Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Lucky gives the evil eye at the thought of 275 queries

I work for a midwest-based publisher. I don't really work "in"publishing. I like to think I work "next to" publishing. I handle customer support for a writing website. Most of the calls and emails I get are from subscribers who need help logging in or searching for a market listing, but sometimes the subscribers will ask publishing questions.

There was a guy who sent 275 queries to agents (that is not an exaggeration). He called to ask why no one had responded to these queries which he sent the WEEK before. DON'T ever do this. It's tempting to just send a mass query to every single agent in the Writer's Market. But it's not a phone book and should not be used as such. Also, giving someone only one week to review your work is terribly unrealistic. Following up this soon is just going to annoy the

What should you do?

1. Use the market guides to determine who accepts work in your genre of interest.

2. Use sites like Google to search for interviews the agent has given and to determine what kind of online presence the agent has. You want someone who is updated on the trends, so if the agent has a blog or uses Twitter, they are going to be pretty web savvy. These sites can also give you additional insight into their likes and dislikes.

3. Take a look at the agency's website to look for updates on their submission guidelines. The agent may also list the types of manuscripts they are interested in and may even list their recent sales.

4. Take a field trip to the bookstore, (I recommend Barnes and Noble) and look at the books they've agented. Are the books similar to your manuscript without being too similar? If a trip to the bookstore is unrealistic, search for the books on or and read an excerpt.

5. Take a look on sites like to see what other writers are saying about the agent. Does the agent respond to status queries? Do they send personalized rejections and editorial suggestions when they request a partial or full manuscript- these are definitely a plus.

6. Once you have a narrow list of agents who accept the genre you write and who seem to be a good fit, then you are ready to send your query.

These steps are time consuming. There's no doubt about that, but they can make the difference between a stack of form rejections and requests to read your full manuscript. Keep in mind that once you narrow your search, you still need a kick-ass query letter. That's another post!



  1. I'm impressed that you're posting so often! This is like a real live genuine blog!

  2. Thanks for the sound advice. I hope to query with these tips in mind in the near future.

  3. I agree with all of these tips! Also, there's another reason to be targeted and specific when querying: agents talk. When I worked at a lit agency, my boss frequently had lunch with other people in the industry.

  4. BTW, what happened to the 275-query guy? Did he ever find someone to represent him?

  5. Rochelle:

    I asked 275 query guy to take a look at the submission guidelines for the agents he queried and look for the response times. I told him to add 30days to what they listed and not to contact them before that time if he did not hear from them. He hasn't called back. He's probably still going through his list :)