11.27.2005

Query slut

Dear Miss Snark,

How many queries do you recommend sending out at a time? I have six queries pending, plus two agents are reviewing the full ms, and two are reviewing a partial. Knowing the high rejection rate, I wonder if I should have more queries circulating. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your reply.

This isn't like sleepaway camp where the more boys you kissed, the sluttier you were considered to be.

You keep querying till you sell it. Keep good records, and don't mortgage your dog for stamps, but don't stop till you get to the next step.

My favorite phone calls are the ones withdrawing a project from consideration cause I sold it. I savor them.

The more you have out, the more chance you have to make those kind of calls. On the other hand, all the rules of querying remain in effect, so no querying Miss Snark with science fiction just so you can withdraw it later, ok?

17 comments:

mysterygirl said...

Thank you so much for answering my question, Miss Snark.

Anonymous said...

I'd just add a little wrinkle, and I'd be interested in what Miss Snark thinks. When I was querying I'd send them out in groups of five or ten. That way, I'd be able to get some feedback and tweak my query before the next batch went out. If you send out, say, fifty at a time, you have no opportunity to tweak.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Hmmm, what about science fantasy? Huh, huh? ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey Miss Snark,

Everyone keeps talking about submitting to agents, but what about the morning after?

Once a girl has found her agent-guy and his part of the submission bargain begins, what do I need to be thinking about while I wait for that million dollar deal (yes, I am laughing at myself)?

Should I just sit back and wait for Stella, my muse, to bring me my second book on a silver platter, or should I start thinking about promotion?

People talk about getting the word out to distributors, but what is the best way to do that? And with what?

Can you tell me how the NYT gauges who is a best seller and who isn't?

My book is women's commercial fiction. Should I be starting a mailing list? To do list? S--t list?

I know this is kinda like planning your wedding on your second date, but hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Rick said...

Anon #2 -

Don't wait for Stella your Muse to hand you your second book - lean on her, hard; threaten her at gunpoint if you have to. I'm in the situation you describe: agented, and she (my agent, not my Muse) is shopping my book. My muse is fighting me every inch of the way on the second book, but I'm pinning her down word by grinding word.

My feeling is that publicity isn't a main focus till the first book sells - then you can start ginning up that machine, with some idea of the publication date, and someone in the publisher's publicity department you can ask for suggestions.

tudacee said...

When you send out simultaneous queries, is it like dating back in high school? Do you let the agent know you're sleeping, whoops, shopping around, and have sent out to other agents.

Will they still respect you in the morning?

Do most agents accept the idea of simultaneous queries these days?
thanks for your help...enjoy what you say, even when it slaps me in the face..

dee

islandowman said...

What I don't get is why agents who've liked your query, ask for your manuscript knowing they're on the brink of leaving their agency. This has happened a couple of times - you'd think they'd know some time in advance that they're on their way out.

Dave Kuzminski said...

I have to agree with Rick on the publicity response. Forget about it until the second or later book when you have a following established that wants to know when your next book is out.

Cornelia Read said...

Um, but Dave... how could anyone hope to develop a lick of established following for a "next" book without going after publicity for the first? There are certainly avenues unlikely to generate productive bang for the debut-author buck (print ads especially, from what I've heard) but flinging a first effort into the world with crossed fingers for a marketing plan sounds like a REALLY bad idea.

Rick said...

dave --

I intended something slightly different - I should have said when "the first book is bought" (by a publisher), not when it "sells" in the sense of "off bookstore shelves." My impression is that it's at least a year, more likely two, from the day an editor says yes till it is on the shelves, and as soon as you've made the sale it is probably worth starting to lay publicity groundwork.

For one thing, once you've signed a contract with a real publisher, you have some street cred as a published author - even though the book isn't actually published yet, it is "forthcoming from Suchandsuch."

From what I've read, blogs, etc., that simply hustle a book are not very effective. But having a book coming out gives you a plausible claim to be something of an authority on whatever your book is about. (There's a reason why "authority" and "author" have the same root.) After all, Suchandsuch is publishing your book! My fantasy novel is set in a "parallel" Renaissance England and France, so voila! - I've got some cred on Henry VIII, etc. If your book is chicklit, you've got cred on the lives of contemporary women.

Sure, this is jive, but on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog - only that you're an about-to-be-published author. If you can write interesting stuff about subjects related to your book - and you probably can, since your book got picked up - you can start drawing attention from the sort of people who might end up buying the book.

My $0.02 worth!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Anonymous said, "If you send out, say, fifty at a time" Yikes. I feel a little weird....well okay, weirder than usual...I've only sent out one query!

