When is an agent going to get back to me on this?
I’m wrapping up a series of writers conferences from this spring so I have dozens of hopeful clients who’ve sent in follow-up requests. They are waiting for me to let them know if I will offer them representation. Patience is so hard, especially when you’ve been pushing toward your publishing dream. If you’ve wrestled with how or when to follow-up with an agent after an initial submission, today’s post is for you!
By the way, if we met this spring at a writers conference, whether online or virtually, I’m thrilled that you took my suggestion and subscribed to the Books & Such blog! Give me a shout out in the comments below and tell me where we met!
Today’s Question: If you’re seeking representation, when should you exercise patience and when should you proactively reach out to a literary agent?
Here are three scenarios that you may encounter:
PROBLEM: No response to your initial query for more than a month.
SOLUTION: Be Proactive
If you’ve submitted a query to a literary agent and it’s been more than a month with no response, you can reach out again.
IMPORTANT: Before you send the follow-up email, double-check that you are querying the right agent for your project. Some agents, especially well-established or top tier agents, will not respond to queries that do not match what they represent. They also may not respond if they are not accepting new clients at the time.
If you haven’t heard from a good agent (who is accepting new clients), chances are that his or her lack of response is because they are taking care of their existing clients or they’ve received an overwhelming number of queries that make it challenging to respond to each one.
How do you coach yourself through this?
First, practice QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally. Be kind to yourself and don’t jump to conclusions. You can’t know if the agent has read your query or formed an opinion about your project. All you know is that he or she hasn’t responded. So, when negative thoughts perk up, say: “I’m going to QTIP this. I am not going to take the lack of response personally.”
Second, if you really believe that this person is the right agent for your project, wait a month and send a follow-up note. Keep it brief. It’s helpful to let the agent know the date that you submitted the original query. It’s also helpful to include the title of your project and that you look forward to hearing from them once they’ve reviewed it. If there is an editor or publisher interested in seeing your project, add that into your follow-up note as well.
Finally, if you haven’t heard from them after a few months, here’s a line that I’ve adapted from a popular online dating coach: It’s time to activate the most powerful four-letter word: NEXT! Move on to the next agent and don’t look back.
PROBLEM: Waiting for the agent to review your full proposal or full-length manuscript
Every hopeful author loves it when an agent emails or says the magic words: “I’d love for you to send me your full proposal.” You fire off that email and then, the daily email checks begin. After a few weeks, you start playing the mental game of “should I or shouldn’t I send a follow-up?” Can anyone relate?
I can’t speak for all agents, but outside of working with my existing clients, here are a combination of three possibilities that may explain your wait time:
- I’m reading your proposal and considering whether I have the ability to coach you through the development process before I can represent you to a publisher.
- I’m searching for whether I can find a publisher for your project, whether it’s your genre, plot or the current size of your platform.
- Your proposal or full manuscript is in my workflow. I haven’t been able to finish it, but I will.
This is why QTIP is important. As agents, our job is to help you be successful, so we need time to do our due diligence. If you tend to overthink or get impatient, you can coach yourself by saying, “Take a deep breath. The answer will come.” Hang in here!
PROBLEM: Agent has asked for heavy revisions OR asked you to build your platform.
SOLUTION: Patience AND Proactivity
I have a category in my Google task manager called “Wait List.” This is where I keep track of a list of are wonderful writers, but I’m unable to sign them right now. Some writers need to work on their proposal, others are writing a new manuscript or their platform needs to grow.
A few months ago, I wait-listed a potential client. Months later, they proactively reached out to me with the desired results. It was a joy to sign the author because the client is now positioned for success in publishing, not just being represented.
If I have to delay representation, I always add, “Look, unless Jesus comes back or God takes me home, I’ll be here when you’re ready to submit your query.” While I can’t offer any guarantees, I’ll gladly revisit a representation conversation if a potential client takes the time to do the right work and delivers the requested results.
You may feel like Cinderella racing against the clock’s strike at midnight, but slow down. Take the time to do this right. Speed isn’t a guarantee of success. If you’ve heard from an agent who loves your work or you, but they can’t sign you until XYZ is complete, this is a time to take a deep breath and do the work the right way, not the rushed way.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: What’s the hardest part about waiting for an agent to get back to you? What self-coaching tips do you have to share with others who are waiting for representation?