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Agent querying question

(4 Posts)
Firbolg Fri 07-Nov-14 17:56:14

Could I just ask those more experienced than I am what the etiquette is about querying more than one individual agent at an agency? I'm researching agents at the moment, and finding that in several cases, possibilities (based on their current list) are actually at the same agency.

I'm assuming it's never ok to simultaneously query agents at the same agency, but assuming Agent A has passed, is it acceptable to approach his/her colleague Agent B?

Thanks for any thoughts.

Oh, and a bonus question. Based on the age-old method of looking up your favourite authors-who-write-something-along-the-same-lines as you, I find that these agents are to a man/woman well-known and seem to have quite famous, established authors as clients. Is there any point in querying them, or is it realistic to try to search out less established agents who specifically say they're open to debut authors? The problem being that its harder to establish what they want, even if I can identify them, as I don't know their authors' work.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Fri 07-Nov-14 19:25:27

I think you normally wouldn't query another person in the same agency with the same book. The assumption is that they'll pass it to a colleague if they feel it's not right for them but might suit their colleague. Nothing to stop you trying another one with the next book, though.

Re the dilemma about who to query because the favourite authors are mostly repped by famous agents, I know exactly what you mean from when I was querying a year ago. My thinking is that you want to give yourself the best chance possible so I tried to query a mix. Thanks to the miracles of social media it is really not hard to find out the tastes of agents who are still building their lists. Look on the #mswl (manuscript wishlist) hashtag on Twitter (and there's a Tumblr with all the old ones saved up), google like crazy and you might well find them doing guest blogs or interviews or biographical blurbs for writing conference appearances that tell you a bit more about their tastes, and also, if you're as well-read in your area as you ought to be, you might find you have some obscure favourite authors with less well-known agents, as well as the biggies.

You need to make sure they are actually doing deals, which you can tell from the reports in The Bookseller, but I do think looking for someone who is actively building a list is likely to increase your odds. It's not that there isn't any point in querying the others, and they might even pass the query to another colleague in the same agency if they think it's amazing but they don't have room in their list (though you can't bank on it), but if you ended up only querying Johnny Gellers and Carole Blakes you'd be shooting yourself in the foot, I think.

Firbolg Fri 07-Nov-14 20:00:21

Thanks, Countess, that's very helpful. I am a complete Luddite who is clearly going to have to change that, so Twitter hadn't even occurred to me, and I confess I feel rather as though I'm psychologically going cap in hand to agents with the book, so good to be reminded it's two-way and I should also be vetting agents. The Bookseller is a good thought.

I'm well-read, but literary fiction is a pretty broad church, and I'm actually a bit taken aback at the extent to which some of my more obscure favourites are represented by quite big name agents. I read a lot of Irish fiction by writers who are lesser-known in the UK, and it's possible they are clustered with a small number of agencies as they've referred one another over time... I'll keep digging.

Could I pick your brain also on what is an intelligent number of queries to send out at once?

And thanks again.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sat 08-Nov-14 10:30:28

Yes, definitely worth getting your head round social media a bit. You don't have to sign up to Twitter and tweet yourself in order to extract information from it, but if you are signed up, you can do things like ask questions in the #askagent chats that take place regularly - that's how I got the tip about checking to see who was doing deals.

I think most people submit queries in batches of 3-6.

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