Getting An Agent – Querying In Batches

I talk a lot about the querying process. Maybe someday I can talk about actually working with an agent. But, if you’ve been following me for a while, you know that traditionally published books need an agent and that most publishing houses don’t accept submissions for unagented works. You know, in order to get an agent, you need to send them a one-page query letter, telling them about the story — the characters and the stakes, the manuscript’s stats and comparative novels, and a brief biography of yourself. I’ve talked about how to pick who to query. I’ve even let you know about my worries about when to send that query letter.

But that’s not all you need to think about.

There’s debate about how many agents to query at a time, when to stop, and whether to give up and ‘drawer’ the manuscript or self-publish. I know I have the bad habit of revising my whole manuscript every ten queries or so, which I shouldn’t need to do unless I’m getting consistent feedback or my manuscript isn’t ready.

However, I’ve been running into querying writers who are sending out ten queries a day, without stop, until they’ve queried everyone in their genre, (or at least not opposed to their genre.)

Stop it!

You’re only hurting your own chances.

I agree that queries should be sent out in batches — but of 3-5, maybe up to 10. But then you need to wait. You need to see what sort of responses you’re getting.

If you’re getting form rejections, that doesn’t tell you if the agent doesn’t find your voice or story compelling, nor does it say that it’s not what the market is looking for. It simply means your query (and/or your first 10-pages) aren’t working.

It’s a LOT easier to edit or tweak a query and opening chapter than it is to revise and revamp an entire manuscript. But, industry standards are such that one does not re-query with the same manuscript unless there have been substantial changes — plot, pacing, characters — to a majority of the story.

A slight aside about those opening pages – a lot of publishers and agents and even veteran writers have told me that newbie writers often start the story in the wrong place — even if their writing is great.

Now, back to the query talk. If you query every agent immediately, you’ll never know if the problem is your query and opening, or the story itself.

If you query in smaller batches, you can tweak and adjust until you’re getting requests for more pages, or more personalized rejections. Both mean you’re getting closer. Feedback is useful, but lack of feedback just means you haven’t hit the mark yet (or you’ve been querying the wrong people).

Don’t waste your query chances with your first polished query. Once you’re getting rejections on partial or full requests, it may be time to query more widely, because you’ve got the query just right. Or, it might be time to look at the story. But all a form rejection means on a query is that the query isn’t working.

Slow down your querying. The publishing industry is a slow process, and rushing the querying process won’t do anything but close doors to your current manuscript.


Have you queried a manuscript? What did you find to be the right size for a batch?

Have you mass queried and actually had it work?

Author Spotlight: James Schannep

  • a purveyor of interactive fiction & gamebooks for grown-ups

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to James Schannep!

James Schannep has a son and a daughter, a cat and a dog, enjoys both running and napping, loves vanilla and chocolate, has a desire to travel but also to stay put and write. He loves horror, comedy, and nearly everything in between. Rather than being torn asunder by his dichotomies, he harnesses these schizophrenic impulses by writing branching fiction with over fifty possible endings.

James, thanks for agreeing to be here today. While most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I always wanted a pet dinosaur as a kid, so it’s going to be really hard not to say dinosaur, but… if we’re talking fantasy, I’m going to have to go with Lying Cat from Saga. Let’s face it, a dinosaur would be a bit much for a lot of life, but a walking, talking lie detector that’s fiercely loyal and gives smugly sarcastic side-long glances? It’s perfect. Purrfect. Oh, my car needs a new transmission? What say you, Lying Cat? It’s time to renegotiate my contract? Sorry, Lying Cat absolutely needs to be in the room for that. I don’t have enough time to get my writing done? Okay, okay, Lying Cat — thanks for keeping me on track. And you’re right, I do still want a dinosaur, if we’re being honest.

Now I have the ‘Dino, the Last Dinosaur’ song stuck in my head. But yes, I could see a cat being friendly and Lying Cat being… so much more helpful.

What do you write? And how did you get started?

