Querying Multiple Agents

Catherine M wrote: “I know you can send out multiple queries, but what if there are three agents who have asked to see your manuscript after a verbal pitch at a conference? Do you send to all three?”

The protocol is always the same. If you’re querying multiple agents at once, simply mention that fact in your query letter. If several agents requested it at the conference, you can choose whether you want to submit to one at a time (if you have a strong preference for one agent over another) or all at the same time. Simply write in your query, “I’m submitting this material to three agents who requested it at XYZ Conference.”

Just to reiterate… the majority of agents these days do NOT request exclusivity and in fact, most of us don’t want it. It’s better for all involved if we feel the pressure of competing against our fellow agents, so that we don’t let queries languish longer than necessary. It’s VERY difficult to keep up with the query load; knowing that each query is probably being sent to many agents is a good motivator!


Reminder: Auditions are still going on for the Blog Challenge. Submit your entry in the comments to Friday’s post.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  3. Pam Halter on September 8, 2009 at 10:21 AM

    >Thank you!

  4. Rachelle on September 8, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    >Pam, I meant cover letter, not query.

  5. Rachelle on September 8, 2009 at 9:34 AM

    >Pam, if you're sending a proposal, your proposal should have a section about your future books (a brief paragraph for each) so there's no need to talk about it in the query. If you want to include a brief sentence in your query, such as "I look forward to discussing this book as well as the others I have planned" that would be fine. No need to wax poetic about your hopes and dreams; better to leave that for when you're specifically asked.

  6. Pam Halter on September 8, 2009 at 8:23 AM

    >Rachelle, I have a question about sending a proposal to an agent I met at a conference. She already knows what the book is about and wants a full proposal. We spent time talking and praying, as well.

    In the cover letter, is it okay to talk about not only that one book, but also my hopes for other books and my career? Sort of as a way to let her know I'm planning to continue to write and work hard on my career, and for her to learn a little bit more about me.

    I'm thinking it's a little different when you meet an agent than when you simply query them, but I don't want to give the wrong impression.


  7. Kristi Holl on September 3, 2009 at 9:31 PM

    >This is a perspective we don't often hear about–agents actually hoping for multiple submissions so they feel more pressure! Thanks for making things easier for us!
    Kristi Holl

    Writer's First Aid blog

  8. Catherine Misener on September 3, 2009 at 12:13 PM

    >Thank you for your response, Rachelle. I appreciate the time you take to answer our questions and the guidance you provide for curious/anxious writers!

    I'm the one who submitted the question. One agent requested I send the first 100 pages snail mail, the other two asked for a full (email, so it's not like there's a waste of paper sending if they do not care for the work). Based on your comments, I will send to all three and hope for the best. The best being at least one agent loves the manuscript. I don't want to be greedy! And the fact that there are three incredible agents open to reading my work is yet another reason writers should attend conferences. Attending the PNWA really opened a few doors for me…

  9. Andrew on September 2, 2009 at 9:18 PM

    >Good to know. Thanks, Rachelle.

    But remember…if you send out a lot of queries at the same time, they will probably be pretty similar. So if the basic premise of the query stinks, you'll get the boot, every time. Happened to me, got a lot of rejections, and those doors are now closed to that book.

    I've revisited my initial queries, and they were terrible. I wish now that I had honed the process by sending out a few at a time, waiting for and accepting the results, and going back to revise.

    Dudes, I was an impatient idiot. Learn from that.

  10. Tara on September 2, 2009 at 5:11 PM

    >Thanks for the post. I think it would be awesome to have three agents ask for more.

  11. Sarah DS on September 2, 2009 at 1:26 PM

    >I know how busy and complicated agents' lives are, but sometimes I think writers forget how busy and complicated their own lives are. Send out your queries, state that they're not exclusive, and get on with the business of running your writerly life. I can't see where waiting around for one response/non-response after another is in anyone's best interest.

