Response Times

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jan 26 2010

Last year, I subbed a YA paranormal to several agents who’ve yet to respond, as follows: 1 in March, 3 in May, 3 in August and 1 in September. That’s 8 outstanding agent subs. Here’s the rub: I hired a freelance editor and completely rewrote this book. The new version is out with 3 agents, all of whom requested it within the past month or so. In retrospect, I should have sent status queries, but at this late date, and with the book significantly changed, it feels weird to send an email – Hey, you’ve had this since last March – whatdya think? (There’s also the issue that I should definitely be more assertive.) My question is two-fold. If I receive an offer, do I contact those who’ve had it over six months, or assume they’re a no and move on? If I don’t receive an offer from anyone, I’d like to submit to other agents within a few of the agencies who’re hatching it, but can’t until I get a no. I’ve thought about writing to the very old subs and withdrawing, but half expect them to say, Who Are You? I know a lot of agents don’t reply to queries, but didn’t realize there are some who never respond to full manuscript submissions. Any advice?

I don’t know if this will help you any, but one of the things that first struck me with this question is the fact that agents deal with this situation too. It’s true. While typically agents get fairly good feedback from editors, there’s always the one or two who never seem to reply to submissions or only reply if you have an offer. So when do you just finally give up? How assertive do you need to be? How assertive is too assertive? While there are no universal answers to these questions, I can give you my advice on how I think you should handle the situation.

I would get in touch with the eight agents who have your book. I assume that when you say outstanding subs you mean partials or fulls. Definitely push them for answers. If all you’ve sent them is queries, consider it rejected and move on. Sure, some of it was a year ago, but it’s never too late to shame someone into an answer.

If you receive an offer and one of those eight agents is someone you’d really like to work with, I would definitely contact them. What I would do is get in touch, let them know you have an offer on the book they’ve had since March, mention that it has since been revised, and ask if they would like to see the revised version for consideration.

As for sending to other agents within the agency and pulling the submission, that’s sort of tricky. I think what I’d do is push for an answer. If you don’t get one after a couple of requests, I think you could send to another agent in the agency, but be honest. Let them know you previously sent it to such and such a year or more ago, but have not received an answer and have since thoroughly revised the book. That way you aren’t trying to be sneaky and the agent can make a decision based on how they operate in house.

Hope that helps and I hope I’m not one of those agents sitting on material. I just haven’t been able to catch up like I’d been hoping.

Best of luck.


24 responses to “Response Times”

  1. That really is helpful advice… authors are always walking that fine line of… assertive or annoying? We're so afraid of putting someone off, or annoying someone into saying no, that we aren't as proactive as we should be.

  2. Jessica, I think that question was one of the best queries I have ever read. 🙂

  3. Avatar Jen says:

    That is really helpful! Thanks for the information! I don't ever want to sound annoying or pushy, and I think your opinion is a great one to follow

  4. Avatar Amanda J. says:

    Very helpful post, and I'm not even in the querying stages yet. Thanks for posting!

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Great question and advice.

    This is just one Anon's opinion, but I think if an agent has had a full since March and not bothered contacting you, would you really want to work with that type of agent?

    Are they so disorganized in their career, or care so little about mss they request, that they can't be bothered to reply? I know, I know… everyone's busy and yes, you should've status queried, and blah, blah, blah, but at some point it can't all be one-sided.

    At what point is an agent's lack of response the fact that they're busy and at what point is the agent's lack of response the fact that they aren't respectful of the author's time and work? And then, if you do sign with them, you'll always have to wonder if that attitude of their's also colors how they deal with editors. It's one thing to feel a little ignored by your agent, it's quite another to have your agent neglect your book in this same manner. To have a book subbed but never followed up on or to have the agent "give up" on it after a handful of subs is a terrible spot for a writer to be in. I've learned the hard way that an agent that isn't on the ball during your initial query/request usually isn't on the ball when they are subbing your mss, either.

