Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

On the subject of Query Letters to Agents...
Multiple Submissions is a topic that often comes up during workshop Q and A.  At first thought, multiple submissions rather than single submissions seems like a good idea. 

Writers may have an anxiety-filled wait for a response from a single agent.  Although with most submissions now done via email, response time is much quicker than in the days of snail mail.  With single sumissions, if the agent passes on the work, then the writer needs to make the next submission, wait again and so on in the quest to find the perfect match.

It's important to keep in mind that the perfect match is the reason for submitting in the first place.  So the questions is whether or not multiple submissions are the way to find that workable agent/author relationship. 

Ideally, you've done your homework in preparation for seeking representation by thoroughly researching a number of agents. 
  • You've honestly assessed your work and have a clear understanding of where your book fits in the market place. 
  • You know what categories and genres of books the agents represent: fiction or nonfiction, picture books, beginning readers, MG, YA, adult, graphic novels, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, historical, biographies, self-help, etc. 
  • You know what percentage of each type of book the agents have sold. 
  • You know what is of special interest or what the agents are specifically looking for in the current market.   
  • You've checked the agent's website to insure that all of your information and submission requirements are up to date.
  • You've used all that information to create a list of potential agents ranked in order of preference. 
Now you are at the point of decision.  Do you send your work to the first person on your list or to the first five?

Might as well send the book to the first five.  After all, not everyone is going to want your book.  So why not send several submissions and hope at least one gets you a request for the manuscript.  You're right.  You are going to be rejected, but approached with that mind set the problem is one of the glass half empty.  You multiple submit with the hope that one of the five is positive.  However, if you've polished your manuscript until it is brilliant as diamond, crafted a smart query letter, and really fine-tuned your list of potential agents, your odds of a positive response should be good. 

What happens then if more than one agent requests your book?  Most agents, even those who accept query letters in a multiple submission situation, will only accept a manuscript for their exclusive reading.  This means that as soon as you decide to send your manuscript to one agent, you must immediately withdraw the work from consideration by any other agents you've queried. 

And there is another what if . . . Let's say the first agent to respond positively is number five on your list.  Good practice and basic courtesy says to respond to that request for your manuscript ASAP.  But you're still hoping to hear from number one or number two.  Now what?  Do you withdraw your manuscript from their consideration or try to stall agent number five.  It gets complicated very quickly, ethical dilemmas abound and ultimately you can find yourself indulging in bad business practice.

What to do? If you query one agent at a time, beginning with your first choice, you'll know you gave yourself and your manuscript the best chance.  If your manuscript is requested, great!  If the agent passes, at least you won't wonder if you missed a better opportunity.  Yes, you'll be rejected by some.  Yes, single submissions are slower.  And in hindsight you may look back and decide you could have submitted to all those agents simultaneously and been able to move on.  That feels like a negative approach to me.  It's almost as if you're counting on being rejected and just want to get if over with quickly. 

On the other hand, multiple submissions will get your query in front of more agents, more quickly.  If the agents on your list are fairly equal in your estimation so that you'd be happy with any one from your list then multiple submissions may be the fastest route to an agent.  Just keep in mind that when it comes time to submit your manuscript, exclusive reads will most likely be the rule.

Whatever your decision -- Best of Luck!

1 comment:

rhon's inspiration said...

Janet this is awesome! You really put this in black and white for us. I think I will try sending out exclusive maybe 2 times to get my feet wet and go slow, but then I will try multiple. I did do my home work on the agents so hopefully I won't disapoint them with my query letter or the manuscript and the process will go quick.
Wishful thinker.. Rhonda

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