Tuesday, April 26, 2005

PITCH ME IF YOU CAN

Queries arrive by the moment at our agency. Not literally—most of the time—but it often seems that way. I thought I would take the time to point out a few querying pointers here.

First, please don’t send more than one query at a time. Sometimes a potential client fires off three or four or even five separate queries all at the same time, which actually hurts their chances since it tends to muddy the waters. Please just send a single query for a single project until you’ve heard back from us. If we decline, then sure, query again on a next book. But blanketing us with multiple queries at one time really isn’t in your best interests.

What goes in the query? Two strong paragraphs about the project, then a final paragraph about you as a writer. List any awards or nominations or publication achievements. But only after you’ve hooked me on the book itself. EDITED TO ADD: as Ellen Fisher mentioned in the comments, I think it's a great idea if prospective clients who are published note that fact in the opening sentence, also naming the publisher(s). Same goes if you've won a major award such as the Golden Heart.

Study up and be sure we handle what you’re pitching. I still contend that the number one reason we decline to review most material is because it falls outside our area of expertise. Why experience rejection if you don’t need to do so?

Other questions on queries? Post them on this blog thread.

35 Comments:

Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

So...if someone...not precisely me, but perhaps someone acutely resembling me, just happened to have sent you a query pitching two projects before reading this posting, we're sunk? :) Or can we be grandmothered in?

Thanks for posting your preference, though. The preference seems to vary from agent to agent. Had I known, I definitely would have only pitched one project (the single title).

Great blog, by the way! Incredibly helpful.

Cindy Procter-King

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 at 12:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Ellen Fisher said...

Thanks for the helpful info, Deidre! I've always put the paragraph about my writing experience first, in the theory that the sentence "I am a published author" might help snag an agent's attention. Henceforth I'll move that to the final paragraph of my queries:-).

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 at 1:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Actually, Ellen, *don't* move it. Good point. If an author is published they should *absolutely* place that in the opening sentence, and should also identify the publisher. I'm going to edit that in--I was thinking in terms of newer authors.

Cindy, you're completely done it. It's over. Life as you know it will surely cease henceforth. :) That's fine! I was honestly thinking of the times when I receive some four or more emails right in a row, each for a different project. That said, I *do* prefer to receive single project queries, but it's not an "opportunity ender" if someone queries on more than one.

Another thought on the research issue--it's better to query if you're not sure, than not query at all. I say that because we're moving into areas like fantasy and sci-fi that we haven't previously represented, so I don't want to close any doors. Deidre

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 at 1:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Ellen Fisher said...

Thanks for the clarification, Deidre!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 at 2:32:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

Phew, Deidre! I'm still kicking! Thanks for the reprieve! I'm also guilty of Ellen's faux pas, but didn't want to make myself look too much like a screw-up by admitting I'd placed my credentials in the opening paragraph, too. So, Ellen, thanks for posting.

Now back to my previously scheduled spring cleaning, which pretty much bites, but this decade is very necessary.

Cindypk

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 at 3:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lynn said...

Thanks for the information, Deidre. It's nice to have that stuff clarified.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 at 5:30:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Destruction Angel said...

Hm..

So what happens if you're not published, haven't won any contests, and you are querying anyway?

What do you put in that paragraph about yourself?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 at 3:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Angel,
I think a paragraph about what you are looking for in an agent is a good idea. For instance, if you are writing both women's fidction and paranormal romances, it's a good place to note that you're writing in two genres, and that you're looking for an agent's guidance--without falling back on pitching more than one project.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 at 8:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Male Whore said...

About timing: if it's a first manuscript, then it is absolutely advisable to finish the manuscript before submitting a query? How about finishing one-third? (In the context of unpublished writers.)
Excellent blog, it's amazing what you can find on the Internet if you only know how to work Google.

Thursday, April 28, 2005 at 10:54:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Gena Showalter said...

My wonderful journey with DK began with a query letter for my book, The Pleasure Slave. I try (or tried) to make the letter read like the actual back of a book. Most times that is what hooks a reader into buying, so I tried to hook my agent that way. Read the backs of books like mad to get a feel for it.

