Bryan Mitchell asked, “What is the max number of submissions you should send at a given time? I’ve heard ten but that sounds off; to me, it seems it should be less than that if you are carefully considering the agents you reach out to.”
When approaching agents I encourage simultaneous submissions, as long as you let us know you are doing so. But, as Bryan answered his own question, there is no magic number. The number should include those you think are the best fit for your project based on what you’ve discovered in your research.
Please do not ever send your proposal to multiple agents in the same agency at the same time. This happens to our agency nearly a half dozen times a week and it is annoying. It is almost guaranteed to receive a rejection.
There are some services on the Internet who will sell you a list of agents and make it simple to hit them all at once. We can often tell when this happens and it is not a good thing for the author.
Why Simultaneous Submissions to Agents?
Since each agent has a backlog of proposals to review it can take time to properly evaluate them all. If you send it to Agent ABC and it takes two months to get a “no thanks” then you send it to Agent DEF and it takes two months… By the time you get to Agent XYZ it could be a few years.
Better to target your first group of choice agents and send to them all. That way within a couple months you can find out if any have interest. If they all say no or let your proposal languish in the inbox (a form of benign rejection) then you can move to the next group of agents that you have researched.
A simple sentence at the end of your letter can say “This is a simultaneous submission.”
Where Do You Start Looking?
The Christian Writers Market Guide has nearly 60 agencies listed with around 100 agents from which to choose. That is a good place to start your research.
You can also go to any number of quality writers conferences and meet with the agents who attend. I was at a conference at the end of July and there were six agents in attendance.
If you are a part of a writers group or a larger association like RWA or ACFW or AWSA you can ask for referrals from those who you trust in that network.
Do Your Research, Please
I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating. A book proposal is like a job application. If you are looking for employment I suspect you would research the company to which you are applying and would customize your application to that organization.
The same thing applies when approaching an agent. We try to make it relatively easy to contact us and we do not hide our names. Why then does the occasional writer think they can get away with the salutation “to whom it may concern” or “dear agent”?