by Charlee Vale
"You only need one yes."
I can't tell you how many times I've heard this. It's one of those platitudes that gets splattered all over querying writers, or writers thinking about querying, or anyone who has even even thought about trying to get published. In the face of the vast enormity of trying to find an agent, and then an editor, this phrase does us the favor of shrinking down something daunting to a manageable size.
Back in 2011, when I was querying for the very first time, this was my mantra. I did everything I was supposed to do--I compiled a list of agents, worked on my query, started querying in batches. I was waiting, I was ready. After all, I only needed one yes, right?
Through a quirky situation (and a miracle) I got a full request on my very first query. Naturally, I did what every brand new writer does on a full request an fantasized about getting and offer of representation. Which was when I discovered something troubling: I wasn't necessarily excited about the thought of accepting that offer. I was nervous, and frankly kind of queasy.
I spoke to an author friend about my imaginary offer, and she said something to me so simple that I felt stupid for not realizing it sooner. 'Why would you query someone you wouldn't want to work with?'
I had made a list of every person I could possibly find that repped YA, and they were all on my list to query. Because in my mind, each of those agents was a potential yes. A potential chance at representation and the road to publication. However, I hadn't even considered that quantity in querying isn't necessarily the same as quality. It's true that you do only need one yes, but that's not the important part. You need the right yes.
So do your research. Find the agents you think you would want to work with, using whatever qualifications you're looking for, and make a list. Do you want an agent who is very editorial? Someone who is a newer agent trying to build their list? Someone who's a veteran and seen everything that can possible happen?
That final list may be twenty agents, five, or fifty. But every agent should be one you want to work with. After all, if they aren't, then why would you put yourself through that?
Keep trying to get that one yes, but just make sure it's the right one.
Charlee Vale is a Young Adult writer, bookseller, photographer, and tea lover living in New York City. You can also find her at her website, on Novel Thoughts, on Twitter, and doing research for her next round of queries.