend to respond quickly, and which ones take their time, and the ones that don't respond at all. I saved those agents for later. I still have a full out right now from January. They can take forever.

Keep a list of who you query and when and when they respond. Some agencies say to requery if you don't get a response after a certain amount of time. I have had to do that. There have been a few times when my query was lost.

James A. Ritchie
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Re: How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There?

Postby James A. Ritchie » Tue May 20, 2014 5:45 pm


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MookyMcD
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Re: How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There?

Postby MookyMcD » Tue May 20, 2014 5:56 pm

I agree about using things like response time to guide you. I've found a surprisingly large number of agents in book acknowledgments pages who have a minuscule presence when you start with the idea of "agents" and work down from there, but who are obviously major, extreme A-list players when you start with their names and research forward from there.

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Re: How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There?

Postby WildcatJim » Tue May 20, 2014 10:24 pm

Thanks for the feedback. I have eight out there now and will let them sit until I hear back.

James A. Ritchie
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Re: How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There?

Postby James A. Ritchie » Wed May 21, 2014 2:12 pm


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Re: How Many Query Letters Should You Have Out There?

Postby MookyMcD » Wed May 21, 2014 4:12 pm

In my limited experience, there is no such thing as an agent who is not open to any kind of queries. Three of the agents I queried in my first round were supposedly that, and two requested fulls.


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