Why Agents Close to Queries

And Are You the Exception?

OMG we had such a fun Open Thread last Thursday! If you want to participate in the next one, hit that subscribe button down there and you’ll get an email directing you to the next Open Thread when it happens. I answered questions like “how can I learn anything from form rejections?” and “if someone's goal was to write a book with the highest chance of selling in a year, what would you tell them?” Subscribe now—$5/mo, $50/year—to see those answers and more.

Hi Friends,

I have an obscene backlog of queries. It’s really bad. It gnaws at me. I feel guilty about it. But clients come first, and right now, there’s a lot of client work. This is good—for me and my clients. Not so great for queriers. So as of July 1, 2019, I’m closing to new queries.

Why, though, really? I mean, see above. The pile just gets bigger and bigger and I get further behind and I feel even more guilty and I lose sleep over it (really) and it sucks. I makes me LESS productive. Closing to queries means I can read and respond and the pile gets smaller, and hopefully find something great. Getting through queries is wonderful feeling, even if that means I’m rejecting a lot. I always reject a lot. Every agent always rejects a lot of the slush pile. That’s just how it goes. There are always more books than there are slots to represent or publish.

I know I could miss something great while I’m closed to queries. That’s basically true all the time anyway. There’s always an agent who’s faster, who sees something I don’t see, who knows something about an editor I don’t know. I got chill about that a long time ago (mostly). I have FOMO about a lot of things, but I try not to let submissions FOMO kill the rest of my work.

There are, as I’m sure you’ll be glad to know, some exceptions to closed to queries. Here’s what I consider them to be, but YMMV with other agents.

  1. A REAL personal connection.

    Are you a member of my extended family? Then you’re an exception. A friend since 3rd grade? A colleague for a decade? Probably also an exception. Do we text, DM? Then yeah, you’re probably an exception. DO NOT FUDGE THIS. If you’re not sure, you probably have a way to ask me that’s not a query, and thus you have your answer.

  2. An ACTUAL client or colleague referral

    Is my client or friend introducing us by email? Has my client or friend emailed me to give me aheads up that your work is coming? That’s a real referral. Someone mentioning my name to you as an agent who exists in the world is not a referral. Googling “literary agent” and finding my name is not a referral from Google (jfc people). If you want a real referral, ask for it, but be prepared to hear no (and clients, you’re welcome to say no for whatever reason you want!). Some writers don’t want to share their agent. Some writers don’t really want to tell you that they know I won’t like your work. It’s ok. That’s their right. But if you have a real referral, you can query anytime.

    Put REFERRED BY XYZ CLIENT in the subject line, and I’ll see it.

  3. We met at a conference or class

    Did you attend a conference or class I taught and I said you could query me? You can do that anytime, even if I’m closed to queries. I know! It’s a magic get past the gates free card. To use this card, put MET AT XYZ CONFERENCE in the subject line.

    I mean, you could lie about that part, if you wanted to. But then you would be the kind of person who lied about personal connections to get an agent, and frankly, that’s not the kind of client I want. If and when it came out, it would severely damage our relationship.

I’m going to be closed to queries for the summer, and possibly longer. If your manuscript/proposal is done (I mean DONE) and you want to query me, don’t wait. I expect a flood before the gates close, and that’s fine and normal. I answer every query I receive, so if you’re waiting for an answer, it’s coming, I promise. Believe me, I don’t want to be this slow. Closing to queries helps me get you an answer faster.

And lastly, a little book news!

Last week saw the publication of IT FEELS GOOD TO BE YOURSELF: A Book About Gender Identity, by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni. This picture book is the prefect gender identity explainer, for kids AND adults tbh, complete with absolutely beautiful and inviting illustrations. Buy one to keep at Grandma’s house. Tell your librarian to order one. Make it your go-to birthday gift. It’s an important book. You don’t have to take my word for it either! It’s earned THREE starred reviews, from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly.

If someone you know needs or could use this information, you can just forward them this email. Spread the word, friends. I want to make book publishing a less opaque industry, at least the how to break into it part.