This afternoon I was going through the list I keep of agents whom I’ve approached. I highlight the ones I’ve not heard back from yet – it’s easier to scroll down the page and see who I’m waiting to hear back from. I look at the list fairly regularly to keep fresh in my mind who they are. (My goal is to always have six agents “out there” at any given time.)
So I was scrolling down the page today and I came to agent #7. She was the one who didn’t have ‘historical fiction’ listed among her areas of interest and most of her recent sales were mysteries. So she was never one on whom I’d pinned any great hopes, but some of her non-mystery sales were well-known books of high quality so I sent out my query anyway. This was back in January and today I realized that I still hadn’t heard from her so I looked up the agency’s Submissions page on their website. Every agency website has a Submissions page in which they detail how they want prospective authors to approach them. It’s very individual and no two agents want the same thing.
On agent #7’s Submissions page it says: Response time is 4 to 6 weeks. Due to the large volume of submissions we receive, we are not able to respond to all email queries. As it happens today marks six weeks to the day so I’m assuming it’s a no. At the risk of sounding peevish, I have to wonder how hard it is to hit “Reply” on your email program and copy’n’paste a canned “Thanks but no thanks”…? I know these people are avalanched with zillions of query letters but isn’t that why God invented interns?
<insert deep sigh here> Okay…so…moving on…to agent #17.
Mr. Agent #17 is in New York – right there on Broadway! – and has been a literary agent since 1984. That’s 27 years so he must know what he’s doing. He doesn’t list ‘historical fiction’ on his website but on agentquery.com he does. Having read his website – his first line reads: “I’m in the business because I love books.” so you gotta love that – I’m guessing he is open to any sort of book that appeals to him. Among his non-fiction interests are history and pop culture so that’s close, right?
He does accept email queries, and wants, in addition to the query letter, a synopsis and the first fifty pages. Having learned from agent #7, I went looking for their query reply policy. We normally respond to email queries within two weeks. If we haven’t responded after two weeks, then we are not interested in the material. Oh well, at least that’s better than having to wait six weeks before you feel like the last wallflower at the prom to realize that nobody’s going to ask you to dance; not even the science geek with ink stains leaking out of his cheap pocket protector.