Query Research Red Flags: When NOT to Submit

Photo credit: misteraitch on Flickr
When entering the query trenches, probably the most exciting (if not slightly nerve-wracking) part of the researching stage is to make the list. The record of agents that will have your query in their hands over the next couple weeks.

But while sending your query to more agents than you have fingers is a common practice among querying writers, it’s important to remember to tailor our choices to agents who actually be a good fit.

So while you’re developing your to-submit list, look out for these red flags indicating that you may want to move on to someone else.

You probably SHOULDN’T submit to agents who...

  • Don’t represent your genre. I know what you’re thinking. Sometimes you’ll come across a totally amazing agent who has exactly the personality your dream agent has, has made a bajillion sales and made debut authors very happy and is totally witty on Twitter. Sometimes, said agent is even following you on Twitter and you’ve talked to them via the interwebs and they just seem completely perfect.

    Except, you know, the whole not-representing-your-genre thing.

    I know this is hard when it happens. I know just how tempting it can be to send your query anyway and hope that maybe you’ll be the exception. I know.

    But the thing is, agents know what they’re doing when they choose genres to represent, and they have reasons for not representing certain genres. As amazing and wonderful as this dream agent may be, if they don’t represent your genre, then I can promise you that they aren’t the right fit for you. They will not be your dream agent, because for one reason or another, they will not be able to best represent your book.

    So keep admiring dream agent for being awesome, but resist the temptation to submit.

  • Are closed to submissions. This should really go without saying, but I’ve seen a couple agents comment about this, so I guess I’ll say it anyway.

    If an agent is closed to submissions, that means you shouldn’t submit to them.

    No, you shouldn’t DM them on Twitter or Facebook to ask if they’ll make an exception. No, you shouldn’t send it just for kicks (because the only one who will get kicked is you).

    It’s sad when an agent you want to submit to is closed, but it’s usually not a permanent closing. If you want to submit to them that badly, you’ll have to wait until they open up again.

    But until then, save everyone some aggravation and don’t send.

  • Don’t have publishing credentials or sales and are on their own. The reason I lumped these together is because individually, they are sometimes ok. I have absolutely nothing against new agents, and in fact, they can often be great opportunities for writers because they have a much more open list than agents who are already established.

    What I’m talking about here, are agents who set off on their own without any experience whatsoever. Agents who start up their own agency and have absolutely no background to support them. Agents with zero credentials and zero sales and aren’t working with more experienced agents at said agency.

    This may sound a little crazy, but it does happen. There are people out there (both well-intentioned and not) who call themselves agents and set up a so-called agency without any experience whatsoever.

    Avoid these people.

    You want someone who knows the ins and out of the publishing industry. Someone with great connections to dozens of editors, with very happy clients who rave about their awesomeness. Someone well prepared to help and guide you along your writing career.

    So if the establishment you’re looking at seems a little sketchy, listen to that gut feeling and find someone else. 

What red flags do you look out for while choosing agents to query? Any you’d like to add to the list?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Are you a querying writer? Look out for these red flags when deciding who to submit to. (Click to tweet).  
For the querying writer, here are three signs that you SHOULDN’T submit to that agent. (Click to tweet). 


Author Susan Kaye Quinn said...

One thing I found helpful, back in ye olde querying days, was to see what genre an agent actually SOLD. They may list what genres they like, but those lists may be out of date or incomplete. What they actually SELL is also an indication of what is selling (i.e. what editors are looking to buy). So if YA is hot, an agent that doesn't normally rep YA might take on a YA piece if they've sold several in the last year. #justsomeideas

Ava Jae said...

That is a fantastic point! I hadn't thought of that, but you're completely right. Taking a look at their recent sales can certainly be very telling.

Robin Red said...

Here's one: If the agent throws fees at you. Run.

Ava Jae said...

Wow, did I really not mention that? You are 1000000% correct. No respectable agent charges fees ever. They make money when you make money.

Stéphanie Noël said...

I guess this all common sense.

Ava Jae said...

Mostly, yes. It's also about not cutting corners, I think, because I suspect that it's when writers try to take shortcuts that they forget the common sense bit.

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