January 30th, 2009


letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 217
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 3
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: YA paranormal (1), adult paranormal (1), mystery (1)

this week's query wars casualty: the author who pitched the 8th book in the Harry Potter series which they hoped J.K. Rowling would approve

Dear Authors:

In last week's report from the front, I mentioned that I haven't told people not to re-query but encouraged them not to do so the very next day (which seemed to me rather obvious advice, but it happened again this week). I got a couple comments from people who weren't aware this was even an option so thought I might elaborate slightly on it.

Here's the scoop: I think a re-query is rather unlikely to get an author a different result. I think if I see something several times (which does happen occasionally), I will become less and less inclined to keep pursuing it over the course of time. And, there's a possibility if you leave query-land and enter spam-land (by which I mean a never-ending sort of loop of queries sent several times in a row), that you will get blacklisted. Now, I'm not prone to blacklisting but other agents may not be so forgiving. So, just bear it in mind.

Here's another point to consider: Time. Not just my time (which is sadly not infinite). The time you are taking from other writers in the queue. I still have nearly 100 queries left that did not get read this week and a query that I end up looking at more than once, means one less that gets reviewed cumulatively. Taken singly that doesn't sound so bad, but multiplied several times, it can really gum things up. Again, just something to weigh in the balance.

If you are seriously (and I mean carefully and with much consideration) debating this option, be sure that you have considerably revised the query and re-approached your manuscript as well. While some people have suggested that agents reject on a whim, I can assure you this is not so. Therefore, resending the same material (and essentially asking the same question), will get you the same answer.

(It's like that that girl in the bar who will keep saying "no"; no matter how many times you ask her out. You will not get more attractive or more interesting while you stand there, and she will not be worn down by simple repetition.)

So, why don't I just ban re-queries? Well, because there is more than one author on my list that I initially rejected, and I'd be sad, at this point, not to be working with them. (Do note that an identical query did not succeed where it had previously failed, though.) It's not in my best interest as an agent to not keep an open mind and say that no means never. However, I suggest that it is not in an author's best interest to persuade an agent to that point of view by taking advantage either.

I hope that sufficiently explains how it might look from the agent side of things....