Monday, January 14, 2008

Question: When should you query?

Writing can be a kind of "hurry up and wait" situation, with a good amount of time between submitting a manuscript and actually seeing it in print. My first book (un-agented, but with a traditional publisher) is due out in Spring 2008. I'd like to start querying agents for my next "big project" but would like your advice on whether I should wait and see what the reception is to the first book (it's a history title) or begin querying in advance.

This is a tough one, and I expect you would get different advice from different agents.

There's no special cachet that might make me look at your query differently if you waited to pitch your book till after it has been published, excepting possible sales and publicity. But this is a double-edged sword - your book may not sell well (no matter how well-written it is), but if you don't wait for publication you could miss an opportunity to cash in on any possible success.

I'd probably suggest querying agents now, unless you're expecting some good reviews or blurbs to come in for the book in the near future, or the publisher intends to spend significant amounts of money on publicity. Also, the querying process is long and ongoing, so it's quite possible that you could still be querying by the time your book has published and you can then alter your query accordingly.


la fourchette said...

Is it preferable to begin with an agent to pitch a project or go directly to the publisher(s) with query letters? I know that some agents take new/unpublished writers.

I'm new at this and tempted to go the 'agent route' but if there is a reason to go one direction or the other, I'd be interested in knowing the difference. advance.

Jonathan Lyons said...

You should almost always try to get an agent first. In fact, most publishers won't even look at material written by an unagented author.

Jim Schmidt said...


Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question. It is good advice, indeed. I suppose the most important part of the advice is that while writing/publishing can be a "hurry up and wait" process, so can the querying/agent process, and I may be able to parlay my (hoped-for!) success into my query letters as I am looking for a good match.

Keep up the great work on the blog - I am a regular reader and will remain so!


Jennifer L. Griffith said...

One thing I've learned on this journey to securing an agent and potential publication, the process is a series of double-edge swords.

Thise business if full of paper cuts and shredders, but worth it in the end.

Thanks for offering up such great advice! I truly appreciate it.

la fourchette said...

Just wanted to say "thank you".