  6. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Anon, you're so right! I wasted half a year with a top agent who seemed SO interested at first and even responded to my status updates asking for more time. Convinced he was going to sign me, I didn't send out as many queries as I should have–but finally withdrew it when someone else expressed interest. I didn't sign with her (she didn't ask!) but it felt good to be in control of my ms. Don't be so desperate for an agent that you put up with such rude and careless treatment. Sounds like you have a winner–good luck!

  7. Thanks, Jessica…Very informative.

  8. @ Anon 9:51 –

    The follow up communication would be my deciding factor as to whether an agent's lack of response could be chalked up to disorganization or an honest mistake.

    I'm not even talking about an apology, those are nice and all, but more about returning the communication the second time promptly. Follow through on that communication would be essential.

  9. Avatar Anonymous says:

    The question was mine. Thank you SO much, Jessica! And no, you're not one who's sitting on it. 🙂
    I had to post, because the irony is killing me. I had a call just now from an agent who offered to rep me. I'm pretty emotional – this has been such a long, hard road. My joy, let me show you it.
    Now I'll follow your stellar advice and contact all the agents who have it – although I'm on the fence about contacting March. I mean, honestly – March? That's almost a year.
    Thanks again, and wish me luck on the editor front.

  10. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Anonymous, thats brilliant news! Congrats on finding an agent 🙂

  11. Congratulations, OP! And best of luck with the next stage.

  12. Avatar jfaust says:

    Anon 1:24:

    Oh my goodness!!! Congratulations!!!! Fabulous news. Don't forget to weigh your options carefully and good luck. Please don't forget to let us know when you have a sale.


  13. Avatar Amanda J. says:

    Oh my gosh, congratulations!! That's amazing! 🙂

  14. Avatar Anonymous says:

    You're in an odd situation. The old agents have an old manuscript that doesn't matter anymore. You might send them an email reminding them they ask for this material and you hadn't heard back, and then tell them you've had an editor redo and will be happy to send than version. It gives you a reason to contact them. If they don't respond, you can safely assume the book is dead with them.

  15. Avatar D. Antone says:

    Yes Donna, it is a very fine line indeed. I've decided to be a little more proactive this year. Great post.

  16. Avatar Nicole says:

    Quality, quality advice here. And Donna is right. It is indeed a fine line. Many of us get so worried we're going to aggrevate an agent, we just hold off so long that eventually it doesn't even matter anymore…

    And congrats to Anon with the offer!

  17. Avatar Faye Hughes says:

    Mega congrats, Anon! Here's to wishing that you'll sooon be sharing the news of a sale!


  18. Avatar Anonymous says:

    –As far as I'm concerned, if I write a book that's not sellable, I really hope no one buys it. There's nothing more career killing than a book that doesn't sell out.–

    Well, in reality no one can predict with any accuracy if a book will sell out. If they could the publishing industry wouldn't be littered with unsold books.

  19. Avatar Donna Hole says:

    Thanks to the questioner for this topic, and thank you Jessica for such a detailed response.

    It really does take courage to question an Agent, especially since the Author put so much hope in the requests. I am sure agents are aware of the emotional investment an Author puts into the query, and more so the requests for partials and fulls, but like any industy, things sometimes get lost in the daily shuffle.

    Thanks Jessica for your honesty. I'm sure sometimes it's as hard to be an agent as it is to be an aspiring published author.


  20. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Congrats on the agent! Why bother with the other agents? Forget them–they forgot about you. Move on to bigger & better things!

  21. Avatar Mira says:

    My post above was unnecessarily angry.

    I apologize – I know better than to type blog posts when I'm angry.

    I'm sorry if you felt any of that was directed toward you personally, Jessica – it absolutely wasn't.

    The system drives me nuts sometimes. But I handled that poorly, and in an uneccessarily harsh fashion.

    I know your intention is to be helpful, Jessica, and I very much appreciate that.


    Jessica, told ya. 🙂

  23. Avatar Paul Greci says:

    Congrats Anon!

    Take your time and explore your options. It's in everyone's best interest.

    And celebrate!!