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Multiple Submissions

Question of the day: I have just completed my first novel, and got a referral from a writer friend to my first agent. My question is, can I query more than one agent at a time? How accepted is this?

Not only is it accepted, it's standard and agents expect that you are out there querying your tush off to agents other than them. Landing an agent is sooooo difficult that you have to protect your own best interests in the process, and you may end up querying 100 agents before landing one. If you did this on a one-by-one basis, you'd be downright geriatric before you got representation. Agents know this, and yes, you should thus be querying a bunch of them at a time. 

When I was on the agent hunt myself, I queried in about 10-person batches. As in, I'd fire off about ten emails and then as a rejection came in, I'd send off another one, so I always had about ten irons in the fire. I know that this is counter-intuitive to magazine writers (such as myself) who are very, very careful not to send in multiple queries for story ideas, but unlike with magazines, who demand some sort of propriety non-compete, agents can't ask for this. And when they do - some will ask for an exclusive read - it is in your best interest to say no. Politely. That you already have the manuscript out with someone else and that while you'd like to honor the exclusive, you simply can't. If they refuse to read, you have a pretty good indication of what said agent would be like to work with, but most will shrug their shoulders and read anyway. They just want a leg up on their competition. Which is fine, but remember that finding an agent is about YOU and YOUR career, not keep querying and keep going. And good luck along the way!

Reader Comments (6)

Not sure why 10 feels like the right number for a batch, but that's exactly what I've been doing as well, and I've seen others say the same thing. I've also seen others admit that they'd sent out a batch of 100. What? The term "shooting yourself in the foot" comes to mind for that approach. My query letter has gone through revisions since that first batch. I'm glad I hadn't sent it to more than 10 before realizing it needed reconstruction. It's a learning process.
Anyway, I'm glad you mentioned that exclusive reads aren't beneficial. I noticed that some agents mention in their guidelines that they want an exclusive read, deeming it as a way of showing respect to them as an agent, and ironically, that didn't seem to respect me as an author. They, of all people, should know how the query process works, namely, that it takes time. I thought maybe I was being overly critical, until I read your post today. Thanks. :)

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLydia Sharp

Thanks for responding to this question. It's funny because it seems that there are two ways of thinking on this one. The one school of thought seems to be the old-fashioned way. I have a friend who said that it used to be a gentleman's business, and especially when you have a personal referral, it's considered tacky to go to more than one. This seems to be how it used to be, and there are some who still follow this. The other school of thought is like what you said - querying multiple at once. That just seems like good business sense.
I'm respecting the friend who introduced me to the agent by waiting for his response, but if it's longer than two weeks, I'm doing ten at a time like you suggest. Since this is my first query, and he's a really reputable agent, I don't mind holding off this once.
Great answer though and advice!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan Lopez

Oh, THANK YOU for this article. I'm feeling much better about my multiple submissions. I had been getting mixed messages within other pieces I'd read. I've been doing just what you said--querying a few at a time and then when a rejection comes in, I'll add another "iron to the fire".

Again, thanks for this.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterE. Annie England

What if:

I am sending out multiple query letters/emails and an agent requests a full or partial manuscript in response and I haven't heard from the other agents I've queried. Since it's only the query stage I don't have to let those unheard-from agents know that another agent has requested the ms, do I?

April 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBessie

Bessie, you don't have to let agents know about others requesting. Agents know that writers are sending multiple queries out--and often, will get multiple requests for fulls/partials. When I was querying, a couple of agents asked if others were looking, and I was honest about that. The more agents that are looking at your material, the better. Now, if you do receive an offer of representation, that's the time to contact the agents who have your material, let them know about the offer, and ask if they're still interested in your work. In my case, a couple of agents bowed out, and one asked for the weekend to finish reading the manuscript. Good luck with your search!

Meagan, I'm glad to hear you're putting a time limit on your query submission. I'm sure your friend, as well as this agent, wouldn't expect you to hold up your search! I had a referral to a great agent from a lovely author. The agent requested my full right away but later passed. (I continued to query and submit during this time.) Not to say that will happen to you, but that a referral is no guarantee.

April 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

Thanks again for your response! I'm certainly not holding my breath with this agent and am continuing to do research. Come this time next week, if no response, out go the queries!
Congratulations on your glowing reviews as well. I can't wait to read it!

April 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan Lopez

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