Thursday, October 15, 2009

Query Don't?

A wonderful agent from a top New York agency called me the other day.

Nope, it wasn’t “the call.” I’ve never queried this agent. He doesn’t even know I’m shopping a manuscript. In fact, his phone call had absolutely nothing to do with publishing. So why the call?

His young son and mine happen to be budding bff’s and we were simply setting up their next playdate. (Got you to take the jump, though, didn’t I? Heheh.)

This brings me to my quandary. Should I spill the beans? Tell him I’m in the hunt for an agent? Ask him if he’d be willing to take a look at my unbelievably [insert hyperbolic adjective here] manuscript? What if he said, “Sure, send me the full,” then passed? Um, can you spell “awkward”?

Fearing this, should he be off-limits, a Query Don’t? You know, just my kid's friend’s dad; someone to talk Little League with; filed under: Don’t mix business with parenting?

I confess, I tend to shy away from using my industry contacts, this one included. I’m just a whole lot more comfortable cold querying editors and agents—-whatever the outcome. This is why I was heartened to read agent Nathan Bransford’s recent post saying that 62 percent of the first-time authors he polled landed their agents through cold querying. On the other hand, I also know how contacts can open doors in any industry.

So I ask you, gentle readers, am I crazy? Is any potential contact fair game, no matter the relationship? And do you take full advantage of your contacts—-or prefer going cold like me?


  1. Um, yeah, you're crazy!

    But onto your post. lol.

    You can look at it a lot of ways - my favorite way is that the universe put this person into your life for a reason, the fact that your sons may be bffs, well, that'll work itself out.

    Or this - I understand where you're coming from. When I worked in a press office I used to hesitate telling people I could get tickets to any Broadway show because no matter how sincere the asker was for a favor, if it went wrong I would feel reaaalllly bad. And then of course you also don't know who your genuine friends are or if they just want tickets to Phantom.

    On the other hand, I don't think this is your case! You're a talented writer and said manuscript ROCKS!

    If I was Dear Abby I would say...let the friendship bud. Casually throw in writing references now and then. When the time is right, talk about your manuscript.

    Or you could innocently ask for some "pointers" - I think your writing speaks for itself.

    Or - you could host a cocktail party for the parents in your neighborhood, get good and snoggered, then spill the beans.

    This is how the other 48% get an agent.

  2. J.L. -- How can you not spill? You're a total pro and so is he. Your manuscript is rock-solid-rockin', so the only reason for a no is personal preference. And there is nothing anyone can do about that.

    I don't think there is a downside here. If he has any mixed feelings--I'm sure he's heard lots of pitches from people who want to write books--they will disappear as soon as he sees he's got a piece of quality fiction in front of him.

    And, oh, my, God. It's only October 15 and it's snowing outside my window!

  3. Oh, what a dilemma! Question: does he know you know he's an agent?
    Could you let things ride for a while (hoping the little guys continue to play well together) and then maybe, if the occasion seems natural, say something casually about your writing?

    He must get a lot of crazies approaching him at parties, etc., so for sure you don't want to be classed with them.
    If the occasion never arises naturally, then I'd say keep mum and continue with the cold queries.

  4. I don't know what I'd do. If I were smart and patient, I would continue to query other agents, knowing that some day, I'd "get" one, and then I could surprise him by mentioning something like, "I had that same conversation with MY agent!"

    But I'm rarely smart, and I'm never patient.

  5. I feel the same way. I'd be wary of querying right now. If your son mentions you are a writer (which I'm sure he will at some point), then the bff's father may very well start the conversation with you. You can even ask if you can interview him for your blog. :) But - if it were me - I'd let him be the one to ask for the manuscript. That's not to say you should hide the fact that you are a writer. DON'T hide it! You are a writer...and that's a fact. A great one, I'm sure! He's an agent. A great one, I'm sure. ;) So - when the opportunity presents itself - and the time is right - everything will fall into place.

    That's MY opinion, anyway! :)


  6. I might wait until conversation 5 or 6 (or something), so you're not springing it on him. He might get that kind of thing more than you think. Whatever you decide to do, if you don't act like you're a cracked nut, you'll probably be fine.

  7. I'm wondering if you can approach the subject sideways--tell him that you're a writer and ask him which agents he might recommend who are actively seeking clients in your genre. That would give him an easy out if he doesn't want the a dual relationship with you, or he might say, "Hey, I'm looking for your genre! Send me your ms!"

  8. Oooops...that would be how the other 38% would get an agent. Math is not my strong point! lol.

  9. This is tricky but I think you could weave a little magic and broach the subject like your getting ready to query a manuscript and is he looking for new clients. Chat about what he's looking for and see where it goes. I'd go for it, but with caution. And if it doesn't work out, don't let it stop your relationship, be casual about it.

  10. Thanks for the excellent advice everyone. I think I'll go with a two-step plan, combining tips from all of you.

    First, I'll proceed with caution and professionalism, as Gale, Donna, MG, Amber, Aimee, and Christina so wisely suggest.

    Then, if I don't get anywhere, I'll move on to step two: Get good and snoggered--LOL, Robin!--and spill the beans, as per J.A.

    Either way, I will try my best not to come across as a cracked nut!

  11. Sorry for my delay in commenting - I was away.

    Great post JL. I like Donna's advice. Don't hide your writing, but don't put him in an awkward position either. Let it all move naturally.

    I'm reminded of the Eli Manning Toyota commercials where the car salesman is so excited Eli Manning is buying a Toyota from him he wants to invite him over for barbecue and Eli's thinking he so happy the salesman ISN'T asking him over for barbecue.