Q01: Querying Strategies

(This question is part of a larger subseries called Perpetual WIPs: Querying Writers. For the remaining questions, see here.)

How many queries do you usually send out at a time? What’s the thought process behind your strategy?

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My initial query fury was about 10-15 the first week, followed by 1-4 a week once I realized my query didn’t suck. I research each agent before I put them on my query list, and avoid querying agents I know are judging upcoming contests I’m participating in.

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I usually send out five or so at a time, mostly because I prefer getting rejections in smaller batches :). But more realistically, I like to think of it as testing out a query. When I researched agents for my first manuscript, I divided them into categories: agents that seemed like a huge reach, agents that I loved (and seemed like a good match), agents that I wouldn’t be heartbroken to get a rejection from. I tended to query by sending out to mostly “reach” agents at first, and then throwing in a few agents who I really loved, based on interviews, Twitter, books they rep.

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I send out 10 queries when I start querying. Then whenever I get a request or a rejection (or i close one for no response), I immediately send out another query. That way I always have 10 out with agents. 10 just seems like a nice, round number to me and is easy to handle. Also, I like sending queries, so it makes me feel better after a rejection to send one, because I get a little thrill and a burst of excitement.

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I always have seven out at a time, so if I get a rejection or a request, I mark that agent off the query list and send another one. This is a different strategy than I used with my previous MS. For that one, I sent out in waves of seven every few weeks. I like this way better because I feel like I’m continually getting answers instead of waiting forever. And it still gives me an opportunity to tweak things if I get feedback. As far as the number, it just seemed like a happy medium between five and ten.

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I’ve sent several small batches (5-8) to make sure the query and first pages are working. I’ve found that no matter how well I target, my first queries still need work and have a much lower request rate than the tweaked queries.

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When I start querying, I usually send small batches – 10-15 to see what the response is. But later on in the process when I know the query is working, I send larger groups out 20-30. Mostly because I get impatient.

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I send out few at a time. Maybe three. I think I send out do few at a time since I spend so long personalizing the query and researching each agent I send to. It takes a while! I usually go on agentquery, etc to find which agents will take my work and from there I narrow down who would probably e compatible with me.

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I usually send out between 15-25 at a time. Since it takes so long to hear back from agents, I find this is a good, manageable amount.

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I started with batches of 5-12, then as I received rejections I sent a few more. I just want to be sure that I always have queries out there to be looked at.

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I send out very small batches of queries — maybe 3-4 at a time. My rationale is that while I think the query is working right now, I may look back later and realize that it needs to be changed. I also want to see if it’s a dud in terms of garnering requests before I blanket the universe with it, you know?

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So! Kind of a lot of different responses out there, and a little insight into how querying writers make these decisions. Any of these sound like you? Or make you rethink the way you might want to do things? Speak up in the comments!

6 thoughts on “Q01: Querying Strategies”

  1. Sending out that first batch of queries is a huge test on the query writing skills. To put it bluntly, my first query sucked. It didn’t get any requests, and what’s hard to separate at first is that the query not getting requested doesn’t necessarily mean the MS sucks as well. Just meant I had to hone my query writing skills. Once I started entering contests and getting feedback by people who were in the query trenches with me as well as contest judges, something just clicked. I’m still honing my skills, but the queries I have for each of my two manuscripts are now getting full and partial requests, which is a huge difference from that first batch. Each time I send a new one out, I try to fine tune it. Looking at all of these responses for how many queries to send out, still not sure what I should do. Now that I have fulls out on each, I’m kind of sitting tight before I query any more. As always, thx for the great info on your blog, and congrats on 50K!

  2. Thanks, Dahlia, I just worked my way up to 50 posts on Absolute Write and was contemplating a dive into Query Letter Hell!

    • Dahlia Adler said:

      I’m not gonna like – it’s a mean, scary place. But it really, really helps, and it’s good practice for thickening your skin!

  3. For the folks who send in small batches in order to fine-tune the query, how do you know what’s working and what’s not? It is a guess if you don’t get any requests? Do agents sometimes give you feedback that helps figure out what is and isn’t working?

    • Dahlia Adler said:

      If you don’t get any requests off your query, you definitely know you need to fine tune it. Sometimes the problem is vague phrasing, sometimes it’s bad grammar telling the agent your manuscript will be full of the same, sometimes it’s just a matter of not connecting…. There are agents who will tell you what’s not working, but this is a lot rarer than it used to be, because it’s just so time-consuming with all the requests they get.

      If you see your query’s really not getting requests, and you *know* you’re targeting the right agents for your category and genre, the best thing to do is stop querying for a while and reassess it, which means having it critiqued until it’s in the kind of shape agents/publishers will find compelling. I put one of mine through the wringer on Absolute Write and it turned out so much better for it.

  4. I love these. It makes me realize, I’m not the only one who fears the query and is not sure if I’m doing it right. I love the honesty and it’s so cool to see so many writers who do about the same process as I do. I AM NOT ALONE! 😀

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