QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Query Bombing: Your Query Timing Questions Answered

Can I send multiple queries at a time? 

How many is too many? 

Should I wait for a response from one agent in an agency before querying another person in the same agency?

 First off, query bombing is a no-no.

 Who or what is a query bomber? 

One who sends out dozens or even hundreds of queries at one time.

 Listen, we get that you’re excited. You think your book is the next Harry Potter. You want to be at the casting call when your book is being made into a movie. We all have those dreams, and yes, some of them may come true, but sending hundreds of queries at once isn’t the trick to getting there.

 It’s kind of like looking into a job. Should you send a mass email out to several businesses? No, because each business (or in this case agent) is looking for something different. For that reason, you need to tailor each letter.

 So what’s the best plan of action?

 For the sake of this post we’ll assume you’ve mastered your manuscript, query letter, and synopsis. Next:

 1. Make a list of agents you’d like to query. 

(This can be as small or as large as you want. I normally go with the cliché “Go big or go home.”) QueryTracker.net is a great resource to help you do this.

2. Research each agent.

Remember, this person could have a big influence on your writing career, so you want to know who you’re working with. Check out agent information sites like AgentQuery, Publisher’s Marketplace, and Preditors and Editors. (QueryTracker.net provides links to these resources for each agent.) Also dig up interviews the agent has done, as well as her website/s, blog/s, and Twitter account. Who are the agents on your list representing? Are they making deals? How long have they been in the business? Find someone whose personality and interests (and sales) are a good match for what you write.

3. On QueryTracker.net (or via whatever spreadsheet system you’re using), prioritize the agents you just gathered.

I use the numbers one to ten. (Yes, you’ll have several under each number). Ones are for your top agents, and tens for great candidates that aren’t quite a perfect match. It’s also a good idea to make notes as to why you chose to rank agents the way you did. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a funny quote on their blog or the fact that they like cupcakes (and so do you!). Or maybe you’ve fallen in love with the advice in their Tweets, or believe you write like someone they’ve represented.

4. Send queries. 

Now, bombing isn’t the way to go. Instead, send a few out at a time. The goal is to see how they respond and then make necessary adjustments based on any feedback. 

I start by looking at my spreadsheet. Personally, I pick out all of those agents I ranked with a number five because while they aren’t necessarily my dream agents, they are agents I’m excited about. I normally send out five queries at a time.

Some writers send another out another query the minute they get a rejection, some wait for feedback, while a few are tempted to burn through their query list.

5. Re-evaluate.

I wait after I send out each batch of queries. I want to see how the agents are reacting to my query. If the first five queries didn’t succeed, I tweak the query, send it out to friends to make sure I’ve improved it, and then send out five more queries to agents on my list. Querying is a tough sport. That’s why sending two dozen out at once is a bad idea. You don’t know what needs adjusting until you’ve gotten some rejections, feedback, or requests. Try and try again are words to live by.

So the next time you’re thinking of query bombing, step back and ask yourself if you want a job. If the answer is yes, send out five and see how it goes.

Jen Daiker writes humorous women’s fiction, where cupcakes and cocktails are always on the menu. She’s spends way too much time on Twitter and can be found on her blog Unedited.

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology, check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook or Google+!


Theresa Milstein said...

Great tips, Jen.

I find it hard to figure out if I get rejections because of my query or my pages. Since most queries are sent with the standard five pages, it's difficult to know.

Leiann Bynum said...

I've heard an agent say that ten queries at a time are a good number to have out at once. Since agents take FOREVER to respond to one, I think ten is better than five. The less you send out, the longer it'd take to get published.

jongibbs said...

Great info!

I cringe when I hear authors tell people to send out twenty or more queries at once.

Thanks for sharing :)

Tracey Wood said...

I am a crazed bomber of old, now more reticent and plodding but still a tad crazed. Diversions are good. Otherwise I "just peek" at my email about thirty six times a day (roughly) :)

Travener said...

Sending out only "a few" at a time and waiting a month, or two or three, to hear back is just nuts. Half the agents you query won't even have the decency to respond to your email.

Send at least 20 at a time. You might want to set aside some of your high-priority agents for the second or third tranches, because you may be adjusting your query based on reactions to your first batch, but there's no sense in dribbling out just a few queries at a time when 95 percent are going to be rejected. You won't be finished querying until the 22nd century.

Unless you're the next Hemingway or something.

Jen Daiker said...

I think these comments were fabulous! It just proves to go with your gut on how many to send out. Everyone is different, but no one should send out hundreds at a time!

Thanks for stopping in!

Royce A Ratterman said...

Great info and comments. I am sure it also depends where you are located and the genre and how one 'feels' - remaining calm at heart and not 'greedy' and over doing it, or under doing it also.