Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Re: Re-Querying

What in the name of Justin Bobby has happened to The Hills?? Last night's drama focused on whether or not Whitney and Lauren's headsets WERE ON THE SAME RADIO FREQUENCY during a fashion show in a church (you heard correctly). Really, The Hills? This is how far we've fallen? We're relying on freaking walkie talkies to provide our entertainment? What's next, Spencer and Brody get into an argument about homeboy phone ring tones??

I'm not over this. Even Justin Bobby was acting vaguely normal last night, even if he apparently has a physical handicap that forces him to turn his head horizontally when he speaks (I'm sending a get-well card). Luckily next week it looks like Lauren Conrad and Heidi are going to throw down over whatever it is they're fighting about, but if this week's episode is any indication they're probably going to argue about which Star Trek movie is the best.

Anyway, lots of people have been asking me about query policies for re-querying an agent and for querying different agents within the same agency. These types of rules vary from agency to agency, so please do your best to first figure out the agency's submission guidelines, and those prevail. But if you're not able to find anything, here's my general rule of thumb (keep in mind this is just my opinion):

Querying Another Agent Within the Same Agency

I would never simultaneously query agents within the same agency -- it's always better to target your agent search as much as possible, which both increases your chances of finding the right match and helps you personalize your queries. But if you receive a "no" from one agent and you feel another agent might be a good fit: wait a few months after you receive the "no" (or six months if there's no response) before querying the next agent, and send another personalized letter (and if you can't personalize due to lack of information, shake up your letter) -- you never know whether agents share assistants, and no agent wants to feel like they're on a vast distribution list (and no assistant wants to repeatedly read the same letter. And pass it to the agent with a "rejection" recommendation. And print out another rejection letter. And give it to the agent for them to sign. And putting it in the envelope. And sealing the envelope and putting it in the mail. And responding to calls from people who are wondering where their query is and having to locate the record of that query among the thousands of others. Frankly it's a wonder more assistants don't become serial killers).

Re-querying the same agent

Wait six months. This one is important, because there are few things more annoying for an agent than passing on one project only to receive an e-mail five minutes later saying, "OK, what about this one?" and, after that one is rejected, receiving another one that says, "OK, what about this one?" (and this has happened enough that I just don't even respond to the follow-up query -- sorry, but I'm not going to get myself into a query mobeus strip)

If you receive a no but really like the agent, give it some time, work on your writing, take another look at your query letter for your new project, and six months later if you have a completed project it's fine to try again. But your odds of getting a manuscript request are approximately, oh I'd say 0% if you immediately re-query.


Please be sure and check the comments section if you have further questions (and ask away, I'll try and answer), and in the meantime, let's just all hope The Hills regains some semblance of the dramatic lunacy we've come to know and love.






39 comments:

Merry Jelinek said...

One question, and it's hypothetical but it occured to me while reading the post:

What if the agent sends you a personal rejection that indicates the project wasn't right for them but encouraging you to query them again, does the six month rule still apply or should you try to speed it up before they forget about you?

Nathan Bransford said...

Merry-

If the agent says to re-query or wants to see a revision, the six month rule doesn't apply.

Susan Sundwall said...

Justin Bobby must have gone to the David Caruso school of non-method acting, horizontally speaking.

Juliet said...

Dear Nathan, a question from the UK. I am at the stage where i feel ready to query agents, and i am keen to query you, but am i better finding a suitable agent from Curtis Brown in the UK?

Thanks, Juliet

Nathan Bransford said...

Juliet-

It depends on the project -- if it's something that would do better in the UK you're probably better with a UK agent. If it's more universal and you're focusing on selling it in the US, it doesn't matter as much.

And just FYI, although we share the same name and a common past, Curtis Brown and Curtis Brown UK are separate companies and operate independtly of each other.

Juliet said...

thanks for the prompt response and info, i hadn't realised that the UK/US Curtis Brown were separate. The novel deals with the universal themes of guilt, sex and dying, but is firmly set in the home counties of the UK, so on reflection i think it would be better if i queried UK agents.

reagards, Juliet

Caitlin said...

