non-virgin queries

Dear Miss Snark:

I sent out maybe fifty queries on a novel about two years ago. No bites. I've since taken some writing courses and entirely rewritten it, though the basic plot and title, which I love, remain the same. When I send out queries now, with a totally different letter, might agents recognize it from before and not even read it? Would it be a good idea to change the title and even alter my name slightly so they don't recognize it as something they've already passed on?

If the only thing agents saw was a query letter, don't worry. Even Agent Elephant doesn't keep that kind of detail in his head, and I don't know anyone who tracks query letters. Fulls and partials, yes of course, but not queries.

If any of the agents read more than a query letter, tailor the query to tell them what you told me-it's faster, stronger, smarter with newly polished six million dollar shoes.

Agents understand that writers learn from experience and they retool and polish work that made the rounds a while back. This second query would not be an automatic pass, particularly with what you've told me: two years, writing course, reworking.

The resubmissions I'm not keen on are the "major revisions" that arrive too soon (less than three months) and don't mention any kind of outside help. Those get a cursory look. Yours I'd read.


Anonymous said...

I queried an agent about one year ago with a novel that was politely rejected. No big deal; revised it, changed the protagonist from a young woman to a young gay man, and sold it in sections, as short stories, to a small press (didn't make much...but sold it anyway). However, I recently queried this agent again with another mainstream novel. After reading the guidelines to the smallest degree (they wanted a query letter, synopsis and the first three chapters all at once!), I created a new file, according to their "websubmission" instructions, and when I hit the "upload" button I received an instant rejection; one second later. Sorry, but based on your past submission we don't feel your work is right for us, it read. This was a first, a rejection based on my e-mail address, and one I'll never forget. I'm curious to see if anyone else has ever experienced this.

domynoe said...

Sorry, but based on your past submission we don't feel your work is right for us.

How bizarre. They expect all your writing to be the same, even a year later? Is this a common assumption for most agencies?

Just seems odd to me that an agent wouldn't expect a writer to change and grow, and would reject something based on a previous submission rather than the merit of the work submitted now.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Whoa, who sent you that? Email me at prededitors@att.net.

The Rejected Writer said...

Go Dave!!!

Rubbish like that needs to be highlighted on your excellent site!

Anonymous said...

Ryan, I thought I had heard everything, but that little tidbit knocked me flat.


And Dave, thanks for all that you do on our behalf.

Anonymous said...

After thinking it over, wondering if I'd made a technical mistake (it's an unusual query process), I went back to the site this morning and tried to submit again to see what would happen. Removing names, this was the verbatim, immediate response, copied and pasted:

To Ryan Field,

Thank you for thinking of (blank). Though we appreciate your submission, based on your previous submissions to this agency, we feel that your work is not a good fit for us and that you would be best served in seeking a different agent who can offer enthusiasm and commitment to your writing.

Thanks again for thiinking of (blank) and best of luck with your writing endeavors.

Thank you.

Dave, I'll e-mail you about this.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to add: I truly believe it is the agent's right to select and reject as they see fit. After thinking it over, though this experience was very peculiar, I didn't take offense. The rejection was polite and clearly not personal.

Anonymous said...


Reject as they see fit, sure. But to base it on your email address? Without seeing what you've written (or at the very least, a query letter)?

I don't get it.


Anonymous said...

I don't get it either, jerseygirl, but I do believe (don't like it and wouldn't do it) it's their decision. It's their business and their world.