Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Query Strategies--The Batch Method

For those who wish to pursue the traditional path to publication, it often involves finding an agent who will, in turn, submit your work to editors at publishing houses. In order to find an agent, one must send out query letters. The purpose of my Wednesday Query Critique Giveaway (which I swear I'm getting back to next week) is to help people polish their queries before they send them out into the world. If you're at the stage where you're ready to query, and have carefully researched agents using sites such as Querytracker and AgentQuery, here's why I'm a proponent of sending queries out in batches of 3-5 (aka The Batch Method):

1) If you don't get any responses other than form rejections or the sound of chirping crickets, your query likely needs work. The good news is that since you only sent out a few queries, you haven't used up all your top picks at once.

2) If you get partial requests off the bat, then you know your query doesn't suck, BUT that's all it means (sorry, harsh but true). Wait and see what happens. If the partial requests are all rejected, then it means the book didn't live up to the query. Take any personalized feedback to heart and work on the book again before sending out more queries. Again, because you're using the batch method, you still have a ton more agents to query.

3) If the partial requests turn into full requests, then you should do a little happy dance because it's definitely a step in the right direction. I'd also recommend sending queries to any remaining top choices if you haven't already because things can move pretty quickly at this point. Some people recommend waiting until you actually have an offer of representation and then dashing off queries to any remaining top picks, but that feels icky to me. If you've done your research, you should only be querying agents that you feel confident about in the first place.

Has anyone used this method? Any other tips people would like to share about querying? 

Happy Querying! And I'll be back with Query Critique Wednesday next week.  


  1. I've done this since my earliest querying days. Granted, when I first started, my batches were larger (like 10 at a time), but I quickly changed that strategy when I came back with a ton of rejections and little helpful feedback. I started tweaking my query, and finally tweaked (well, rewrote) most of my novel before starting back with smaller batches of queries.

    Sadly, I think one of my older queries was more successful than my current incarnation, and I'm totally confused about what to make of that! I think my current "query by committee" is overworked at this point, and needs to incorporate some of the voice it lost by having half a dozen people share their input on it on my blog.

  2. Laura--that's a great point about having too many people critique your query. Too many opinions can dilute the original voice, and you want your voice to be the one that shines through. I hope you can find the spark in it again, and best of luck!

  3. Agree with the batch method. Not only a time saver, but I find it's helpful to have several opportunities out there, which lessens the blow when one comes back rejected. ;o)

    Not sure about tweaking as you go? I've researched enough agents to know that what works for one might not work for another. Some like it simple, some like a bit of something different, with added voice. It's difficult to figure out a standard query with so many people wanting different things - or not actually specifying what they want!

    I guess it's like the book... once YOU are happy with it, then that's a good sign.

    That said, I can't stress enough how essential I've found it to have someone with experience in the arena (like your awesome self, Kristi!) give me a professional query critique to identify all the issues I missed. So my next batch should rock.

    1. You're absolutely right that different people like different things, so I'd only tweak it if you're getting NOTHING but rejections. I mean, even if you're happy with it, it ultimately won't help if no one else is. ;)

      The researching piece you mentioned is so true, because if you know you are querying agents that represent your genre, you will find out much faster whether the query is good or not. Best of luck with yours, Dan!

  4. That's a great method. The timing of the feedback (whether it's a request or rejection) can really speak volumes about the strength of your query letter and your work, especially if you start to notice a pattern (i.e.: all form rejections or all rejections after a partial).

    1. Exactly--this method worked perfectly for me. :)