Ask Daphne! How many is too many?

June 25th, 2008 • Kate

A plethora of shoes for Narda, who asks:

As most agents are very busy and even an E-mail query may take quite awhile to receive a reply, how many agents should you query at one time?

As many as you want, Narda, but more importantly, only as many as you can track. Remember, of course, that you should be researching every agent before you query them, making sure that your work is appropriate for them, and personalizing every email that you send out. Nothing will get your email query deleted unread faster than a huge field of agents’ email addresses in the cc field and a form letter that starts “Dear Agent.”
But if you’ve researched 5 agents whose lists seem to match your work, whose tastes you agree with, whose clients you admire or respect — or if you’ve done that with 10, or 20, or 50 agents — then be sure you’re tracking every email you send out, and go ahead.
Of course, should one of your dream agents respond positively and offer representation, you’ll need to let everyone else know, which may cut down on your widespread querying, but that’s a pretty good problem to have, I’d say.

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3 Responses to “Ask Daphne! How many is too many?”

  1. Trish Says:

    When I was querying, I made a prioritized list of agents based on research I did using the Guide to Literary Agents, the Internet, and the acknowledgements of my favorite YA novels. I had a writer friend tease me about how much work I was making for myself, but when I started sending out e-mails and letters, I knew exactly which agents I was querying and why. Also, I made a point to personalize the letters so the agents knew why, too.

  2. Dwight Says:

    My (somewhat overpriced) mailing labels were six to a sheet. You couldn't run the same sheet through the printer after you peeled some labels off it.
    So my query waves always consisted of six snailmails plus two or three emails.
    I waited about two to three weeks between every wave of mailings as a courtesy to the agents.
    This worked out fine for the first four novels, all of which were roundly ignored.
    For the fifth novel it proved chaos. The fifth wave of mailings had just gone out when all the requests for partials and fulls started pouring in at once. I was so used to apathy that a sudden sunami of interest was hard to manage and a little embarassing.
    I felt like the quintessential used car salesman.
    "Uh, look, I don't want to pressure you or anything, but I've got a gal coming at six to request a Full, so could you make up your mind already?"

  3. Julia Says:

    After doing my research and selecting the agents I felt would be a good fit, I used querytracker dot net to track my queries. It is a free on-line service (I believe it does have paid options, too.)
    I sent out five at first, then as I got a rejection, I was ready to send out another.