Saturday, June 11, 2011

Following up on your Query Letter (Without Nagging)

Right now I'm in the exciting and nerve wracking position of having a half dozen queries and manuscript submissions out there in the cold hard world.  I sent the oldest of these out about a month and a half ago.  So, the question becomes, when do I start worrying about getting a response to this manuscript query?  In other words, when do I start panicking?

The Waiting Game

Most publishers or literary agents state right in their submission guidelines when you should expect a response...if you are successful.  If you're not successful, the assumption is that you pick a date in the future, after the estimated timeline they've suggested, to haul out your pending submissions spreadsheet, put a strike through their name, and sob into your keyboard.

But, wait a second, is this always the case?

Some publishers or agents will tell you that you should re-query or inquire about your submission if you haven't received a response within a certain time.  DO IT.  You shouldn't delay on following up with a submission.  The longer you wait, the harder it will be.  Don't procrastinate on this.

Even if the submission guidelines don't specifically tell you to follow up on a query that falls outside of their estimated timeline for a response, you can still follow up if that time has expired.  Be polite in your second letter.  Don't point fingers or try to guilt them.  The timelines set out in submission guidelines are just an estimate.  As with any estimate, it may be off the mark in your particular case.  Don't freak out.

Don't Call Me, I'll Call You

Just because an agent or editor lists a phone number on their website (or you've managed to track it down through internet stalking) doesn't mean you have permission to use it.

Don't pick up the phone and reach out to someone just because you're upset that their review of your query has taken longer than expected.  Everyone is busy and publishers or agents more so.

Follow Up in Writing

I would suggest you send a polite professional letter in the same tone as your original query.  Mention that you sent your query on such-and-such date and that you are inquiring as to the status of it.  You can then include the information in your original query for ease of reference.  Hey, I'm all about ease of reference.

Rather than have to search through their entire inbox for your original email, it may make the publisher or agent's life easier if you just reproduce the information you first sent.  They will appreciate the thoughtfulness.

And yes, that means including the blurb, the biography, the whole shebang.  Just copy and paste the original query text below your first paragraph.  You can even mention that you're doing this for their ease of reference.

So, what now?

Your query may still be in a long queue, waiting for someone to look at it, but you may find out what the new estimated timelines are for a response.  Make a note of it and send out a third query at the end of that time.

Or the response may simply be "oh, we forgot to tell you, your writing sucked and we sent the original query into space to save the world from it".  Oh well, at least you know.  But seriously, move on to the next publisher or agent on your list.  Send out a new query.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  But always repeat.

Photo courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at

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