Ask Daphne! About Query Services

December 9th, 2009 • Kate

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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6 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About Query Services”

  1. Kristi Says:

    I have not and wouldn't use a query service. I have a friend who is doing that for her non-fiction book but I think in fiction, the point of a query is to demonstrate your voice as well as describe the story. I'm not sure a service would adequately reflect the voice of your work and even if you wrote the query yourself, you'd be trusting that service to understand your book so well that they've targeted the perfect list of agents.

    My feeling is that if you've invested so much time in creating a polished novel and dazzling query, why wouldn't you also invest the time in researching ideal agents for your work? If you spend any time reading author and agent blogs, it's not difficult to discern which agents might be a great fit for you.

    As far as the agency online forms, I haven't yet begun the query process but don't think any of the agents on my list use them.

  2. Delilah S. Dawson Says:

    I am experimenting with Agent Inbox, but I'm finding the UI very clunky. Each time you want to send a sample to an agent, you must completely redo their entire form, and then it must be checked by hand. It's slower than the traditional query process, and having to depend on an intermediary is a little maddening.

    I do have a full manuscript out to an agent I queried using their agency's online form, so that experience was a positive one.

  3. Rose G. Moriarty Says:

    Thanks so much for answering my question! Plus, I love the shoes! Very…unusual! I posed the same question to Nathan Bransford on his forums and he said that he preferred to be contacted by writers directly. As for me, I haven't tried a query service,and at this point I don't think I will. I'm not so sure there's any benefit to such a service. After all, a great query is a great query, no matter how it lands in your inbox. Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to answer my question!

  4. Stina Says:

    Where's the fun in using a query service? Part of the whole experience of writing a novel includes the research. Not only researching aspects of your novel, for example post traumatic stress disorder, but also trying to figure out which agent might be interested in your novel. And sure it's stressful trying to determine if, say, Kate is interested in your book before you query her (or any other agent). But as Kristi pointed out, you can get a lot of info from agent's blogs, Publishers Marketplace, and by reading their clients' books (though some sort of paranormal skill would definitely be benefical :D). All these things aren't hard to do, and are a lot cheaper than using a service.

  5. Kristi Says:

    Stina – you probably wouldn't need to research Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because you can experience it for yourself during the query process 🙂 Although I do hope the query experience is not quite as traumatic as I think it'll be.

  6. Stina Says:

    Kristi–LOL. That explains the nightmares and terrifying flashbacks everytime I open my inbox. 😀