Monday, November 8, 2010

No means 'NO'! Or does it?

Can I just say how happy/relieved  I was to see this posted up by BookEnds Agent Jessica Faust?

In all the months I’ve been querying agents, I’ve usually found that their submission guidelines were pretty fair and well thought out.  I know that their job is tough.  I know that the slush pile is never ending.  I know that the time they have to offer towards aspiring writers is limited and their already-acquired-clients take precedence, as they should.  I know, I know I know, I know, I KNOW!!!

However, I’ve come across a stipulation on some agent blogs that, at first, made my brow furrow.   I’d submit anyway. 

As time goes by, rejections come in and the hunt for a love connection continues.  I come across the same agencies, the same stipulation and the frown turns into a grimace. 
What is this stipulation, you ask?

It’s the ‘If you receive a rejection, please do not query another agent at this agency with the same project.  A ‘no’ from one is a ‘no’ from all.’

Now, I can understand not querying two agents within the same agency simultaneously.  That’s just common courtesy. 

Nor do I believe that you should query the same project in its current state to another agent within the agency as soon as you receive your rejection.   I’d take a good look at your project and the query letter when you receive a certain number of rejections before even considering resubmitting it anywhere.

And I absolutely agree you’ve got to do your research and know who you’re targeting.  However, if that agent passed on the project a couple months ago and your ms has since seen some substantial renovations- shouldn’t you be able to submit it to a different agent within the agency who might be better suited?  Especially if there are two or more agents with similar pasts and preferences and it was a hard choice to begin with as to which one to query.
When one agent rejects a project, they say it could be for a variety of reasons but the one that they most often address is that ‘it’s a matter of falling in love with the idea and then the project itself.’  Now, if we all fell in love with the same kind of man, Jude Law would have to buy stalk in restraining orders.  (Okay, maybe does….But you know what I’m trying to say.) 
Most agencies and rejection letters say something along the lines of  ‘This is a highly subjective business and another agent may feel very differently.’

If this business is indeed subjective than how can one agent decide for everyone in their agency whether or not a project is worth looking at?  Do they have some kind of Avatar mind meld that we know nothing about??  Or perhaps they consider it’s the price we must pay for having chosen the wrong agent to query within their agency to begin with. 

I myself find it hard to believe that of the five to twenty different agents working for the same agency- each and every one of them look at a cup and see it half empty.  That all of them agree the grass is greener on the other side and that the whole third floor is convinced that the Mona Lisa follows you with her eyes. 

I thought the thing agents take most pride in is their ability to see something in a project and a writer.  To be the first to see it.  To discover something.  To help create a final product that will touch the numbers. To explore strange new worldsTo seek out new life and new civilizations.  To boldly go where no man has gone before


In order to do this, they’ve got to have their own mind, their own eye, their own pasts, preferences, and ideas.  I think refusing to look at a project because another agent in their agency has R-ed it is not only unfair to the querier, but unfair to themselves. 
Just my two cents.  **Creepy steps down from the overturned laundry basket**.   Thank you all for coming.  Pamphlets are by the door.  Next meeting’s at the Hank’s Dairy Bar parking lot.  Your golden coins will vibrate if I need you.


Jessica Bell said...

Very good point. I always ignored that statement and sent it to another agent anyway :o) LOL! I'm sneaky like that ... Have you heard my good news?

Vicki Rocho said...

I'm not to that point yet, but I think you took the logical route. What're they gonna do, reject you again?

Laura Pauling said...

I'm a rule follower, so I usually don't query another agent at a house because I believe they have an idea what other agents like and will send along if they think it's a match. I'm sure there are the small percentage that goes through the crack. I know at Writers House you can query other agents just not at the same time.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Waiting for a short time, then re-submitting to another agent in the same agency makes sense as you've stated.

Like chicken soup, it couldn't hurt. H.P. Lovecraft, when rejected by WEIRD TALES, would simply wait several months, then re-submit, saying, "I have made the changes you suggested."

Of course, he hadn't touched the manuscript. But it always was accepted by the editor. Got to love H.P.'s style in that.

Have a great new week, Roland

Old Kitty said...

Now why can't you be a literary agent!?!?!?! You'd be so first on my list!!!


