Agents Have Questions Too

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 26 2011

If I respond to a query with a request for more material, how long should I wait before hearing back from the author? How long should I wait before following up?

If I respond to a proposal with a request to see the full manuscript, how long should I wait before hearing back from the author? How long should I wait before following up?

See, and you thought agents were always calm, cool, and collected.


46 responses to “Agents Have Questions Too”

  1. Avatar Lu says:

    I would respond immediately with a thanks for requesting more, and a timeline for when you can expect the requested material, along the lines of "my daughter is getting married next month, so I hope to have my full ms to you by August". Would that work?

  2. My guess would be – if they don't respond in 2 or 3 days tops, they don't actually *have* "more material" or a "full manuscript" to show you. And they panicked.

    I think writers are usually so hungry for that "request" that they would reply the instant they received your e-mail, or maybe wait a few hours so as not to appear desperate. πŸ™‚

    So in the case of someone who doesn't get back to you in 2 days, you could probably…calmly & coolly move on.

  3. I try not to query until my manuscript is completely ready to go. But usually I end up wanting to read it over one more time. So I'd say a couple days. I try for within 24 hours. Unless life has happened and then I'd email and let you know what happened.

  4. Avatar Loralie Hall says:

    I agree with Lu. I'm one of those people who always fire back with an estimate if I can't get it to you right then, and tries to follow up if that date changes.

    If the initial letter from the agent said something like 'let me know aproximately when I can expect this", that would motivate me even more to provide that information. But depending on what you'd requested, if you don't hear anything at all, even a 'thanks, I'm on it', I'd follow up in one to four weeks just asking if the author had a timeline and reminding them 'no pressure, just looking for a status update'. And include a smiley πŸ™‚ People like those ^_^

  5. Avatar Jane says:

    Well, the agent who signed me had sent me a long letter detailing some revisions she wanted to see and asking for a phone call, but I never got it. (Later on after I followed up, she re-sent it. Good end to that story.)

    I think waiting a week and then re-sending a request for contact from the writer is just fine. If you think the spam filters may have eaten it, you could call or send a snail-mail letter if you really want to see more material.

    I honestly cannot imagine any writer out there is going to get mad about too much contact from an interested agent! Moreover, many writers are self-sabotagers and we freeze/panic when someone wants to see our writing. Your request for more material may have set the author off in a year-long frenzy of editing and re-editing a manuscript that was already perfect. Nudging the author may get the author to just close her eyes and hit "send."

    So my short answer: a week.

  6. Avatar Charlie says:

    Oh, we are expected to have a completed book before we contact you?


  7. Surprising as it may be, not everyone has instant access to email. And notes do get lost. I'd follow up after a week, maybe two. Any writer who wasn't able to fulfill a request right away should, after a nudge, at least be able to write back with a brief explanation (family death, out of the country, whatever).

  8. Avatar wry wryter says:

    I’m confused, no surprise there.
    It is my understanding that when submitting a proposal it is highly likely the manuscript in not complete, hence the proposal. Why send a proposal, why not a query and then a partial or a full, if requested, if the manuscript is complete?

    I thought a proposal was the shopping list, the contract was the money in the wallet for the groceries, and the full cart was the manuscript. Weird analogy but it’s what comes to mind. Can you tell I’m hungry?

  9. Avatar Richard says:

    always enjoy reading some of the comments on this site on the ins and outs of writing, even though I'm not a writer myself. Richard from the Amish settlement of Lebanon county.

  10. Avatar Anonymous says:

    What Papillon crew said.

    Especially over school holidays, when families are vacationing, people can be out of contact with the virtual world for a easily a week or two at a time. For instance, I'm about to head out on a five-day-long caving trip where I'm not even sure about the cell reception…

    For either situation, if you haven't heard back in a 7-8 days (at least a full business week, depending on federal holidays) I'd send a follow-up ping.

  11. I hold what Janet Reid once said in her blog to be gospel–ALWAYS BE READY, and if you don't have time to respond, don't send until you do (obviously paraphrasing). At least that's the best advice I've seen for the serious.

    My first request for full came when I was hit with the emergency of flying across country to be with my dying dad, and while that was *exceedingly* more important, it took only two minutes to let said agent know about my delay. She was more than gracious, and I was free to spend last moments without added stress.

