Sometimes authors have no idea how many queries agents or how we choose projects. I wanted to do a compilation of some 2018 stats and what I saw that I liked and didn’t like in queries along with a few things to keep an eye out for when you query literary agents in 2019 to improve your chances. These stats focus on fiction since fiction dominated my slush. Going into 2019 I plan to hunt down some great nonfiction projects.
First of all, I got hundreds of queries this year even with only opening to queries in September. November was my busiest query month with 252 queries. Things slowed down in December to about 190 queries. This was likely due to many other agents closing for the month and people taking a break for the holidays. This is what makes it hard to stand out in the slush, the sheer number of subs agents receive. Make sure your query is on point before sending it out. I saw a lot of queries that left out stakes or got too convoluted or even focused on themes instead of plot or left out the plot altogether. Avoid these mistakes because they make a project easy to pass on. Continue reading “2018 Query Round Up”
By submission list, I mean the submissions your agent sent to editors. A big trend in my query box lately is previously published and previously represented authors. Many books were already out on one or two submission rounds. I personally like to ask about all this and know as much as possible if I’m interested in a full. I’m seeing so much of this lately that I wanted to post a little reminder here about keeping submission info.
I’ve started a habit of asking if the last agent sent the MS to any editors when I request a full from a previously represented author. I take my submissions game plan into heavy consideration when I’m reading a full and if a book has already been sent to just about every editor, I wouldn’t expect to be able to sell it and might ask to see the next book instead. The more editors to have seen a book, the harder it could be for me to sell.
Why keep the list? Past submissions on books can help target submissions on your next book. Maybe an editor asked to see future books or recommended a different editor. Maybe one made it clear they weren’t fond of the author’s writing style, in which case it would be a waste to send the next book to them instead of a different editor at that house or imprint. If editors have already seen one book your next agent won’t want to send the same book to those editors a second time.
If you decide to split with your agent make sure you keep your submission list since it will come in handy to your next agent. And if your current MS has already been given to editors, your agent will need to know who.
If you are in the query trenches you have my sympathy for how difficult the going can be. You should also make sure you only query an agent one project at a time. I get a lot of queries for a whole series (fantasy is the big offender for this) or an author pitching multiple books in the same query letter. Pitch one project at a time to an agent. I’m going to explain exactly why that is.
First off, I will more than likely only pitch one project of yours at a time. That means I need to know which project you are currently focusing on and want to sell. If you throw several at me, I don’t know which one you want to go up to bat with the most. It’s also more reading time not only to decide if I like your writing, but which project to sign. My time is limited when it comes to reading projects to sign clients, so I need to choose carefully. Having a whole series or several books to get through is a much larger time investment than looking at one project and unless I’m in love with a concept the time investment makes it easy to pass. Continue reading “Query One Project at a Time”
Something I’ve noticed as an agent is when I make an offer, authors are always interested in knowing what kind of edits are needed in detail, which is good. I’m very editorial, so it’s important to me that my clients are prepared to do revisions and if their current project doesn’t need them, future ones might. However many want to know all the details during the offer stage and there is a very important reason why we don’t give them at that stage. You won’t get more in-depth edits until you sign the contract. Sure during the offer I will let you know if it needs deep edits or light edits, but you won’t be getting an edit letter yet. Continue reading “Why Agents Don’t Give You Edits Until Signing”
When it comes to communication I’m a typical millennial, which means I prefer emails to phone calls. To me email is faster and more convenient than waiting around to schedule a call. The vast majority if not all of my communications with clients is done over email. Not only is it convenient for me, but it frees my phone up for emergency and editor calls. Having most communication done over email is pretty typical these days. If you are the type who relies on phone calls to discuss everything, then I’m probably not the agent for you.
As an editor I never did phone calls. Even my job interviews with houses were all done via email as well as my communication with authors. Basically I got accustomed to doing everything via email. Not to mention many of my clients hold other day jobs and while they can’t do a call during work hours, they can email. I often wonder if the offer email will start to trump the offer call in the digital era. I have signed clients without phone calls and to me they are no different than clients who I called. The email signings went so smoothly I have considered switching to the offer email across the board. When I’m ready to offer, I let my prospective clients know when I ask to chat with them. If I have questions I want answers to before offering, I usually ask them while I finish reading or right after reading while I mull everything over. I do that because by the time it comes to me wanting to chat more with them to see about offer, I want to be sure about that offer and know everything I need to leading up to that so we can get right down to business when I make an offer. Continue reading “My Communication Style”
Ever wonder how agents decide who to submit a project to and how we keep track of all those editors? The very not glamorous answer is spreadsheets, networking, and Publishers Marketplace. Publishers Marketplace (PM) can help keep track of agents for querying authors as well. If you are willing to throw money at a membership, even if for only a month, you can learn a lot from PM.
I keep crazy long spreadsheets of editors arranged by house and imprint. I have one for YA editors and a separate one for editors accepting adult books. When I say long I mean my spreadsheets can go up to hundreds of rows long. PM’s newsletter announces when editors move, leave, or new editors get promoted. New imprints or closing imprints also get announced. My spreadsheet helps me keep track of what genres editors accept, where they are, if they recently moved, and what past titles they’ve bought that are similar to the type of books I either represent or want to represent. If I or a coworker talked to the editor recently, I make notes of what they said they are looking for. Editors move around a lot and my spreadsheet makes sure I keep track of those moves and possibly changes in their acquisitions focus with their moves. Continue reading “Keeping Track of Editors”
Agents get a lot of queries, way more than we can represent. That means a lot of competition for querying writers. Believe me, I have plenty of experience querying as well and understand the frustration. Sometimes being an agent and knowing how it all works soothes the rejection, but not always. Rejecting queries is my least favorite part of agenting. I know how those rejections feel having been on the other end of them. But when it comes down to it agents might only take a handful of new authors a year but receive hundreds of queries. Currently I’m building my client list with vigor, which means I’m hungrily looking to fill out my list, but even then I still get way more queries than I can represent.
So why do I reject queries? A lot of people assume the majority of rejections are due to bad writing or us hating the queries. Most queries where the writing falls short just need another round or two of edits or are newer authors who will improve with time. Often a project needed one more round of edits before querying, but there is too much editing needed for me to feel comfortable taking on the project. I’m a big fan of Revise and Resubmits because if this is the case but I love the project, I’ll request a R&R to see how the author handles the edits. Being able to edit well is a key to success as an author. Continue reading “Why I Reject Queries”