Dave Kuzminski said...

Until you have street cred as an author, spending money on promotion isn't a good idea. Just how do you expect the public to know you're a good writer worth their attention if they can't read your book yet? Just because you claim you'll be published soon doesn't mean it will happen. In other words, you don't have any street cred as an author until the book is out.

Leave the promotion to your publisher who will know when to promote your book as well as where. Do not complicate matters for your publisher by starting your own campaign. You want to aggravate your publisher with requests for a book that's not out yet? Your publisher doesn't have time to divert before the release to answering questions that will only leave retailers and the public dissatisfied with them for not shoving your book out sooner with a lesser quality cover or poor printing or whatever just because your campaign caused a slight blip in demand. That's almost a surefire way to nip word-of-mouth satisfaction in the bud.

As well, your PR campaign might not mesh with what your publisher wants to do. It might even run counter to what your publisher envisions. Unless you're an expert in targeting market populations, not only for yourself, but your publisher, leave it alone. Let your publisher establish your street creds, then consult with your publisher first before you start up any PR campaign for a later book.

Rick said...

dave -

Before heading up to the sexy new threads, I don't think we have much real disagreement. Once you've signed a contract, you'll have a publicity department to talk to. My impression is that they love authors who want to work with them, as opposed to the good many authors who think publicity hustling is unworthy of their Art.

The rest of my comment was about "laying groundwork," not an out-and-out publicity campaign (for which you should certainly talk to your publisher!). In particular, starting a blog. Blogs rise or fall on their content, and a "buy my book" blog won't get far, but an interesting blog on subjects related to your forthcoming book could draw potential readers. And in most cases it probably takes a year or two for a blog to really establish its presence in the blogosphere - so, roughly when the book comes out.

As an aside, yesterday I came across a case where blogging might even make an AuthorHouse book viable. A diarist on the Daily Kos political blog was touting his newly "published" novel. Naturally I groaned when I googled it and saw AuthorHouse. But Daily Kos draws huge traffic. I counted a dozen or so people on one thread saying they were placing orders; multiply by lurkers and he might sell a few hundred copies.

Sure, if he has a publishable-quality novel he'd have been better off going for the real deal, but at least he won't end up selling to only family and friends.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but I have had plenty of friends who've gotten less than their share of publicity from their publishers.

Ultimately, my question really was this...how much does an author need to know about the book distribution business in order to help along whatever publicity is given by the publisher?

Dave Kuzminski said...

My point was that many authors do not know what to do for promotion. Needless to say, many of the so-called PR firms hawking their wares on the net do not, either.

The suggestion of a blog that exists to contemplate and discuss related subjects can be a real draw, but it could also undercut sales. After all, why buy the book if you can get the information from a blog for free?

If you need further information to consider before reaching the same conclusion that the author should follow the lead of the publisher, then visit the PubliSHAMerica forum and read some of the marketing ideas espoused by their authors. Bookmarks made on a home computer for books that aren't available at brick and mortar bookstores, signings at Jiffy Lubes, ads in magazines... Need I go on?

The point is that even many of the PR experts can't predict what will work to produce a successful marketing campaign. It's like trying to hit a moving target because public preferences change just like styles in the New Yorker. So, do you advise authors to pay for their own marketing campaign which has the same chance of producing a best seller as hitting a moving target or recommend instead that they leave that to the publisher who can better afford such things from PR firms with the proper background and experience and at least has an idea on what to target?

Feisty said...

Leave the promotion to your publisher who will know when to promote your book as well as where.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, right. I wish it was so. Hahahahahahaha! I know five authors offhand who got NO publicity, their publisher didn't bother to send their books to the events they were doing, they have no publicist within the company, and basically once the book came out the editors hardly gave a rip about them.

You can't mess up a publisher's plan if they don't have one.

What planet are you on? I'd like to join you there.

Miss Snark, do you have some statistics on how many authors actually get promoted? And how poorly the rest are treated when it comes to publicity?

Rick said...

dave -

No disagreement on your points about bad publicity hustlers! A small disgreement on a blog giving the milk for free - depends on what you're writing. My book is a novel, and I certainly wouldn't post snippets on my blog unless my publisher recommended it. I'd blog about subjects that my potential readers might be interested in.

feisty -

I hope Miss Snark comments on publicity! Realistically, I imagine that very few first-time authors get any real publicity push - only, basically, if the house thinks they've got a potential bestseller. Still, I've gotten the impression that publishers can, and are sometimes willing, to help with the basics, such as getting ARCs in the hands of reviewers who might actually review it (such as, for SF/F, Locus and the Chronicle).