Querying Part 2: Query in Batches

Once you’ve poured over Twitter, Manuscript Wish List, Query Tracker, agent’s websites, and more, you’ve probably got a list somewhere from fifty to a hundred agents and small presses ranging from Perfect Fit to ones that say “Surprise me! I’m always looking for something new.”

Before you get excited and cast your net wide, let’s think about this systematically.

  1. You typically only get one shot to query an agent or small press with your current MSWL unless they specially ask for an R&R (Revise & Submit).
  2. If you query all your agents and small presses in one go, you won’t get an opportunity to improve before querying the next batch.

What is “Querying in Batches?”

Querying in batches simply means querying small numbers of agents at a time. That number will depend on the number of agents you have on your list. But probably somewhere between five and ten is a good place to start.

Divide your agents into three columns: Perfect Fit, Good Fit, and Suprise Me. (or whatever terms you like. It could be A, B, C. The point is to divide them so we query systematically.

How to Query in Batches?

Now take two to four agents from each category. Pick a lower number from the smallest category and the highest number from the largest category. These will be the agents you query first.

Hot Tips:

  • Before you send your submission packet, confirm once again, they are still accepting queries.
  • Personalize your submission packet to each agent/small press. Why are you submitting to them?
  • Follow their submission guidelines to a “T”. If you have questions, reach out and ask.
  • Out of respect, it is also important that you honor the agent’s “Do Not Query” and not submit manuscripts containing content they do not wish to see in their slushpile.

What to do After?

Agent/Small press response-time can be anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to never. Which makes it super hard for querying authors.

As mentioned in my previous post Querying Part 1: Tools to Find Agents, you can follow your submission packets in most agents’ slushpiles on Query Tracker to have an idea of how long their response time usually is and where yours sits on their list.

What Do I Do With an Agent/Small Press Response?

It depends. The following are likely responses and suggested actions.

  • No Response: Many agents/small presses only respond if interested. I’d not reach out unless they specifically state to nudge after X number of days or months.
  • Form Rejection: Well, at least that’s one agent you can scratch off your list.
  • Personal Rejection with No Feedback: A kinder response from another agent you can scratch off your list.
  • Personal Rejection with Feedback: Take note. Do you agree with this feedback? It may be worth your while to implement it in the first chapter and determine if you think the writing feels stronger. Especially if you get this feedback from another agent.
  • Revise & Resubmit: This means the agent/small press will give you feedback with the invitation to resubmit to them. What landed me a publishing deal, was making those changes and sending out another batch of queries first to see how the changes landed.
  • Full or Partial Request: I’d take one more pass over your manuscript, then send away.
  • Offer of Representation: Likely not to happen early in the querying process, but if it does, thoroughly vet the agent or small press by checking their previous titles, asking to speak to current clients, and having someone familiar with literary contracts review yours. Before accepting, also reach out to all open queries to let them know you have an offer of representation. Most agents want to know this and it can further you up the slushpile.

When to Send Out Subsequent Query Batches?

There’s really no set time frame. If you send out ten and get little to no response in about four weeks, it may be time to send out the next batch.

If most of your responses are no response or form rejection after two-three rounds, it may be time to take a look at your submission packet before continuing the query process.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my query following the formula? Agents/Small Presses expect certain information presented in a specific order. It’s easier readability. The formula can be found in Query Masterclass with Patrick Hopkins, Creator of The Queery Helpline
  • Am I starting my novel in the right place? Opening scenes should set the stage for what the main character’s life is like right before the inciting incident.
  • Is my opening chapter written as compelling and tight as possible? First chapters should focus on the present. Introduce the setting, the main characters, and not be heavy on backstory.

I hope this two-part series on querying has been helpful! If you have any questions or your own querying suggestions, please reach out.

Best of luck on your querying journey!

You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting…so get on your way!

Dr. Seuss

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