Following are answers to the most common questions asked about the service.
1) How long is a query letter?
Typically it is about 300-500 words in which you briefly describe your book or script, highlight major plot points, provide a short bio about yourself, and indicate anything you have done or plan to do to get publicity or a large social media following.
2) What kind of stats do you have about the effectiveness of sending an email?
Commonly we have an 88-95% delivery rate, with about 88-90% for films, 94-96% for books. The open rate is about 75% for books; about 70% for scripts and films, which is affected by the appeal of your project. We currently have a 99% reputation rating with the main service we use for sending out queries, which is based on the percentage of deliveries and the very low number of unsubscribes, bounces, and spam reports, which is under 1%, since we regularly update our databases through our own test mailings, about every 4 to 6 weeks.
3) How soon can I expect a response?
Generally, most contacts will respond within a day or two, some within a few hours if you send the query early in the day.
4) Why can’t I send my own queries?
You can, if you have the time it takes and know who to contact and how. It could take you 20+ hours to put together your own database, and spend several more hours sending out the queries individually or spend about $500 for the software to send out multiple queries, plus take the time to learn how to do this. Plus it costs several hundred dollars to buy the directories or subscribe to the industry services that provide this data.
But we’ve already gotten the contact and company information and used keywords to indicate their main areas of interest. We also spend several days each month updating the databases, based on the latest deals for publishers, agents, and producers, plus we buy the latest books and subscription services to keep the databases up to date. Additionally, we help you write an effective query letter, and even some established writers need help with this. That’s why we review all the letters before they go out and make suggestions or write the letters for clients.
5) Can you guarantee that I’ll find an agent or publisher?
We know from past experience that this works in helping a majority of clients find agents and publishers, as well as get deals for film rights and scripts. However, we can’t make guarantees in a particular case, since each project is different and will be judged on its own merits by the recipients of your email query. A query letter can help you get through the door; but then it’s up to you and your project to sell your idea and make a deal.
6) How do I know who you contact?
You get a report with the names of all the editors, agents, and producers who receive your email. We can also tell by our SMTP mailing service how many queries have gone out (100%) and how many have been delivered and opened.
7) What if I don’t want to send a query to a specific editor, agent, or producer?
That’s easy. We can readily exclude anyone you want, so they don’t get a mailing from you.
8) What is your success rate for sending out unsolicited query letters? Do these publishers, agents, or producers actually read them and do clients get results.
We don’t have specific figures, since not all clients let us know the results. But almost all clients get responses, showing that contacts do read these queries. Some have gotten as many as 40 or 50 responses; some even more.
9) If your service works so well, why won’t these agents, editors, and producers who get pitches be overwhelmed by the many queries they get or consider them spam?
No one is overwhelmed, since we limit the number of clients contacting any one agent, editor, or producer to no more than 2 or 3 a day, though since we are relatively new, these numbers are even less than that. Also, if you consider that most contacts in the publishing and film industries get hundreds of e-mails a day, our emails are just a drop in the bucket, and if any contact objects to a mailing, we take them out of the database. But this is a very rare occurrence, since these contacts are seeking new material, so they expect to get many submissions.
10) Since I’m already a writer, why should I need your help in writing a query letter or reviewing it?
Even if you are a successful published writer, you can benefit from a review or some suggestions on writing your letter, because this is a special marketing pitch letter, and we have found that a certain approach results in a better response. Then, too, a writer who is close to his or her subject may not include enough detail, so the reader understands what the project is about. Or a writer may put in too much detail which overwhelms and confuses the reader, rather than just listing the major plot points. Plus sometimes writer use an overly clever, humorous style which is better for follow up, since editors, agents, and producers tend to prefer a more straightforward approach that lets them quickly know about the project.
11) Why don’t you provide email addresses, phone numbers, and addresses on your reports?
We don’t, because this is proprietary information that has taken us hundreds of hours to gather and regularly update, and some of this comes from private sources. Also, if this information got circulated, contacts could be easily overwhelmed with emails from many writers. And anyone seeking to start a competing business could copy our date to create their own databases. Then, too, most agents, editors, and producers don’t want to receive phone calls unless they give you the phone number.
12) What should I include with my query letter?
See our guidelines for clients for more specifics or you can see them with examples in the book: SELL YOUR BOOK, SCRIPT OR COLUMN. Besides keeping it short and using our guidelines, keep your letter simple with no pictures or attachments, since many people won’t open these. Avoid fancy HTML formatting with bold headlines and pictures, since that can look like an ad. We have found it best to send out a simple letter in text format, which is more likely to be received and read as a personal letter to the recipient.
13) How do I know if I have a good letter or what is needed to write one?
Our professional editors can help you know if you have a good letter, since they review and help you polish your letter. They also will suggest a good subject line if you don’t have one. If your letter needs any major revisions or rewriting, we will let you know, so you can rewrite it yourself or one of our writers can rewrite it for you.
14) I’m a new writer and don’t know if any of the larger publishers or agents will be interested in my work?
If you have a compelling book and can quickly and professionally describe it, you might still attract interest from an editor at a mainstream publisher and find an agent to help you. In some cases, you may need to develop a platform, such as by self-publishing a book and selling it over the internet or through speaking engagements to show there is a market for it and you can actively promote it. Then, a major publisher might pick it up. We can help you with both self-publishing and developing your platform.
15) Why should a successful agent want emails from unknown writers? Won’t most good agents already be swamped by emails or too busy handling the clients they have?
Good agents might be receptive to such emails, because they see them as a way to find promising new writers, and they can readily decide if they want more information. Also, if we hear that an agent is closed to new clients and doesn’t want any more emails, we take them out of the database, at least for several months and possibly permanently, depending on the situation. Then, too, agents may say they are closed to new clients when they aren’t interested in a project to more easily reject the writer without hurt feelings; but if they like the query, they may ask to see more.
16) Is it better to find an agent or pitch my book directly to a publisher?
It depends on your type of book, the current market, and many other factors. Commonly, it is best to do both – look for an agent and pitch your book at the same time. Then, if you have publisher interest, you can always turn the follow-up over to an agent, who can help you in finalizing the contract and possibly getting a better deal.
17) Do you do any screening for the queries you send out? And what if you get a project that sounds terrible?
We don’t try to act as a gatekeeper for most projects, since we generally can’t know if publishers, agents, or producers will be interested or not. However, we do a preliminary screening, so if a project sounds truly terrible and offensive, we would turn that client down. But normally we don’t do so.
18) How can your scattershot approach to numerous agents, editors, or producers work?
While we send your query to multiple contacts, it is not a scattershot approach, since we have categorized editors, agents, producers, and media contacts by their major areas of interest. So we target those that match your type of project when we send out our emails. That’s why we use keywords to indicate what type of material a contact is looking for, and we regularly track the deals and listings in industry publications about industry contacts to find and update these keywords.
19) How do I know these editors, agents, producers, and media contacts are still I their positions? What if they leave the company or go out of business?
We regularly update our lists each month in several ways. We do email tests whenever we add new contact information and drop any listings when we get returned emails or the editor, agent, producer, or media contact advises us of new contacts or indicates plans to leave for another company or retire. And whenever we do a mailing or a client sends us returns they receive, we use that to update our lists.
20) I’m a member of a writers’ group and I can get referrals from other members. Why would I need your service?
Ideally, personal referrals are the best. Use them when you can. But often someone else’s agent or publisher may not be right for you, such as if you and the other writer are in different fields or your projects are too similar. Also, using our service, will give you a greater number of interested agents or publishers to choose from rather than relying on your personal network.