It’s been two weeks since my post on query stats, and I’m still stunned by the hits it keeps getting. If I’d known you were so fascinated by my rejections, I would have blogged about the cute guy in seventh grade who laughed and said I looked like a boy.
My favorite thing about the query post is the discussion in the comments. I want to elaborate on something I wrote there, and also to tell you why you should ignore me.
Here’s my original comment:
If I were going to query agents again, I'd divide them into groups: 1) the dream agents, 2) the ones you'd still be delighted to work with, and 3) the ones you're a bit ambivalent about. Then add a fourth group, which would be one or two you really aren't interested in at all. Query that fourth group first just to test the waters. If you get a lot of "send it now!" responses, you might have something hot on your hands and should probably go right ahead and query group 2 and maybe even 1. If responses are lukewarm or negative, start working through your list from 3 to 2 to 1. By the time you hit group 1, you've refined your process and won't risk making an ass of yourself in front of the very agents you adore most. I should also add that you should NEVER query before you're ready. Polish and research and do the very best you can, but understand that you're still going to miss a few things on that first round of querying.
While I stand by what I wrote, I want to add a caveat – you may not know who your dream agent is yet.
Most authors invest a lot of time in deciding which agents to query. You gather names from Agent Query. You pore over discussion forums at Absolute Write. You read blogs. You stalk agents in the grocery store to see if you have the same taste in cereal.
Even then, you’ll only have half the story. Here’s why:
Discussion forums about agents draw a limited range of participants.
The Bewares, Recommendations & Background Check forum at Absolute Write is a great way to learn what people are saying about agents on your query list, but you’re only hearing a few perspectives. Authors who’ve left agents under unhappy circumstances seldom share those details publicly, as they gain nothing from doing so. Likewise, authors in happy marriages with agents don't always report back to those forums to gush.
Hearing from authors in the midst of the querying process can give you a feel for agent response times and rumors circulating in writing communities. But remember you’re not always getting a complete picture of what it’s like to work with that agent.
What gets me hot may not get you hot.
In my opinion, Pythagoras is the dreamiest thing since the ’07 Sunnyside Pinot Noir from Amity Vineyards, but I realize he’s not every woman’s ideal. Good thing, or I’d be in a lot more fistfights.
It’s the same with agents. Agent Rachelle Gardner had a great recent blog post in which she asked authors to share the most important things in agent/author relationships. Though plenty of us swooned over our agents, we didn’t agree on what made them spectacular. Some listed communication as the most crucial thing, while others judged by industry connections or editing abilities. We all have different preferences, and what makes an agent amazing in my eyes may not be the same thing you’re looking for.
Fixating on one agent closes your eyes to other great prospects
There are plenty of terrific agents with high profile blogs, hysterical Twitter feeds, and great word-of-mouth in writing communities. Just remember they’re not the only cats in the sandbox. When I queried agents, I made sure my list included a good mix of those whose every online word I’d devoured, and those whose names I couldn’t have picked off wanted poster at the police station.
I’ll be honest – I didn’t know a ton about Michelle Wolfson when I first queried her. What little I’d read was positive, but it wasn’t until later in the process that I discovered what a great catch she was.
In my opinion, an agent with a great passion for your writing and a shorter sales record is a hotter commodity than the one with a million sales and only a tepid interest in your book. You may be surprised to discover your perfect match is an agent you’ve never heard of before.
What are your thoughts? If you’re currently unagented, do you have a dream agent? Are you open to other possibilities? For those who have agents already, did you end up with the agent you thought you’d have? Please share in the comments.
I’m going to go find that cute seventh grade guy on Facebook to see if he still thinks I look like a boy.