Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office
Here’s one of the questions asked at the writers conference I attended last weekend: If an agent asks to see the author’s book proposal but then never gives any feedback, is it proper etiquette to email the agent and ask about its status? If so, how long should the author wait before inquiring?
Here’s where I get a huge #AgentFail. A number of times I’ve been impressed by an author and intrigued by the concept. I’ve asked the author to send the proposal. I receive it and put it in a folder that sits on my desktop. And in that folder it sits. And sits. And sits. Every time I look at that folder I cringe, but I’m caught between putting out a fire and reading a contract. Or one of my clients has a cover issue that simply cannot wait. This week is about truth-telling, but I can’t bear to tell you how long some of those proposals have been waiting. I blush just thinking about it.
I never request a proposal unless I am interested. That makes it hard to dismiss requested material out of hand. I am also aware that I ignore these at my peril. I still see writers at conferences whose work I love and lost to another agent because they were not as backed up as I was.
To answer the question: Give the agent a couple of months, and then, yes, you have every right to inquire. Be personable. It gives us another pleasant point of contact. Some of the fun of early agent-client-relationship building has happened in those email back-and-forth nudges. And don’t feel uncomfortable nudging over and over every couple of months.
We agents know we are in an untenable time situation, and we put writers in an uncomfortable situation because of it. Were an agent to write you off because you asked for a reasonable update, that’s not an agent you’d want representing you. This is #AgentFail, pure and simple, and when it happens it actually subtly shifts the power since those of us who are people pleasers know we have failed. Use it!
If you were an agent, how would you handle this? Anyone have any suggestions for me?