I liked the Justin Bobby and Audrina developments last night...I sense an upcoming defining moment in their relationship/non-relationship.

I know this isn't the point of your blog, but I was wondering if you might have any advice for a recent college grad who aspires to be a non-serial killer editorial assistant.

Nathan Bransford said...

Caitlin-

You might check out my post on how to become a literary agent. The procedure is very similar for becoming an editorial assistant, only transpose "agency" with "publishing house." Also, a good place to look for job leads are the PublishersMarketplace job board and MediaBistro.

David said...

Jeez, everyone knows that The Wrath of Khan is the best Star Trek movie, and not just because of the immortal line, "You Klingon son, you murdered my bastard!"

I'm sure all writers fall into the trap of reading rejection letters as though they were tea leaves. Did the agent only mean that that project wasn't suitable for him/her, or did the agent actually mean, "God, your writing sucks! Please don't query me again, ever."

David said...

Wait, was that a different movie? Oh, well.

Anonymous said...

could it be that the writers' strike is also affecting "reality" tv?

krw3b said...

You mention an agent being a "good fit" and "really liking" an agent, which got me thinking...

Say, hypothetically, that a writer reads a certain agent's blog regularly and shares his goofy sense of humor, love of good writing, and dependency on bad reality TV.

And say this writer has one manuscript that fits within the genres which the hypothetical agent represents--say a YA--but all the rest of her work is stuff he doesn't sell (ie. middle grade and younger).

And the writer knows there's another hypothetical agent at the same hypothetical agency who does handle kids' stuff, but the writer just "really likes" blog-agent and feels he'd be "a good fit" for her one ms. But she also knows the best agents represent careers, not just books.

So...

Would it be stupid for her to query blog-agent? Would it be a waste of everyone's hypothetical time?

That was the long...here is the short of it.

1.There are only so many children's book agents.

2. Many of us who write for children have at least one YA in our drawer.

3. A tempting number of adult agents handle YA.

Is it a mistake to pursue an agent for that one YA manuscript alone, knowing that the other ones aren't a fit?

The whole Adult-Agents-Repping-YA phenomenon can be really frustrating for us kids' writers.

(okay, that was long too.)

Nathan Bransford said...

krw3b-

Good question. I think a good fit personality and enthusiasm-wise (on the part of both parties) is more important than a strict genre focus, particularly when this hypothetical agent is a genre bender to begin with.

krw3b said...

genre bender

hahaha.

I had to read that three times before I got it right.

krw3b said...

and thanks.

Jess said...

I'd say it's a toss up between First Contact and Wrath of Khan, myself.

Redzilla said...

As a former editorial assistant, let me just say: more of us are serial killers than you might expect.

And thanks for the general guidelines--I'm wondering if this applies to a situation in which an agent switches agencies. I queried and heard nothing. Now I learn the agent has moved agencies about the time I queried. Am I safe to try the agent again at the new location?

Nathan Bransford said...

Redzilla-

Yeah, in the case of the agent switching agencies I'd wait six months and if you haven't heard try again.

Colorado Writer said...

What about querying a new book after you have withdrawn a different one because you signed with someone else, but are agentless again?

Clear as mud?

Colorado Writer said...

And when you say you rarely take on a middle grade project, would you explain what qualities might convince you to take one on?

And would it waste your time if one were to query with a MG?

Nathan Bransford said...

colorado writer-

Sorry, I don't understand the first question. But if it's a new book, when in doubt the six month rule applies.

As for the second question, if I'm blown away by a MG project I'm not going to pass on it. I know the editors, I know the houses, the contracts, the success stories etc. etc., it's just that as a reader I don't always respond to MG like I do with other genres, and so my personal threshold to take it on is higher. And it's not a specialty of mine so I don't want to misrepresent my interests.

But if I'm blown away and the author is game I could see it happening. That's why I say when in doubt just go ahead and query me.

