Thursday, March 11, 2010

When Has Enough Time Passed

Dear Scott,
Here's a question for you. I have sent a project out to an agent and it has been a while since I have heard anything. I don't want her to think I was a flake, but when and how do I find out if the person is still interested?

A lot of writers face this same situation daily. I don't think I have gone a day without hearing someone on a loop bring up this same question. In answer to this question though, there are actually two things I want to bring up and discuss here.

The first is the issue of when you need to contact the agent. If you take a look at their website and submission guidelines, you will see what their turn around time is. Don't rely on the loops, go straight to the source. For example, here at Greyhaus, I say it can take up to three months. Now, in reality, I try to keep it to a month, but I want to build in that potential flex time on my end if there is something that comes up on this end. Now, once you have established that response time, I recommend giving them a couple more weeks after that.

I would also recommend following them on their blogs and see what is going on in their lives. Some people end up running from once conference to the next and there is nothing they can do about getting to your project. I have one editor that I work with that I sent a project to her. Unfortunately, it hit right around the time she was taking off on maternity leave. She had thought it was going to get read, and it didn't. Oh well. She is still interested in the project and is moving it to the top of her reading pile.

Now, how do you contact the agent? In this case, a simple email is great. Keep it simple and polite. For example:

Dear Scott,

I had the chance to send you a full manuscript back in November, 2009. This was the project called, The Alien Vampire Saga, a 90,000 word inspirational that you requested when I attended the XYZ conference. I just wanted to follow up and check the status of the project.


The goal is to keep it simple and to remind me of the project. There are times that I may have responded to it but in the moment, didn't send the email. There are also times that the mail simply screws up and it either doesn't make it to me, or the response doesn't get back. Things happen.

O.K., here is the second issue to bring up. Let's say you haven't heard back. You sent a letter and still haven't heard anything back. My question to you is simple. "Why would you want to work with someone that can't answer emails and messages?" This goes for editors as well. I don't care if you think your story is perfect for the publisher. I don't care if the agent has a great reputation for selling stories for big money, you still have to work with the person.

There have been editors in the past (that have moved on) that I would never send a project to because they simply don't answer messages. I really didn't care if I had the next Twilight I would never send the project to the editor. The same goes for you the writer.

And one last note. Turning around and beginnning a smear campaign against the agent on the loops isn't going to get you anything. Sure you might feel better, but the word will get around to the other agents and editors. Not a cool thing.



  1. In my last round of queries, I had one agent who said on her website that she responded to all queries within a certain window. When it passed, I emailed her again to ask on the status and she was quite courteous in replying that she had already responded and it bounced. She helpfully pasted the original rejection in the new email. Despite it being a form rejection, she immediately hopped to the top of my list for whenever my next book is ready for Qing. :D

  2. I agree that a reply is important. If that agent cannot reply to the polite 'have you read it yet?' email, then it is time to move on.

    Thanks again for valuable advice.