  12. Avatar Anonymous says:

    How often do writers do this? I am pretty curious. I would think that if someone does not get back to you right away they are either not serious or just wanted some early feedback. Either way they are not ready to move on.

    There is a small chance they lost internet or something. So following up a few days or a week later is probably not a big deal.

    BTW, can you define waiting? I think you are in a different position from a writer. You have many clients. So you just go and work with your other clients. The writer either gets back to you or not. If a writer is waiting, this is all they have to wait for.

  13. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Maybe a week, on the grounds that the author may not be checking her email, or may just be confused?

    I got several requests after I'd already found representation. One of them was from an assistant who told me not to respond to her email, but instead to email the agent at a different email address with "requested material" in the headline.

    I didn't answer this one because it flummoxed me: I couldn't respond to the assistant, because it was the general query email address and she might not read it for weeks, and wasn't expecting a reply anyway. Emailing the agent seemed weird: "Requested material… psyche!"

    After about a month the agent emailed me to ask what was up.

  14. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I think it is reasonable to wait a week before following up. Folks are busy, even aspiring author folks (not as busy as agents perhaps but most have day jobs and families). Besides when I was submitting I always liked to prepare marterials (whether printing a hard copy or making sure that material transmitted electronically didn't get jumbled in virtual transit) to go out carefully and methodically. Excitement, adrenaline and instant action are all great — but it is far more important to put "best foot forward" with a professional looking package and a letter-perfect manuscript.

  15. If I'm querying, my manuscript is ready to rock and roll. If I don't pass it along within twenty four hours, that means I didn't get the e-mail with the request.

    Hope that helps.

  16. Avatar Artemis Grey says:

    I will respond to a request within 24 hours, unless I'm lying unconscious somewhere, or suffering something of the sort.

    Even if my response is to say 'An airplane crashed into my house this morning, so I won't be able to send the requested material until that's sorted. Thank you very much for your attention and I hope you will bear with me.'

    As for how long you should wait before following up with me. I leave it up to you. If you want to email soon, or never, based upon your own interest, either is reasonable IMO. The very fact that you're kind enough, and interested enough to follow up with me within your busy schedule says a lot, and any aspiring author ought to be flattered that you would do so. They'd also better have a good reason to have caused you to need to 'follow up'.

  17. Avatar Christine says:

    I follow up with an email to say thank you and then I ask when the agent would like the material. A mild panic ensues as I hurry to make sure the MS is as good as I can make it and then I send it. If I send it snail mail, then I follow up with an email to say I've sent it with a thank you for asking to see it at the end.

    A lot of writers I know say that the editors/agents don't expect it "tomorrow." They want what is best. And writers being anal will want to go over the MS with a fine tooth comb before sending it. I was at a conference (regional) and the organizers said to send within a month to three months of getting any requests after we pitched.

    I don't pitch unfinished work–the full must be done to the best of my ability.

    Thanks for sharing your POV with us!

  18. I send my fulls out on the same day i get the request. If, for some reason i couldn't, i would email you and let you know asap regarding my timeline and when you can expect it.
    But that's just me and how i roll.

  19. Avatar Angie says:

    Why would an author query if not prepared to immediately send material? It seems unprofessional.

    My answer to the writer's response:
    Email = immediate
    snail mail = 10 work days for certified mail

    How quickly might the agent follow up? Wouldn't that depend on how much they liked the material?

  20. Avatar Cynthia Lee says:

    I once waited a week to send requested material because the assistant asked for a synopsis and I hadn't written one yet.

    I now know to have a synopsis ready before I start querying.

  21. Avatar Beth says:

    I think you should wait a week or two then follow up. If I'm querying my manuscript is ready, but like other people have said when you ask for it, I still want the time to go through it one last time and make any changes I decide to make. (And even though the manuscript has been through multiple rounds of revisions, I've set it aside to query it and it probably took you a few days to get back to me, so when I go through it this time, I might find something I didn't see before.

  22. Avatar Robena Grant says:

    I never start the submission process until I think I've done as much as I can possibly do with the book without assistance or guidance from an agent/editor.

