Thursday, September 16, 2021

Dear O'Abby: Can I query agents and publishers at the same time?

 Dear O'Abby,

I took part in a Twitter pitch contest a couple of weeks back, and was super excited to get a few hearts!  Upon closer investigation, I discovered two of the people who liked my pitch were not agents, but editors at small presses.

I have been querying agents for a few moths now, but had only a couple of partial requests.  I'm a little wary about sending material to publishers at the same time as agents, but want to keep my options open here, and give my book the best chance at being published.  

So I was wondering if it is okay to send material to these small presses at the same time as I am sending queries and material to agents?

All the best,


Dear Hearted,

Generally speaking it is better not to query publishers at the same time as agents, especially if your goal is to be traditionally published.  Most major presses won't take submissions without an agent attached, and small presses that do take submissions direct from authors are often digital only or have limited distribution.

But at the end of the day, it's your choice.  If you would be happy being published by a small press that may be digital only, or doesn't have the ability to get your book into major bookstores, then go ahead and send your materials.  If you get an agent offer before they have responded, you can always withdraw your submission.

Just don't think that you can use an offer from a small press to try and leverage an offer from an agent.  I know writers who have done this, and it has backfired badly for all involved.  An offer from a small press is great if this is what you want, but an agent isn't needed to broker the deal in most cases.  Most small presses don't offer advances, and there is usually very little room for negotiating the contract.  Royalties tend to be low too, and the agent's commission cuts into the author's share without it being really worthwhile for the agent either.  So neither party ends up being happy with the situation.

So think hard before you send anything to these small presses.  Think about what you want for your books and your career and make the choice that's going to make you happiest in the long term.



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