Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

101 “damnations!”

So this is what querying 101 agents looks like.

I used to track this stuff on the computer, ultimately moving to QueryTracker (why not Query Tracker?), which proved to be pretty good for the purpose. I just didn’t feel like meticulously entering status updates and skimming the grid to see how I was doing this time. The answer was always I wasn’t doing very good.

That’s why this time I just decided I’d write this shit down. It’s in no way searchable, except by looking at it. There’s the danger that I’ll query the same agent twice, or hit another agent at the same agency before eight weeks have gone by, and you know what? I don’t care.

I’ve been nothing but businesslike in querying agents for more than 30 years. It’s time for me to relax a little. And if somebody gets bent out of shape because they get a dupe from me, I’m pretty sure they’ll get over it. Because they will have rejected me anyway. And if two agents at the same agency are accidentally considering my book, maybe they’ll have to fight over me to see who wins. I hope so.

Actually, I’m doing my best to avoid those problems. I don’t want to offend anybody, especially someone who’s just doing her job and trying to sort through hundreds of submissions each month. It can’t be easy.

I would just say that it’s also not too easy sending out 101 queries knowing that only one or two of them is going to nibble at my bait.

By the way, of the 101, only 20 have passed formally, with a reply email. The rest ask you to assume that after eight weeks or so, they’re not interested. It didn’t used to be like that.

There used to be a little mutual respect, in that they’d stick a form rejection in your own SASE, and some agents used to sign it or scribble initials at the bottom. If I’m going to make sure I don’t query someone twice, I’d appreciate a polite email that says no thanks.

Too much to ask?

18 comments on “101 “damnations!”

  1. islandeditions
    November 13, 2017

    Querying agents is kind of like this … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-Kd49_aIjI
    Or death by a thousand cuts. You’re a braver man than I, Gunga Din!

  2. pinklightsabre
    November 13, 2017

    It’s a nice, hardwood floor.

  3. Priscilla
    November 13, 2017

    Yikes, I didn’t know agents don’t normally send even a short email back. That’s rough.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 13, 2017

      Sadly, it’s the industry-wide practice now. I’d imagine they could set up their email system with a form reply option, but no. *sigh*

  4. kingmidget
    November 13, 2017

    Have you tried any publishers that take unagented submissions?

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 13, 2017

      Strangely enough, there aren’t many of those that are interested in literary fiction. Used to be that houses like Graywolf and Milkweed took unagented subs, but not anymore.

      • kingmidget
        November 13, 2017

        It’s odd. It seems to me small publishing houses would be more devoted to more literary pieces.

  5. John W. Howell
    November 13, 2017

    Here is the issue, Kevin. You are dealing with salespeople. They want the easiest road to a million seller. If they have just scored a deal with a publisher, they need to pay attention to that deal. If they haven’t scored a deal with a publisher for a while, they need a sure thing. Either way, they have no time to tell you to kiss off. The eight-week dead man handle is not forged out of courtesy but convenience. (Certainly not yours either.) Take heart in the fact that someday legend will talk about the fact that you queried over 400 agents before your blockbuster 20 million seller was picked up. Trudge on my man.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 13, 2017

      I’m sure you’re right, J-Man. I guess I’ve been around long enough to remember when agents were interested in great writing whether or not it would sell a millions copies. They were into discovering new talent. Now they’re basically screeners for publishers, filtering out the stuff that won’t make money.

      Ah well. It is what it is.

      • John W. Howell
        November 13, 2017

        But keep going. I want to say I knew you when.

  6. Carrie Rubin
    November 13, 2017

    I’ve used Query Tracker. It’s really easy to use and is a great organizer. But yes, the non-responses can be frustrating.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 13, 2017

      I did like QT, but like everything online I think I was spending too much time on it, planning, organizing, searching. This way I just scribble stuff down and get on with life. 😎

  7. Ilona Elliott
    November 13, 2017

    You command my respect just for the fact that you sent 101 queries Kevin!

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 13, 2017

      And the number’s going up this week! I’m aiming for complete saturation. 😈

  8. njcrosskey
    November 17, 2017

    Wishing you the best of luck! FYI – two months AFTER I notified agents I queried that I was signing elsewhere, I am STILL getting form rejections from them – in response to emails in which I was simply withdrawing my submission… One sent me the same rejection twice! So, I don’t wanna say they don’t always read the emails before rejecting… buuuuttt… 😉

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 17, 2017

      Thank you! And congrats on landing your agent.

      I’m not surprised about the double rejections, etc. I have a feeling that a lot of rejections are on the basis of the first line or two of the query — forget the actual text! And I realize they have a ton of stuff to get through, but it’s just so easy these days to appear to be nice about saying no thanks.

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