But if it's possible to get away with that and still come out of it agented--well, as you can imagine, compared to signing with two agents, the size of your margins/e-pages is very a small detail.
Is this true in all situations? Of course not. But I've been keeping a mental tally of all such interactions I've witnessed, and kind/warm but firm seems to work the most often. (I'd be curious to know if you've experienced the same thing.)
Two weeks won't make your book "too late," even if it's something very trendy or time-sensitive (this work wasn't); and whether it's sent out with large margins or little ones, on large e-pages or small, an agent's either going to love it--or isn't.
I completely disagree. E-mail is ranked by topic and urgency. Sometimes we simply need to think about an answer before sending it. Will a client automatically get bumped to the top of the pile? Yes. Will someone I've grown familiar with through their work and correspondence? Yes. Do the vast majority have to wait a few days, if not more? Yes.
- Add short details, if it feels right. Don't force it; like with everything else, inauthenticity will come through. But this can be the polite, pleasant equivalent to calling someone and saying, "Hi, how are you? Did you have a good holiday? Great, so..." as opposed to just, "Hi. So. I need help with..." People tend to respond in kind.
- I'm always pleased by one-liners like: "It's a blustery day here in West Virginia" or "The leaves have just turned a beautiful color here in Boston" or something else neutral and that shows you're a real person--not that we doubt it, but when we get so many emails, we don't automatically conjure an image of you. Maybe you know that agent likes tea or coffee, so you mention you have a steaming mug in front of you. If it feels like something you'd do normally, I think you should feel comfortable adding such a detail.
- Good: "I have a beautiful latte in front of me."
- Bad: "I just burned myself with this hot latte--I'd go to the hospital, but I don't have health insurance" or "I have a dead mouse on the floor in front of me" or "My wife is yelling at me so I'll make this quick" or "I have a burning copy of Dreams from My Father in front of me. God, I hate that guy." Avoid topics including (but not limited to): personal finances, injuries, household embarrassments, fights, felonies, politics. Stick to the upbeat.
- Appreciation. If you thank the agent for their time ahead of time, we're more likely to help you.
- Something like, "Thank you for your help. I know you're very busy" will likely make us stop thinking, "Arrgh! I'm too busy for this!"
- Patience. Saying something like, "I knew you wouldn't answer" or assuming that we're never going to--even if it's just, "Oh, well, guess you're too busy"--is kind of the equivalent of a girl going on a date, waiting an hour for him to call after he drops her off, then texting the guy, "I knew you didn't like me, anyway."
- Such behavior indicates an expectation of disappointment, a habit of jumping to conclusions, and a high likelihood of past rejection. As I've mentioned, it's not a good idea to give the impression that your work has been rejected all over the place.
- In cases where you simply cannot wait, a check-in is permissible, but it should be light and pleasant, like: "Hi ______, Just a quick note to see if you've had a chance to [whatever favor you've asked]. I know you're very busy. I'd love to hear from you by __________, if at all possible: I have [reason for your deadline]. Again, thank you for your help. Hope all is well with you," note would suffice.