Following Up on Submissions

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 09 2011

At what point, and how many times, should I follow up on the agents who haven’t responded to my full submission? One of the two requested the full four months ago, and I was thinking I should follow up with him soon. However, the real question mark is the agent who requested a full six months ago. Two months ago I sent her a follow-up email asking for a status update. In that follow-up email, I hit reply to her confirmation that she’d received the full and I included the title and elevator pitch in the email, so that she could easily see which project I was referring to. I still haven’t heard anything back from her.

Is it ok to email her again for a status update? At what point do I simply shrug and move on?

The first thing you should do when making the decision to follow up is check the agent’s website. Does the agent have a time frame for which they plan to get back to authors? If so, use that as your guideline when following up. If not, here’s what I think:

Queries: If an agent, like BookEnds, guarantees response to all queries, don’t send a follow-up to see if the query was received, but after about 10 weeks simply resend the query. Note that you are resending because you never received a reply, but simply resend. That way the agent can simply respond and you don’t need to have a dialogue of wasted emails.

Requested Partials or Fulls: Keep in mind I’m basing this on my own response times, but if an agent has requested something I think it’s fair to give them 8-12 weeks to read, but given how sometimes getting the response out can take longer or how often an author will follow up the day I’m writing my response, I would say check in after 13 weeks. If you hear nothing, not a peep, check again every 4 weeks or so. If you keep hearing nothing, I guess I would check about three times and then let it go and move on.

Keep in mind these timelines are approximate, but since this is a question that comes up a lot I think an approximate answer is a good start. In the end, though, do what you think works for you. Some people will check in earlier, some will give more time. Some will try three times, some will figure that if the agent can’t bother to respond they’ll write the agent off. Do what is best for you.

And keep in mind the agent’s guidelines. For example, we ask that you put “query” or “submission” in the subject header. This is what (almost) guarantees you get through our spam filters. Without this I can’t promise I’ll even get your email.


10 responses to “Following Up on Submissions”

  1. Avatar ryan field says:

    I always feel bad for people who experience this. Most agencies will respond within a reasonable time frame and this is never an issue. But there are some, and I've experienced this myself, that simply do not respond at all if they aren't interested.

    Sometimes it comes down to this question:

    Do I really want to work with someone who hasn't responded within a decent time frame?

  2. Avatar Sarah Allen says:

    I would agree with Ryan. If its taken them so long to respond, they might not be the kind of person you want to be working with for years to come.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  3. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I third what Ryan says.

    Instead of following up with these agents, keep querying. I mean querying other agents.

    My current agent answered my query the next day, read my partial on day two, finished reading the full on day four, and offered me representation on day six. It made a very good impression on me; I could tell she wouldn't be somebody I'd end up nagging to get things done.

  4. Avatar girlseeksplace says:

    This is good to know. I sent some queries last month and have already heard back from one agent, but not from the others. Now I know when/if to requery.

  5. Avatar Kim hanks says:

    Extremely important post! Thank you for this one,Jessica.

  6. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I just always figured that if they don't get back to me after requesting partials or fulls, the answer is no. If they read it and can't wait to sign me on, they'll get in touch. Otherwise, I just let it go. Is that wrong?

  7. Avatar Kristi says:

    Actually, I think anonymous is right — if they want you, they'll let you know right away. My two requests for a full came within an hour of sending my query letter …

  8. I can't complain about the time an agent takes because I've been sitting on a query letter for two months. I'm not sure why I can't push the send button.

  9. Avatar Nicole says:

    I have never understood why certain agents fail to reply when it comes to full manuscripts. Queries, sure, because you get so many. Partials, eh, I doubt you're asking for a great many so I'm still iffy there. But a full manuscript?

    I don't see what's so hard about sending out a quick email saying, "No thanks" instead of leaving writers in that icky "Will they like it, will they contact me?" limbo. Frankly I think it's rude, but then that's just me. *shrug*

  10. Avatar Anonymous says:

    What Ryan said.

    Also, I must confess I feel a sort of wicked glee at replying to agents' extremely belated responses this way,

    "Thanks, but I'm already published!"

    And quite happy too.