Good Query Practice – Choose a Book, Stay With It

Which path will you choose?

Which path will you choose?

By Dawn Frederick

As an agent, it’s my goal to have a long-term partnership with any of my authors.  It’s not only the idea that matters, but the author and teamwork too.

A common error seen in the many queries is an author offering multiple books in the body of one query.  Usually in the form of a bulletpoint list of the various books that a writer is working on.

First things first, that’s amazing!  The best way to become a good writer is to flex those writing muscles; it’s very normal to have more than one book in the hopper.

However, as an agent, I’d rather see the best, most fine-tuned, commercially ready idea a writer has.  Specifically one that falls within my categories and is at the point where it’s pretty much ready to take to the publishers.  For YA or MG fiction this means the book is completed, as yes I have received queries for incomplete ideas in these categories – only to learn about this issue upon requesting the materials.  For nonfiction, the book doesn’t need to be fully completed, but a full book proposal and sample chapters is a great start (along with a platform to match the idea).

Here’s how listing every single work-in-progress clogs up a query:

1. Attempting to write for multiple categories can reflect a lack of focus.  Instead choose one book and send out the queries.  Once an agent is interested, that is the perfect time to converse about the other works-in-progress as the new partnership is forged.

2. The query becomes too long and too wordy.  When attempting to read all the queries that we receive, it’s better to have a good logline and simple query letter without rambling.  Listing every single WIP isn’t going to help any writer get far during the query process.  It’s a better use of one’s time to write an all-around awesome query letter for ONE book, the book will appreciate it (as well as the agent).

3. Often the other works-in-progress fall outside some agency categories.  ex:  Someone writing a children’s book may also write business and parenting books, or other non-Red Sofa categories, which should not be included in the query letter.  It’s to any author’s advantage to take one book and send it to agents who represent that category vs. listing many other books (complete or incomplete) that are outside those agents’ categories.

Which book is ready? That is the best path to go down, with the potential for future “adventures” for the other books you’re working on.

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  1. danielbensen on June 30, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Every Monday I spent my “writing time” working on querying. Putting together the materials, building a list of potentially interested agents, working my way through the list…it usually took me about a year to go through the whole list, by which time I had a new book ready 🙂
    Love the new site design, by the way.

  2. Terrence Black on July 17, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Other unrelated books or genres. If you’re writing a romance novel and you want an agent to work with you on another project (a thriller), it’s best to focus on one project at a time. The query letter is not necessarily the place to mention multiple projects. If an agent shows interest in one of your projects and you feel you can develop a rapport, then that’s the time to mention your other ventures. But until that point, try not to overwhelm him or her.