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You wrote the best query letter for your book. You researched literary agents to find the right fit for your manuscript. You proofread, polished, and double-checked submission guidelines at least three times. Then you sent out your queries, hoping for the best. Fingers crossed!
Now, months later—you’re still waiting to hear back from your top-choice literary agents. Maybe you have received responses, but only from your “second choice” literary agents—and they are actually taking a keen interest in your book.
So what do you do?
Here at Writer’s Relief, we have been advising our clients on how to successfully navigate sticky situations with literary agents since 1994. Today, we’ll talk you through the right way to follow up on your query letter with a literary agent.
Q & A: When To Follow Up With A Literary Agent
Q.: Is it okay to ask a literary agent to confirm receipt of a query letter?
A.: Generally speaking, no, it’s not. Unfortunately, many literary agents no longer respond to query letters that are not interesting to them. Writers are often left wondering: Did my query letter get filtered into a spam account? Did the literary agent even receive it?
That said, you may decide that following up with a literary agent, and going against the unwritten etiquette of the publishing industry, is actually in your best interest. What have you got to lose?
In a best-case scenario, your follow-up should include a little bit of exciting extra information—such as news that you have had interest from a different literary agent, or that you recently received an award or a great new review. A little bit of tantalizing book buzz might pique an agent’s interest!
If you don’t have news to report, we feel you could ask for confirmation of receipt if a significant amount of time has passed and you haven’t had any response. Just keep in mind that most likely the agent isn’t interested, which is why you haven’t heard anything.
Q.: How long should I wait before sending a follow-up letter to a literary agent who has received my query letter?
A.: Again, there’s no ironclad rule about how long a writer should wait to follow up after sending a query. The submission guidelines page on a literary agent’s website might have some advice. Otherwise, we recommend waiting at least a month before reaching out to ask for a response. And once again, you may want to cloak your follow-up in the guise of additional news or interest in your book project.
Q.: What’s the best way to send a follow-up email to a literary agent?
A.: In the interest of being helpful, you may want to include details about your follow-up in the subject line of your email. You can write something along the lines of: Last name, book title, follow-up request.
If your follow-up is very short, you might even decide to include the original text of your query letter at the bottom of your note.
Want to read more about query letter writing? Check out our free Publishing Tool Kit: Query Letters: Everything You Must Know To Dazzle Literary Agents With Your Book Query.
Question: What do you think about literary agents not replying to unsolicited query letters?