YOU (those of you querying) all know, because you are loyal readers who pay attention, that I am closed to new queries. There’s probably plenty of you out there who don’t care or don’t need to know, and that’s ok. Forward this to any of your querying friends to add to their own querying toolkit. I’m going to talk about the process behind why I’m not opening to queries…yet.
I’ve been closed to new queries since July 1. Over six months! Kate, you might say, but how do you have any new clients? How do you have any books to sell? I have plenty to sell, even after a crazy 2019, I have a very productive client list. That’s kinda the goal, as an agent, to fill your list with repeater clients that write amazing books that you can sell with no muss or fuss. There’s always muss and fuss, so it doesn’t work that way, and any agent’s client list expands and contracts for many different reasons. Some clients just write one book. Some clients’ careers end early and there’s nothing you can do. Some clients leave and some clients you have to let go. The client list is a living, breathing thing.
But it isn’t infinite. There isn’t a number that is Too Many and Too Few (though 1 might be too few, depending on that 1) but there’s definitely a feeling when you’ve got more than you can handle. Your response time tanks. Things slip through the cracks. It’s not a great feeling. That’s where I was in early 2019, and it took me to July to stem the flow. Then it took me until like Halloween to get through the backlog. There was a point where I had over 2,000 unanswered queries in my inbox. It was not good. And I answered them. (There might be one or two of you waiting from a response from me—sit tight.)
I believe in answering my queries myself. I don’t have an intern do it and I don’t have a no response means no policy. I toyed with that last one, but to be honest, it’s very easy for me to send a polite rejection. I have many programs that help me do this. Reading them is the hard part, not answering them.
I am, however, entertaining the thought of opening back up again. I want more fiction for adults (SF/F, literary, mid-century historical) and I’m starting to feel that itch again, for new and exciting things. I get new and exciting things as referrals in my inbox everyday, but I also love the hunt and chance of the slush pile. You just never know what you’re going to discover.
I have two choices though:
Open to queries to a VERY limited set of genres. Because there are just something things I don’t need, can’t sell, don’t want to sell, and/or aren’t interested in anymore.
Read things pretty quickly and respond fast.
Peopel are just going to ignore me if I do option 1. They just are. It sucks and wastes my time and makes reading queries annoying.
Option 2! Option 2! I can hear you chant, but really, queriers, y’all get SO MAD when an agent responds fast. You send nasty emails back that say you didn’t even read this how dare you. Those emails are not fun to get. (DON’T RESPOND TO REJECTION FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.) And not true. I read my queries.
Nine times out of ten when I respond quickly to a query it’s because the genre isn’t right for me. I don’t sell anything with spies, politicians, FBI agents, or detectives. I don’t really like thrillers. I avoid novels over about 175k words. Those things are Not For Me. That’s what a fast rejection means—not that it wasn’t good. But the recipient doesn’t know that (and telling them in a rejection doesn’t help, trust me. It just invites arguement). All they see is REJECTION. I get it. I do. For my workflow, for doing my JOB, I need to get through queries relatively quickly so they don’t pile up. But it’s not a perfect solution, so I’m still figuring it out.
My point here, really, is that agents do think a lot about queries, even when we’re closed. We want good things in the slush pile, but by the law of averages, we’re going to take on very little of it. We know it’s hard for writers and we try to be kind. Just remember, a rejection is not solely a value assessment. You have to fit on an agent’s list and in the marketplace. Yeah, it sucks. We know. No one said this was going to be easy.
I’m probably going to open up again in a few months. You’ll know from Twitter and our website and this newsletter. Until then, know that agents are trying. We really are.
[Number of queries I received while writing this post, even though I’m closed: 3]