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When to Requery

Question of the day: I've spent months on revisions. In addition to querying new agents, I would like retry some who rejected. How is the best way to approach this?

Tricky question, and I'm not sure that there is a perfect solution here. To begin with, I wouldn't requery anyone whom you've queried within the past six months. Overhauling a manuscript (especially your first) takes time, and I don't think agents would think you've done a fair job (and aren't thus wasting their time) if you'd managed to do this in a few months or so. From there, I'd start off by personalizing your query to those who gave you positive feedback the last time. Something along the lines of, 

"Dear XX, Back in June of '09, I queried you with TITLE OF BOOK. At the time, you thought I needed to sharpen the conflict and dialogue. I have spent the past year doing just that, and I'd welcome the opportunity to requery you." 

And then I'd post your query. The above language is rough and just off the top of my head, but you get the idea. 

I'm inclined to say that if someone just flat-out rejected you, I'd let it go. Unless you've overhauled the CONCEPT of the book, not just the writing. Don't forget that when an agent reads a query letter, he or she isn't reading your ms - she's just reading the general synopsis, and if she thinks a book isn't for her six months ago, she likely won't believe it's for her now. Of course, this isn't always true, and if in your heart of hearts, you think that Agent X will fall in love with it and may have overlooked it in her slush pile, I suppose it doesn't hurt to retry. (But I would do so with very few agents.) As for those you never heard back from? Well, I'd just query them as if it's your first time. They may not have really read your query very closely, and I doubt that it will be remembered such that they'll find you annoying or pushy. 

But again, I'd proceed cautiously. I don't think it's the end of the world if an agent remembers your initial query (and the rejection of said initial query), since you can say that you've overhauled the book if asked, but still, you don't want to waste an agent's time, and have her remember you permanently as a pain in the ass.

Just my opinion. Anyone ever done this? How would you advise this reader to proceed?

Reader Comments (4)

Great post, Allison. In my experience, I have only ever resubmitted an overhauled manuscript when the agent specifically and clearly stated that they would be open to seeing it. Otherwise, I heartily agree with your advice, and would say to let it go. What IS a good idea, is to keep track of any agent who--even after a rejection--spoke favorably of your writing, and especially an agent who offered to consider any future projects. I think most agents want to know you have more than one story in you--and sometimes I think as writers we need a push in the direction of when it's time to cut bait on a story that isn't working and move on to a new project.

April 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErika Marks

hmmm this is a tough one.

Considering that the idea of the query is to put our best foot forward (so to speak), if the potential agent has already seen a hang nail I'm not sure how easily the first impression can be brain-bleached.

I agree with Erika above, unless the agents solicited for future projects or is opened to reviewing revamped work I would say just move on to others and keep those agents who has passed in mind for the future projects.

Good luck!

April 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSophie Li

I have to say that there were a couple of agents who rejected my original query and when I overhauled, I did resubmit. I am shocked and please to report that they've requested fulls on the new query/pages. Most of the resubs were off of previous requested material and so far they have passed but the two who requested were two I'd really felt would be interested, despite the fact that they hadn't requested before.

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterB

I would re-query if an agent had demonstrated interest in my work at some point. Otherwise no.
If I find an agent that responds positively to a query or sample, but later declines, I will keep that information and query them again on a different project. But I wouldn't query the same agent on a re-vamped manuscript if their response the first time around was "this is not for me."
I'm often tempted to re-query an agent that has not responded, if I feel strongly about the agent. I suppose things can get lost in slush piles. But I don't think I've ever had a successful re-query of an agent who didn't respond to the first e-mail or responded with a form email. Sometimes you have to just move on ...

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDean Monti
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