Writers often ask whether it’s okay to do simultaneous submissions, meaning sending your query to multiple agents at one time. Just to ease your mind, most agents agree that it doesn’t make sense not to do simultaneous submissions. It’s too inefficient to send something to one agent, then wait until they respond before sending to someone else.
We expect that you’re simultaneously submitting. If you’re not, and instead you’re submitting to one person and hoping/emailing/begging them to respond, that person may not appreciate the pressure (flattering though it is). I promise, they are getting through their submissions as fast as they can.
Since we assume you’re sending to more than one agent at a time, you don’t have to mention in your letter that it’s a simultaneous submission.
It’s best to send your queries in batches. Choose maybe six to ten agents to query at a time, then wait four to six weeks, in which time you might get some feedback that can help you revise your query if necessary. Then send another batch.
Remember, even though you’re sending in batches, it’s best to personalize each email to the individual agent. Never put more than one agent’s email address in the “to” field and send to all at once. (This isn’t asking too much. Once an editor begins pitching your project to editors, they’ll personalize it every step of the way, from carefully choosing editors, to painstaking crafting pitch letters to send individually to each one, to following up at just the right time via phone.)
What if you’re at a conference, and you have agents and editors asking for you to send material? Definitely follow up by sending the requested material to everyone who asks. Some publishers will want you to have an agent before they contract you, but that would be a good problem to have and you can cross that bridge when you come to it.
How are you doing with YOUR query process?
Rachelle, should I let agents know that I have submitted the proposal to other publishers or will they just assume I have? I submitted my query to three aquistions editors last year, one was not interested, another asked for the proposal, the later wanted a proposal, ouline and the proposal went to the board and it was back and forth for three months with lots of questions. Then it was decided that I did not have enough new material, which was not true. I have to say it was a good learning experience. The next time I will do it differently. I will send it by mail with all the supporting pictures (how to book) to show I have enough new information. I submitted directly to editors without an agent, is that a bad idea?
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Yes, both the post and the Q & A comments are both interesting and helpful. Thanks so much, Rachelle!
Thanks for all the great help you give us. This post and your answers to the questions are particularly useful.
I send in batches and then continually tweak the query. It’s a little like reading tea leaves because I never know precisely why the query is or isn’t working so I try different things. But this method has worked well for me (at least for getting my ms read).
My manuscript is currently with a Manuscript Analyst. It should be ready for submission to agents early next year. My query is ready as well. Truthfully, I’m waiting for Rachelle to announce she’s again receiving queries…at which time I will sumbit it lickedy split! Linda
Sent out two proposals requested at ACFW. Need to get on query letters for other agents who are open to submissions and a couple of smaller presses who don’t require agents.
Thanks for the advice! I just sent out my first queries to three different agents. I was wondering how long to wait until sending off another round. And now that I know that no response is the new rejection, I won’t wait past the 6 week mark, for sure. Very helpful post.
This is great advice. I am preparing to send my queries soon. Just compiling a list of potentials. Thanks for the tips!
Rachelle, great topic. Is there ever a time when you should query direct to a Publisher?? Many thanks.
This is exactly how I managed my querying process — I sent out about 10 letters (emails) at a time, and then checked my email like 45 times/hour for responses.
I’m battling this issue now with online markets, specifically semi-pro and pro genre publications. Most of them do not accept simultaneous submissions, which makes the short story publication rather frustrating, especially with many of them exceeding their time frames. But at least we are all writing and submitting!
While we’re talking about queries, I’m almost ready to send out my first batch. But I’m wondering how long after a writer’s conference it’s okay to wait to submit a requested proposal. I ran into some revision issues.
Voni, most agents answer this question by saying, “Yes, it’s okay to wait until it’s ready. I’d rather have it be your best work than simply have it fast. Try not to wait more than six months (but we’ve had people follow up from conferences after a year!) Whenever you send it, mention first thing in your letter or subject line that you are following up their request at the conference.
