A few people asked exactly how many queries is a “small batch of queries” when I talked about my submission process in finding an agent.
Small, to me, is eight.
I mailed (or emailed) a batch of 8 and then waited to see what kind of response I would get. After each string of rejections, I reworked my query letter, making it a work in progress. This is the value in not sending your query to 50 top agents right from the get-go: you lose that chance to readjust your letter.
That said, it’s really hard to wait.
Sometimes it would take three months to hear back from an agent. Some agents didn’t respond at all, especially to email queries. There are agents who state on their website that if you haven’t heard back from them in three weeks, assume they aren’t interested, which really sucks because you can’t help wondering if they even received your query. With sending queries USPS with a SASE, you might think you at least have a guaranteed response, but some of them never bothered to send my SASE back.
Then again, one of the agents who offered to represent me took seven months to respond.
I admit I got itchy. After running to the mailbox for weeks without getting anything back, it became very hard to wait. Most often, if I sent eight queries out, and three weeks later, received only four responses, I’d send another four out. In the last few months, before I signed with an agent, whenever I got a rejection, I sent another two out.
Someone asked if I ever resent an email query when I didn’t get a response. Yes, I did, to four agents that I’d queried early on, because, after four months, I’d made quite a few changes to the pitch. I was hoping the agent might say, “well, since you put it to me that way, I’ll take a look at the manuscript.” That didn’t happen, however.
Literary agent Nathan Bransford has some good advice on this part of the query process on his website, along with other topics such as How to Write a Synopsis to the 10 Commandments for the Happy Writer.