  12. Anonymous on September 2, 2009 at 11:02 AM

    >"What if there are three agents who have asked to see your manuscript after a verbal pitch at a conference? Do you send to all three?"
    You send it to all three; and tell them the truth: I had three requests at the conference, and I am most grateful. In fairness, I will give all three time for a preliminary response, before signing. After such time, I will immediately inform the other two if I am so blessed to sign with another.

  13. LindsRay on September 2, 2009 at 11:01 AM

    >T Anne,

    The worst is agents asking for exclusives and then state on their webpage that they will only respond favorably. It's horrible to wait 6 months without even a form rejection on an exclusive query!

  14. lynnrush on September 2, 2009 at 9:58 AM

    >Thanks for this. I was wondering how that would work at the conference coming up.

    Over the summer, three of my projects were requested by a couple agents from queries, so I had been wondering if I could pitch them at the upcoming conference…Or, if I had to just stick with some of my other projects that I haven't yet queried.

    This was a timely post for me. Thanks

  15. Lea Ann McCombs on September 2, 2009 at 9:51 AM

    >I'm wondering if it's a good idea to query on more than one book at a time. In other words, could you have a proposal for a romance at Steeple Hill, as well as proposing a suspense to Zondervan simultaneously? How does that work if they both offer a contract?

  16. T. Anne on September 2, 2009 at 9:48 AM

    >It does put me off if an agent requests an exclusive on queries. I don't think that's the right stage for it. Thanx Rachelle.

  17. R. K. Mortenson on September 2, 2009 at 9:11 AM

    >For what it's worth, until you're committed or signed with an agent, I'd say submit to any and every agent who requests anything–partial or full or proposal–and inform each one that you're also submitting such-and-such to other agents. If one agent sees that another agent has requested something from you, stakes and interest are raised.

    Interestingly, my agent went through his old emails a while back and found, lo and behold, a query from me in 2006 for a spiritual memoir. Neither he nor I had remembered that particular query! He now represents me in YA fantasy.

  18. Rachelle on September 2, 2009 at 8:49 AM

    >In answer to all the questions: please extrapolate from what I've written here, and make the decision that works for you!

  19. Alexis @ tobebeautiful on September 2, 2009 at 8:20 AM

    >Rachelle- if an agent requested your proposal at a conference, should you wait until you hear back from that agent to query elsewhere? I didn't know if it's rude to send out your proposal while waiting for the agent to make a decision…what's your take?

  20. Teri D. Smith on September 2, 2009 at 7:59 AM

    >I had requests from 4 agents after last year's ACFW conference and decided to go for the one-at-a-time route. It took so long to hear back from the first one (still have not heard, which I assume is a "no")that I was embarrased to send the others in such a tardy fashion.

    I think now I'd do the multiple query route.

    Should I have gone ahead and sent the others?

  21. Sharon A. Lavy on September 2, 2009 at 7:31 AM

    >Thanks for the great advice.

  22. Lisa Jordan on September 2, 2009 at 6:59 AM

    >If a writer is fortunate to have three agents interested in their work, there is no guarantee that all three agents will request a full, or even offer representation. Their tastes are as subjective as any other.

    Thanks for the reminder, Rachelle!

  23. Masonian on September 2, 2009 at 6:56 AM

    >Whoa! This question just came up in my ultra-magical, super-sectretive critique group! So I thank you for this timely post. I'm passing it on to the other ninjas in the group.

  24. Tabitha Bird on September 2, 2009 at 6:47 AM

    >Jess, you are going to be fine:) Imagine seeing you here!

    Thanks for this post. It is always nice to know what to do should I ever have the joy of more than one agent requesting my manuscript. Of course I'd have to query first… not.quite.ready. 🙂

  25. Krista Phillips on September 2, 2009 at 6:46 AM

    >Okay, dumb Krista question. If you have a full manuscript request after a query, and have said in your original query letter that you may be querying other agents as well, is it still okay to continue querying after the full request? Or do different rules apply then?

  26. Jessica on September 2, 2009 at 4:54 AM

    >Oh man, this post made my mouth water. LOL
    Last night I had this horrible thought. What if no one requests my manuscript?
    Eeek! That would stink.

    Thanks for the informative post!