I’ve been operating in pretty much the way you’ve advised though I’ve slowed way down on the queries since getting multiple requests, but waiting to hear back on those partials & fulls is nerve wracking, to say the least. I received one really good rejection of my full, but I’m still waiting on another full & one partial. If I haven’t heard back by the 3 month mark, I’m going to email the agents for an update on their progress. Is that kosher? Anyway, now I fear I’m getting too close to dreaded holiday slow-down to restart querying.
Once again excellent guidance for the query process, Rachelle. Many thanks.
Here’s yet another question for you, Rachelle.
I just started reading ‘Making the Perfect Pitch, How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye’ by Katharine Sands. In the first chapter by agent James C. Vines (Vines Agency, Inc.), he talks about going through about 200 queries (approx. 100 letter and 100 email) in a day. Then his assistant helps by immediately sending out rejections while he contacts the few which interest him. It’s a fast process. With publishers, it can take six months to a year before writers hear a yes or no.
Why is there such a big difference between agents and publishers in the time needed for going over queries/submissions? Is it because publishers have a higher volume of manuscripts coming in?
It’s not just a difference between publishers and agents. This difference exists between individual agents, too. There’s no answer to your question, because every publisher and agent has their own business model. They have their own way of prioritizing submissions, and their own systems in place for dealing with them. Some might be actively looking for new authors, others rarely need to because their lists are full and get continually replenished through referrals or other means besides unsolicited queries.
Reality check, though: In today’s publishing climate, I cannot imagine anyone having the time in a day to go through 200 queries and still be doing other things to actually serve clients, sell books and make a living wage.
Thanks for your reply, Rachelle. Yes, that sounded like a lot for any person to get through. Even if you could do one a minute, it would still take over three hours just for queries. I went back and checked the numbers, and that’s what he said. But it sounds like he flies through them and does 100 in an hour, perhaps being able to quickly write off the ones that are obviously poor.
That was really helpful. I do about 10-12 at a time, but I stagger them sooner than the standard 3 months – about 1.5 – so that I can always renege on the new batch, but I’m not waiting around until the season changes. Otherwise I’d be waiting until January to submit stuff that gets rejected from this week’s submission.
Also, what do you recommend for SASE/snail mail only submissions? Can we say “dear agent” or is it better to use the name? It takes several extra steps for that one as opposed to email, not to mention how frequently writer’s markets change…
I’m okay doing it, but I’m curious for the feedback.
It’s best to personalize, and I can’t see how it would be more work than personalizing email queries. Don’t you just change the name in your Word doc (query letter) and print out a new one?
Actually, come to think of it, the last time I sent out personal queries like that, I was still using the business letter format and personalizing each one based on loads of info I gleaned from the publisher/agent website. It took WAY too much time, especially for how ineffective it was.
Now that I’m doing more of a story format, you’re right. All I need to do is change the name. That’s fair, I suppose. It’s what I’d want to see if I was an agent – golden rule and all that.
There’s no point in submitting to one agent at a time. So many agents choose not to even send a reject if it’s ‘not for them,’ ‘doesn’t fit their list,’ ‘list full,’ etc etc.
You’ll be knitting socks in an old people’s home before you find one where all the above doesn’t apply. I understand that 10 per send is the acceptable rate.
Thanks for this, Rachelle. I’m not to the querying stage yet, but had wondered about this.
In the past, I used to query one editor or agent at a time as a courtesy. But then it finally occurred to me that, when it can take from two to six months even to receive back one decline, I can’t live long enough to pitch all the things I want to write. Simultaneous submissions is the only way to go.
However, I won’t simply work my way through an alphabetical listing of all possible agents. If I send one a query, then it means there is something in particular I appreciate about that person and his/her work. My current form of courtesy is to refrain from querying someone who clearly does not represent the type of story I have in mind.
I think I’d grade myself with a D-. Doubts, rejection, too much to do on any given day, makes for a D student. I’ve done everything else so well.
I have a bit of a different question. I pitched my book to an editor in July at a conference. She asked for the first 3 chapters and synopsis. I sent that and two weeks later she asked for a full manuscript. That was 2 months ago. Their guidelines state it could be 10 months to a year to hear back on a full. Can I query agents while I’m waiting for a response or is that not appropriate?
Wanda, yes, you should definitely be working all angles, all the time!
