Friday, February 27, 2009

How Many Queries Are Too Many?

Very little work has been done on Strachan's Attic, you'll see. I'm moving into the main theme of the book now, and I need to get it right. I'm writing about the 1940s in some detail, and it needs to be spot on. I'm also reconsidering the use of that first person point of view. I feel strongly that Strachan has to be in your face, as it were, and I'm not sure if I can achieve that in the third person. But there are a lot of clever writers out there, including Melissa, who aren't fond of the current approach. I'll mull over it, ask Prof. Ostrom what he thinks - perhaps he'll write something about it to inspire me.

I've been researching more literary agents, which leads to a question that I should be able to find out myself, but thought one of you could answer immediately. How many submissions are too many at one time? I'm aware of the protocol in advising agents how many other queries are out there, but what's the acceptable maximum, if there is one?

I sent off two more queries in the last 48 hours, which brings the total distributed to twelve, and one of those agents wanted fifty pages, which is amazing; that's the most generous submission requirement I've seen so far. I've had no further rejections since the three I told you about on Monday. I am buzzing with adrenaline now, and want to send off more, but will wait to hear back from you.

They take a long time to compose, by the way, these letters, for those of you who aren't quite at that point yet. I have several synopses of from one paragraph up to three pages, and various styles of letters. But each agent is so different, so there's still customizing involved for them, re-reading, tweaking, before I push that Send button. The thing that occurs to me, each time I rearrange the words describing the book, is just how many aspects of the story there are. If you say this in the prescribed word limitation, perhaps you should have said this, instead. A lot of it comes back to your gut reaction to the agent's profile or blog, and the way their own words resonate with you.

I wish I could swing a deal with one of the people I've come to admire. I've wanted to say corny things in my letter like, "Oh, I so get you!", "I love all of Tom Hanks's movies, too!", "You're a Jobim nut!", "I thought I was the only one left who knew who Blossom Dearie was." Stuff like that. But these queries are meant to be business-like, and there's a fine line between that and slipping in fan mail that sounds gushy, taking into account the genre of the book. Well, that's my conclusion. Perhaps it would be fine with YA. If the rejects pile up, perhaps I'll rethink it.

Have a good, relaxing weekend. Be in love with your work.


Emily Cross said...

Congratulations on the 50 pages!! oh i'll have my fingers crossed for you:)

Melissa Marsh said...

I love your last line - Be in love with your work. Excellent!

I think you're just about right on how many queries you have out now. I think I usually send 5-7 at a time and see how they do, then go for another round (if I get all rejections or whatever).

Fran said...

I so appreciate your support, guys. It can feel lonely here in our little writing rooms.

Just got the 4th rejection. I think of them as little greeting cards now. How cute is that?

Janet said...

I don't know if there is such thing as a maximum. The thing is, every time you tweak that letter, it probably gets a bit better, so you don't want to burn through your potential agents too quickly. But every time you get a rejection, send out the next query.

Congrats on the partial request. :o)

Fran said...

Janet, I appreciate your words, thanks.

And you're right about the tweaking each time - those early queries look a bit insipid now!

Heather Wardell said...

I keep 10-15 out at any given time, but I don't tweak the letter once it goes out. I know, nearly everyone does, but unless I get serious concrete feedback on something IN THE LETTER (not the book itself) that needs to be changed, I don't fiddle once I've got the letter done.

I DO customize the letter's intro and ending for each agent, but the core book description is the same each time.

But that's just me and not wanting to get too caught up in the query part... I much prefer the writing part!