A photo of a rainbow appearing to end beyond a distant copse of trees in a field.

Querying Agents & Presses

I’ve been querying agents (and now some horror presses) since last October in a renewed effort to get an agent and see if I can crack the “big” press world. It’s an almost impossible goal for any of us, frankly. There are fewer and fewer “big” presses and fewer on-ramps to get their attention. Agents have to be exceptionally selective in what they take on because they, too, face the dilemma of having many fewer ways to get something sold and published at a rate worth their time. I suspect these days the ability of an agent to sell something to a big press boils down to whom they know and how well they know them. In addition to that, a manuscript has to navigate the many gatekeepers of subjective opinion that stand between me typing “the end” and a book sitting on the shelf at your local bookshop. The entire thing feels, most of the time, like an infernal mechanism designed to tell people no and make them feel bad while it’s at it.

It also remains basically the only game in town.

I’m exploring other options, and am definitely NOT married to the dream of getting an agent and a big book deal and seeing that book on an end-cap at Barnes & Noble or whatever. It’s just been a long time–well over a decade–since I explored my options and I think it’s good to do so every now and then. At this point I’ve also been told no by enough agents that it’s stopped feeling like a ding every time it happens. It has in many ways been an opportunity to bask in the joy of knowing my books are right for me no matter what anyone else says. Being told no and persisting is difficult but it is also very much worthwhile. In some ways, this whole project is worth it for that alone.

(If you’re wondering why I don’t just submit Contemporary Ancestors to Falstaff, in part it’s because I want to see what else is out there and diversify my publishing presence, and in part it’s because Falstaff has a ton of amazing people and amazing writers and if I turned in a book and got a contract now it would be years before it got published. John and Rachel and Lucy are astoundingly gifted and supportive publishers, and they’re also extremely busy with their respective publishing lines.)

Anyway, last night at a (fantastic) meeting of the NC chapter of Horror Writers Association I got asked about my ongoing agent/press querying. The stats so far:

Queries: 77
Requests for full: 1 (rejected after 6 months)
Requests for partial: 1 (still in consideration)
No: 27
Awaiting response: 49
Oldest still waiting: 2023-12-01

An important sub-stat:

Agents who tripped on their own feet by “accidentally” requesting a full and then immediately sending a (form!) email to say, whoops, not really: 1

Yeah, you don’t even want to know what I put in the “Notes” column for my tracking spreadsheet for that agent.

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