Monday, January 20, 2014

Agency Lessons: Why you can't query again

There are lots of agencies with the rule that you can only query one agent within the agency for each project. Meaning, if the agent you query passes, you can't send it on to another agent at the same agency. Corvisiero Agency follows this guideline and I get asked sometimes why we have it. Today, I'll tell you why.


I understand the nature of the question. After all, queries are highly subjective. What doesn't strike my fancy could be right up the alley of another agent I work with and vice versa. So why then are we against re-querying? Several reasons actually, but here are the big ones for me.

1. Time
This may seem cruel to the querying author just trying to catch a break, but time does play a factor. At Corvisiero, we respond to each and every query. All of them. Additionally, we often provide feedback when sending a rejection to give the author an idea of why we are passing. All of that takes time. Now imagine if each of us had to read the same query from the same author. Not only would our number of incoming queries increase, we would probably waste a lot of time telling authors the same thing over and over again. This leads into my next point.

2. Trust
I trust my fellow agents as professionals. While we each might look for something slightly different in a story, we know what good writing looks like regardless of genre. Does an author really need three of us to tell him he overuses metaphors and the dialogue needs work? Nope. And I know that's the sort of thing I can count on my co-agents to sort out. I trust them to know if a piece has potential or not. We may have completely different wish lists, but we're all looking for great stories.

3. Talent
Even when something isn't my particular mug of joe (I don't really like cups of tea), I know when a writer has talent. I also know the kind of stories my co-workers are looking for. So when I see talent in their favorite genre, I pass the query along. And they do the same. It doesn't happen super often, but it does happen. I'm not going to let a seriously talented writer slip through just because they write in a genre or style that isn't my preference. If there's another agent in the office who would be a good fit, I'm going to let them know.

4. Team
I'm not looking for clients who want just any agent. While writers should query widely, you should also be judicious in your selections. Remember that you're not just looking for a vendor who can sell your book to the highest bidder in some nameless, robotic transaction. You're looking for a business partner. I want clients who think I would be a good match for them, and not just because I have the title of agent. A writer who tries to rapid fire their query at every agent they've heard of isn't thinking about partnerships.

I get that querying is hard, and sometimes the rules and guidelines for each agency can seem like flaming hoops you have to jump through. Believe me, I've jumped through many a flaming hoop myself and have the singe marks to prove it. But here's the thing. We don't sit around a table inventing rules and guidelines in a sadistic game of "Let's Drive Writers Crazy". The rules are there to help everyone, agent and writer alike.

Next time you think about breaking the rules keep two things in mind. The rules are there to help you, not hurt you and we know when you're breaking the rules, which is definitely not going to help you. So chin up and carry on. I can't promise that your day will come, but playing by the rules can only help it get there.

I hope that helps shed some light on what can be a confusing part of querying. Do you have any other querying questions you'd like to ask? Some submission standard have you stumped? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to answer them in the next Agency Lessons post.

11 comments:

  1. I totally agree with your reasoning, especially the time part. It's AWESOME your agency gives feedback! Very helpful and so much classier than the dreadful "No response means no" policy some agencies have.

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    1. I understand why agencies use "No response means no", but having been on the other side of the inbox I can't imagine ever using it.

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    2. I actually prefer no response means no. If you don't like it don't tell me about it. I even told my agent if we got rejections that weren't helpful I didn't want to know about it. She was very supportive of this decision.

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  2. It is awesome that you give feedback regardless of whether or not you like it. Feedback keeps people motivated. Thanks for the agency lessons, it is nice to get a glimpse into the mind of the agent.

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    1. I couldn't agree more when it comes to motivation. Sometimes all it takes is a few lines to pull a writer back up out of the rejection doldrums.

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  3. I just want to emphasize your point that agents really do pass queries on. I queried with an offer on the table and the agent I queried was out of town and wouldn't be able to get to my book before I needed to respond. She forwarded it, and that's the agent I signed with. And I have another friend who queried an agent that didn't feel he was a match for that story but passed it on to the person who became her agent. It does happen more than you would think.

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    1. Thanks, Beth! I think some readers assume we say this just to placate or as an excuse, but it really does happen. I passed one along to another agent just this past month and she is now a client of hers.

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  4. I understand this policy. The Time factor and the Team factor are definitely the most important in my opinion. Getting just any agent isn't the same as getting the right agent. If you get the wrong agent, someone you didn't really love, love, love but just someone you happened to query because you were querying anyone ... I guess that could work out, but from what I hear it usually doesn't.

    Thanks for sharing, Sarah! And I agree with Lexa, I think it's amazing that your agency gives feedback. Wow. That must take a lot of time.

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  5. The Team idea is very important. Your agent should have the same outlook on publishing, promotion, and so much more. You really need to mesh with and trust your agent.

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  6. It seems like most agents love a query that is personalized. But when I write mine, I worry that the agent will take my uber friendly claims of kindred-spiritism as brown nosing. Do you have any suggestions to help me be sure not to overstep this fine line in the eyes of the agent?

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    1. Emily,
      I'm probably not the best agent to ask about this as I'm not a huge fan of all the personalization. I automatically assume if a writer is querying me, they have at least a basic knowledge of what I represent. Generally, I only look at the personalization if the person mentions having spoken to one of my clients or if we've met somewhere. To avoid brown-nosing, I would say stick to the facts. For example, "You mentioned on Twitter you're looking for mystery with female MCs so I decided to query you." If you are going to gush, make it about a client. For example "I love X book, by your client ZZ and would love the chance to work with you." I hope that helps. :)

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