Monday, January 31, 2011

The Protocol For Following Up

Writers are all told not to push and not to pressure an agent or editor. This is VERY true. Still, just not saying anything when it has been a while is not going to get you anything either.

On the majority of editors and agents websites, they will state both how they will respond to queries and proposals, as well as the time it will be before they get back to you. I will say, as a side note, there are some agents that simply say, if you don't hear from us, it means no. Not sure about this one personally, but hey, everyone has a way of doing things.

Now here is the point I need to make. We need to remember that agents and editors have a lot on their plate. You project is not the only thing they are dealing with and, if they have one of their current client who has a project that needs to be read, all submissions stop while they deal with it. We also need to remember that there are a lot of submissions coming in and sometimes things do get lost. This is when a follow up is important.

If that editor or agent has a time period when they say they will be back to you, send them a quick note. Don't get hostile. Don't threaten. Just inquire. A simple, "I wanted to follow up on a project I sent to you on..." is good enough. Give them contact information and just wait.

Each agent and editor has a way of tracking submissions. I do know many simply rely on "sent messages" in their inbox. For myself, I keep a data base logging the author's name, manuscript, genre, type of submission, date in, date out and a comment. But still things slip by. If I miss something, it could have slipped into cyberspace, or even been deleted accidentally. Don't worry about asking.

Now, if you do ask, and I have record I did send a response, we'll let you know again. I have heard writers say they got a rejection because they asked. This is far from the truth (at least I can say that about me). It was likely the manuscript.

So please. Just ask. And hey, if they never respond, the question to ask yourself is: "Do I really want to work with someone that doesn't respond?" Just a thought.



  1. This is a really great post. Most writers are in limbo after they query. I know I'm never sure when it's the right time to ask no matter how much I research submission guidelines. Since I do understand that it's stressful on either side of the spectrum, I designated for myself a standard period of two months. Don't know if it's too long or too short, just figured it was a happy medium that would satisfy everyone. About agents that say if you don't hear from them then it's a no. Seriously, that's just wrong and defies the whole do unto others factor. That's just one of my many opinions. Even a non-personal rejection is better than nothing. Thanks. Enjoy the weather. Oh, and just so you know, after reading this post, my appreciation for paper query has climbed up several notches.

  2. That last sentence is an excellent point. Instead of writers getting too freaked out about the agent not responding, they should take this as a sign that this is not the type of person they want to work with anyway. Thanks for an honest and level-headed point of view.

  3. I love the ending of your post. Brings it home. I never bother to follow up on a sent submission. No response is just as good as a negative response.

  4. And then there are those who never answer the follow up e-mail. Guess it's just no at that point. Makes me feel like an inconsequential piece of dirt.