Kate said...

You talked about re-querying with a different project. What about re-querying after a year or two with the same project, having greatly revised both project and query? Is that a no-no? (Supposing the response the first time around was an encouraging, personalized rejection, but not an invitation to revise and resubmit.)

Colorado Writer said...

Sorry. :) The question was confusing. I'll blame it on the writer's strike or something.

You've answered it anyway.

Thanks Nathan. You are kinda cool.

Nathan Bransford said...

kate-

Unless the agent specifically asks for a rewrite you're not supposed to re-query for a work you've already sent, even if it's revised.

I really hesitate to make an exception to this rule because it's hard enough reading queries for projects the first time around, but let me just say that all an agent can say is no. But if you do try again with people you risk g alienating someone who could have potentially been your agent down the line. So it's a tough call.

K.R.Stewart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angelle Trieste said...

Nathan ---

Thank you so much for the post. :) It clears up a lot.

My question is--

If the agent says to re-query, should you mention that when you do send him another query? For example: Four months ago, you asked me to query you again with another project...or something like that

Nathan Bransford said...

Angelle-

Absolutely positively 100% mention it and you might also want to include their e-mail to you below your e-mail. Otherwise they might not remember you.

Angelle Trieste said...

Thank you, Nathan. :)

Josh said...

You know, it'd be nice to think that re-querying tact would come as common sense to me (winces) but I'm afraid I've been guilty of the query rejection rebound. Thanks for setting it straight.

Anonymous said...

How about when you don't hear from the agent - an agent you met and talked to and who liked your pitch? Should you assume quiet is a no, or that emails get lost? Send the exact same query once again via snail mail, or refer to the old one, mentioning something about how it may have disappeared?

Obsessing? Moi?

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

The rule of thumb for follow-ups is once a month, exceedingly politely, via e-mail. Here's a full post on it.

Topher1961 said...

Okay, I'll finally bite.

Is the Hills on cable?

And have you watched Journeyman? It's like The Time Traveler's Wife moved to San Francisco? We watch it with our sons every Monday night now. It's the first show we've watched consistently since our children first arrived.

Nathan Bransford said...

topher1961-

The Hills is on MTV. And haven't seen Journeyman -- I usually give new shows a season or two, and if people are still talking about them I get them on DVD over the summer.

Anonymous said...

Let’s say that after unsuccessfully attempting to place a first manuscript, a writer has a second manuscript that an agent would like to represent. Is it a faux pas to ask the agent to read the earlier manuscript, which the agent rejected at the query stage? I would imagine it’s fine, but can also see how it might make someone starting out appear difficult. If this is O.K., how often would you say it happens and how often would you say the earlier manuscript is actually good?

Nathan Bransford said...

Anon-

If the agent becomes your agent then they're going to want to see most anything you've written. Usually when it's the second manuscript that attracts an agent the first isn't as good and it's put in a drawer, but it's always possible to pull it out and polish it up at some point.

I'd keep the focus on the current manuscript until that sells -- then, when you're discussing next projects, you can pull that one out or chart out new territory. Just make sure to talk to your agent.

Caitlin said...

Thanks!

Heather B. Moore said...

Good to know! Thanks.

I had an agent ask for a revision on my thriller. I sent her an email when I finished it. She never replied. So now I'm wondering if I should query with another agent within the same agency.

Nathan Bransford said...

Heather-

Follow up, via e-mail, politely, once a month until you hear back from the agent who requested the revision. If it's a no, follow the 6 month rule.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to ask this question even though I think I know the answer.

Let's say I've sent out a query letter to an agent and had it rejected. I then did a lot of research, learned how a query letter should read, and then re-wrote my letter and it's now much more engaging. Can I send the query to the agent who rejected me even though it's the same project?

You're going to say no, aren't you?

(As an aside, when I met this agent at a seminar, she didn't seem to recognize the project, but she did express interest in the idea/plot.)

Sandy

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