letters from the query wars 2/18/2011

Query posts took an unintentional hiatus over the last several weeks. An unanticipated situation developed requiring an entirely different kind of battle not related to agently endeavors. It’s cost me a lot of time and not a little bit of sleep (getting up every 3 hours can be so nasty), and the fiscal impact is, as yet, undetermined. My response time dropped from 4 days to just over 3 weeks. Nevertheless I soldiered on whenever I was able.

Sometimes, soldiering on can be really tough.

Once in a while, I request a partial or manuscript and don’t get a reply. I usually follow up a few days later to be sure I’m not getting filtered into spam or some such. Occasionally, weeks or sometimes months, or yes, even years later, I hear from one of these people as to something that was happening in their life when I made the request that prevented them from following through. Of course, everyone should understand that these things happen, but many times we don’t anticipate it.

I don’t always — years later — want to read the same things. Indeed, there are books in my TBR pile that have been languishing and will probably never get read for that reason. All the same, when a crisis comes along and sends things unexpectedly awry, I personally consider it only simple courtesy to extend understanding, and hope that when I’m in a situation myself, others will do the same.

Have you had this happen to you? An agent request that you couldn’t fulfill? What did you do at the time, and if you, in 20/20 hindsight, would have done it differently, how would you change it?

And now, the last 6 weeks of stats:

# of queries responded to week ending 1/14/2011: 182
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries responded to week ending 1/21/2011: 176
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: YA-fantasy

# of queries responded to week ending 1/28/2011: 149
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries responded to week ending 2/4/2011: 38 [not a typo]
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries responded to week ending 2/11/2011: 118
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: fantasy, YA-paranormal

# of queries responded to week ending 2/18/2011: 147
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: SF/F

oldest query in the queue: January 24th

5 responses to “letters from the query wars 2/18/2011

  1. I’ve been fortunate in my relationships with agents that when they’ve requested partials/fulls I have been in a good place in life to deliver. I think that rational people would share your sentiments. If I were to get a form reject rather late from an agent, I wouldn’t be upset because it was always going to happen. If, on the other hand I were to get a request for more materials, even if it was months later, I think I’d be ecstatic. How could you not be?

    While we’re on the subject of partials/fulls, I do have a question. If it’s inapprorpriate feel free to ignore it, but I don’t know many agents that reply readily to questions. I submitted a full to an agent (not you). It was 145k words and I alternated between the present and flashbacks. The agent passed and in their remarks stated that they liked works that revealed little by little, instead of chunks of story. They liked my writing, but not my execution. I cut 25k words, wove the flashbacks seamlessly into the story where warranted and cut the rest. Now I’m getting requests for partials and fulls again. I feel like this is in no small part due to that agent’s few sentences about my structure. (I must confess, after I made the changes I felt like a moron who blew their only chance for not seeing it myself) They didn’t ask me to edit and submit again. If you were that agent, would you like to look at it again? Or would I just be wasting the agent’s time?

    When you’re in the midst of the struggle, sometimes soldiering on is the best you can do. I’m a big believer in karma, and I hope that the understanding you’ve extended to others will be extended to you.

  2. I have been fortunate in that I’ve been prepared when agents have requested content. While I’d like to think I’m connected enough that I could shoot even a short explanation from my phone if something was happening, it’s entirely possible that certain emergencies may cause the entire idea of publishing to seem inconsequential at the moment (loved one in the hospital or some such). In those cases, I would hope that an agent would be as understanding as you. If not, well, life throws curveballs and you swing at the pitches you can hit.

  3. It’s simply a common courtesy to let an agent know that you won’t be able to deliver at this time. I would do the same for any appointment or any obligation, and we are not exactly deprived of communication opportunities. Two minutes to send an email could be extracted from any given situation.

    Besides, one might want to approach the same agent again, and it’s not exactly a picture of a reliability if they believe that you may or may not even respond depending what goes on in life. It’s just not very professional.

  4. To me, a response to almost any email seems appropriate, if nothing more to acknowledge you got it and read it. Of course, I don’t usually respond to the offers of fake Rolex’s or cheap Viagra.

    In this case, regardless of the situation, a response of some sort is appropriate, even if it’s nothing more than “I’m sorry, but life is preventing me from honoring your request…thanks for asking anyway.” Sure, you might wonder what’s happened, but at least you’re not left hanging. Of course, I’m a bit older and manners were taught differently back then. We didn’t usually conduct “very private” telephone conversations in the midst of complete strangers either.

  5. I hope everything works out and you are well.

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