Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Monday, December 02, 2013

How to shoot yourself in the foot

There's a really easy way to sabotage yourself as a writer: assume that lack of a timely reply means no interest.

I don't mean at the query stage.  Too many agents these days have adopted "no response means no" to do anything but assume lack of interest if they don't reply.  (They are idiots, but that's ok, more good writers for ME!)

I mean at the requested full, or ongoing conversation stage.  In other words, once I've expressed interest in your work.  At that point, DO NOT ASSUME.  Even when you fear the worst, never send an email that says "I guess you're not interested so I'm going to self-publish" because that makes it very easy for me to say "oh, ok, see ya" and move your file on my submission log to the trash.

If you are absolutely certain that I'm a complete dunderhead who has failed to see the brilliance of your work instantly here are the two remedies available to the Smart Writer:

1. Email for a status update.  That email looks like this:

Dear Snookums,

I queried you on Jan 10, 1037 for my novel Apocalypse Poelle.  You asked for the full on Jan 11, 1037.  I wanted to see if you are still considering the novel.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Lovingly yours,
No Fingernails or Hair Left Writer

Hopefully you will receive a reply that starts "oh my gosh, I'm so sorry to be so tardy in getting back to you" and goes on to either ask for more time or let you know what the reading results are.

In the unfortunate instance when Snookums fails to reply, you ping once a month for three months. Then, and only then, do you avail yourself of the second option:

(2)  Withdraw the submission. That email looks like this:

Dear  SharqueForBrains,

I queried you on Jan 10, 1037 for my novel Apocalypse Poelle.  You asked for the full on Jan 11, 1037.  I am withdrawing my novel from consideration.  Thank you for your time.

(not so )Lovingly yours,
BoyAreYouGoingToBeSorryWhenIAmABestSelling Writer

What you don't EVER EVER EVER say is "I assume you're not interested."

Remember, as a writer, you are PITCHING your work.  That means you approach this from the seller's perspective. Never assume no. 

Honestly if I assumed "no" every time I haven't heard from an editor in what I consider a timely fashion (ie instantly) I'd have sold about four books total.

It's very easy to shoot yourself in the foot. Aim higher.


JeffO said...

"It's very easy to shoot yourself in the foot. Aim higher. "


Ali Trotta said...

Great advice, as usual. :)

french sojourn said...

aim higher......Kneecap?

Terri Lynn Coop said...

But I want to read Apocalypse Poelle!

In my crim lawyer days I could see someone writing to the prosecutor, "As you have not responded to my kindly offer of allowing you to dismiss all charges against my client, we withdraw that offer and request a trial. Boy, are we gonna show you!"

And to the foot-shooters, I say, "thank you, more good agents for us."


Violet Ingram said...

Thanks. I used sample #1 as a guideline today after I realized that several agents have had requested material for 5 months. Another has had the full for 10.

samanthaclark said...

Great post! I've got a full that's been out for a while. This reminds me to send a reminder email. Thanks!

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

OK then, deep breath.

Waiting is the hardest thing. You think writing a novel is hard? Fah! It's the waiting. Just waiting to hear something. Anything. "Maybe he wants to surprise me with a huge deal, the results of the auction he's been holding." Yeah, or maybe he's fallen out of love with you and doesn't know how to end the relationship.

Because that's what it's like, isn't it? Like a high school romance where the girl has realized she has better options out there. So suddenly she stops calling (or whatever the kids do these days) and you don't know why.

And so we wait, nervously, almost desperately, because no response is marginally better than "No."

Deep breath.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

"No reply means no" is a Thing that makes me very sad. I get that agents are very very busy, and I get that people are creepers and can't take no for an answer, but an answerless limbo is (in my mind) worse than a form "Thank you for submitting, but..."

BP said...

"aim higher...kneecap?" laughing all over the floor omgosheeeee :D

Ravina Patt said...

Great post, thanks! Can't wait to get to the "No Fingernails or Hair Left" stage.

Linda said...

I agree the 'no response' response is the hardest...I'd rather get the form rejection. However, the top of my I-don't-get-this list is the agents that tell me my story is interesting and complelling, but "too unique". I thought that would be a good thing.

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

Your professional attitude is refreshing. Too many agencies/agents take the full or partial then sit on it for months without doing anything with them.

Personal experience: On two separate occasions, agents requested more pages then all I heard was crickets chirping. After six months, I contacted them. One never returned my email and the other put me off with "I'm reading. Loving it," for another year and half without ever saying yes or no. Gave up.

Christine M. Irvin said...

Great advice! Thanks!

Nikola Vukoja said...

Without sounding like a nervous Nelly, I find it difficult to email on progress, because there are so many rules...

Some agents have guidelines on their websites or send the guideline on 'when to prompt' in their emails (woohoo for them!) but for the others; its so hard to know what is acceptable follow-up and what is considered being a pain in the butt.

Is it 3-months? 6-months? If it is 6 months for agent-A and, unaware Agent-A doesn't like follow up for at least 6-months, have I just been bumped & dumped because I sent the update email at 4 months?

I'm not saying all agents act like this but some do.

This example is from a close friend (no really, its not me). Said friend had request for 100-pg partial from an agent. As it wasn't a full and as it was coming close to a holiday break period & 3 months had passed, Writer Friend send short professional email.

Got a reply that MS was on list to read soon but had this added..."Unless you would like to withdraw your submission and if so, please advise as I have other submissions waiting..."

I know what it said because Writer Friend sent me the email. I also know what Writer Friend wrote:
"On (insert date) you requested a partial for (insert MS name) via email, which I attached with my partial submission (and have included below). Given just over three months have passed since sending, I was wondering if you had taken a look at my pages?"

The reason Writer Friend sent everything to me is because they were worried they had somehow offended said agent and pretty much blown that opportunity.

As I say, following up is not an easy tightrope to walk.

FYI - three days later Writer Friend got a FORM REJECTION for said MS partial.

Teresa Robeson said...

Wait…we can address you as Snookums??

Keisha Martin said...

Dear Snookums!!!!! I adore this intro.

Michael Seese said...

If this was stated subtly, apologies...

How long should we wait before sending the initial letter?

Two months?