It's annoying and it's a tad inflexible!! Booo to them! I'd say send it in anyway - maybe under another name!! :-) Take care

Dawn Ius said...

I focussed in on that post by Jessica Faust as well :-)
Keep plugging, girl. You'll get there. xo

Anne Gallagher said...

I queried my first book. Got rejections. I waited six months, worked on revisions and requeried to the exact same agents. I got 6 partial requests.

Nothing is set in stone. sometimes rules are meant to be bent.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I also think it's a good idea to include some sample pages even if the agent's don't ask for them. After all, it's your story they have to love, not the query letter, and they don't have to read the pages if they don't want to. (I always paste them, not as an attachment)

Jodi Henry said...

I have noticed this stipulation as well while doing agent research. But I have seen it at smaller agencies with less than five agents working there. But even in that case I would re-sub.

Like you said. The slush pile is huge. How can they all look at one query or remember from month to month the queries they have rejected.

I have read on a few agents blog that re-subbing to an agent whose rejected you after a few monthw isn't a bad thing. Trends change. What they were looking for when you were rejedcted may have changed. I say. Go. For. It.


Do you blogfest. Check out my query letter blogfest @

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Tracy said...

I agree with you, that is super frustrating and doesn't make much sense. I'm guessing it's probably a protective measure on their part to keep away those writers who query everyone under the sun and never stop to think their query, MS, etc. might need a little fine tuning.

I say, if you come across an agency with that stipulation, but it's been a few months and serious revisions later...go ahead and query the other agent. Worse case scenario they have some sort of elaborate tracking system and reject you without reading the query. There's no harm done by trying.

Unknown said...

Thank you for stepping on your laundry basket and sharing your views. This is very important to put out there!

I would have submitted after major revisions to a different agent within the same agency because you're right, the agent has to fall in love with it, and not one agent can speak for another!

I'm with Jess, ignore and send anyway (within reason of course!)

Happy Monday!

Carolyn V. said...

I agree with you. If the ms has been revised again and there is someone in the agency that may like it better. It doesn't hurt to try. =)

Candyland said...

Oh man, thank you Jessica!!! Personally I don't care for agencies that have that rule, because it serves no purpose to the hard-working writer who's simply trying to find the right fit. I say, queryqueryquery.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I've wondered this. Doesn't it go back to personal preference, sometimes?? Especially once a manuscript has been overhauled? Sigh...thanks for bringing this up. Not ready to query yet, but when I am I'll remember this.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I read that article too, and felt the same way you did. This entire post could have been written by me (except that it wasn't, and you said it far better than I would have). Great post, Katie! :-)

Matthew MacNish said...

I find it hard to believe that if you tried it they would catch you. How could they possibly remember 1 R in thousands? Not that I've tested this theory.

Colene Murphy said...

I agree, After a certain amount of time and revisions, is the chance of being caught really good at all? And even if they did the agent would have to read it first right? what if that agent loved it and said to hell with the rules? This struck me as silly too. How can one be the word for all? I'd be miffed if someone passed on something I loved. Surely they can't be asking every agent for their opinion before rejecting it.

Lindsay said...

Great post.

I've seen this on afew agency sites and panicked. I'd probably query that agent, leave it a few months and then query another at the agency.

Anne R. Allen said...

This is an important subject. I think the one thing we can be sure of is that it's important to read guidelines. Usually a company with a "go away means stay away" policy will say so. I think that often happens when there's a single query address and one intern or assistant screens for all the agents and she gets cranky seeing the same query coming around again and again.

But on the other hand, assistants and interns don't often work that long at one agency, so if you wait a few months, there's probably a whole new gatekeeper.

But you can never be sure. I once queried one agent with no such stated policy, in an agency that looked like a good fit for my genre. So after the first agent rejected me, I did some revisions and re-submitted to another agent in the firm. I got an immediate rejection saying "we rejected your query at 10 AM on April 14. Don't query us again, ever."

Yeah. Don't worry. I won't buy any books from your clients, either.

Roland, that's a great story about H.P. Lovecraft. Thanks!

Talli Roland said...

That's such a tough one, isn't it? I usually do follow rules 'coz I'm like that (argh) but hey, it's probably worth a shot!