Friday, April 29, 2005 at 8:04:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Bonnie Ferguson said...

That's a great suggestion, Gena. Thanks for doing this blog Deidre :) As an spiring writer of fantasy books as well as paranormal romances I was thrilled to see that you are now accepting fantasy queries. LOL some of my favorite authors are your clients: Gena, Robin Owens, and I just bought my first Karen Marie Moning book :) I'm also looking forward to Diana's book when it comes out.

Friday, April 29, 2005 at 9:24:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Gena Showalter said...

Bonnie,
You are going to LOVE Karen Moning. She is one of my all time favorite authors. I can't get enough of her, and I'm panting, chomping and dying for her next book!

Friday, April 29, 2005 at 10:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

The question from MW (sorry, somehow I just can't quite bring myself to type your full username!)
is whether or not it's okay to query on a partial. I don't usually endorse this plan, because if an agent loves the partial, their next request will be for the full.

I did just recently place a new author on partial, but the voice was terrific, the idea very unique--and I had read another finished manuscript by the same author (and had another here in-house.)

Also, in that particular case, the partial was so strong that I knew other agents WOULD offer representation based only on the chapters. But that is highly unusual. I think it places you in a much stronger position to only query once the book is done.
Deidre

Saturday, April 30, 2005 at 7:28:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Linda Winfree said...

Deidre, I have two questions:

1) If an author has completed more than one manuscript but not sold (because she's shopping to agents rather than publishers), do you want to know those other manuscripts exist? Just a "Novel Title is one of three complete manuscripts . . ." line. Or should one not mention the other books at all?

2) Are there any circumstances where an author could requery a book after it had been rejected on requested partial/full in the past? After major revisions or an overhaul?

Thanks! And I love both blogs -- the agency and your author site.

Sunday, May 1, 2005 at 9:48:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

hi, Linda:
This is probably my own peculiarity, but I really just like to be pitched one project at a time. After a long time of reading these queries, it's occurred to me that it's in the author's best interest to only pitch me a single project at a time. It's just easier to take a look, and even means another query or two, it's the best way to approach us. Another agent may have an entirely different preference, but since this is the place to find out what works for me, there it is! :)

And it is occasionally okay to reapproach on a previously considered manuscript. I'd say the level of personal feedback and reaction would be an indication of whether to do that or not--that, or new developments in your career or the market since that time.

Hope this helps!

Monday, May 2, 2005 at 5:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Linda Winfree said...

Very helpful! Thank you!

Monday, May 2, 2005 at 6:20:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way cool discussion! Very helpful for the romance writers on the wall. But I do have a question, if you wished to query a specific agent at the Knight Agency, is it still possible or is every query required to go via email and the current submission process? Also, a second question from my Critique Partner, if a snail query was previously sent, is it discarded and should she resubmit via email? Thank you in advance for the invaluable input!

Cheers!

Monday, May 2, 2005 at 10:53:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deidre, congratulations on signing Diana Peterfreund! There's been a lot of talk about what a great deal it is for her, but it's a great deal for the agency, too!

I have two questions:

What is your opinion of publication with "non-RWA-recognized publishers" such as Amber Quill Press or New Concepts? Does such publication help an author at all, in terms of how you approach their query?

For an author who is ending a relationship with a current agent, when would be okay to query you with new material? Obviously, after notification has been made to the first agent, but is it okay to query before the official end of the contract or do you prefer the author wait until it's all done? (Again, the query would be for new material never represented by the first agent.)

Thank you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2005 at 11:05:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Hi!
Okay, to "Anonymous #1":
I actually addressed the question on who gets the projects in today's blog post. Short answer is I route the partials to the right agents. If you have a FAVORITE possibility that you're deadset on, i.e. you want Pamela because she's doing the most in CBA, or Nephele because you also live in LA or whatever, sure you cna mention that at the outset of your query. But as a rule, I'm making the call and dividing submissions up on the front end.

