Monday, November 30, 2015

Writing Series: Querying - How many queries should I send?

You've got your polished novel. You've got your query letter. You've got your heart held out, warm and beating in your hands. How many agents do you offer it to before you call it quits?

Querying is a frustrating, exhilarating, soul-sucking experience. The hardest parts are the beginning, after you send that first one, and the end, when you're not sure if you should stop querying or just keep going.

I'm here today to talk about the end. This is a painful thing to contemplate, so I'm sorry for that, but pretend I'm the lawyer you hired to write your will or the financial advisor whom you've contacted about life insurance.

We all want to believe that we're going to find an agent with the novel we're querying. Otherwise, why are we doing it? But sometimes, it doesn't happen and querying ends. You want the end to come when you've rationally decided it, not when you're crying into your second bottle of chardonnay and lamenting the frustrations of today's publishing industry.

So let me sell you some life insurance.

The answer for when to stop querying is different for everyone, but my advice is this: make your decision now, before you hit the send button on your first one, and stick to your plan.

In previous posts, Melinda talked about querying resources, Kara talked about how to use social media to find agents, and Wendy talked about how to organize your querying. Your job, now, is to use those resources to decide how many agents to query.

It could be ten. It could be twenty. It could be one hundred. It could be all the agents that rep adult fantasy and historical fiction as listed on I don't care what your list is, but set yourself a goal, decide how many you'll send per week, write it down, and follow it until every single agent on your list has your submission package in his or her inbox.

A few years ago, I decided to become a direct salesperson for jewelry. (Direct sales being Arbonne, Partylite, Scentsy, Jamberry, etc.) Extra money seemed like a good idea, but I'm an introvert so, long story short, it didn't turn out well. However, I did learn something invaluable that I want you to apply to your writing life. They told us this:

For every yes you will receive, you will get nine no's. So set yourself a goal to get to a certain number of no's, and ignore completely the yes's.

Unfortunately for writers, the odds seem worse than 10%, but the principle is the same: Don't let a request for a partial stop you from querying. Don't get three full requests stop you. Don't even let an offer stop you--make sure you send out "offer of representation" follow-ups to the agents you've got materials out to. If you get a "yes," that's cause for a chocolate cupcake, but it's not a reason to stop gathering more no's.

So what's the answer for you? How many agents are you going to query? You decide that now, and you query all of them.

Do you need an accountability partner? You can find me on Twitter. I'm not kidding about this. I'm about to go into the query trenches myself mid-January (by the way, don't start querying right now because it's the holidays). My goal is at least one hundred Canadian/US agents who rep adult SF.

We can do this.


  1. Collecting no's instead of yesses - great idea! (and how do you spell/punctuate the plural of no, anyway? Nos doesn't seem readable.)

    1. No idea. Apostrophe is probably wrong, but isn't "nos" nitrous oxide? (I may have played a few racing games in my time.) What about "noes"? Looks like I mistyped "nose."

      *gives up*

  2. I'm targeting around 75 for my current WIP

    1. Good number (in my humble opinion, for what it's worth).

  3. Thank you for this. It's what I needed as I prepare to send out more. Do you recommend sending out in batches, like ten at a time? I've heard that gives you a chance to get feedback before you send more.


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