Is it okay to query several agents at once? Absolutely. In fact, we recommend it. If you wait to hear back from each agent before approaching another, you could end up waiting months or years for an offer of representation. But there is a protocol to follow. Here are some things to bear in mind as you get ready to launch your volley of submissions.
- It’s not necessary to say, “This is a multiple submission,” in your query letter (though there is nothing wrong with doing so). Unless you tell an agent she is your one shot and you can’t possibly see yourself working with someone else, the agent will assume that as a savvy writer you are not putting all your eggs in one basket.
- After you send your query, keep agents posted on any major interest you receive for the project. Always check the agent’s website, blog, etc. to learn her preferences, but in general that means an offer of representation; you don’t need to send updates if you get another sample or full manuscript request. Also, if you sent your manuscript to editors before seeking an agent, it’s good to mention this in your query letter, and definitely keep agents posted if you receive an offer of publication.
- If you receive an offer of representation from an agent, you have two choices: (1) Let him know that you are waiting to hear back from other agents you submitted to and ask for a reasonable period in which to make your decision—agents hate being forced to read a manuscript overnight. Or (2) decide you want to go with him and accept the offer. Either way, let everyone else know immediately. It’s very frustrating for an agent who has just spent hours reading your manuscript, only to learn that it is no longer available.
Remember that there’s a balance to be found with multiple submissions. Approaching only one or two agents decreases your chance of success, but firing off dozens of queries will only cause headaches as you try to keep track of where you are in each agent’s submission process. Focus on a handful of your top choices, and if they turn you down, go to your Plan B list, and so on. The bottom line is to be courteous and considerate throughout the process—life is unpredictable and you never know when you might be agent hunting again.
Anita Mumm is a Literary Assistant at the Nelson Literary Agency. This post was taken from their monthly newsletter and posted here with permission. To get more great industry news, subscribe to their newsletter.