How Timing Plays Into Querying Strategy

Querying is such a game of strategy. And timing is a major factor in so many ways. Here are a few I’ve been thinking about lately.

Catching the agent at the right time. Although I don’t have the link handy, I once read an interview with an agent who listed 10 reasons she might reject a query, and the last one was that sometimes a query is great and intriguing, but she just isn’t in the mood for it right then. What a killer–the idea that the same agent might have been interested the month before or a couple of months later. I’ve seen stories of people being rejected by an agent and then later signed by that same agent with the same manuscript.

Personally, I’ve had two requests from agents who previously passed. In the first case, the agent had passed over short pitches in contests but requested from a query. In the second case, the agent overlooked my query in one contest and requested in another contest four months later. Was the agent not in the mood for my concept the first time? Or was it because I’d revised both my query and first page since the previous contest? I don’t know for sure, but what I get out of this is you should still query an agent even if they don’t make a request from a contest. And don’t skip a contest with multiple agents because one of them rejected your query. I would say, though, that if the contest includes only that agent, you might be wasting your time.

Knowing when to query, when to wait, and when to revise. I’ve struggled with all three of these. I queried too much, too fast with CAVEBOY. I’ve been much more cautious with DUET, even deciding not to query for two months while I waited for feedback from submissions. I started querying again, only to finally get some feedback that resulted in a revision. I don’t know if my timing was right in each of these instances, but I do know that waiting gave me the time I needed for that feedback to click and to make the changes the MS needed. I’m not sure anyone can lay out the perfect timing here. If you know the secret, please pass it along!

When is it time to stop querying? This might be the hardest question of all, and perhaps I should rephrase it as “finish” querying. I’ve been pondering this question lately. It has nothing to do with giving up on DUET and everything to do with the fact that I’m well into revisions on my new WIP and plan to have it to betas by the end of November. I have to strategize with the assumption that I won’t get an agent with DUET even though I’m still hoping I will. Considering I expect to have the new WIP ready to query in February, I should probably wrap up querying DUET by the beginning of December. It goes against my urge to hold some queries back in case I get revision suggestions from other agents, but even with this timeframe, there’s the possibility some DUET requests could still be out there when I’m ready to query the new one. But if I’m going to have something new ready, I need to get DUET out to the rest of the agents on my list and hope its current polish catches the attention of THE ONE. That would be ideal, right? Because ultimately I hope I don’t have to query the new one, but if that’s the way it goes, I’ll be ready.

What timing strategies have you employed? Any tips for me?

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About Michelle I. Mason

I'm a full-time writer, focusing mainly on middle grade and young adult fiction with some freelance PR writing and editing on the side. I'm also a wife, mom, Christian, violinist, avid reader and St. Louis Cardinals fan. And I watch way too much TV.
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15 Responses to How Timing Plays Into Querying Strategy

  1. PK Hrezo says:

    I’ve heard you shouldn’t stop til you’ve queried 100 agents. But from experience, I think sometimes you have to take comments you’ve received from rejections and set the ms aside for awhile. In some cases, a year before you know what to do with a story. And we grow so much with each ms.

    That’s cool agents requested on the same story they overlooked. That’s encouraging to know!

    • I didn’t get to 100 agents with CAVEBOY, but I was close–I think around 80. For that one, I stopped because I had DUET ready to go, and I knew it was so much better. You’re right about growing with each manuscript. Even though CAVEBOY was very good, I feel like DUET is great, and the people who read both noticed the difference, too. I’m not close enough to finishing the revisions on this new one to know if it goes to yet another level. I know my first draft was better than any other first draft I’ve completed. We’ll see. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Andrea says:

    Wow, you sound organized and I’m sure your hard work is going to pay off. I queried a few agents and got form rejections and now after getting some feedback from a few other writers I’ve changed up the MS and wonder if I would have had better luck with this revised version? Who knows? I will tell you this, I don’t follow too many blogs but I came across yours when perusing contest entries (I don’t remember which contest it was). I was very intrigued by DUET, and to me it stood out amongst the other contest entries, and that’s when I started following your blog. You’ve got real talent and you should keep querying DUET!

    • Andrea, if you’ve revised and haven’t exhausted your list of agents, then I’d definitely try again. Don’t give up on your story if you think it’s worthy of being published.

      Thank you for the encouragement on my blog and writing. I’m glad what I have to say has resonated with you and appreciate your consistent comments on my posts. It’s nice to know I’m doing something right!

  3. Your strategy sounds very similar to mine when I was querying agents. Sending out batches of queries, getting feedback, revising and tweaking with every new round of submissions. And working on new material all the time. Keep at it, girl. Something will eventually pay off. It so often really is a matter of timing the right project with the right agent when they’re in the mood and looking for that kind of manuscript right then. What a crap-shoot, eh? 😉 But it does pay off – you just keep on keepin’ on!

    • Thanks, Kimberley! I know it will all work out when the timing’s right. It’s just that I would like to know WHEN that’s going to happen. Querying has taught me more about patience than anything else in life so far. I do have confidence it will pay off eventually. I’m just hoping it’s sooner rather than later. I appreciate the encouragement!

      • Oh, yes, those were my same exact thoughts! PATIENCE. If only we knew the *when* about anything in life! 🙂 I queried for two years . . . and that was after already having 3 books published. It’s hard not to feel like it’s never going to happen. But I just kept plowing through my list and researching and adding to it. It was also hard to hear about other writers who got an agent within just a few weeks of querying. It’s hard not to feel like a loser. Who knows why it happens fast for some and SO SLOW for others. I think it really is just the timing of your work and the agent. I hope this doesn’t come across wrong, but I also think it’s a matter of having a manuscript that really sings and rises above the crowd – and that’s very difficult to know about our own work. Getting feedback from an experienced writer/author is very valuable in knowing if you really have something special. I’d be happy to read a first chapter if you’d like and do what I can to help you.

        • I really appreciate your offer to read for me, Kimberley. I’ve had many critiques on DUET, and I’m pretty confident in my first chapter since I’ve received a good amount of requests. However, it’s always helpful to have another opinion, especially from a published author! If I sent it to you, how soon do you think you’d get to it? I only ask because I do intend to wrap up querying in the next month. If it would take more than a week or so, I’d rather wait and have you read the one I’m revising when it’s ready. Either way, I certainly won’t pass up a critique from you! It might be easier to take this conversation to email: mfaszold(at)hotmail(dot)com.

  4. I don’t quite understand what you mean about the relationship between a contest and a query. Could you explain? Thanks.

    • Sure! I actually have a whole post about agent contests that you can see here: https://michelleimason.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/contests-contests-everywhere/. These contests offer a different way to get in front of agents than through the traditional querying process. Agents often consider contest entries more closely than queries in their inbox because they’re looking for winners and sometimes competing with other agents. While a contest could give you an extra edge with an agent, it’s not a substitute for querying. As I mentioned in the post above, timing plays a large part in what an agent wants to read at a certain time. My philosophy is to take advantage of all the opportunities out there to get my work in front of agents. Does that answer your question? If not, feel free to ask me for further clarification. Thanks for stopping by!

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