I spent the last two mornings sending out queries. Twenty-seven lucky agents now have the opportunity to ask to ask to see my manuscript, or (more likely) to ignore me. All together, sending those queries took me probably eight hours, not counting the time it took to put together the template for the letters or writing the synopsis. Those took up all my allotted writing time for the last week or so. It’s surprisingly difficult to adequately summarize a 400+-page novel in two double-spaced pages. I know I didn’t, but perhaps I did well enough. I suppose I’ll find out.
As for the letters themselves, they’re not all letters. Forget snail-mail. Hardly anyone demands paper, although a very few will still accept paper as an alternative if you can’t use email. But some now use online forms. Like the requirements for the email submissions, no two of those are identical. All agents want to see something about your previous writing experience and a paragraph about the story you’re pitching to them, but some also want to see a two-page synopsis of the story. Some want to see the first three pages of your manuscript, or the first fifty, or something in between. This means you can’t just write one standard letter that works for everyone. Figuring out what each agent wants takes research and time. Some are even picky about the subject line for the query.
This kind of confuses me. Why is there such a difference? Agents are all in the same business, so shouldn’t they all want to see the same stuff? I especially wonder about those who only want to see a short query. I wouldn’t think you could tell much from just that. My first guess is that these agents aren’t all that interested in finding new clients, or that they are looking for something specific, something there is a known market for, such as fantasy stories about snarky dragons or sexy vampires of zombie detectives or something like that, but I could be wrong. The same goes for those who only want to see a synopsis, or the first three manuscript pages. Very few stories really get going in three double-spaced pages. Yeah, you can do a short story in that length, but the settings and characters for a novel require a bit more development, especially for science fiction and fantasy because the author is pretty much creating an entire new world. It would seem to me that in this digital age, agents might as well ask for at least the first fifty pages. That doesn’t mean they have to read all of them. They can still reject after the first line in the query letter, which I’m sure is not uncommon, but if they want to see more, it’s there.
Oh, well. That’s their job, not mine. I’m sure they know what they’re doing. I just can’t help thinking that they’re probably missing out on some great stuff.