The Agent Query Process

I’ve spent the morning organizing my list of potential agent prospects and now my brain is at that brown-out stage where I go to Windows Explorer to find a file and can’t remember what I’m looking for. Food is probably in order, but I’ve trained myself into that discipline of “Oh, you can finish this one last task before you take a break” and invariably one thing leads to another until it’s 4:00 and I still haven’t had lunch.

Finding and querying agents is always exhausting and demoralizing because there’s no lack of individuals out there trying to impress upon you how difficult it is to get published, how picky a particular agent is, and how the entire publishing industry is on the verge of sinking into the Atlantic. I’m pretty good at shutting out the gloom and doom if I don’t have to dwell on it, but when it’s in my face and I have to scan past it to get to pertinent information, it takes its toll.  I’m not sure why people feel the need to be so negative. Maybe it makes them feel better about their own issues. Maybe it’s a way of screening out those individuals who give up easily.

What gets me is how many agents won’t take simultaneous submissions.  A lot of agents acknowledge that this is a ridiculous approach that unnecessarily draws out a process that is already too long and arduous for the writer, yet others continue to insist on this. I respect how hard agents work, and how difficult their job is, but I have yet to figure out why they would think their time is more valuable than mine.  I was reading an interview today with a well-known agent (I can’t find the link in my history now, so I’m not going to mention a name in case my memory is faulty). He said that exclusive submissions are unfair to the author, and that if an agent requests one that author should seriously consider looking elsewhere for representation.

The other thing that irks me is how many agents won’t respond even if you supply an SASE. Hel-lo, you asked for this specifically in your submission guidelines. I gave the USPS 42 cents on good faith that you would not let it go to waste. I know you’re busy, but surely one of your lackeys can find time to cram a poorly photocopied,  1/4-page form letter into my envelope and send it back to me? Or perhaps you could do it while you’re sitting at home snarfing Doritos and watching the latest episode of 24? Maybe you’re steaming my stamps off the envelope and selling them on eBay so you can afford a paper-cutter and won’t have to snip apart the aforementioned rejection letters with dull scissors anymore? Here’s a suggestion: If you aren’t going to use writer’s SASEs why not ask us to include an email and phone number with our submission and say you’ll contact us only if you’re interested? Wouldn’t that save a lot of envelopes and stamps? Let’s think green here, people.

Okay, I think I’m done ranting for the moment. I better go make some lunch. Right after I finish that goals list…

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8 Responses to The Agent Query Process

  1. Otto Mann says:

    sounds like a workaholic. 😦


  2. susanls says:

    Maybe I’ll just never finish my books and then I won’t have to go through all this…..


  3. Roxie says:

    Stick in a self-addressed stamped postcard with the message, “Your manuscript has been received by. . .”


  4. Lisa, I never ran into the problem of agents not allowing sim subs. My understanding was that agents expect you to query widely and simultaneously, and that’s what I did. Exclusives–if they happen–shouldn’t be requested until the agent asks for the full manuscript. Even then, many authors tell the agent no, or give them at most 2 weeks exclusivity.

    The only exclusive I gave was to my current agent, because by then she’d already invested quite a bit of time giving me revision suggestions. Her taking me on was contingent on the rewrites, so an exclusive at that time made sense. Otherwise, I had three to five subs out at all times. I know people who have submitted their manuscript to ten agents at a time.

    As far as the negativity…yeah, it does seem like a test sometimes. It never gets better, even after you’re published. All you can do is tune it out. Keep on keepin’ on!


  5. Casey says:

    I haven’t gotten to this point yet and I’m so not looking forward to it. It sounds so mentally exhausting. Best wishes to you. Hopefully, if I can stick to my goals, I’ll be posting my own rants on the querying process by the end of the year. Keep us updated!


  6. Barb says:

    I agree that it’s a rule that’s in the process of being broken. I’m reading “Renegade Writer”, and even though it’s about writing magazine articles they also say it’s a rule that if enough writers break, we can change the agents’ expectations. Which makes sense unless we want our MS’s published after we’re in the ground.

    And what if you should get 2 offers at the same time?….Ooooooooh, to be so lucky. Go with the best one.

    I, too, have switched to Postcards. Writer forums declare that even with an SASE or SASP, we’ll get an answer only 60-75% of the time. So if you find that website where we can buy discount postage, we’ll know where our stamps went.


  7. keep plugging. Its a tough process. 🙂


    I tagged you.
    The rules are as follows: link to the person who tagged you; write down six things that make you happy; post the rules; tag six others and let them know you have done it; tell the person who tagged you when your entry is up.


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