When to Re-Query an Agent
One of the most common questions I receive is, “When is is okay to send another query to an agent who previously passed?” Sometimes people are talking about re-sending a query for the same book that was already queried; the writer has either improved the query or improved the book and wants another shot. Other times, the question is referring to the timing on sending a different book to an agent that previously rejected a project. So here are my thoughts.
First, whenever you are going to re-query, it’s a good idea to open your letter with a brief mention of your previous interaction with the agent, and an explanation of why you’re writing to them again. (BRIEF.) That way, if your name sounds familiar to the agent, they won’t be sitting their scratching their head trying to figure out why.
Let’s look at some different situations.
A query for a totally different book.
- Go ahead and re-query, but I recommend waiting three months or more before requerying the same agent with a different book. You don’t want the agent to tire of you or develop an overall feeling of “this writer isn’t right for me.” Give them time to forget your last query! But still, mention that you queried before on a different book.
A query for a book that was previously rejected; but you’ve rewritten the book.
- Did the agent specifically say they’d like to see it again if you make some revisions? Then yes, of course, send it.
- Did the agent see any pages of the book, or just your query? If they only saw your query, then they weren’t impressed by the concept or the hook, and/or they weren’t impressed with the writing in the query itself. So it’s very likely they won’t be interested, even if you’ve revised the book. Go ahead and re-query if you want, but be sure to revise that pitch in the query letter, since it didn’t work last time. Take the chance but keep your expectations realistic.
- Did the agent see a sample of your writing? If so, then make sure you’ve done all you can to bring the overall level of writing up before you re-query. Look very closely at those first few pages; get outside feedback.
- In all cases where you’ve rewritten the book, go ahead and re-query if you like but be aware that some agents don’t like seeing the same project twice, even if rewritten.
A query for the same book, you haven’t revised it, but you’ve rewritten your query:
- If your original query included sample pages: I would not suggest requerying. Even if your query was poorly written, the agent also saw your actual writing, and that wasn’t enough to pique their interest. I’d say you’ve lost your chance with this project and this agent.
- If your original query didn’t include any sample pages: Most agents can see through a poorly written query letter, and if it’s something they think they might find interesting, they’ll ask to see pages. If they never asked you to see more, then the query didn’t interest them, but if you’re convinced you did a really bad job with that first query letter and that your new one captures your book much better, go ahead and re-query but be aware many agents would feel like this is a waste of their time. If you requery, open your letter with something like, “I previously queried you on this book but you passed; however, I’ve learned so much more about how to pitch my book and I don’t believe my previous query adequately captured it. I’d like to try again.” The worst they can do is click delete without responding. It’s worth a shot… but only if your first query truly didn’t capture your book.
I’m kind of on the laid-back side of this discussion. I don’t mind if people re-query as long as they are truly offering me something new and better. Other agents may not like it so much.
Do NOT requery the same project with the same query letter. And as you no doubt know by now, please don’t respond to pass letters with a request for a reason, a referral, or more info from the agent. These emails will be deleted without a response by almost all agents.
Have you ever re-queried an agent? What happened?
Do you have a project you’ve been wondering if you should re-query? Why? What did you change?
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Great post thanks!
Thank you for the recommendation to wait 3+ months before trying with another book. I queried one book a few months ago and have been revising a previous one in the meantime. There are many agents I queried who I think would like this other one, and I was unsure when I should query them. Your posts are always informative, thank you!
This is extremely encouraging. I’m in the process of rewriting my novel and often wonder about re-querying. I’m bookmarking this post to use as a reference when the time comes. Thanks, Rachelle!
Is there such an animal as a positive rejection? I like to think so.
Ten years ago I queried about 30 agents for my WW2 memoir, exclusively in the UK. I had lovely replies — “love your writing”, “amazing story”, etc. etc.
I have often thought of re-querying but wonder if I’d be better off querying US agents.
I am currently querying an Historical/romance/time travel caper and am having the same results.
“love the story/plot/characters”, etc. And all say the writing is excellent —
And the same old, same old. However, several cited the economy as the reason for not taking on new clients.
Should I re-query my list in, say, six months?
Oh yes! And if any lurking agent is interested, there are excerpts on my website.
I’m new to writing. Thank you for the tips. I greatly appreciate them!
