Waiting to hear after you query: When do you stop biting your nails?

I meet the durndest people online… Here are some (fabulous) questions that one of my favorite Twitter stalkers suggested querying authors would like answered (and go follow @rhondasaunders on Twitter!):

If an agent’s policy is to respond to all queries within a particular time frame but I don’t hear back, what do I do? Assume I suck so hard that the agent just has no words? Forget it and move on? Review the submission policy to make sure I did it right, then send a polite status query? If so, what do I say?

I may be a bad person to ask about this because I kind of put the OC in the OCD about not letting my queries build up too much. And I’m not a famous agent (yet) or anything. And I also answer every query (that is properly submitted). So… my personal feeling is that if you haven’t heard back from an agent within the time frame in which they say they respond, and they say they respond to all queries, just shoot them a polite follow-up. Like: Just checking in because I haven’t gotten a response. I queried you on such-and-such a date with such-and-such a manuscript, entitled blankety-blank. Thank you for your time… Like that. But that’s just me.

If I got a request for a partial or full from an agent but forgot to come to an agreement about how long I should expect to wait (because I was too excited to think about details before firing it off), what is a reasonable time frame? Do I nudge after two months? Six months? What’s okay and won’t make me look like an impatient amateur?

Face it. You are an impatient amateur! Own it. This is a difficult question to answer, too. I suppose it really depends upon the agent and their usual turn-around time. I don’t think I could personally have a partial or a full in my inbox for 6 months without having guilt nightmares (at least at this stage of my career). I suppose when you can’t control yourself any more you could shoot the agent a polite e-mail asking what their turnaround time is? Like: You requested my full manuscript on such-and-such a date and I was delighted to send it to you. Can you tell me your usual turn-around time so I can stop biting my nails and obsessively checking my e-mail? Thank you so much… (Um, but you should probably be more business-like than that.)

If I did agree on a time period with an agent who has my partial or full but that time has passed and I haven’t heard anything, what do I do?

Just give up and face that you suck. Oh wait! No! That’s not it! Just send them an e-mail, silly! Agents are people. Sometimes they’re busy people. Sometimes they’re unorganized people. Sometimes they’re people buried in 100s of submissions. And sometimes they’re mean people who don’t want you to follow-up with them. But would you want someone like that to be your agent? Hmm?

Is there any circumstance under which I should agree to grant an exclusive read for a partial or full? If so, what’s a reasonable length of time to give? After that, do I nudge? Send out other queries and/or respond to other requests and just drop the agent a line to let him or her know I’m doing so?

There are probably circumstances where that might happen. But as a writer, if I ever did grant an exclusive read, I wouldn’t give anyone more than a week or two. Even a super busy agent can get a reader to read something that they really like in about a week or two. After that, I think it’s totally appropriate to ask them what’s going on. And if you want to be nice, I think its fine to let them know you are sending out other queries. What you SHOULD NOT do is exclusively query an agent, unasked, and then keep following up as if they had asked you for an exclusive. That’s just annoying and self-important.
Any other questions, my lovelies?

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4 responses to “Waiting to hear after you query: When do you stop biting your nails?

  1. Thanks for taking the time to write all this. I just signed up for your Hofstra class – it’s on my birthday 🙂

  2. Great advice. I would also recommend the absolute write forumns as people post about agent repsonse times so you can get a feel for how long your replies should take.