What about a friendly letter to remind an agent that it has been well over the two month mark? I don't want to annoy due to all of the hustle and bustle, but the whole band-aid ripping is looking a lot better than waiting until the snow melts.Yes--of course. It's not only acceptable; it's your duty to check in--we simply don't have the man (well, in this industry, human) power to know where every single manuscript is at all times--and to remember to look.
We assume that if it's been a long time, or longer than the norm, that you will check in. In fact, it makes you look good and aware--and, sometimes, the manuscript simply didn't reach us, or is hiding somewhere--and we'll only find it if you email us and ask us to look.
For most agents, the "norm" is up to six weeks for queries, and up to three (sometimes four) months for manuscripts. Every site should state norms. It's also completely acceptable, when you send your work, to ask about the turnaround time.
I'd been great at getting back to everyone within a month--and then I was hit with a flood of awesome in manuscript from. Since July, everything's been thrown off. Gmail probably hates me for actually using the space they promise.
So, yes. Checking in is a necessary skill. The key here is friendly.
And please, please don't call. Especially at 5:59 on a Friday.
Just as you would with a query letter, have a friend look over all of your agency correspondence. Ask them to be absolutely sure that your writing is free of the following:
- Sad/defeated attitude
- Angry questions (WHY is it taking so long?)
- The assumption that the agent is being, somehow, unfair (sorry, but no, we don't read everything in the exact order it comes in--and we actually work more quickly because of this--but don't bring that up)
- The assumption that we'll eventually reject your work (you showed a little of this in your band-aid analogy above) because it's taking so long. No no no. This isn't accurate, and actually creates sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy. We subconsciously assume that this means everyone else said no to you, and then wonder if there's a reason. And sometimes, there's a delay because 1) we want to give your work a careful read and/or 2) we're showing it to others in the office. Both good things.
Keep in mind that every single word you send to an agency reflects on you and your work. If your mundane correspondence simply radiates writerliness, we'll think to ourselves, "My! Where is that manuscript? I bet it's good..."
And as far as timing/spacing--I'd say you get one check-in for queries, at about six weeks. And for manuscripts/partials, I'd say send one email after the three-month mark (assuming this is the time frame you were given), one two weeks later if you don't get a reply, and a third two weeks after that if you still don't hear back.
But what do you assume if you hear nothing? Well, that's a tough one. Sometimes (often) agents are just overwhelmed. Unless you have another offer (do NOT fake one. I repeat, do not fake an offer--we will find out, not trust you, and then worry you'll go all James Frey on us) getting back to an author simply because he/she is, like everyone else, eager to hear back...is not our highest priority.
Is it rude of us? Totally. But in an avalanche, you don't get to say "please" and "thank you" to the snow.
And not hearing back in a timely fashion does not necessarily mean anything bad. You may get a favorable response very soon.
Are you free, though, to send your work elsewhere? Absolutely.
Keep in mind that sometimes we don't get answers, either--when we send out manuscripts, there are often one or two editors who just never get back. And we move forward. Again--everyone in the business is pretty overwhelmed.
Hi ______, I'm checking in to see if you or [my colleague] re-read the new revised, [title]. I would be thrilled to resend it if you need me to. I hope your holiday was great! Thank you again.... [name] [phone number]
Totally fine. You really don't need more than this. I'm going to get nitpicky and say that this could be a bit more elegant (everything is on one line) and there should be a comma between "new" and "revised." Would I hold this against the author? Not at all, if I love her work.
It's been just over 2 months since I sent in the proposal for [title]. The automatic responder I received said to check back if I hadn't heard anything.
Have a great Thanksgiving,
Perfectly passable, but--well, boring. Again, you don't get many lines of correspondence with an agency--make them count! I like the "Have a great Thanksgiving," but I'm not sure from the beginning if it's truly meant with warmth. Also, "2" should be written out.
You must be getting ready to escape the office to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. I just wanted to check in on my manuscript, [title].
Let me know if I should check back after Thanksgiving.
I like this one. Warm and friendly, and free of errors.
I'm checking in. Since I haven't heard from you, may I assume you're not interested in my project?
Yikes! I felt really bad while reading this (it had been more than two months). But did it make me want to pounce and read it immediately? Not really. Keep in mind that we get the most done when we have a can-do, lots-of-exciting-work-out-there, can't-wait-to-read attitude. If your letter saddens us a little, well, we're going to assume you're sad from a lot of rejection. And this is never good.
I'm just checking in to see how the reading of [title] is going. Are you enjoying the story?
Too informal. I don't think it wise to ask if we're enjoying the story. It doesn't set quite the right tone.
Again, not enough to make me dislike the project, but not going to make me excited to read it, either.
This next one's my favorite, and comes after a series of long emails: 1) I need time to make sure my work is perfect, 2) Here it is....! 3) I sent you a bad proposal, can I send you another one? 4) I know my marketing section is weak. I'm working on it. Let me send you a new one. 5) How are you doing? Is there anything you'd like to talk about? 6) Can I call you? 7) Okay, if I can't call you, can you tell me why you need sample chapters with the proposal?
Here is a sexier and more complete proposal.
How long do you think it will take before I hear how much you love it?
Sigh. Sigh again. Note that the new proposal does not contain sample chapters. When there are hundreds of authors vying for my attention, it's correspondence like this that makes me tempted to simply not reply. Or to reply and immediately spam-block the author.
Maybe this industry does steamroller one's soul. But I think it has more to do with time and quantity. Anything in enormous numbers decreases in value. If I got two emails a day, I'd read each several times. But since I get hundreds--and have other things to do, like read manuscripts!--well, for the sake of efficiency, one becomes somewhat less kind.