Friday, March 07, 2008

Seeking Advice

I am at the shopping around period with my latest book. I'm doing so without an agent. Even agentless, I still want to get it in front of the most editors who may be interested in my work. Of course.

So, here's my dilemma: Should I send out queries or partial packages?

That's simple, you say. Send whichever the submission page for that publishing house suggests.

Ah, but it's not that simple and I'll tell you why. Often what the web submission page states and what other resources (RWA magazine or editor websites) suggest are two different things. Query vs. a partial, for example, as well as a preference for snail mail over email, or the other way around.

I posed this question to some writer friends the other day. Here are some of their suggestions:

Always send a partial. Queries are a crap shoot.

Send queries, but attach or enclose a few sample pages so the editor can see a sample of your writing style.

Send a query letter first. If that editor doesn't respond, send a partial to another editor at the same house.

As for my personal thoughts on this -- I dunno. I've had requests and gotten rejections in the past with both queries and partials, although I've gotten more form rejections when I've only sent a query.

So, what is your take? What do you tend to do? What has worked best for you in the past? ie: Gotten the most full requests? Thanks ahead of time for your help, and of course, please don't use specific editors' or house names.


Elisabeth Naughton said...

I'm afraid I'm zero help, Danita. I never queried editors on my own, and when I sent to agents, I only ever sent exactly what was specified on their submission pages. I'd heard too many stories of agents tossing packets because writers couldn't follow directions.

Hopefully someone else will have useful advice for you.

Good luck with your submissions!

Alice Sharpe said...

I can't help you much, either, Danita.

I guess I would say to go with what is the most direct from the publisher's mouth information you can get. So I would think to follow their own web pages rather than a magazine that may be out of date. And I would put in the query letter something along the lines of, "I am including a sample chapter as in accordance with the specifications on your website," or something like that citing where you got the information.

When I used to submit, I would send more than a query letter. A query letter seems like little more than an unnecessary middle step.

My two cents.

This may sound odd coming from me, but I hope you haven't given up looking for an agent. Good luck!

(and congrats on the upcoming hairy baby!)

Danita Cahill said...

Thanks for the good luck wishes, Eli! I'd like to rub your head or something for some additional luck. Ha!

I'm talking about the RWA mag section, isn't it called changes to submissions? Seems it may be the most current information, but I could be wrong about that. Sometimes folks change horses in the middle of a river, so to speak. One agent's site said 'send first three chapters by snail mail' which I did. Having not heard back a few months later, I checked the website again, and the instructions had changed to 'send first 10 pages and query by email. No unsolicited partials will be read anymore'. So, I did that too. It can be dang confusing at times!

I've still got partials out with a few agents. May try a few more. I give a couple handfuls of agents a whirl with each book.

Danita Cahill said...

Oh, and as an aside, I heard from an editor at the Sunday paper today. An essay I wrote will be in this Sunday's edition.

Ah, I do enjoy seeing my byline in bold print. A little sickness I seem to have contracted somewhere...ha!

Karen Duvall said...

I'm with Eli, Danita. I would never send directly to an editor, not these days. Since everyone and their brother, sister and cousin are writing books now because computers have made it so "easy" (snort), publishers are to the point of thinking that if it's not screened by an agent first, it must be crap. Not all are that way, of course. And since there are only 7 major U.S. publishers left, well...

I know you can send unsolicited material directly to Harlequin. As for the others, unsolicited material gets tossed in a slush pile and after collecting cob webs and dust for several months are then read by interns at a pizza party. The odds of getting picked from the pile are less than stellar.

Danita, I'd never be one to tell you what's best, but I'm just sayin'... 8^) Get an agent. Seriously.

Karen Duvall said...

Oh, I forgot to chime in on the query/partial thing. Just do what the guidelines say. It's safer to follow directions rather than risk the wrath of an overworked agent. I'm still waiting to hear back on the partials I sent along with queries to a few agents who wanted both. I know a lot of agents choose not to respond at all if they're not interested, and I think that's just plain rude. But that's how it is.

Danita Cahill said...

So far it's unanymous -- Get an agent Cahill!

The only thing I'd love more than finding a good agent, as far as writing goes, is to find a good editor who loves my work.

Alice Sharpe said...

"The only thing I'd love more than finding a good agent, as far as writing goes, is to find a good editor who loves my work."

Danita, one will follow the other.

Don't give up on the agent thing, just keep working your way down your list. One of these people is going to read your stuff, read it again to make sure she understood the digit nibbling part (on the new book) sit up straight and grin ear to ear. Then she'll get on the phone.

Maybe she's not the first agent you'd choose, so what? Maybe she's new, maybe she (or he) is tired of reading the same old thing. Who knows?

The editor comes after that.

Danita Cahill said...

This is sort of funny advice coming from you, Alice. You of multi-pub credits under your belt...and no agent.

But I'm off to send some queries to agents now.

Karen Duvall said...

Ah, but Alice is published with the one major publisher that doesn't require agented submissions.

Danita, go to

Join and create your own query list, and let querytracker track your submissions for you. I love it! Try it and you'll see what I mean.

Danita Cahill said...

Thanks for the query tracker site, Karen. I remember you mentioning it at the retreat. You also mentioned an agent you thought I should send to -- which I just did, plus another. Both are new.

wavybrains said...

I also haven't submitted directly to editors. Most agents are leary of work that has already been shopped around.

With agents, I kept to their guidelines until I noticed that I always got a full or partial request from those that had the first few pages. Perhaps that means that I suck at query letter writting. So, I enclosed the first five pages on a few additional queries--and lo and behold, more responses! With e-queries though, it is much harder to vary from what they ask for, so I'd keep in mind what format you are submitting in.

wavybrains said...

Oh, and if agent searching is getting you down, I might add that I did over 20 odd queries before I got my first full request. I've done close to 50 agent queries for the YA. I seem to get a full request out of every 10 that I send out. It really does pay off to query very broadly. (Says the one who doesn't actually have an agent :P)

Danita Cahill said...

But you do have some fulls out right now, don't you Wavy?

Thanks for your take on this. Maybe check out the link I sent to the loop about the writer who blanketed both agents and editors with queries -- 32 in a week. And when he got an offer of representation, what did he do?

Check out the link to find out. (How's that for a teaser?!)