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Being patient can be difficult when you haven’t heard from a literary agent that you’ve queried. How long should a writer wait to check in with a literary agent after sending a query letter, book proposal, or even a manuscript? What’s the best way to follow up with a literary agent after you’ve sent your book out for consideration: by phone, email, or a knock on the door? Is it even worth a writer’s time to nudge a literary agent for a reply at all?
Writer’s Relief has been working with novelists, memoirists, and nonfiction writers since 1994, and we’ve learned a thing or two about how to work effectively with literary agents.
How To Follow Up With A Literary Agent
Is it okay to send a manuscript with a request for a signature upon delivery?
No. If you want Delivery Confirmation, don’t make a literary agent (or anyone else in the agent’s office) sign for your letter. Ask your local post office or other courier’s office how you can get confirmation of delivery without a request for a signature.
Is it okay to ask a literary agent to confirm immediately that he or she received a query letter, proposal, or book manuscript?
Generally speaking, no—it’s not okay to follow up a query with a simultaneous request for confirmation of receipt. Of course, this poses problems for writers.
Some literary agents who accept email queries have adopted a policy of replying to queries only if they are interested in the project in question. That leaves the writer in a pinch: wait and assume that no news is bad news? Or wait, and then follow up?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. If, after you’ve waited a substantial period of time (at least three months would suffice), you are really itching to write a follow-up, then at that point you may have nothing to lose. The literary agent will either confirm that you’ve been rejected or ask you to resend your query.
But we don’t recommend following up a query with a request for receipt confirmation. It’s just bad form—and the literary agent will likely find it annoying.
(TIP: Know what else will annoy literary agents? Asking them to go through some kind of anti-spam verification process in order to respond to your email. Not the best way to make friends.)
What is the ideal amount of time to wait before following up with a literary agent?
While there is no “rule” about how long to wait before asking for an agent’s opinion on your manuscript, the key is to consider how you would feel if you were a literary agent. If you’re getting 500 query letters a month, impatient people annoy more than impress.
Some literary agents have guidelines on their websites that indicate how long to wait before making an inquiry. (For example: You may follow up on your submission after six weeks.) For those literary agencies that don’t offer instructions, be as patient as possible. If you push an agent to read your query, he or she will read it all right—with the understanding that you are impatient and pushy.
Are there extenuating circumstances that make it okay to send a follow-up?
If you are in an unusual circumstance (especially a circumstance that pertains to having competition for your book), then a literary agent may be more open to a follow-up.
The best circumstance for following up with one literary agent is when another agent has requested your materials. It’s more appropriate to say, “I’m following up with you because another agent has requested my complete manuscript, and I wanted to let you know” than it is to say, “I’m feeling antsy and want you to drop what you’re doing and get to my book.”
How should you follow up with a literary agent?
More often than not, literary agents prefer to communicate via email, which allows them to read and reply at their own pace. It’s rarely appropriate to call. And it’s never appropriate to stop by in person—no matter how close you just happen to live to the literary agent in question.
When you do send a follow-up email, be polite and brief. Don’t choose a vague subject line like “My book.” Instead, be specific:
SUBJECT: Joe Writer, follow-up, The Case of the Missing Facts
or better yet
SUBJECT: Joe Writer, follow-up, notice of manuscript requests
Writer’s Relief submission strategists are always on hand to help our clients navigate the submission process. We provide our writers with valuable advice about when and how to follow up with a literary agent—and all elements of publishing. Want us to manage the submission process for you? Give you more time to write? We’ve been targeting submissions for writers since 1994!
QUESTION: What has your experience been when you’ve had to follow up with a literary agent?