letters from the query wars 11.15.2013

# of queries responded to week ending 10.18.2013: 113
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: YA contemporary; YA SF

# of queries responded to week ending 10.25.2013: 103
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries responded to week ending 11.01.2013: 119
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: both SF

# of queries responded to week ending 11.08.2013: 49
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries responded to week ending 10.25.2013: 122
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

oldest query in the queue: November 7th

Some Thoughts on the Etiquette of Waiting
with thanks to @effies (Effie Seiberg)

So, there you are (you being a writer in this case). You’ve spent agonizing months, years, perhaps even a decade, developing your story, making sacrifices (housework? yardwork? other hobbies?) and seemingly sweating blood to birth your novel. It’s been revised, polished, and is the most amazing thing you could possibly write. You’ve spent weeks and weeks haunting social networks, studying acknowledgements in books and mining resources like agentquery.com. You’ve selected your list of dream agents and studied their submission guidelines. You’ve crafted your query letter over and over with excruciating dedication. You’re sure you’re ready. You send off the query letters to the agents (along with whatever additional material their guidelines may request)…..

…..and you wait.

What to do? What to do? The common advice is to put your writing energy on to your next project. Or this could be the opportunity to consider spending extra time with friends and family (or getting back to that yardwork). Or, heck, just get some rest. These days it seems like everyone could use some more rest. The problem is, that as one repeatedly hits the refresh button for their email, this is all rather more easily said than done, of course.

Believe me, agents understand. At the same time that you are sending your queries to the agents, they are making pitches for their clients to editors at publishing houses, and then submitting and waiting…. Even though only a midwife of sorts, agents can relate to what you’re going through at this point (we also neglect our housework to work on books).

Evenso, how does one judge when one has waited long enough? (Pause to refresh email to see if any editors have stayed late on Friday night to make offers….. just kidding…..) In the case of my agency, our website redesign earlier this year added individual agent profile pages that list our response times. (You can see mine here.) Many agencies have these in their guidelines, though, unfortunately, not all. So one can also use tools such as those on querytracker.com to get estimates (please note these are submitted by writers and not a scientific study). My query response time is currently listed at “up to 3 weeks.” I try to do better than that, but sometimes there are other factors such as travel, holidays, or even just a few sick days here and there.

Keeping that in mind, if you’ve sent a query that’s been waiting longer than a particular agent’s indicated response time, give them a few extra days or even a week or two. (Yeah, that might be tough — refresh, refresh, refresh that inbox — but remember they have hundreds of queries coming in so even just losing a couple days can throw things off.) At this point, I think it’s fine to send a polite followup email asking for a status update. After all, there are other possibilities too (darn spam filters). I recommend including the original query and requested materials with the followup so the agent has it all in one place. And, yes, unfortunately, this may reset the clock for the waiting period (and the refresh, refresh, refresh).

The important thing to remember here is that agents that are open to queries are on the hunt for new stories and new clients. They will review what they receive just as quickly and efficiently as they possibly can. Believe me the agent doesn’t want to wait any longer to discover their next stay-up-all-night reading experience than it wants to wait to be discovered.

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