Writers' Newsletter

Issue #191
February 2019

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Query the Agent(s)

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach – Monday January 28, 2019

How Many at a Time?

Writing the novel was easy—not! But now comes the hard(er) part. Getting an agent. Well, just take this trip one step at a time—or should I say several steps at time because you need to send out queries as if you were a query-packaging machine. 

When I was a kid—a few decades ago—we had to walk our queries to the agents five miles at dawn through hip-deep snow and wait in the frigid weather for acknowledgements. By that, I mean, we had to MAIL partials and manuscripts by way of the POST OFFICE. 

You guys have it easy these days as everything is done by email. And this way you can query further agents if you aren’t hearing back or if you’re getting (you? really?) rejections. 

Do not go “all eggs in a single basket” since the one who says, “send me 50 pages” and has your heart pumping may then turn around and tell you, “not for me” and scoff at your submission.

Getting to the full manuscript request stage is the hardest part. But if they request a full, they're really interested, much more than they are with a partial. Some agents take partials as part of the query package. So, yes, that they request your partial is happy-making since rejections on queries are not unusual—but the submission of a partial is really merely another step toward what you really want, the request for the full. 

But the request for the full is still not a “let’s sign a contract.” 
How long a time you’ll be waiting to hear on a query or a partial depends totally on the agent. Some will respond within a day or a week, while others take months, or even may never, ever respond until after your book is in print with a mainstream publisher and the accolades are rolling in.

The best-practice advice is certainly to query more than one agent at a time. Query five, if you like, or query a dozen. If you’ve had a request for a full and have sent that out, you can mention it to other agents you query—or not. I’d say don’t tell because even if you send out several complete manuscripts, you can still be rejected on all the submissions. So why should you let anyone know at this point? 

Unless an agent asks for an exclusive peek, which you grant, you aren’t ethically obliged to say a thing.   

If you grant an exclusive—and you don’t have to, and maybe you shouldn’t says at least one agent I know of—then you do have to stick to your word. You can set a time limit though—six weeks, maybe?

The advice to query five agents—or 10—comes with a codicil. Every time you receive a rejection from one, or you don’t hear at all after, hmm, a couple of months, send out another query. You’re just covering the territory, as is your obligation to your work.  

(By the way, your manuscript ought to be agent ready, which means to me, editor ready. The manuscript should be clean. I’ve done many, many, many, many prepublication edits, and I’ll tell you my work always polishes a great deal that was in desperate need of cleaning up. I’m astonished at how hard writers work at writing the novel and then don’t assure that the manuscript is submission ready. The market is so competitive that writers, if they knew that truth, would faint. Maximize your chances, which are, sorry to say, slim for those having no credentials.)

To continue.

But what if more than one agent says yes. Well, halleluiah. This isn’t a predicament. It’s a spot you want to be in. If two agents say yes, then you get to choose between them. You’re in control, and obviously you’re doing something right with your manuscript.

Do not wait endlessly to be accepted or—ahem—rejected. After a few weeks you can follow up on your original query, and if you don’t hear back—even on a full—move on. 

And remember, keep the querying going at a steady pace, sending out additional queries as soon as you hear a “thanks, but no thanks.”

Some authors rarely send just query letters, by the way. They almost always send partials, figuring the agent will read them or not, but at least that way if the agent is intrigued by the cover letter, no time is lost. 

And keep in mind if you know of an agent you’d like to sign with but she has passed on a prior project of yours—and in fact, everyone passed—you can still query on a new project. You may not strike it lucky until the 6th book—or maybe even later. 

Remember, too, that while you’re querying on five, six, or seven novels, you may be attending conferences and meeting agents at the same time. Yes, go to some conferences, attend agent pitches, make those contacts. Become a presence even if you haven’t struck it lucky yet. 

Keep querying. Keep pitching. Do not wait. And even more important than that, keep writing; produce more product to offer for sale. While you might query 100 agents on project 1 with no results, by having a project 2 to query next, you show you have the capacity to generate more merchandise—which potentially will make not only you some money, but will create gain for the agent as well. Being prolific is another part of the author’s job description, and yes, if you query a few of your heartthrob agents with the next project each time, that will be duly noted in the long run. 

To search's database of over 700 literary agencies, click here

About the Author

G. Miki Hayden is the author of the award-winning guide for mystery writers, Writing the Mystery: A Start-to-Finish Guide for Both Novice and Professional, available now from JP&A Dyson.

"Whatever your habitual errors are, punctuation, writing style, or even not understanding what the agents/editors are looking for, if you'd like to correct your flaws, take a class with me at Writer's Digest: Or for some less-expensive guidance, you might want to download The Naked Writer for your Kindle at Amazon. Yes, I work with clients privately. Find me on Facebook."

G. Miki Hayden always has a new class starting at Writer's Digest. The feedback she gives is personal, thorough, and actionable.


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Some of this month's news for writers from around the web.

