Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Before I address our subject today, let me give you a little update about our Books & Such main office and about three of our colleagues.
The massive fires in Santa Rosa have caused the evacuation of the Books & Such office as well as evacuating Janet, Rachel and Michelle and their families from their homes. As of this writing, some 1500 homes and businesses have been lost but we believe Janet’s, Michelle’s and Rachel’s structures are standing and our three colleagues are waiting it out with grace. These fires are unprecedented in Northern California as far as structure loss and the tragic loss of life. Santa Rosa is in a beautiful valley filled with the finest vineyards in the world. The Napa-Sonoma valleys may never be the same in our lifetime. We ask for your continued prayers. Special prayers for Rachel’s husband, Andrew, a firefighter. He’s the hero in the photo to the right.
One of the questions I’m often asked: If an agent asks to see the author’s book proposal but then never gives any response or 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 his or her concept. I’ve asked the author to send the proposal. I receive it and put it in a folder on my computer. 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. Truth-telling is important, but I can’t bear to tell you how long some of those proposals have been waiting. I blush just thinking about it.
Of course the “no thanks” answers are easy and they come fast.
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 yet lost out to another agent because they were quicker than me.
To answer the question: Give the agent a couple of months, and then, yes, you have every right to inquire about a response. 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 delayed response. 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! 😉
And for those of you waiting on me, feel free to nudge. The good news? I only have one trip between now and next spring– the next six months are my first uninterrupted office time in a very long time.