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

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.

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When I first started to query 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?

  • To follow up or not follow up?
  • Should you mention your age in a query?
  • Protocol concerning agents and e-mail attachments.
  • Confused about formatting? Check out Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript.
  • Read about What Agents Hate: Chapter 1 Pet Peeves.
  • Want the most complete database of agents and what genres they're looking for? Buy the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents today!
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