QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, November 22, 2010

Agents Requesting Material: The Happy Dilemma

Again we have some questions from the QueryTracker Festival Of Questions.

Do you include a synopsis in the body of the email when sending out a partial?
When sending a partial, it's always best to follow the agent's instructions if any are given. If not, then arrange the following in one document:

  • First page: your original query letter so the agent can remember why she loved your work enough to request pages.
  • Second page: begin your partial material.
  • After the partial material: your synopsis.
  • In the body of the email itself, I would include only thanks for this opportunity and a mention that you have sent everything as requested.

Next question:

I got a partial request from an agent back in June, and the email said to wait 12 weeks for her response. It's been 16 weeks and the agent hasn't replied to any of my emails. Should I just keep waiting for a response? Or would it be okay in this instance to call the agent?
You're not alone, if that makes you feel any better. Same question, different asker:
I am not sure what to do when I query an agent and they make a request and then I don't hear back. Is it okay to call if they don't respond to an email?
I ran into this a couple of times, and it's a head-scratcher. I would say no, don't call.

Here's where having a QT membership helps. A lot. First, you can look at the agent's stats to see her average response time for requested material. If she says twelve weeks but her QT stats show an average of 26 weeks, you know to keep waiting.

Secondly, if you have the premium membership, you can narrow down the agent's response time from the time you submitted. It may be that her average response time is twelve weeks, but her recent responses have taken five months.

One agent who requested my material said she responded in three months, but when I checked her stats, over time her average response time had climbed to 282 days! I could also see that for the past month she'd responded to no submissions at all. With that data, I knew not to nudge her. In another I could see from the QT stats that an agent had requested eight manuscripts in a week, then none for the next two months, and responded to none of those eight for a month beyond that. Again, I didn't bother nudging.

If it appears you should have received a response, assume a technology fail. Send a status query to the agent from a different email address, just in case her reply went into your spam folder (You are checking that periodically, right?)

Please note: we are talking about requested material, not queries. Don't send a status update for a query. If you think you should have received a response, just resend the query.

Once a submission went overdue (to me, that's the stated time plus 25%, although not before 12 weeks under any circumstances) I would nudge at one-month intervals.

A phone call demands an immediate response from the agent (Yes, no, or "I don't remember your project.") The highest likelihood is that the agent won't remember your query and has sent requested material to the back burner due to being overwhelmed by already-signed clients. You don't want to be the equivalent of a telemarketer who asks for money for the Ruthenian Policemen's Fund For Starving Chipmunks while someone is making dinner and wrangling three children. You might well get an answer by pushing, but it won't be the one you want.

Because you won't have stopped querying while waiting for this one agent's response (right? RIGHT?) your efforts are best focused on finding other agents to request your material, thus distributing your hopes more widely. And, of course, working on an unrelated novel. If you do get an offer, you can nudge with the subject line "Offer of Representation: {title of work}" and that will be your final nudge forever.

Best of luck!

Jane Lebak is the author of The Guardian (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (this December from MuseItUp). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four children. She is represented by Roseanne Wells of the Marianne Strong Literary Agency.