I think this is a great post. We’re always learning and developing and would be sad to think you’ve burned a bridge FOREVER by one rejection. I had kind of a funny thing…I had queried and been rejected A while later I re-read the work I had submitted and cringed. It was awful. I had a chance to run into that agent again and she remembered me. I took the opportunity to jokingly thank her for the rejection and tell her how terrible I thought my stuff of that time was too. It was a light-hearted moment on my part– but turned into a really great conversation with her about what I was currently doing, etc She invited me to resubmit.
But still, mention that you queried before on a different book.
Interesting. My thought would have been that this could subtly influence an agent away, by making them think, “If their last book wasn’t good enough…” On a conscious level, I’m sure most agents would want to give writers another chance if they’ve really improved, but I would still worry about this effect on a subliminal level. Learn something new every day!
Thank you so much for this informative site. I haven’t written a book, so far I am only a contributing author to a local magazine. This site is a treasure chest of what I’ll need when I am ready to publish my first book. Thank you!
I requeried a couple of agents on my first project, but only with the agent’s request/permission to do so, and only after substantial rewriting.
For my second novel, I queried several agents who had read the full of the first. Two of these, frustratingly, requested a partial but never got back to me about it. I eventually signed for my second novel with an agent I had contacted for the first time.
I think it’s best to move on. You shouldn’t waste your time let alone theirs. You’ve got other agents to query. With the last rejection I received she hinted that she was disappointed with the first few pages, saying she wanted to like it. This prompted me to rewrite the first chapter. It is the first part of the book they see, it better be good. I’ve been working hard on it and feel it’s ready. I would not resend it to her. I just took what she said and improved my manuscript.
I made the usual mistake first time writers maake, querying way too early I did get a few request so that was positive it meant the query was okay but then after the request I got a big R after a few critiques from amazing soon to be pubbed authors I went on a query hiatus, (still on hiatus) hired a new editor and rewrote novel it has been a hard process which told me I am honing the craft and willing to learn nothing in the biz will come easy without blood sweat andd tearsm alright maybe the blood is a bit dramatic but the tears I have had many tear fest, then I take a deep breathe and move on and have written numerous outlines for future novels because I finally realized my first precious baby may not be the one or maybe who knows its all about luck, right timing and exceptional writing which I believe takes time and plenty of practice. Great post=)
Also I did have two agents who rejected me but suggested changes and said they’d reconsider if I revised. I revised and they did reconsider.
I had four or five agents who read my first book and passed. When I finished my second book, I wrote to them and said that they had read my first book and passed but would they be interested in reading my second book. All of them said yes. None of them offered representation but I was very happy that they were willing to take a look at a new work.
A kind of funny story is that for my first book I queried a particular agent and got an automatic rejection. Two years later I had reworked the book and I sent a similar query to someone else in that agent’s office. The Someone Else referred me back to the same agent who’d rejected my query in the first place and then that agent asked for a partial! No representation there either but at least she considered my work.
I’ve re-queried agents who liked my writing, was close to pulling the trigger, but ultimately passed because they couldn’t identify the market for the book.
Rachel, you sent me one of those emails a few years back. I nearly re-queried you but learned that you don’t touch the genre of my latest MS.
In the case of the handful of agents I did re-query, I didn’t get the “yes.” I don’t intent on a third pass this them, although I respect their work. I’d feel stalker-ish at this point.
Unless the writer has a “real working contact” with the agent, it is a waste of time to query a revised project with the same agent again. It is the brighter side of the publishing industry that there are agents like you who are not only engaging but are also on the laid-back side of re-query issue.
Great post, and I hope others who’ve been rejected find it encouraging! I’m one of those writers who re-queried, and the kindest, wisest agent EVER offered me representation.
Who, you may ask?
Well, I’ll give you a hint. You’re reading her blog right now.
If you’re in the query stage, don’t give up hope! In fact, don’t ever give up–that’s a mantra you’ll need every step of the way in your professional writing adventures. Re-writing and re-focusing a manuscript or nonfiction narrative might be just the thing your project needs to take it to the next level on the journey toward publication.
Writing mercies to you all!
That certainly helps out! It’s been 4 years since I’ve done any querying, but I’ve got a strange name, so I’m sure if I query some agents, they’ll remember me just because of that.