A chance conversation with a friend contained the question, “Why aren’t there any Choose Your Own Adventure books for adults?” That led down a Google rabbit hole, a writing experiment, and eventually a passion for a new form of storytelling.

Yay for a new era of choose your own adventures!

What do you like to read?

Part of the fun for me is that each interactive book I take on is in a different subgenre. So, for a few months I become a zombie fanatic. Then, once that’s done, I read all the best mystery writing I can get my hands on. After I finish my detective story, I become immersed in the superhero genre, and on and on it goes.

Love it! I know some authors who are more interested in research than writing…

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Don’t worry about the details, it’s fiction.

No. No, no, no, no. I love learning; as a writer, as a reader, as a human. So if consuming entertainment can also teach me something? Good! I believe if a detail in a book can be accurate, it should be accurate. In addition to being a small way to improve upon society through microeducation, researching various topics also prevents us from alienating certain segments of our readership. We all know the nurse who hates the way X portrays hospitals or the soldier who can’t watch Y because the details are laughably wrong. Don’t they deserve to be immersed in your stories as well? 

I’m with you one-hundred percent. I’ve heard one of the things you should try to never do is to kick your audience out of the story, triggering their disbelief, and making them stop to think about the story. Getting small details wrong can ruin the story for plenty of people.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

No one can tell the story the way you can.

I’m going to write a haunted house story next. Haunted house stories have been done…ahem…to death, but no one has ever told a haunted house story the way that I can. And if I don’t, who will?

Definitely! I’ve heard writer friends stress out, because a published book sounded superficially like theirs. But, Pocahontas, Avatar, and Fern Gully all have the same plot, but very different styles and moods. And they’re all enjoyable in different ways. Just because a plot sounds similar to yours doesn’t mean your story will be seen as a copy-cat. As long as you’re not plagiarizing, you should be fine.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!


New release time! SPIED has just launched. 3 Unique Storylines. Over 50 Possible Endings. Just one question…Can YOU Crack the Code as a Secret Agent?

SPIED is a suspense thriller unlike any other — YOU are the main character. Recruited from the lower-levels of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to become a field agent (finally!), it’s up to you to break into secure facilities, solve cryptic puzzles, expose potential moles, and suavely talk your way out of any situation before shadowy forces [REDACTED] the world!

Praise for SPIED: “Filled with so many twists and turns, Schannep had me both shaken and stirred.” -Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series

If spies aren’t for you, check out James’s other choose-your-own-adventure stories: Murdered, Infected, Superpowered, Marooned, and Pathogens.


Check James Schannep out across the web!

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Book Trailer | Amazon

Week In Review: February 12

In Case You Missed it: here’s the round up of all of my latest content, plus updates from old guests!

Read on if you want to know more.

If not? See you next week with more writing tips and writerly musings.

Coming up this week:

Taking the week off.

Content Around The Web:

On Youtube:

  • Life Happens – You know how I’m always saying to be kind and forgiving of yourself when life happens? Well, this week, I’m practicing what I preach and putting my family first.

On the Podcast:

  • Why You Should Consider An Agent If You Want To Be Traditionally Published – You can only spend so long revising and editing a novel. But then what? If you want to get your novel traditionally published, you’re gonna need to query some agents. This episode answers your burning questions: What are your publishing options? What are the benefits of having an agent? Where do you find an agent? And more!

On The Blog (In Case You Missed It):

  • Life Happens – You know how I’m always saying to be kind and forgiving of yourself when life happens? Well, this week, I’m practicing what I preach and putting my family first.
  • Author Spotlight Guest: Cas E. Crowe – a YA dark fantasy/horror/thriller writer, artist, creative thinker, and jogging addict. Check out her interview, writing tips, and more.

Events:

None coming up.

What I’ve Been Reading:

More Zoe Chant paranormal romance novellas, Rafael, the latest Anita Blake book (by Laurel K Hamilton), and rereading some old Anita Blake’s cause I was trying to remember when some stuff happened.

