How many?

Miss Snark,

Regards to KY. Was he by any chance touring the South recently? I believe I saw his likeness in a red Maserati at our local gas station.

I'm writing regarding a comment by a fellow Snarkling. Said Snarkling mentioned they had queried 60 agents in their search for fame/ fortune/ electric bill payment. I'm looking at my list of 12 agents that I'm querying and thinking that I'm an underachiever. I didn't even realize there were 60 agents that would all consider my genre, much less be the sort of agent that I'd want for my book.

How many hopeful letters do you recommend a writer sends out when they are trying to hook one of your species?



Maggie Stiefvater said...

I am going to pen more query letters now . . . will resurface in two to four years with leg hair longer than my dog's and a stack of 80 more letters ready to mail.

Susan said...

Is that 100 at once or in small batches just in case you hook one or receive constructive advice?

Katrina Stonoff said...

says she collected 200 agent rejections before her agent signed her.

And he shopped three novels unsuccessfully before he sold Gods in Alabama.

But she's certainly successful now.

Anonymous said...

I have the same question as Susan. Do you query the agents all at once or so yor query them one at a time?

Thank you for your insight.

quietly writing said...

Except that, if one happens to write middle grade or young adult fiction, there are definitely -- definitely -- not 100 agents to query.

So for adult fiction/non-fiction, yes. But there aren't 100 agents who rep the juvenile market. At least not 100 who are legitimate, visible, and worth querying.

Just my personal, highly researched experience.

Marlo said...

quietly: it's the same thing if you write fantasy, sci-fi, or horror.

There's about 20, total, if you go broad and consider everyone who might *ever* consider those genres. There's hardly any who focus on them. Worse, of those 20, only about six to ten seem to have the marks of being worth a query ie. have any sales, no overt signs of scammage, and will actually accept queries.

Anonymous said...

Susan & anon: 100 at once or in small batches?

I believe this was discussed sometime last year and Miss Snark was in favor of small batches, on the grounds that you will be able to fine-tune your query letter as you proceed. Also, it provides protection against inadvertent nitwittery.

That led to the further discussion of whether to put all of your top choices in the first batch, or to use the some from column A, some from column B approach.

Malia said...

Marlo -- there's quite a lot more than 20 agents who rep that category. I suggest you dig deeper. ;)

Anonymous said...

There are certainly not 100 agents who say they'll consider erotica. Why, oh why, did I spend so long on that novel? When I run out of agents--which will happen soon-- am half-considering self-publishing and taking copies around to porn stores. Ye gods.

EGP said...

I agree with malia - there are far more than 20 who would at least consider sci-fi/fantasy. If you go to www.agentquery.com and do a full search, check the boxes for sci-fi and fantasy, and select agents who are actively aseeking new queries, there are about 35 agencies. I feel sure you could get this list to at least 50 or 60 by going to preditors and editors (P&E) and additionally researching every agency that is recommended or highly recommended, plus every agency that has a link in P&E.

This is what I would consider a minimum search - these are the easily identifiable ones. YOu obviously need to google each of them to find out what type of sales they've made. If you really wanted to exapnd it further, you could google every agency in P&E that is U.S.-based, doesn't have a warning on it, and doesn't have something that obviously tells you they don't want sci-fi/fantasy. That would be a lot of work, of course, but if you're considered about your universe of agencies, then you need to do it.

Also, if you use agentquery and put in Young Adult, Middle Grade, and agents actively seeking new queries, you'll get about 30 agencies. Doing the steps I mentioned above should bring that close to 50 I would think.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Or you could be an idiot like me and right a novel that's both young adult and a fantasy (well, at least it's an urban fantasy so SLIGHTLY fewer agents and publishers come after me with dogs and torches). I think I've found 30 agents that have good reps and won't pass out when they see the "f" word (that's "f"antasy). So my small batches had best be VERY small.

quietly writing said...

Yep, maggie, I'm in your boat. YA and fantasy. And I have done what certainly amounts to hundreds of hours of agent research. I'm not a lightweight when it comes to research. And the number 30 sounds about right, though I haven't counted.

And...those who include "fantasy" and "YA" on very long lists of other genres don't always have the best contacts in YA/fantasy.

Even Ms. Nelson, while she will look at YA/MG, will admit that her contacts in the MG arena aren't the strongest.

So, egp, I have certainly done all the research you mentioned should be done, and then some. And the bottom line is, it still doesn't add up to the 100 that Miss Snark suggests.

And yes, maggie, my small batches certainly redefine "small." But the upside is that I was able to stop along the way, give my anemic query a good overhaul, and .... voila! .... suddenly I'm getting requests for material.

It's all so exhausting, really. But then, there isn't anything else I'd rather be pursuing.

canwag said...

"I believe I saw his likeness in a red Maserati at our local gas station."

What was someone doing with a picture of KY in a red Maserati???

EGP said...

quietly writing. I have little doubt that you are correct about agents who rep the YA/fantasy combination. You hadn't mentioned the addition of fantasy in your original post, but I don't think you are off base stating that there aren't 100 YA agents,either.

It was not my intention to criticize anybody, although I can see that it may have come out that way, so I apologize. Finding an agent is a difficult task, and I figured I'd mention several quick things that would get bigger numbers for fantasy/sci fi.

The one thing I would say about narrowing things down is this - if a well-respected agent with solid sales wants to take you on, I wouldn't sweat over what kind of contacts she has or whether she has sold your exact type of book before. This is yet another reason to go with a well-respected agent - they won't take you on unless they think they can sell your book. In which case, I'd take their word for it.

I recently was on the blog of an agent whom I had put far downb my list as not being very interested in my type of work, and they indicated that they they were "starting to look at more of" my type of work. You never know if an agent that doesn't seem like a great match may be looking for something closer to what you have. Query widely, but in small batches. By all means prioritize the more direct fits for your work, but don't completely eliminate someone who has a good representation, reps general fiction, and doesn't rule out YA.

quietly writing said...


There's no need to apologize! I just didn't want anyone to think I hadn't done my (exhaustive) homework. And believe me, I've included agents where I've found YA listed but not necessarily fantasy. My list is still small!

Another factor is that I had an Extremely Bad Agent Situation a couple of years ago, so I am extra cautious about every agent I query. For instance, if there's no $ by an agent's name on P&E, then I pass him by.

(Unless, of course, he's a brand new agent at a very, very, very top-notch agency that already has a fabulous reputation. That's different.)

So there were a lot of factors behind my situation that I didn't get into when I originally posted.

I think you've got the right game plan as far as querying agents; in fact, it sounds like you and I are taking a similar approach.

So may I just say -- I wish you the very best!