We're still answering all snail mail queries--no problem for your friend. It just takes longer because it involves opening mail etc and so on. That's why email is a DREAM.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 8:10:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Anonymous #2!
Thanks for the wonderful congrats. I had to smile--it IS a great deal for us, too. But the agent is like Jerry Maguire, you know, that is: the guy only half-way in the picture (remember that moment in the movie??) We don't get a lot of glory in this business!

I think it's fine to query while in the middle of ending the other relationship. No problem there. If you mention it in the letter, I'd suggest saying why you're parting ways. That helps us know what you're looking for in new representation.

As for publication, I always think it's a positive, though not a selling point, per se. It's good to know a writer is used to deadlines, growing a readership, etc. It can only be positive in my book to mention online publications.
Deidre

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 8:13:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your prompt answers! And for this wonderful blog, as well. :)

Anonymous #2.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 10:10:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Destruction Angel said...

Thanks for answering my question Deirdre.

Here's another one if you have time.

Is it alright to query a book that's the first in a series?

My current project is fantasy (not sure whether it's going to be a romance since that requires a HEA).

Some require that the series be completed before submission. Does this apply to you as well?

Thanks again, DAngel

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 1:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

No, Destruction Angel, the series need not be completed--just the first book. I would like a short overview of the whole series, however. d

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 1:26:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Danita said...

Hi Dedre,
My question concerns upcoming agent appointments at Nationals. Nephele currently has a full of my last project, and I should be about finishing up my next chick lit mystery by Nationals. I'm interested in being represented by your agency, but noticed Nephale is not listed as taking appointments. So, should I pitch to you, or is that a no-no among agents in the same agency?

Thanks,
Danita Shattuck

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 2:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Danita:
You should try and meet with me. We're all a team here, so there's no way it would be a political gaffe. :) D

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 2:39:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Shalla de Guzman said...

Hi Deidre,

Thanks for this very informative Blog.

I was wondering, would you be interested in multi-cultural chick lit?

How about a paranormal multi-cultural chick lit?

And how is Chick lit doing these days?

Thanks so much,

Shalla de Guzman

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 9:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Hi, Shalla:
We're very interested in multi-cultural chick lit! Absolutely send us a query. Deidre

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 12:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Shalla de Guzman said...

Thanks Deidre, that's very good to know.

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 1:54:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the terrific message Diedre! You have no idea how great this concept of yours is! It really takes the "quest" out of question, because you are so awesome to take the time to answer. Thank you again and best of luck with your new endeavors!

From myself and my Critique Partner,
Anonymous #1 out, jumping off the wall and into the fray!

Friday, May 6, 2005 at 12:43:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous MW said...

Hi. I wonder if you're still checking the old posts, but I have yet another question. Say a previous manuscript has got "accepted" by an agent, it is worth mentioning somewhere in the query letter? Especially if the agent is well-known?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 at 3:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Hi, MW:
Okay, by "accepted" do you mean an offer of representation? Or do you mean that the work has been requested? Please clarify a bit, if you can. I'm assuming you mean your work is already in the hands of a very credible agent. I think you might want to say something like, "This work was recently requested by a major agency..." or the like.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 8:00:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. You answered my question!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 11:50:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous MW said...

Sorry- I meant to thank you as MW, not anon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 11:52:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Dorothy said...

I just found this blog tonight and what a godsend! Deidre, I do have a question. Would you be interested in being a guest in my egroup at TWL Author Talks? We just had Michelle (can't spell her last name) from 3 Seas come in and the place was booming with questions. I've had bestselling authors come in...Christina Feehan...Carly Phillips...others...Julie Kenner is coming in tomorrow as a matter of fact, but what I'm looking for now are agents, publicists, publishers, people like that that can explain this crazy publishing biz to us. If you're interested, let me know at thewriterslife@yahoo.com and I'll fill you in on the specifics.

I also want to say that I've read the questions here and your answers and I have to commend you for your expertise and professionalism. And no, I'm not brown nosing! Sheesh...*smile*

Sunday, May 22, 2005 at 9:01:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Diedre,

I just like to know if you think it is a good idea for a writer to have a website and/or a blog.

Does this make a writer look more professional to you?

Thank you,
Gina W.

Monday, June 13, 2005 at 12:02:00 PM EDT  

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