    After the panic of reading the email request, and near heart attack, I'd probably send a response and say thank you, and that I would give the manuscript a final pass and I'd send it later that day.

    Then I'd waste a couple of hours talking with friends and emailing people and screaming and running around the house and talking to the dog…and then I'd remind myself that it was a request, nothing firm on representation yet, and I'd open the file.

    If you hadn't heard back from me I'd hope you would email again in a few days.

  23. Avatar ryan field says:

    If a writer doesn't respond to a request within 48 hours, something's wrong. Writers are fanatcial about this.

    Unexpected "life" things happen. Computers crash, e-mails can get lost, a sudden familiy crisis, etc… I'd wait a week, and then follow up.

  24. When I received requests for fulls, I sent them immediately, then quickly regretted it. Though, of course, my ms was finished, there were things I really wanted & should have changed, but didn't realize it until under the pressure of a real live agent's eye. Then I remembered editor Anne Mini's golden advice to wait one week before you send your material & spend that time rereading it. I should have listened to her. So I think if you, the agent, hasn't heard back in a little over a week, just send another short note asking if they're still interested. The writer likely will be jumping out of his/her skin!

  25. Avatar Mesmer7 says:

    I'd normally reply within a couple of hours. However, if my primary computer were in the shop for repairs (as happened last Dec) it would take at least a week. My older computer can't open files produced with Apple's Pages.

  26. Avatar Amy says:

    I always try to respond within 48 hours, and I usually have the material sent within 24. (Often I can't just reply immediately and attach the manuscript because the agent will ask for something specific, like the query letter as the first page or something.) However, a query sender cannot predict when a request will arrive. I once had a request for a full arrive 8 months after I sent the query letter! So it is very possible a request could arrive while I was on vacation without internet access or something. I think if I were the agent, I'd give the author a week or two and then nudge. As an author, I can't imagine being offended by receiving such a nudge; I'd consider it flattering that they were interested enough to follow up.

  27. Avatar Candie Leigh says:

    When I get a request for material, I reread every word before submitting. I write full-time so this usually only takes me a day or two, but if I worked, I could see it taking me a week.

    I'm glad you addressed this issue, I was forgetting that an agent might be watching her/his in box for my response. I assumed agents were too busy to notice my one teensy email.

    Nice to know authors are not the only ones waiting. And from now on I will be diligent about submitting the same day it is requested.

    Thanks Jessica, your blog is always informative.

  28. I can't imagine a writer NOT being ready to send upon a moment's notice, and not stalking their email every five minutes…oh, that's not everyone? LOL…guess that's just me!

    But in all seriousness, writers may not be checking regularly after queries, because the odds are lower, but after that request for more, I'd think they would make the point of checking.

    That being said, remote vacations, hurricanes in the South knocking out electricity and cell towers …and look at the latest tornado rampage…I feel for those people and I'm sure they are widely disconnected from the web.

    But you know…I'm such an internet junkie, I'd probably still find a way to check the basics!! LOL. I know I did after Rita when we were living like the Apocolypse. I went looking for internet access! (before Smartphones)

  29. Avatar Rachael says:

    I would expect that an author who has sent queries via email and was going on vacation or would have an extended absence from email would put an out-of-office on their account. I mean, I would hate to have an agent think I was just ignoring them or being rude, and out-of-office messages are the norm in the professional world. So without receiving an out-of-office, I would say a week.

  30. Avatar Rebecca Kiel says:

    If I am querying, an agent can expect to have requested materials the next day. I don't query unless every single piece of my submission packet is ready to go. How long should you expect to wait from me? It'll be in your email the next morning.

  31. Avatar Nicole says:

    The simple concept of an agent wondering when to follow up with an author completely scambles my brain.

    Any normal writer – barring a coma or death – would want the agent to respond ASAP. Half of our lives are spent waiting so if you want more, let us know, and the sooner the better!

  32. Avatar wry wryter says:

    I will send yesterday what you are asking for today and probably will regret I did not wait until tomorrow.

