Monday, March 27, 2017

Query Strategy: Target or Blast?

There's no one so worried about etiquette and detail as a querying writer. I've talked about the personalization debate here on the blog before, but today's topic is a little different: should you only send queries to agents who say they want the genre, themes, and/or tone of your novel ("dark epic fantasy," for example), or should you cast a wider net—anyone who says they want YA at all?

Searching the internet yields varying responses. Janet Reid, for one, is a big fan of querying widely. Victoria Strauss, on the other hand, suggests targeting your queries as closely as possible, picking only agents whose interests and specialties appear to be a good fit for your manuscript.

The truth is, we're spoiled. There are very few other creative fields where industry professionals publicly state their preferences and wishlists. I've had more than one discussion about this with my husband, who spent years querying managers and agents for screenplays and would have KILLED for the kind of information that's freely available for fiction on agency websites, MSWL, and more.

While it's important to keep this information in mind, one lesson I've learned is that agents often won't know they're interested in something until they see it. I've been around the contest circuit enough to be surprised over and over again at who requests my pitches. It's often someone I would never have thought to query based on their wishlists.

My ultimate take on the target vs. blast question? Query widely. Use agent wishlists and agency guidelines to find people you definitely won't query (if they say, "I don't like sci-fi," or "adult fiction only," stay the heck away from them with your YA space opera), but everyone else is fair game. You never know who might fall in love with your work.

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