Abrams Artists Agency Hires Simon Green To Run Book & Publishing Division

Abrams Artists Agency Hires Simon Green To Run Book & Publishing Division – Tuesday February 5, 2019

Abrams Artists Agency has hired former CAA agent Simon Green, with the industry veteran set to lead the company’s Book and Publishing division. He will be based in New York and begins immediately, marking the latest move to bolster the entertainment talent and literary agency’s agent and client roster under new ownership.

Green launched CAA’s Book Publishing Department in 2009, growing that division’s biz from scratch before exiting in the spring. He had spent 17 years before that at Pom Inc., a lit agency started by his dad, Dan, the longtime Simon & Schuster publisher.

[Read the full article]

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Ridout Forms New U.K. Publisher

Ridout Forms New U.K. Publisher – Wednesday January 30, 2019

Amanda Ridout, former managing director of Head of Zeus and a prominent figure in the U.K. publishing world, has launched a new publishing house, Boldwood Books. The imprint will bring out its first list this autumn, and in 2020 will publish about 50 titles. It will specialize in commercial fiction.

Ridout has held senior positions at Reed Books, Hodder Headline, HarperCollins, and Phaidon as well as at Head of Zeus (HoZ), which she left at the end of 2017.

[Read the full article]

United Talent Agency Names 8 New Partners

United Talent Agency Names 8 New Partners – Tuesday January 29, 2019

United Talent Agency announced the addition of eight agents to its partnership, representing artists and talents from theatre, film, television, literature, music, sports, video games, and more.

Among UTA’s new partners is Mark Subias, a veteran theatre and literary agent who has been with UTA for the past seven years. Subias’ client roster includes The Color Purple Tony winner Cynthia Erivo, Pulitzer winners Suzan Lori Parks and Annie BakerEclipsed playwright and The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira, as well as Tony-winning A View from the Bridge director Ivo van Hove, who will direct the upcoming Broadway revival of West Side Story.

[Read the full article]

Click here for the rest of this month's news >


A selection of the new listings added to this month.

New Publisher Listing

New Publisher Listing – Wednesday January 23, 2019

Publishes: Fiction; Nonfiction; Poetry; 
Areas include: Arts; Culture; Current Affairs; Literature; Music; Philosophy; Politics; 
Markets: Adult

Aims to publish in every sphere and genre, "combining vigorous dissent and a pragmatic willingness to succeed". Submit complete ms via online submission system.

[See the full listing]

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New Magazine Listing

New Magazine Listing – Friday February 8, 2019

Publishes: Fiction; 
Areas include: Fantasy; Short Stories; 
Markets: Adult

Electronic magazine publishing fantasy fiction based in a shared world, where authors write in a common milieu, sharing settings, mythos, and characters. To submit, writers need to join (free until a year after first publication) and work with a mentor to produce a piece of work that will fit the shared world.

[See the full listing]

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New Magazine Listing

New Magazine Listing – Thursday January 31, 2019

Publishes: Essays; Fiction; Nonfiction; Poetry; 
Areas include: Short Stories; Translations; 
Markets: Adult; 
Preferred styles: Literary

Submit four to six poems, or one story or one essay at a time. Wait at least six months between submissions. Submit via online submission system.

[See the full listing]

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Click here for more of this month's new listings >


Some of this month's articles for writers from around the web.

Bestselling authors “spread their wings and challenge themselves,” an interview with authors Sara Connell & A.G. Howard

Bestselling authors “spread their wings and challenge themselves,” an interview with authors Sara Connell & A.G. Howard – Tuesday February 12, 2019

As part of my series on the “5 Things You Need to Know to Write a Bestselling Book,” I had the pleasure of interviewing A.G. Howard.

A.G. Howard, the #1 New York Times and international bestselling author of young adult retellings and adaptations. Her titles include theSplintered series,a gothic Alice in Wonderland spin-off; RoseBlood, a Phantom of the Opera–inspired adaptation; and her latest release, Stain, a gritty fairy tale/high fantasy inspired by The Princess and the Pea.

[Read the full article]

I’m not the grammar police. But writing well is an act of resistance.

I’m not the grammar police. But writing well is an act of resistance. – Saturday February 9, 2019

Spend more than a few minutes in the word business — I’ve spent going on 30 years in it, as a proofreader, copy editor, publishing-house copy chief and, recently, the author of a guide to writing style — and you’ll quickly learn that the English language, to say nothing of its practitioners, is irrational, irregular and anarchic. You can choose either to embrace that or to rail against it, but I assure you that the former is more fun and less taxing.

[Read the full article]

When Social Media Goes After Your Book, What’s the Right Response?

When Social Media Goes After Your Book, What’s the Right Response? – Thursday February 7, 2019

The culture of internet book criticism is passionate and intense. Last week, Amélie Wen Zhao, a debut author, canceled her young adult fantasy novel after early readers accused her of racial insensitivity online. Here are two different perspectives from writers who have had similar experiences.

[Read the full article]

Click here for the rest of this month's articles >


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