  33. I agree with papillon crew. A nudge after two weeks would be appropriate. I sent out some requested material, it got rejected by agent's server, then the failure to deliver mail was caught in my spam folder. Being a little OCD, I read over my spam filter before I delete it.
    I cared…a lot….but gremlins were at work.
    *on second thought, nudge whenever. Reminds me of the kid's joke…where does a 900 lb gorilla sleep?
    Anywhere he wants to.
    I'd happy dance to get an agent nudge… two weeks or two minutes later!

  34. Follow up after a week if you've heard no response. If you've not heard anything a week later, politely inform them that you are assuming they are no longer interested in submitting their ms.

    I assume that agents don't mind waiting a few days to receive a ms. No matter how polished it is, whenever anyone is going to read it, I look over it one more time.

  35. If an agent asked me for more material you'd hear a loud "Whooph!" as my ms hit her in the tummy.

  36. if you would have requested a full ms from query you wouldn't be asking this question now because you'd have it πŸ™‚ I forgive you πŸ™‚

  37. Wow. I feel the need to comment a second time to address the people who said it is unprofessional not to send your manuscript immediately.

    Although many of us are fortunate enough to have a computer and internet at home and available, that isn't the situation for everyone, even in the year 2011. Some people can only access their email through the public library for example. In my case, I'm on an extended sabbatical and I live on a sailboat. While I have internet right now, soon we'll be moving south again, and I'll only get my email over the SSB. That's right – I get email via ham radio. And I sure can't check that very often.

    Writers, please don't assume everyone is in your precise (and privileged) situation. There are all sorts of reasons why people many experience a delay, and many of them are valid. I'm sure agents recognize that.

  38. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Papillon crew, good point. I too am planning an extended trip in a few years (which is why I'm commenting as Anon), but I'm still going to keep moving ahead on my writing career plans. You can bet I'll make sure everything's ready to go before I leave; I'll build in time for writing or editing as necessary; and I'll check email as often as I can. But I certainly won't be as plugged in as I am in my normal life.

  39. Avatar Laura W. says:

    I would say a week at most. If there's not an immediate response, it doesn't mean that the author doesn't want to send the material/doesn't have the material. There could be extenuating circumstances–they could be on vacation, or the email could have been lost in cyberspace. In that case, I would do what agents tell authors to do when they don't receive a response to a query after 8 weeks–send it again. If they still don't reply, it's probably a lost cause.

  40. Avatar Huntress says:

    how long should I wait for the agent to respond to the partial before nudging?
    Three months? Four? Then after nudging and I hear crickets chirping, what then?

    This business keeps the chocolate industry booming.

  41. Avatar danny K says:

    Are you kidding me? I would drive it down to you.

  42. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Answer: as long or as short as you like, because the agent still holds the power in the relationship.

  43. Avatar John Wiswell says:

    I'd give it a week and send a second notice. If the writer is worth contacting, then that same writer is worth ensuring your request didn't go to spam, or to a mistyped e-mail address, or that they didn't get hit by a tornado. That's happened this month. Giving them a couple of days when they are often made to wait months seems inconsiderate.

  44. Avatar Che Gilson says:

    It's the three day rule (just like from Swingers) don't call right away or you'll look desperate! Give it three days then reply πŸ™‚

  45. Avatar Sir John says:

    The one question I think many agent don't ask is–who else is reading the work? It could be the competition or it could be an editor who is ready to buy once an agent is selected.

    Also, ask if the work is rough draft or polished. It should be polished in my opinion, but it helps to know.

    I find nothing wrong with an agent asking more question on when an author will send it in. I see nothing wrong with asking how long it would take to do revisions, etc.

    In other words it helps to know where both an author and the agent are with the manuscript. Pulling together as a team will always get the best results.

    I think most agents want their authors to act professional, and I know I expect the same. Asking questions is a big part of it.

    Unless there are explainable reasons I think most writers will respond in 24 hours or less.

    Sir John

  46. Well, the thing is, when you send out a query, you have no control over when you'll get that request or rejection. You might send out a query and get a request the next day, or not for two months, or not for 12 weeks. So what if, during that time, you decided to go camping for 2 weeks without taking along any electronics? To escape from it all? Of course that would be when the requests would coming pouring in…just when you aren't around to fulfill them.

    Hmmm, maybe I'll go camping and see what happens. πŸ˜‰

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.