Recently, an editorial client of mine wrote in with the following awesome question about submitting multiple queries to multiple agents:
Is it ok to query two books at the same time to different agents? A novel and a picture book? An agent I want to work with is accepting queries for both picture books and novels. Is it ok to query the same agent with two different books? But I’d also like to send both projects to other agents.
This is a two-parter, so buckle your seat belts!
The two questions here are:
- Should I send two projects to the same agent?
- Should I query multiple projects at a time?
If you’re like my client, you have a lot of ideas in a lot of stages of development. You have a picture book here, a middle grade there, a YA up your sleeve, and maybe a few non-fiction pieces, just for the hell of it. You want them all to become real, live books yesterday. So how to do you proceed? Multiple queries to the same agent? Multiple queries to multiple agents? Or none of the above?
Submitting Multiple Queries to the Same Agent at Once
Should I send two projects to the same agent? No. Let them consider one project and respond before you send them something else. That’s just good etiquette. And based on their response, you might realize, “Hey, I have a better idea now of what they’re looking for,” or “Maybe they’re not the one for me.” If you’ve already sent another literary agent submission, you won’t be able to tailor that second letter to increase your chances.
Also, you might run the risk of scaring them off. If they haven’t yet gotten a chance to read Project 1, and Project 2 just hit their inbox, is Project 3 next? How many are there? Is this what you’ll be like to work with? Too much! Too soon! Aaah! That’s a melodramatic take on querying multiple projects, but you really will run the risk of the agent being put-off because it looks like you’re just fire-hosing all of New York City with a bunch of projects. They’d rather see a writer who is passionate and focused on one project at a time.
Querying More Than One Project at a Time
Should I query multiple projects at a time? Absolutely not. Let’s say the best case scenario happens. Watch how quickly it turns into the worst case scenario. In this day and age, remember, most agents represent more than one category. Sure, sometimes agents only represent novels. In that case, some of them will be fine with you having a picture book agent on the side. But some won’t be okay with you having another literary agent submission floating around out there. Keep that in mind.
Let’s say Agent A wants your novel and Agent B wants your picture book. But A represents both categories, while B only does picture books. You’ll have to tell them about one another at some point. When you do, I guarantee Agent A is going to ask you, “Why the heck didn’t you send me the picture book?” You run the very real risk of turning B off. You’ll immediately look like you were sneaking around behind their backs. I hope you can see how submitting multiple queries to multiple agents could turn into a mess very, very quickly. (Check out my post on having more than one literary agent for more on this topic.)
Multiple Queries to Multiple Agents is Too Much
FOCUS on one project at a time. Submit it. Hear feedback. Then you have two options: Revise that first project and submit it again, or put it away for a while and focus on the next project. Use what you’ve learned to make the pitch for your next project even stronger, then submit it when it’s truly ready. The take-away: ONE PROJECT AT A TIME, PLZ.
Everyone wants to rush rush rush through this process, but I’m here to tell you that if you have a need for speed, publishing is not for you. If you sold a book today (not gotten an agent for a book, SOLD the book), the earliest it’d come out is 2019. So, as the song says, “Take your time, do it right.”
Not only do I do manuscript editing, but I am also a publishing strategy consultant. If you’d like to talk your literary agent submission plans over and plan your next move in a sane and productive way, please reach out.
8 Replies to “Submitting Multiple Queries to Multiple Agents”
Great info. Thanks, Mary
Exactly the information I needed. Thanks!
# 1 (82 words)
My novel, THE WINNERS, (originally 118, plus words completely re-written
98,000) with sisters running the gauntlet from ‘nice’ college ladies to drugs, to
working girls to, enslavement, from two hundred to five dollar hookers, to a tragic
end. A loveable husband, to save wife, double crosses sister and for, a time, holds the group together.
Recently, August 2018, a play (drama) was preformed (off) in NYC. A comedy,
four weeks run (off) Hollywood. Some other completed works, satire, action, and
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Really interesting! In relation to part 1 of the question, is it the same if you have been creating a series or family of books? I’ve been working on a series of picture books for several years involving the same made-up world and characters – could they be submitted together or should I consider them still as individual projects?
In terms of submission, you should focus on the first project and then note that it has “series potential.” But don’t submit more than one manuscript at a time. Thanks!
This is a great help. I have one children’s book (age 7-10) that I have nearly finished a first draft on and a chic lit novel I’m at early stages on. I want to send off my children’s book but was unsure whether having two completely different genre’s and submitting them would be advisable?