New Works By Previous Guests!

Nothing this week, but a lot of great stuff coming up soon!


Here’s a picture from this past weekend — me grinning having just had a successful first paid speaking gig.

May be an image of 1 person

Life Happens

They say consistency is key. That you need to set a schedule and keep to it if you’re ever going to reach your goals.

But.

Remember how I’m always talking about being kind to yourself? Understanding and respecting your own limits? Plus. Beating yourself up for failing to meet every goal perfectly is a great way to destroy your emotional health.

I almost posted something about picking point of view characters and carried on like a normal week. But? It’s not.

Since Friday, my dad got his first book deal, had a birthday, and failed a stress test. His outpatient procedure on Tuesday turned into a “you’re staying here and having a triple bypass on Thursday morning.” Other than the obvious, he’s in great shape, good spirits, and has a 99% chance of a perfect outcome.

This clearly was not on the schedule for this week.

On the other hand, my twin sister’s second daughter is due Friday and, along with her husband, I’m her support person. I’ve been quarantining since two weeks before the due date.

So. That’s where I’m at. I’m acknowledging my coping limits and probably gonna go hide my head in a book — in between watching my phone for notifications.

When life happens, sometimes, all you can do is acknowledge it and ride it out.


Have you had life interrupt your plans? Feel free to share your experiences for better or worse.

Author Spotlight: Cas E. Crowe

  • a YA dark fantasy/horror/thriller writer, artist, creative thinker, and jogging addict.

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to Cas E. Crowe!

From a young age, Cas E Crowe knew she wanted to be a writer. As a child, she spent her lunch times at school creating weird and haunting stories for her classmates to listen to. An admirer of all things spooky and quirky, her grandfather recognised her unusual hobby as a gift and built her a haunted dollhouse to stage her stories.

Cas studied a creative arts degree majoring in design and a graduate certificate in animation at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. She has worked as a shop-assistant, a graphic designer, an office manager, and now pursues her dream of writing. The Wayward Haunt is her first novel in the Wayward Series, a story that spun in her mind for ten years until it was finally typed onto a computer. Amongst Cas’s likes are writing, painting, drawing, travel and watching movies in her pyjamas (at home, not at the cinemas). She resides in Brisbane, Australia with her cat, and is furiously typing away at her next novel.

Cas, thanks for agreeing to be here today. While most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

A dragon of course. Who wouldn’t want a dragon? No one would dare rob you in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t mind a tiger either. I was very envious of Princess Jasmine and Raja when I was a little girl. I guess that’s why I have a calico cat now.

Classic choices, all around. I guess the next question is if the dragon is the classic fire breathing one, or something less direct. But… I digress. Moving on.

What do you write? And how did you get started?

I like to write young adult, dark fantasy, and horror. Ever since I was a child, I have been intrigued by chilling, ominous stories. I honestly don’t know why. My favorite day is Halloween, closely followed by Christmas. I had a haunted dollhouse growing up as kid which my grandfather built for me because he knew how my imagination worked. And by haunted, I mean he made it look scary with cobwebs, rickety furniture pieces, and smashed windows that were actually just filed down clear plastic. I’d create my own monsters and ghosts, which meant Barbie always ended up in difficult and scary situations. I’m not sure what happened to Ken. He probably died a horrible death. I guess it was inevitable that I would write in this genre.

How did I start writing? Well, unfortunately when I was very young, I couldn’t read or write. I hated it because it was such a struggle and I was way behind the rest of my peers. I was bullied for it, which made everything worse. Eventually my mum organised for me to be taught by a private tutor. Mrs Swann recognised my love for storytelling and was quickly able to show me that reading and writing was the same thing—delving into stories. After about a year and a half, I was better at reading and writing than any of my peers.