Hopefully, since I’ve been reworking my book and my query, I’m more ready and polished this time when I start rolling things out. Hopefully. 🙂
Thanks for yet another nice tip.
On a less related question: I am starting to go to conferences now, for networking purposes and some craft coaching. If I see you, I want to be able to say your name right.
Does Rachelle rhyme with ‘The shell’ or is it more like ‘Grayskull’?
Thanks for this post. I’m not in a “re-query” situation, but it’s good information, and I’ve bookmarked this post.
What if you queried one agent in a company and they said it wasn’t right for them? Is it safe to assume everyone one in the agency had a chance to look at it?
(I know you don’t want to query several people in the agency at once because they will likely discuss it. )
Thanks for the great advice. I haven’t been in this situation yet, so I appreciate knowing how to proceed when I get there!
Would you ever advise re-querying with the same book if the rejection was based on what might be called external factors, which have changed? Say the book is chick-lit, and a year from now chick-lit makes a blazing comeback? Or the agent had just signed or sold something similar, but it’s been a couple of years, or the agent moves to a different agency and the other client doesn’t, or vice versa? Or e-books have made your door-stopper word count less of a deal-breaker (does that happen, by the way?)?
Or is it one strike and you’re out?
Thanks so much for a very helpful post.
I do have a project that I queried to several agents nearly 3 years ago. After reading a partial or the full ms, a couple of the agents told me it was “close” but some things needed to be fixed. A few said they would like to see the project again after the revisions.
In between other writing projects, the book has been read through, edited, revised, and read through and revised several more times since.
With critiquing from my writers group, friends and family, the novel is now where I want it to be.
I plan to(re-)query it very soon. Thanks for the valuable information in this post.
This is a great post. I’ll be in this quandary in just a few months. 🙂 Do you have any recommendations on how formal/informal to make your brief intro about how you’ve already queried? Any phrasing ideas? 🙂
I’m in a quandary about whether to requery an agent to whom I mistakenly sent an email attachment. I got a rejection within a minute of sending. It could have been automatic, or the agent might have been sitting at the computer, saw and rejected my query.
I’ve re-queried after a rewrite. No joy 🙁
I queried and got a request to read a partial then a full from a top NYC agent two years ago, great dream-come-true agency. They spent six weeks reviewing and sent me a “report card” with thoughts/issues on the MS, saying they would like to see it again after revision. I apparently didn’t get the revision right because after re-submitting a year later, they said, “no thanks.” It’s been another year, and I have a very different MS (different narrator, much tighter story, many new levels of conflict). Can I go back to this agency?
I have requeried agents with a totally new novel, usually at least a year later. I usually re-query agents who requested pages for a previous novel. I don’t re-query agents from whom I didn’t hear a peep.
Thanks for the tip! :o)
I requeried you and didn’t wait three months. Whoops!
I requeried a publishing house after two years and many, many revisions. The story sold, so that worked out for me. 😉 But I def. mentioned that I’d rewritten the story, etc, etc. Thanks for the advice!
I’ve queried only two agents–one rejected my work and the other signed me as a client. 🙂
As usual, you give sound advice.
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Rachelle, how do we subscribe to the comments on this new blog? I can’t seem to get them in my inbox anymore.
Hey, Rick, I am cheering for you.
Thanks for being a cheerleader, Sharon. See you at ACFW in less than a month!
For the most part I figure that when someone says my work isn’t a right fit for them, there would be little use in hitting them with it a second time. This is such a tough process.
I’m in re-query mode right now. After receiving a few passes a year ago, I decided to let my story sit for a while so that I could come back later and view it with a more objective eye. That allowed me to make many improvements. I also decided to bite the bullet this once and hired a nationally known writing instructor to do a thorough edit and critique to help me see my own blind spots. He made extensive suggestions for strengthening the m.s., but his bottom-line reaction was, “You’ve got a winner here,” and he urged me to find an agent. So I’m just now re-entering the query phase. We’ll see what happens, but in any event I’ve grown in my craft through this process.
