Ask Daphne! About Query Services

bizarreRandom, very odd shoes for Rose, who contributed Today’s Ask An Expert question. She wants to know:

What do agents really think of submission services?

Well, Rose, I think there’s two different things that come to mind when I think of submission services. There’s companies writers may hire to send out their queries for them, and then there’s services agents may work with to cull their submissions.

Personally, I’d rather an author not use a for-pay submission service. I’ve had too many queries come to me for the wrong type of book, where I can tell a service is just working down a list they have somewhere, rather than instituting the careful agent search that I, and many of my agenting colleagues, suggest authors use to find an agent. Plus, a submission services doesn’t necessarily personalize your query, which is another no-no in my book.

As for a query service like WeBook’s Agent Inbox, I don’t use them myself, so I asked Colleen Lindsay, literary agent with FinePrint Literary Management for her take. She responded:

My primary purpose in trying out Agent Inbox [on an exclusive basis only until January] is to see if it really does weed out irrelevant (or insane) queries, if it makes it easier to respond and if – at some point – our agency may want to use a similar online form (like some agents already do) AND if it can save me time in going through and rejecting a lot of queries.

My very early thoughts: the overall quality of the queries I’m seeing is much better, ie, they seem to screen to make sure that you are getting only those genres you request and that the letters are addressed to the agent and that you are getting the pages as well. For me, this kind of screening is a huge help, because it basically cuts out anyone who clearly doesn’t want to or is incapable of following submission guidelines.

What they don’t check is word count, because even with the screening, I still saw some queries for books whose length exceeded 200k.

However, there are some things that I think are more complicated in Agent Inbox. For one, I think they ask the authors for too much information, and kind of make them jump through hoops to send a query. Not sure I like the idea of making the writers’ jobs harder than it already is. For instance, I personally don’t care what the writer’s education is unless the book is non-fiction. But I seem to get elaborate schooling info that serves no purpose for me. It may be more useful for those agents who are looking for serious or prescriptive non-fiction, however.

That being said, I have seen at least three queries I thought were amazing and and I’ve requested one manuscript already!

Thanks, Colleen!

I’m lucky enough to work closely with Intern Jenny in looking at my queries, so we can quickly respond to those authors whose books are totally wrong for me and my agency, and spend more time on the queries with possibility. it seems like Agent Inbox acts a lot like a really attentive intern!

Rose, I hope that helps! Authors, have you used a query service? Would you? Have you submitted queries via any agency’s online forms, and how did that go? No specifics, just general reactions.

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