querying

Simple word. Not so simple process.

In the last couple of weeks I have been submitting queries to literary agents for Obelus. (The novel is as finished as I can get it, though I did add “like an aneurysm” at one point in it over the weekend.)

This is harrowing work! It requires a lot of mental effort and a certain robust level of self belief, at least for me. I’ve written a query, and rewritten it a few times, and rewritten it more than a few times when I’ve pasted it into an email and re-read it. I struggled for a long time (well, several weeks) with writing a synopsis, then rewriting it to get it under two pages, then rewriting it every time I opened it. And then assembling all of this in the specification of each agent I thought might be a suitable target.

I’ve been researching agents every day. Mostly I’ve been relying on the huge listing in Duotrope (approximately 850 good souls), which is searchable based on a few criteria. But Obelus is quirky enuf — BTW, I’ve replaced nearly every occurrence of “enough” in the manuscript with “enuf” as part of the metafiction — that the search criteria in Duotrope don’t really align with it. After exhausting the few listings for “comedic” and “quirky” I’ve just begun going through the hundreds of agents who are interested in “literary” and visiting their actual websites to see if they might be suitable. (That’s another beef. Many of the agent websites are more biography than interest. You can often learn more about their education and pets than about the kinds of fiction they’re interested in.) I send my emails or complete the site submission forms and cross my fingers and move on to the next. (I’ve also dipped into AgentQuery, but I think that site’s gone static, and Manuscript Wishlist, but that’s pretty vague.)

I’m still convinced this is a numbers game. I can’t get a clear enuf indication from the listings and bios exactly what most agents want, and I suppose it’s an intangible want anyway, that I mostly just submit to any who don’t specifically rule themselves out. For example, I’ve come across many “literary” agents who turn out to only be interested in young adult novels (but no sparkly vampires, thank you!) or family sagas or even nonfiction. Those I pass. But the remainder mostly get a query from me. I feel that sooner or later my query is going to land before the right agent in the right frame of mind at the right moment to create an interest.

I don’t think I’ve exhausted even a quarter of the potential agents in Duotrope (either with a submission or a confirmation they’re not suitable), so I’ll be at this for a while.

Curiously, I have not been doing much other writing. I have an idea for my next novel, but it’s still gestating and far from a point where I can begin writing it. No short stories are demanding my attention, though I have a few ideas I think are pretty good.

In other news, grand #8, named Paul, is doing well. He’s three weeks old today, and I’ve been to visit him in St. Louis once (though with the virus rampant, that’s a risky thing to do).

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2 Comments on “querying”


  1. I’m almost to the point of wider queries with my latest. I tend to query 3-5 agents at a time and perhaps wait too long before the next round goes out. But I’ve started trying to keep 10 things out there at once and seeing how it all goes.

    I sometimes look at my query and think, “Man, I don’t have enough conflict in the query,” or, “No comparable novels,” and all that other market-y stuff.

    I suspect your plan is much better, looking at it more as a numbers game, and hope someone appreciates what you’ve written enuf to say, “All right…let’s do all we can to get this out there!”


  2. It is a numbers game, and I am caught up in it. I subscribed to Publishers Marketplace. Ugh. But on the bright side, young Paul is adorable.


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