blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
When an agent doesn’t reply to your query, proposal, burning question, or manuscript submission, is it because she/he doesn’t care?
Admittedly, sometimes writers–whether aspiring or veteran–choose the default answer, “Yes! That must be it! I’m not important enough to her. My work isn’t worth five minutes of her time.”
I’m waiting for a new mattress. My back needs it. My sleep patterns will benefit from replacing the sway-backed horse of a mattress that has long passed its life expectancy. The anticipated delivery date whizzed by weeks ago. So I called the company and was given a new anticipated delivery date. That too has come and gone. “We’ll call you when it’s in the store,” they keep saying. No call. Periodically, I call them. Same answer. But I need that mattress. Apparently, need isn’t the only consideration here. The chain of reasons stretches from the store to the factory to the delivery system to the pandemic, I assume.
But my impatience about the mattress seems a fitting analogy to a writer’s need to hear from the agent. Genuine need. What’s going on in an agent’s mind/life/office/soul when she doesn’t respond in a timely (as defined by the eager writer) manner?
Pop quiz. See how many you answer correctly, or if you gain perspective.
Why isn’t it standard practice for an agent to at least acknowledge she received my query or proposal?
a. Agents are heartless beasts.
b. Agents are curious, and if they open the email, they may get sucked into a vortex that distracts them from the twelve other essential tasks awaiting their attention at that moment.
c. Agents may well want to shoot off a quick email to say they received the project, but would need a personal assistant to handle that task alone because of the volume of incoming.
I sent my query three months ago. I don’t understand why I haven’t heard from the agent yet. She seemed so interested when we met at the virtual conference. Is it because:
a. She doesn’t really care?
b. Her first obligation is to her current clients and their needs, which are many?
c. She opened the email and was intrigued by the query but needs time to ponder its viability in the market?
d. She opened the document and is in the process of researching other books on the topic, evaluating the level of work it will take to make it marketable, or studying your presence and engagement on social media, your website, and considering?
e. She’s waiting for mental elbow-room so she can devote herself to your proposal rather than rushing through a quicker response?
When an agent doesn’t reply, the truth is:
a. She must hate it.
b. She is intrigued, but it’s not quite there yet, and she wants to give a thoughtful reply that will be meaningful for my next steps in my writing journey.
c. She’s as inundated as every other agent, and working her way through in as timely a manner as she can.
d. She doesn’t like the delay any more than I do.
e. A delay is sometimes providential. It’s not always a death knell for a project.
How did you do? Did you get an A on the quiz about what to think when an agent doesn’t reply? If you answered (a.) to any of the above, then you did not pass. The only possible wrong answers were the (a.) answers.
Waiting is hard. No one’s arguing that. If you haven’t heard from an agent in six to eight weeks (some say three months), feel free to send a quick note to ask if your query or proposal arrived. Agents are imperfect (shocker!) and sometimes do overlook a message. Cyberspace is also imperfect (another shocker!). It’s okay to check in. But just as those experienced in remodeling projects create a budget but mentally double it to account for reality, mentally double the time you think it should take for an agent to respond to you. Then do a little happy dance if the answer comes in “under budget.”
Ask any agent if they’d like to attend to every email immediately so nothing piles up and they don’t miss out on any compelling opportunities, and they’re likely to respond that it’s an undercurrent of longing. But it’s a dream that leans toward fairytale status. Real life, including negotiating powerhouse deals and negotiating power outages, the need to stay abreast of royalty statements for their clients and the necessity of pondering when considering a new client get in the way. Every day.
You can let go of the (a.) answers. We do care. And we’re working hard to give careful consideration to every person whose work enters our inboxes. All three trillion of them. (Hyperbole is allowed in this case.)