Thanks for clarifying that sensible advice, Rachelle – life’s too short for waiting too long!
This post answers a question I’ve had. Thanks, Rachelle! As I learn the in’s and out’s of this business, I always appreciate hearing from those who are knowledgeable. Thanks!
My book is in great shape, been edited (in my MFA program and by an outside editor) and is ready to go. But I think my query is too dry and business-like, same with my proposal. Then there is that platform thing — I think memoir should be different than other nonfiction, but it seems as if the agents don’t think so. One agent told me that based on my proposal, she would be willing to see a rewritten manuscript that “talks about how I felt.” I didn’t want to work with her, because I’ve written a literary memoir (the emotions are there but I don’t ‘splain ’em), not a Snooki tell-all. So I’ve stopped querying for the moment and have the book out to one small press. I’m working on a better proposal and query letter. I’m building that platform through my blog and twitter (slow but steady, I guess). And I’ve submitted some essays for consideration in literary magazines. It’s not going as fast as I would like, but I realize this publishing machine is monstrous and I am one small screw in the system.
You might try ‘Making the Perfect Pitch’ by Katharine Sands. Each chapter is written by an agent, and the chapter I’m in just covered that very issue about how to make your query have personality while keeping it professional.
Thanks! I’ll definitely buy it. Another good book is Your Path to Publication by Kim Wiley. I know my proposal is too dry because I attended a workshop on publishing given by Kim.
I can’t imagine someone trying to query one agent at a time. The last time I sent out queries, one guy took the time to send two separate e-mails to say that he wasn’t interested and a few others responded, but about half to two-thirds didn’t bother to even acknowledge that they had received it. It does seem like there as at least one who had a problem with multiple submissions, but I don’t remember if I ignored that and queried anyway or if I just rejected him because I thought he was an idiot.
I’m right in the middle of the querying process. At a writers conference I pitched to three agents and three editors; five requested a partial and one a full. I’ve had two rejections because they weren’t the right fit, in spite of ‘great premise, solid writing and engaging characters.’
One told me the reason it wasn’t a good fit, my book was too Christian to be secular but not religious enough to be inspirational, so would be difficult to shelve in a bookstore. Hence I’ve changed my querying angle and am looking for agents who represent works with a religious world view.
I’m done with it, thanks to you! 😀
Well, I’ve sent out my first batch of queries and it has almost been 6-8 weeks. I have heard back from a few, but there are more that I haven’t heard anything.
I am wondering, should I work on my query and re-send to a few of the agents I really like (the one’s I haven’t heard from)?
I’ve also read that I could send follow up emails asking if they have had time to read my query…should I do this?
Or should I just move on to a new batch of agents?
Thanks for any advice you may have.
Hi there TC, from my own experience, I’d say if you haven’t heard anything in 8 weeks, call it a loss and start a new batch of queries. But before you do that, read up on standard query styles and have another writer check over your query. It’ll save you time and angst. You have to make your query as dead-on exciting as possible the first time out of the gate, in today’s publishing world. I know, it’s all about the novel itself, but in the case of queries, they pave the way for that novel.
Thank you so much for the advice, I really appreciate it and will follow it.
I’ve had a few friends look over my query, but we all know we need people outside our friends/family to offer perspective and to provide an unbiased critique.
Thanks again! Have a blessed day!
Great post! Now that I’ve been there, done that, and written the blog post about it myself, I totally agree. Not only is the batching process better in terms of volume, but it allowed me to query more agents. Many agencies had more than one agent interested in my genre, but all of them requested submissions to only one of their agents at a time (e.g., simultaneous was okay, so long as it wasn’t more than one of theirs). Thus, in the spreadsheet I used for tracking queries, I’d have alternative agents at the same house in WAITING status. If I heard back from the first agent, the next one would be in the next batch.
Since all agents seem to want their submissions formatted a skosh differently from the others, I found it best to work in batches of 10-20 at a time. I just didn’t have the time to give enough individual TLC to each query for a bigger batch. I didn’t have the patience, meanwhile, to query in smaller batches. I always figured that if it was going to take a certain number of no’s, I might as well get’r’done earlier rather than later.
