How many agents should I query?

I’ve heard 30, I’ve heard 100, I’ve heard less, more…but what do you think? When is it time to throw in the towel? How do you know?

There are many schools of thought on that subject. I always tried to be as precise with my selection as possible and that limited the number of agents quite significantly. So, contact as many as you confidently think they might like your story. Whether that’s 5, 10 or 100 doesn’t matter, but be focussed and targetted. I ususally had around 30 or so I contacted.
When to throw in the towel? Well if those agents who I think might like my book don’t want it, then I have an issue. And no, that doesn’t mean you have to go and re-write it. I heard that quite often. If you don’t get taken up, something is wrong with the book.
Not necessarily.
You might not have what they want. Or what they think they want. Or what they think will sell (very important).
Unfortunately, nobody will tell you. Or very few will. I got close with one romance publisher and they told me why they wouldn’t take it. Nothing about the quality, they just had an issue with my approach, which was perfectly valid, just not their thing. The other one was sniffing around it, but decided it was too quirky. Well, at least I KNEW something. But that’s rare.
That novel I have now put on the self-pubbing pile (never throw in the towel).
I got lucky insofar as I have a publisher (not an agent), and after going through the editing wringer, I do believe I have a better idea what’s marketable and what not.
But this is still a highly subjective industry and in the end it depends on what an agent would like to work on.
My editor loved witches and mysteries, so, she took on the task of helping me.
I wish you luck that you too find that person who loves your writing! :heart:

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You should query agents in small groups. I would say about ten to fifteen people. Thing is, while there are quite a few agents out there, you have to narrow down your search. There honestly isn’t 100 good agents (whether at all or good for you personally) out there.

A group of all those agents are fake agents or newbies, and thus, probably wouldn’t be a good idea to make your story the guinea pig.

Another group of those agents aren’t the ones you’re looking for within your target audience and genre.

Another group would be people who aren’t a good fit for you because they have something else in mind for your story.

And another group of agents are those who honestly aren’t on your side. Agents are supposed to be your business partner and fight for you when it comes to contracts and publishers. Yes, there is only so much they can do. However, a good agent will try their hardest to sell your story as best they can and try to give you opportunities and guide you along the way. If they don’t care for you, if they have their own agenda and force you to rewrite it and change the story drastically, then they aren’t on your side and therefore, you shouldn’t waste your time with them.

So, with these in mind, you need to research the agents you have on your list and query a small group of them.

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Yeah, I have a hard time knowing what’s wrong. For my first book, I queried about 80 agents. I got no bites, not even requests for partials or full. I submitted directly to one publisher who seemed like they were considering it, but ultimately said no because they thought it wasn’t voicey enough. They offered a revise and resubmit but I didn’t bother because the writing was already very voicey in my opinion (and the freelancer I paid to edit the book said he LOVED the voice), so we had different visions for what the book was supposed to sound like.

Last summer I moved on to my second book and have queried nearly forty. Still no requests for partials or full. Mostly form rejections for both books (I think). It’s just hard to know if it’s my book, my query, the agent’s preferences, or the market. I might not be writing something original enough.

The third book I’m writing is the most original thing I’ve written by far, but maybe to niche?? :joy: I don’t even know.

I watched that Alexa Donne video last night!! While I admire what she has to say, it’s hard to discern who’s good and who’s not. I feel like you won’t know you have a bad agent until either you’ve talked on the phone with them, or they actually become your agent and you see the red flags. In other words, I can’t really tell from looking at someone’s website if they’re good/bad or not. That’s why I find Alexa’s “there’s aren’t even 100 good agents out there” advice not too helpful :neutral_face:

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Okay, may I (respectfully) suggest you made a mistake? A solid query package should get requests. If you’re not getting requests, STOP querying and figure out what’s not working.

Did you workshop your query?
Did you workshop your synopsis?
Did you workshop your opening pages?

There are people in the industry who offer affordable (and some less affordable, UGH) critiques. If your package isn’t getting responses, consider getting one or two of those. Your manuscript could be amazing, but if the query package isn’t getting offers, no one will know.

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I agree completely!

It’s also hard to know if someone who represents your genre is actually interested in your type of story. For example, “Romance” includes sooooo many sub-genres. Sure you can plow through their list of published books, but unless they’re firmly in one lane, that’s not necessarily a definitive answer either.

I think it makes more sense to query widely (assuming you’ve done your due diligence against schmagents).

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Yeah, I definitely agree I’ve made a mistake somewhere. I’ve had several people look at my query letter (here on Wattpad, a couple beta readers, and a paid professional). I’ve just gotten several conflicting opinions on what to include and what not to include.

It could be my opening pages, but no one who’s read the novel has mentioned any issues with the opening. I suppose I could ask specifically about those, though.

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Right, and I write contemporary YA, which can be pretty broad in themes, tropes, etc., depending on sub genres.

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From what I’ve researched about the topic is that you can find the red flags if they don’t have proper websites, if they aren’t professional with you (if they do respond), if they ask for fees, if they haven’t sold an actual book or if their books (that they represent) didn’t do so well, etc. Those kinds of things are red flags for an author because it could break what you have and what you’re looking for.

Another thing is that if you get rejected by an agent, then it means that the entire agency rejected you. So, if you try querying another agent from that same agency, they will continue to reject you. This is because if the agent you queried didn’t want it, they’ll pass it over to others that may be interested and if they don’t want it, then it’s a simple rejection from everyone.

A blog made by Meg LaTorre, an upcoming self-published writer who used to work at an agency, describes this before she makes her points: the Do’s and Don’ts of Querying

You got an R+R? Wow, that is a great response. I got one as well, that’s how I found my publisher. If they tell you they see issues with your voice, there usually are issues. Yes, it is very subjective, but the publishers know the marketplace. I got told off for having too much telling. Feedback from my readers was they loved it. I still re-wrote. That phase was an eye opener… I also had an editor before I sent it in and she said it was just fine. Well, it wasn’t.
It’ of course your decision. I wanted to try out to see what they meant. I learned so much, it’s untrue.

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This varies by agency. Check their submission guidelines. Some are “Query only one; we share.” Others are “Query one at a time,” and I’ve even found a few that are “You may query us simultaneously.” I’ve got a common for this policy in my spreadsheet, because it’s so varied!

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Yeah, that’s possible. I feel like voice is intertwined with writing style, though, and if they don’t like my writing style, well…that’s that haha. I also think it depends on how you define “voice.” It’s kind of illusive.

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@Alicia23M Yeah, I’ve come across agencies that say I can query another agent at the agency if I get rejected by one of them–just can’t query both of them at the same time.

I concur. There is no hard and fast rule. Each agency is different

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