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The Rules of Re-Querying

The rules of re-querying the same book are that there are no rules. Some agents will tell you that you have one shot. After that move on to the next book. Others will say feel free if you’ve made significant changes. I think the answer is somewhere in the middle and a little more nuanced than just a yay or nay.

A reader asks:

If I’ve made significant changes to my book, especially the first 10 pages, and it’s been, say, 3 years since I’ve queried said book, would it be considered wrong if I re-queried that book to the same agents who originally turned it down?

Before re-querying, significant changes are critical, but the fact that you said, “especially the first 10 pages,” concerns me. Ten pages aren’t significant enough. They also aren’t the sole reason you were rejected.

My guess is if you were primarily rejected on the query alone the problem wasn’t from ten pages but from the idea itself. You weren’t grabbing readers from your blurb. Rewriting those ten pages might be enough to get agents to request more material, but unless you’ve done the same amount of work on the next ten pages, and the next, and the next, it’s not enough to get an agent.

Rejections on query alone can likely be attributed to the idea and the concept. If you’re getting requests, you can be confident that you have a solid query and a solid idea.

Rejections based on the requested the full or partial manuscript, are probably based on the writing. This is where it gets tricky. Unless an agent tells you why it could be a number of variables. Reasons for rejection include, not connecting with your voice, the execution of the concept, the plot, the characters, or the writing.

Getting rejections based on query alone means you need to rework your query and doing that could lead to reworking the entire concept of the book.

Rejections based on the manuscript, mean a number of things. If you see, truly see, the problem go in and edit and revise. Or, even better, get working on a next and stronger manuscript.

Thank you reader for this question which came on our Meaning of Rejection post.

Category: Blog

3 comments

  1. Another terrific post! Having several rejections was the best thing that could have happened to me. I withdrew my submission for almost a year to think, learn, and rewrite.
    Until I became a regular reader of this blog, I wasn’t aware of the need for a blurb or a query based on your submission guidelines (or the guidelines tailored to other agents). I had no idea of the importance of a “synopsis” – or even what a synopsis was! I now know it’s an essential tool for writers, agents, and publishers.
    In my excitement, I submitted my work far too soon. Oh, dear … My first chapter was weak: Rewriting it led to rewriting most of my book – and rewriting it again. My bio blah-blahed about me-me-me-e-e-e and my ama-a-a-a-zing (or so I thought) background, unaware a few words were sufficient for the first go-round (and maybe forever, if agents passed on my work).
    Other than Facebook, I wasn’t on social media. I didn’t write a blog to show I could pirouette and perform other little tricks while Keeping It Simple, Stupid (KISS). In short, I really didn’t have a clue about the all-important business end of submissions. While my book is nearly finished its FINAL, final edits, both it – and I – remain a work in progress.
    I have no idea where my work will end up – with Bookends? With another agent? At the back of a drawer? Regardless, I’m glad to be one of those writers who DID, rather than one who regrets she DIDN’T.
    Rise or fall, I’m grateful for what I’ve learned through your many posts. I’m also grateful to The Shark, agent Janet Reid, for the encouragement and education she’s given writers over many years, as have you.
    I’m completely sincere when I say this comment (and others I’ve made) aren’t a plug for me or my manuscript. Like all writers, I simply want to produce the best possible work of which I’m capable. Your posts have helped me and other writers in our effort to do that! I’m sure I speak for every reader of your blog when I say THANK YOU.

  2. Hello Jessica, thank you again for shedding light on everything. I’m asking this because, this topic concerns me directly.
    How important (for lack of a better word) are those sample pages we are suppose to include alongside the query?
    What if you like the query and not the sample pages ?

    I understand literary agents do not like prologues, but would you rather have the prologue as the sample pages, or the story proper?
    What if the prologue is as vital to the story like Clare Mckintosh’s ‘I Let You Go’
    It would be nice to hear/read your view on this.

    Thank you,

    1. Sadie, I’m not sure if Jessica has answered this in a later post because I am behind in my blog reading, but here’s my 2 cents…

      The most important thing in your submission is those first few pages – it’s the manuscript the agent will sell after all, not the query letter. The query letter has to hook the agent and make them want to read the pages, and that is all it has to do. The pages are the thing that will make an agent decide. And if the query is rocking but the pages not, it will be a rejection, or at best an R&R.

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