LTM said...

psst---a certain large agency says that (initials A.B.L.), but I queried all the agents I liked there anyway w/BNN. And guess what? I got different responses from all three. E.g., one said no thanks, one (MK) gave me *great* revision feedback, and another asked me to send her my next novel. (!)

I.e., I ignore that. :D lol~

DL Hammons said...

Hear...hear!! I agree 100%. If I worked in a large agency I would have an issue with that stipulation. Sometimes a manuscript is turned down even though it shows promise because the agent doesn't have the requistite time to devote to it. Just because one agent has caught their limit doesnt mean all of them have. ???

Jennifer Hoffine said...

Great post!

I agree, if agents want to throw around the "publishing is very subjective" line in their rejection letters then their agency should back up that sentiment.

It also annoys me when agents say, "Sure we share queries. If something sounds good for someone else." That only helps a writer who queried the wrong agent to begin with.

While I'm sure some big agencies get hit with some annoying repeat queries, they're throwing away opportunities for those writers who are in the "maybe" pile by not letting all their agents have a look at it.

I agree with others, especially if the query is sent directly to individual agents instead of a general submission email then feel free to let some time pass and submit to that same agency.

Susan Fields said...

Very interesting post! Good point - if it's so subjective, how can one agent decide for the entire agency?

Melissa Gill said...

I agree, that's frustrating. I would/will definatley submit to other agents at the same agency, if/when I decide to do major revisions. if an agent falls in love with your work, I doubt they're going to say, "oh darn, I can't rep her because she queried Sally before me."

Slamdunk said...

Good points. It reminds me of parent shopping by a child looking for permission...


Wow, this is great. I'd never really thought about it before, but you make some really good points here! I wonder why that is. I think some of the things you mentioned--like falling for the same Jude Law--make a really compelling case against the practice. Thanks for the food for thought.

Felicity Grace Terry said...

I've just realised that there are several of my followers who I haven't yet met so thought I'd stop by to say hello and thank you for following. Nice to have met you, I've enjoyed visiting.

Hart Johnson said...

I think it's POSSIBLE that agencies who say that may have a more formalized system for passing queries around--if it really is a matter of taste. That said, i think Jessica's point about Kim not even SEEING that Jessica might like it because it was SO not her thing she had a hard time evaluating--can totally see that.

AND that said that said (yes, twice)--I even think you are within rights querying the SAME agent if you've made substantial changes--(I'd TELL THEM, in case they spot it...)--so definitely... once changed, go for it.

Carolyn Abiad said...

I personally wouldn't query the same agent twice...but I'd definitely try in the same agency (after a revision). I don't think agents are talking to each other about the rejections they send.

Tamara Narayan said...

Well said. Another thing that can happen is the agency hires a new agent long after your first query was rejected. If the new agent is a good fit, then yes, query them.

MTeacress said...

Since I haven't started querying yet, this was eye opening, and I think I agree with you.
Are they serving ice cream at Hanks for the next meeting? I hope they give us a discount.

Shannon said...

I agree. The idea of not querying an agent just because another agent in his/her office didn't fall in love with your manuscript is ludicrous (unless of course, all agents at said agency review every single incoming query, meet on it, and cast a majority-rules vote). Yeah, right.

Laura Maylene said...

I think they have this stipulation to prevent all those writers who insist on querying every other agent with the agency immediately after they get a rejection from one. Think of how many additional queries (and work, and time, and email inbox space...) that creates for the agency when the odds are that it's going to result in a rejection all the way around.

What you are proposing is perfectly reasonable. The problem is, they can't very well put on their website, "Responsible and reasonable writers are the exception to the rule" because that would open up the floodgates to everyone. Everyone thinks he is the exception to the rule.

I totally understand where you're coming from, though. I'm guessing that if you've really done your homework, time has passed and the manuscript actually is revised, and the other agent is a good fit for the project, you might be able to query a different agent with no problems.

Jamie Gibbs said...

That's an excellent point, and I don't see why you aren't able to do that. Stupid agencies >.<
I agree that the ms needs serious revisions before submission, but as you said, if you're getting a number of rejections, the ms should be revised anyway.


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