Agency Lessons: Stop double dipping

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

Every Wednesday the good folks of Corvisiero get together and go through our query boxes. It's cathartic and helps to keep us on track with the never ending supply of hopeful writers. Last week I noticed a startling trend. It wasn't a good kind of startling.

Over the course of several hours I ran into no less than three queries for projects that had already been queried to me in the past. To be clear, I'm not talking about projects sent to another Corvisiero agent and then sent to me. I'm talking a query addressed directly to me.

I don't keep a physical log of queries, because let's be honest, that would take forever. But I do keep all my emails so I can easily search by email, name or subject line to go back and find and old query. No, I don't remember the name of every author that queries me, but I do remember premises.

Here's what I think when I see a double-dip query:

1. Poor organization
No one loves a good spreadsheet more than I do, but you don't have to obsess over Excel to keep track of your queries. You need to develop a system that works for you so you can track who queries were sent to and when. Not only does this help you to not stress that the agent you just queried hasn't responded yet, it let's you know who already has your query so you don't query them again.

Being organized is a must for an author who wants to make writing their career. You have to keep track of deadlines, multiple versions of your manuscript from multiple editors, your marketing efforts, and your finances. I need to know that my authors can handle keeping track of their own information, because I don't have time to be a personal assistant and neither does any other agent out there.

By double querying me you are indicating that you can't keep track of your own query process and that's a red flag against your ability to manage your author career. 

2. Inability to move on
So, almost without exception, these double dip queries aren't coming a few days or weeks apart. I tend to ignore those as more of an oops or bad copy/paste in the midst of querying. The double-dippers tend to re-query months or in some cases years after the initial query. This make me cringe and tremble in horror for two reasons.

A project that you were pitching two years ago is most likely dead in the water. Editors have moved on from whatever they were taking on two years ago. Readers have moved on. Everyone has moved on except the double-dipper.

As the author, at some point you have to say this project isn't going anywhere. You need to set it aside and work on something else. Because here's the reality. Getting an agent is no guarantee of selling to an editor. Your project might pitch for six months...a year...and never get picked up. Your agent is going to expect you to have something else to pitch so you can both move on. They are not going to beat their heads against the wall pitching the same project for years. Not only is it a waste of time, it looks bad for that agent and will project poorly on everything they pitch in the future.

AN EXCEPTION
There is only one exception to the double-dip, so listen carefully. Let's say you query a few agents and all of them come back and tell you the story starts n the wrong place and needs less telling. So you make the wise decision to scrap the first 50 pages and do a deep edit for telling. Your manuscript is much better.

Any of those agents who invited you to re-query are a no-brainer. Send that puppy off. But what about the ones who didn't? If you got a generic rejection, no, don't do it. But if that agent said to cut the beginning, then go for it. Don't be surprised if they pass, but it's worth a shot. CAUTION! Do not edit the first five pages of your manuscript and requery. Only re-send to the same agents if you have mad significant changes to the project. Got it? Good.

So do yourself a favor, keep good records and be prepared to let go of a manuscript that isn't going anywhere. If you get this into your mindset before you start querying, you'll be in much better shape on the other side.