Not till the very end did I receive feedback that was helpful in revising future queries, sadly, and that was from a publisher rather than an agent. Even then, it was too late to be useful; I’d already been to a writers conference, amped up my writing, and been accepted by a different small publisher. I don’t doubt there are agents out there who will offer helpful tidbits, but I didn’t run into any in the query process.
Interestingly, I received another rejection last night. It’s funny how funny it is to be rejected by an agent after inking a publishing deal.
For those whose comments I’ve read above–you’ve heard the adage that when God closes a door, he opens a window, right? Do as much as you can to get your book published–go to writers groups and talk about it, go to conferences, discuss it on FB, etc. It’s strange how the most unexpected contact can get you where you want to go. Never give up.
i am not there yet, but i am working towards having it ready for January. Rachelle, does it matter to the prospective agents whether you are working from outside of the US? Should that be included?
Kiff, it’s best just to mention where you live at the end of the query letter, in the context of telling the agent a bit about yourself.
It’s not specific to this blog topic, but related. I’ve been submitting queries and targeting agents specific to my work for some time now and had interest, with two agents requesting to see the full manuscript. I know it’s probably individual to each agent, but what makes a book “not a good fit” — is that a polite way of saying the book still needs work? Other than that phrase, constructive feedback, even brief, would be so helpful! Thanks, Rachelle.
Marielena, I’ll answer this on the blog tomorrow.
Things seem to be going good at the moment! 🙂
Since January, a few agents requested my MS – in the end, it wasn’t the perfect fit for any of them. I put querying on hold for the summer, hired an editor, and for now, I’m researching additional agents but not sending out. The editor is looking at my query letter too, and I’m eager to hear her feedback before I query again.
ps…Jodi, I’ve always been told not to query the same agent again unless they request a second look. Interested in what Rachelle says about that
When you put together a better query, how soon can you resubmit to the same agent?
Generally, the consensus is that you should not re-query the same agent (there are exceptions to the rule, and many agents discuss this topic on their own blog). I’m sure Rachelle has covered this somewhere in her archives.
But the rare exception aside, you don’t want to do it — That’s why it’s so important to nail your query before you send it out the first time.
Jodi, it’s best not to resubmit to the same agent unless you’ve significantly changed both your book and your query. In that case, mention in your re-query, “I previously queried you with an earlier version of my book, but I’ve since done a major revision.”
The whole reason for submitting queries in “batches” is so that you can be learning along the way and revising as needed before sending to more agents. If you sent to 100 agents at once, then figured out that your query needs work, you’d be out of luck because now everyone’s already seen it.
Your advice is always exactly what future authors are looking for. Thanks!
Oh thank goodness you addressed this issue! I sent my query letters out last week and I have been biting my nails like crazy wondering if I should have sent to one agent, waited for a response and then sent another. I know I read somewhere once that it was unwise to send to more than one agent at a time, but I couldn’t be sure why that is when (as you already stated) it made more sense.
So, thank you so much for making this so much clearer.
All the best,
Thanks for the post, Rachelle.
I’m just getting ready to send out a batch of queries (but for publishers instead of agents, since it’s a PB), and I was wondering why some houses ask for exclusive submissions. When a publisher was considering one of my manuscripts, I understood giving them exclusive time with it while they were running it by their editorial board. Otherwise it seems odd.
I’m curious as to why some publishers do this? Can you tell me? I always leave these publishers until the last for submissions.
Beth, I imagine the reason people ask for exclusivity in any situation is because they’d rather not spend a whole bunch of man-hours reading and considering it, only to then find out it’s no longer available. But if they’re taking longer than, say, 30 to 60 days, it’s unreasonable for them to ask for exclusivity. You are free to put limits on the amount of time you offer it exclusively. Submit it and tell them, “I am happy to keep this exclusive to your house for the next 30 days.” If they don’t like it – oh, well. If they ask for more, go ahead and negotiate with them. If they won’t negotiate or work with you, then they’re not playing fair.
I can’t wait for the day I feel my work is ready for the query process and I can finally put all your great advice to good use! I will be sure to thank you for any success I have!