The idea for The Wayward Haunt and The Wayward Series come to me when I was at university, but it took some years before I felt confident enough to attempt writing the first novel. It wasn’t easy. The first draft was horrible. I did about five rewrites and two self-edits before letting it go out into the hands of beta readers. Their advice was so valuable. I did more edits based on their feedback, found an editor who was brilliant, designed my own front cover, marketing, book layout and typography for the print edition, then converted this into an epub and mobi file for digital publication. It has been a long, exhausting, but creative and fun
process. All up, it has taken just over five years. I think I chose to become a writer because I had a story I wanted to tell, and I wanted to prove that I could accomplish writing a novel.

Oh wow! What a rough start, but you’ve clearly made up for lost time.

What do you like to read?

I enjoy reading YA novels in horror, dark fantasy, and the paranormal genres. Everyone is curious about things we do not understand, and I think reading these genres helps you to explore that in a safe environment. Everyone at some stage in their lives will face death, loss, tragedy, and despair. Bad things happen to good people. It’s not fair, but it happens. It’s a subject people don’t like to openly talk about, which is why I think readers enjoy delving into these themes through characters and story. It’s why I read them.

So true. The darker side of fiction helps demonstrate that bad things happening doesn’t mean the end, and models ways of dealing with the rougher side — in both healthy and unhealthy ways. But, because it’s just a story, it can be easier to accept. Many people have books that have helped them through rough times.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write every day.

I remember when I was studying creative writing at university, we were told to write every day. Well, that has proven to be impossible. Sometimes you simply can’t write because of various other commitments. There’s no reason to feel shame or guilt about this. I’ve learnt that writing has to be achieved at your own pace. You have to find a time and a schedule that works for you, and you have to be realistic about what you can achieve in the timeframe you have given yourself. Otherwise, the writing process won’t be fun. It will be grueling and frustrating.

Indeed. Life happens and beating yourself up for not upholding some magic standard is an unhealthy way to live. I do the NaNoWriMo challenge most years, but then I have to take a full month off because everything else in my life piles up while I’m doing it.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Pay attention to your point of view.

Don’t do any head hopping, and by that, I mean stick to one perspective character’s voice, and no switching POV characters within the same scene, paragraph or sentence. When aspiring writers do this, it makes the writing confusing, clunky, and totally unenjoyable. If you’re going to write a story from a range of different perspectives, break it up using chapters. Each character tells their story in their own chapter.

So true! Head hopping can seem like a way of showing the readers a fuller picture, but don’t be lured in! Readers often find it jarring and it will bounce them out of the story. Plus? It’s a novice move. There are some writers who can get away with it (especially some romance scenes), but for most of us, we fall short of the skills and we don’t really have the need to try that we might think we do.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!


My first book, The Wayward Haunt, was published June 2020 and is the first novel in The Wayward Series. It is set in a war-torn dystopian world and explores the concept of ghosts, hauntings, war, death, tragic pasts, and star-crossed lovers.

The Wayward Haunt

The Council of Founding Sovereigns rules the earth. The United League of Dissent seeks to overthrow them.
In the middle of the centuries-fought war, teenager Zaya Wayward is sentenced to the filthy coal mines of Gosheniene. Accused of a murder she didn’t commit, the true identity of the killer must remain secret—the black-veined woman, a cursed, sadistic wraith fuelled by violence and rage.
 

When Zaya is conscripted into service life at the Tarahik Military base, the ghost is waiting. Zaya’s ability to see the dead is the key that could annihilate human existence, and sinister forces will go to unstoppable lengths to get it. 

Determined to find the link between her past and a puzzle that threatens the world, Zaya joins forces with Captain Jad Arden, the pair propelled into a breakneck chase across haunted wastelands, desolate ruins, and ravaged cities. But Jad has secrets of his own, and Zaya’s feelings for him could be her undoing.

One thing the wraith does ensure — the wrong choice will cost Zaya her life.

I am currently writing the second book in series The Four Revenants, which picks up right where The Wayward Haunt ends. The expected release date for The Four Revenants is early 2022.



Check Cas E. Crowe out across the web!

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon