Have You Written More Than One Book?
Katie asked: I have written three books that I’m hoping to finish revising this summer, all in the same genre. When I’m ready to start submitting, how do I decide which one to submit? And let’s say I submit a book to an agent, they say no. Can I query the same agent with a different book? And if they say no to that, can I query again with my final book? Or is that just beyond annoying? Is that unprofessional?
Shen asked: I am currently about finished with two books. They are of entirely different genres. Would it be wise to submit them under different names, or are my chances of being read by an agent greater if I submit them under the same name?
Let’s start with the obvious. Why are you writing two or three books at once? Don’t you find your focus is hampered? Are you sure that writing more than one book at a time is the way to do your best work? Personally, I think multi-tasking is over-rated and I believe people do their best writing when their focus isn’t divided. This is especially true when you’re unpublished and still learning the craft of writing for publication.
I understand many people are still trying to find their place as a writer, and much of the writing at this point is experimental. Am I a historical romance writer or am I better at contemporary suspense? What do I enjoy most? Is my heart more in fiction or non-fiction? These are valid questions and it takes some experimentation to find out the answers. The part that makes me worry is when writers assume all their “experiments” are worthy of publication. You’re probably better in one genre than another.
But I’m probably wrong about all this, since so many people send me these same questions. So let’s answer the questions. Here’s the most important thing to remember: Query each agent with only one book at a time. Wait for a response before sending anything else to that agent.
How do you decide which book? Start with your best one. Get objective input from others who will be honest with you, and decide which one represents your very best work. You should also take a look at the market and try to determine which of your books is most saleable right now. Lastly, consider platform. If you have two books, one fiction and one non-fiction, take into account that your non-fiction might require a platform in order to be desirable for publishers, whereas your novel just needs to be a terrific book. Where is your strength? Start by querying in the area of your strength, and meanwhile, work on building your areas of weakness, whether it’s platform or writing ability.
If an agent says no to one book, there’s no law against submitting a different book to the same agent. But please, wait at least a couple months, maybe more. It’s definitely beyond annoying when I pass on a book, and the very same day, the author sends me another one. It just comes off as desperate or too eager or something. In that second query, mention that you’d previously queried a different book (otherwise the agent may go crazy with some weird sense of déjà vu from recognizing your name but not the project). As for a third book to the same agent, well, it’s up to you. It might be annoying, but it’s not against the rules or unprofessional.
If you’re writing in multiple genres, make your decision about whether to use a pseudonym based on your long-term career plans, not on some idea about it being easier to get an agent to read it. The work stands on its own, regardless of your name. The same principles apply: submit your best work first. One at a time. And if you submit twice to the same agent, say so in your query.
So let’s just get this out in the open: How many of you are unpublished and working on multiple projects simultaneously, with an eye toward publication for all of them? Are they the same genre or different? Why are you doing this? Inquiring minds want to know.
Rachelle Gardner, Christian Literary Agent, Colorado