I don’t know if it’s the warm weather, but I seem to be getting a rash of panicky query emails lately, authors who seem to be especially concerned about whether or not their emails/queries have been received.
Relax, slow down, and do not, ever, check in on your query after only two weeks. I have to admit, it’s driving me crazy. Lately I seem to be spending more time responding to authors checking in after two weeks, checking in to ask if I got the query just days after they sent it, or sending 13 variations of the same query because the wrong name was used or there was a misspelling.
In fact, not too long ago, my assistant got an email from a querier who had received an out-of-office message from me (I was out for one day) and felt the need to follow up with her, to respond to the out-of-office note, to say thank you and she would wait patiently for my response. I’m also amazed at how many people, in general, feel the need to respond to out-of-office messages. Responding to an out-of-office message, any out-of-office message, is not being patient.
I give regular query updates on the blog and through my Twitter address. If you haven’t heard in six weeks' time I probably have not received the queries. Patience, people, please have patience.
There may be another reason or two people respond to your "out of office" email.
First, they may simply be polite. There was a time when some of us were taught that it was impolite not to respond when we got mail.
Second, they may wish to show they will respond promptly when contacted. An important consideration in any business relationship. Especially when beginning one.
The only thing I know which speeds up agents and editors is multiple offers.
You know what I can't figure out?
Agents and publishers which do not accept simultaneous submissions or exclusives.
Am I the only one who doesn't query them until all the queries have gone out and come back from everyone else?
Sure, they want to avoid bidding wars and such, but if we authors sent out queries one at a time and waited for each of them to respond, we would die of old age before we were half through. Considering how many of them pass on a project, that's just ridiculous!
So, I wait to query them, but here's the thing.
I end up never querying them.
Because I get offers elsewhere.
So, if I'm not the only aspring author doing this and even if my stories are crap, doesn't this mean these agents and editors are receiving only the leftovers?
And everything sellable is being snatched up elsewhere before the authors ever get around to querying them?
How can that be good for business?
I understand your frustration at so much unnecessary contact, but as a querying writer, it concerns me to have to wait six weeks to check on my query. What if the answer comes back, "Uh, no, I didn't receive it." Here I've been thinking that the agent is considering my query, when in fact absolutely nothing has been happening. Not only does the author possibly look like a dolt for the mishap, she has to wait another six weeks for an answer. And then she doesn't know if the new query was received.
I've queried agents who sent back an automatic response letting me know my email was received, which put my mind at ease. If you don't want to deal with responses to your automatic response, you could have the "Reply To" be a dead email address, or set a rule for that email address to delete them from the server.
I love the bluntness of this post. In fact, I've linked back to this entry in my own blog today (http://writerscorner-traci.blogspot.com/2010/07/two-limbs-off-same-tree.html) because it totally fit my topic.
I appreciate it so much when agents are honest - it helps me as a writer, to know what to do and what not to do in the "agent world."
I'm actually surprised that some people think 2 weeks is too long to wait. Everything I've heard and read says 2 weeks is extremely early to hear back from an agent on a query letter.
I think that's great that you post updates on Twitter. Also, it is nice that you post things like this on your blog. If they are following then they will be very aware.
As for responding to an out of office reply, it never even crossed my mind to reply to one of those. It surprised me to hear that some did. But then again, nothing really surprises me anymore.
Hope you had a great fourth, Jessica!
Thanks for the post Jessica. It's good to know 2 weeks is considered too early and 6 weeks as appropriate to follow up.
I understand your frustration. I had a job once similar to what you described, where I'm being chased on IT requests submitted. It does take time to respond and takes away the time where you can actually look at the queries.
Like Martha, I'm surprised anyone responds to Out of Office automated messages.
An automated response saying 'thanks, we've received your query' and asking authors not to contact regarding the query and to give the agency 6 weeks to consider etc would help but not all emails are queries if you have one general email account.
Unless you can set it up so that only emails with 'QUERY' in the subject line gets the message.
In my post http://jessiemac.com/blog/2010/06/30/14-ways-to-save-time-with-email/ I write about this.
I soooooooooo understand. I work in a place were I am constantly sending out letters and if someone hasn't gotten feedback in 2 weeks they litter my e-mail account. I just want to scream somedays, but patiently smile and tell them I am on it.
By the way, I sent you a query yesterday, did you get a chance to look at it? Just kidding. Well, it's sure nice to know you will read my query when I do send it!
I think people are in the mindset of this 'fast-food' society we live in - everything is instant these days, in large part because of the internet. I started off submitting to publisher's slushpiles years ago, where it wasn't unusal for them to take more than a year to get back to you. Being by snail-mail, sometimes you had no way of knowing whether or not your manuscript even made it through the postal service. One publisher took almost three years to get back to me.
Querying agents is definitely a quicker way of going about things and I can undertand people being impatient to find out what an agent thinks of their work. However, I've come to learn that a year is nothing in the publishing industry, like a month in other industries. Things take time and there's no getting around that. I think patience is one of the virtues an author either needs to have or develop if they're going to make it. If I hear back in only six weeks, I'm impressed!
Anon 9:31 - I agree with your assessment of agents who ask for exclusive submissions. I always put them at the end of my list and then never end up querying them, so whose loss is it really? I guess different agents have different ways of dealing with the query process. After all, they're only human too!
Oh come on...responding to an 'out-of-office' is like calling the store when the lights are off and the closed sign is flipped around.
It's like using the stall with the out of order sign on the door.
It's like telling the kid who said he's not going to the prom with you that your dress is pink so he can buy you pink flowers...okay, so that's a stretch.
I really don't understand how the blogger can be surprised by this. Authors are not in the business so they do not really know the routine. Even if they read your blog. Also, they put alot of time and energy into their book so this is a bigger deal to them than it is to you.
I can understand how you don't like, but I think its narrowminded to not understand why they do it. If it happens alot, that should tell you that its not one crazy person and its sort of a norm.
I wonder if some people don't realize that an out of office reply is automatic?
I can imagine there are people out there (I'm picturing my mom) who think someone is actually sending that to them.
It's a shame you're the one who has to clue them in.
Heh. I bet I know this one. Janet Reid had a blog post a couple of weeks ago about how we, the queriers, shouldn't assume that no response to requested materials means 'no'. She encouraged folks to follow up after a decent interval if they haven't heard back from the agent one way or the other.
In unrelated news, I work for an ISP in the New York metro area. Inbound email traffic is up 37% since that post.
I'm thinking of an elderly relative who could not understand that the people sending her junk mail did not personally know her.
I have a bad feeling you're right--but it does suggest that the queriers may have a sharp learning curve ahead.
I can see how that would get very annoying, but I can't stop picturing my mom in this scenario.
She's an elementary school ESL tutor and hasn't worked an office job since about 1980. I can almost guarantee she's never received an "out of office" email.
IF she was a writer and had queried you, it's very likely she would think it was polite to follow up.
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