From the mixed up files of Agent Manners

Dear Readers:

It appears that many experience consternation and confusion concerning the submission process with respect to time. To whit:

From Biding Time:
An agent requested a partial manuscript via email on May 31, which I sent immediately. Now, she sent the request twelve days after I sent the original query via snail mail, yet I have heard nothing in the last 3 1/2 months. Should I give it up for lost…send a reminder…keep waiting…? And, is it appropriate to continue sending out queries to other agencies while someone else has the partial?

From Anonymous:
I have a similar question. I’ve had a full out on an exclusive for about a month and a half. When (if at all) is the appropriate time to check on the status of the submission? Is it okay to check in at all?

From Patiently Neurotic in Massachusetts:
Yes, I’m a neurotic worrier, as many writers seem to be – and I’m happy to get that out of the way up front. I embrace it. My question is a variant of the ever-popular “How long do I wait?” question.
In this case, I had my TOP pick agent (out of a well-researched list of over 30 who handle work similar to mine) request a partial, based on a query. Based on the partial, he requested the full manuscript. After some months of hearing nothing, I emailed and he said the manuscript had had several readings, and the consensus was positive — and he requested a bit more time. I gladly gave it. After several more months, he gave me very detailed feedback of what he felt the novel needed in order to be saleable. He said he’d be glad to have another look at it once I’d made the changes. I took a few months to make the changes (and his advice was, by the way, fantastic — the novel is much stronger for it) and posted the revised manuscript to him. Now, he started out as my top pick — and his feedback convinced me even further that he’s the sort of agent I’ve always hoped for. So now I wait. It’s been two months since I resubmitted it. I’m patient. Really, really patient. I swear.
The question: is it better for me to continue the patient waiting game, or to ping him and check on the status?

So, to Biding, Anonymous, Patiently Neurotic, and Others….

This can be a delicate question. As many of you no doubt know, agents are busy people. Always on the lookout for new material to excite them, but also committed to their current clients. This can make triage somewhat challenging to manage at times. As in any endeavor, it is always best to be polite and professional. Many agents list estimated response times on their websites. These do not take into account death in the family, holidays, an unexpected client crisis, or other time-muching events. However, it would certainly seem reasonable to use them as a guideline. A polite followup requesting an update and providing an SASE for reply doesn’t seem like it should go awry.

Should an agent need an excessive amount of time to review your material, it would be professional to inform them that you are considering additional submissions and avenues prior to engaging in same. (And what is excessive? If this is your dream agent, perhaps you wish to grant more time. Remember, publishing is a hurry up and wait business. Be patient. And work on the next book to keep your thoughts less anxious.)

As an aside to anonymous, when granting an exclusive, always negotiate for a reasonable time limit and then be sure to inform the agent that you will not make decisions without contacting them as you pursue additional inquiries, if necessary, after that time period has elapsed.

To Patiently Neurotic, specifically — It sounds as if you are having a responsive, albeit slower than you’d prefer, interaction with this agent. Also, the agent has certainly invested time in giving you feedback. Again, a polite inquiry seems reasonable but do not waste opportunity.

One response to “From the mixed up files of Agent Manners

  1. Thanks!
    Thanks for the feedback – it makes a lot of sense.
    Patiently Neurotic

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