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Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Oh my, it’s like you read my mind! Thank you Rachelle, for answering this question before I had a chance to ask it. I have been querying my novel for about a year now and it’s starting to feel as though I’m beating my head against a brick wall, what with all the rejections. However, I have learned a lot about the process and now have a new novel that I believe is nearly ready for submission. After all the time I have spent networking and researching agents, there are a few I think would be perfect for this new book… But they were among the first I had queried with the first novel and I was wavering on whether to try them again. You really helped clear my mind of the uncertainty. Thank you.
Your articles are always spot on, and exactly what I need when I need them. Thanks for addressing the needs of pre-published authors.
I queried about 1-2 years ago and, looking back, the manuscript was anything but ready to be sent out. I’ve revised and revised since then and it is almost to a point where I think I could try again.
I did the same, but one agent wrote back and said “send me the first ten pages when it is finished and polished.” It’s been more than a year and I am still deciding how the final ms is going to be rewritten. So, my question is: should I still send the first ten pages when it is finally “finished and polished” or should I just start all over querying all new agents?
What if the book has since placed or won a contest? Or you’ve received a (legitimate) publishing offer? Would either of these situations warrant a re-query?
Nope. Only if you’ve actually changed the book or at least the query. The agents you already queried had their chance – time to move on.
I’ve actually been contemplating whether to re-query. In my case, the agent had the full and read it and ultimately rejected it. But she had some wonderful things to say (including that my writing was amazing and asking me to keep her in mind for future work) and was kind enough to include a full page of very detailed feedback and suggestions that really helped me examine my book on a new level. I’m almost done with the revisions that were brought about from her feedback and am contemplating seeing if she’d be interested in seeing the new version. I’m kind of on the fence…
I recently did major revisions on a novel and queried it a second time. The agents who expressed an interest in any revisions all requested it. But I think all the other agents who had seen it before (whether or not they remembered) said no.
I’m not sad I took the chance though. Not at all. Many agents I didn’t query last time are expressing interest now. And besides, like Krista, I would always have wondered “What if?” if I hadn’t re-queried.
Great info! Thanks! 🙂
I queried an agent in 2002, and she requested a partial which she then rejected. The letter was encouraging, but she didn’t specifically ask to see a rewritten manuscript. Two years later, I did a complete rewrite and re-queried but got the dreaded silent rejection.
Six years and two published books later, I queried the same agency with a new manuscript and this time was offered representation.
I queried several agents with a YA Fantasy. I received some feedback, most along the lines that they thought the story’s theme better fit MG. I’m in the process of rewriting it as MG, and plan on requerying once done.
I have re-queried an agent because after reading my full she passed on it, saying she loved everything but the fact that my character lacked depth. She told me that she thought I’d do well once that was fixed and she’d like to see my future work. Once I rewrote it, I emailed her again. She remembered me and asked for the partial and the rewritten synopsis. She now has the full.
I once queried an agent who had recently partnered with an agent I’d queried six months before. I didn’t know about the new partnership. Apparently they kept the same reader the first agent used because I got an immediate rejection saying I had queried them on (the EXACT DATE and time) with an order never to bother them again. I haven’t. I didn’t read any of their clients’ books either. They’ve since gone out of business.
After rewriting my manuscript to make a secondary character the primary MC, I re-queried an agent who had previously read and rejected my partial. Said agent ended up requesting a partial of the rewritten manuscript (which I’m still waiting to hear back on). I was upfront with the agent and told her I didn’t want to spend the rest of forever asking myself, “What if?”
I’ve never re-queried an agent with the same manuscript before (rewritten or not), and to be honest, I never thought I would. But in this case, I’m glad I did:)
Definitely querying twins, Krista 🙂
Ha! I think I just need to muster up the courage to ask to read your manuscript. Maybe we’re writing twins, too:)
I haven’t even gotten to the stage of querying yet, but this is great information. Thank you for sharing.
Rachelle, thanks for the detailed answers to the various situations that lead to re-querying. Very helpful!
I’ve never re-queried. I figure there are enough quality agents out there that I just send to another.
What about sending a thank you note after a rejection? Just a quick “thank you for considering”? It is something that I feel requires a thank you, but at the same time agents probably don’t want their inboxes flooded with more emails they have to sift though.
Heidi, I do send a thank-you note, even after a rejection. Even though I’m (obviously) not happy with his or her decision, I do appreciate the response.
I would suggest to change the subject line to thank you. That way, the agent can delete it immediately if they don’t have time to read it and still know that you thanked them.