How Many Is too Many? When to Stop Querying

How many query letters should you send out?
Photo by Maksim Goncharenok on

Querying is a drag. Oh, I’m not talking about writing the letter. A lot may ride on it but it is just a letter through which you hope to persuade an agent or editor to take a look at your work. The hard part comes when you send it out and wait. And wait. And wait.

You may hear back, but very often you won’t. This silence doesn’t mean that no one read your query although that may be the case. It doesn’t mean that your email was never received although, again, there is a very small chance that this is what happened. In all likelihood, it means that they are not tempted to look at your work.

It is very likely that silence means no.

Sending your query out again and again to silence can really get a writer down. It is tempting to give up. But when should you give up?

I was just looking at my log. I keep an Excel sheet listing my queries, submissions and rejections. Yesterday I noticed numerous listings for one manuscript – 1 proposal, 7 submissions, 6 queries, and 5 rejections. I have to admit that that column was more a little discouraging, but then I found this quote from author Kristi Belcamino. “If you are serious about getting published, then don’t even think about giving up until you’ve queried at least one hundred agents,” Belcamino said in this post on Writer’s Digest.

Belcamino makes it clear that you shouldn’t just be querying. You should be paying attention to the results. Form letters? You may want to consult a developmental editor who can help you spot the big problems in your manuscript. I would guess this is also the choice if you get no response at all.

If you get rejections with feedback, pay attention to that feedback. It may well be a sign of something you need to fix. This is me speaking, not Belcamino, but it may also be a sign that you need to reconsider your submission strategy. A friend of mine received feedback from several professionals that her essay read like fiction because she included dialogue. She listened to this feedback since she got the same evaluation across the board. But attempting to remove the dialogue also cut the soul out of the essay. While she was working on this attempted rewrite, she heard back from from the final market that had the essay. It was an acceptance with NO requested changes. NONE.

Pay attention to the feedback and the silence. Reevaluate your work.

But if you’ve only sent a piece out two or three dozen times, keep going. You’ve got a lot of submissions ahead of you.