Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ask Away! Should you query an agent's assistant?

We've been seeing more and more questions from aspiring authors in our inbox, so we're turning them into a new, semi-regular feature — Ask Away!

Do you have a burning question about the writing, revising, or querying process? Do you have a dilemma and want some advice or a second opinion from fellow writers?

Email us at firstnovelsclub [at] gmail [dot] com, tweet us @firstnovelsclub, or leave a comment on this post — we might answer your question next!

Round One!


I receive a very nice rejection (I know!) from an agent's assistant a few day's ago about my 1980s throw back YA thriller. Though the agent was a "pass," her assistant who READ THE ENTIRE THING gave me some pointers and told me she really liked it! So, wow. We chatted back and forth and now I'm wondering — can I hit her (assistant) up re: a different manuscript? What's the best way to do that, without seeming sleazy? I know there's a really thin line between take that opportunity and you're such a parasite. Advice? I have seven, yes, seven, unpublished books I'm semi full-time trying to flog. Ah me.

- Laura


Hi Laura,

Congrats on getting such a thorough, helpful rejection (seriously, everyone who's ever gotten a form rejection knows that specific pointers are worth their weight in gold!). Obviously you're on your way to getting an agent!

If the assistant isn't acquiring manuscripts yet, I would say not to try to submit anything else to her right now. But keep an eye on her on social media, and she'll likely soon be promoted at her current agency or switch agencies and start acquiring her own books. At that point, feel free to query her. She'll likely be posting the genre(s) she'd like to represent, so you'll be able to target her interests more specifically with a different book.

In the query, you may want to reference how much you appreciated her compliments and suggestions for your previous book, and that you have another book that you'd like her to consider representing ... or don't, if you don't want to remind her that she rejected your book on her boss's behalf before. That's up to you, since you know exactly what your emails back and forth have entailed.

Here's the hard(ish) truth: If this assistant loved your book enough to represent it, or loved your writing enough to ask if you had anything else you could show her (and the agent), she would've made a move. A lot of agent assistants start taking on books because there's that ONE book that they felt so passionate about that they just couldn't handle their boss passing on it without offering to represent it themselves.

As someone who's been in the querying trenches and dealt with the up and down rollercoaster of getting the absolute nicest, most helpful rejections, it's incredibly important to remember that, no matter how pretty the wording, a rejection is a rejection.

(However, that's not to say that you shouldn't send her a brief reply email thanking her for the time she took to read your manuscript, and for the helpful suggestions! Being polite and appreciative is never a bad thing.)

I can tell that you have a good handle on the delicate nature of professionalism in querying, and that's 90% of the battle.
Keep it up, and best of luck in the trenches!

- Donna


... And to get a second opinion, I asked fellow FNC-er Sara her take, and here's what she had to add:

I agree with Donna that I don't think it's a good idea to just go ahead and query the assistant now. Truthfully, it's equally possible the assistant was just being nice or that she'd actually be potentially interested in working with you. But if you feel like the assistant was more open to your work, you could email her and ask if she will be taking on her own projects in the future, and if so, would she be open to you querying her another book at that time.

- Sara

Ok, readers — what advice do you have for Laura? Do you agree or disagree with my suggestion? If you've been in a similar situation, what did you do? Leave it in the comments!

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