Friday, March 4, 2011

Conundra about querying

The particular agency I have chosen to try first has great specific submission guidelines on their website BUT says that the initial contact needs to be via phone or email. Does this mean I send my query letter (without anything else) via email? A ditzy question I imagine but no amount of googling has found me the answer! Also, there are agents' names listed on their website ... I've had a snoop via google into each of them and whilst they all seem great, I'm not sure whose name I should put on the initial query email?

And breathe ... two ... three ... four ...

Just relax. You're not going to be rejected just because you're not sure which agent to send it to. If this agency's guidelines are unclear that's their fault, not yours.

'Initial contact by phone or email' is a little unclear when there are also specific submission guidelines, so hedge your bets: send just the query letter by email, with no sample text, and it's also okay to say that you weren't sure how much to send initially, and you're happy to send more if required. You're not going to be rejected for being thoughtful and polite.

In terms of whose name to use: use the agency's name. 'Dear [agency name] ...' The agency I work for gets enquiries about which name to use but, really, it doesn't matter to whom you address the query - it will get read regardless. Just don't say 'Dear sir' unless you happen to know it's run by men. The Australian agents are overwhelmingly female in number and nothing sets the teeth to grinding like a 'Dear sir', because it indicates a complete lack of attention to any sort of known detail about Australian agencies.

6 comments:

Carole Anne Carr said...

Give them a ring, the receptionist is usually happy to answer those questions - the person you should write to - who deals with what - that sort of thing. Works for me.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I've noted a big difference in the terminology and guidelines between Australian and US agents. I've also seen the "initial contact via phone or email" with Australian agents, which would be a big 'no-no' for US agent (via phone that is).

I've also seen an Australian agent ask for exclusive queries, which I've found odd and had to do as unless you query them first, you'll always have a roll of queries on th go if you're actively querying. I'd really like to query that agency but can't as I have multi submissions on the go =[

Anonymous said...

What a timely post! I came across this dilemma myself just last week. The submission guidelines are comprehensive for this one particular agent, but there's also a reference to a phone call or email in the first instance. It's an agency that only accepts paper submissions, so the phone call/email seemed a little bit redundant - by the terms of their guidelines, they wouldn't be accepting any query type material in that first electronic contact, so what's really the point? I got around it by emailing to ask if the agency had really truly re-opened submissions, and to ask who to address the submission to.

Which led to more serendipitousness from this post, as the agency assistant replied with just 'the submissions department'. I have been worried about sending something not addressed to a specific human being, since many blogs point to doing that as being important. I think that's something that bothers me about the long and frequently checkpointed road to publication: which hoops do you really, really need to jump through, and which are optional, and for whom? Never mind that you wouldn't have hoops on a road. Maybe they're speed bumps. Anyway. Sometimes all the requirements seem a bit arbitrary and subjective. Thanks for the reassurance.

Bron said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one worrying about this! I'm glad to hear we shouldn't be rejected as long as we're polite. Sometimes it seems like if you take one step wrong you'll be penalised.

Raquel Byrnes said...

I had this dilemma before a while ago. I read up on each agent and found the one that represented my genre and was open to debut authors and addressed the email directly to him.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to know - can anyone be an agent? What experience do they need. If someone decides to be an agent without being with an agency are publishers going to take them seriously?