I’m a historian with several academic books on my CV; I also write for some well-known mainstream magazines and blogs. A couple of years ago, I was contacted by an agent who had seen my journalism and was interested in representing me if I ever wanted to do a more commercial nonfiction book (which I did).
At the time, she was new to agenting but had solid publishing credentials and worked for a reputable agency. We met and chatted, and a few months later I sent her a query and sample pages based on some new research. She liked the project and made useful suggestions, but ultimately felt the subject was too specialized to appeal to a mainstream publisher.
I should point out that it took weeks if not months for her to respond to my emails about the project, which were by no means frequent or pushy. But we kept in touch and a few months ago I sent her a second, much more commercial idea which she seemed really excited about.
Again, we went back and forth (sloooowly) for a couple of months with her giving feedback on sample pages and me fine-tuning, and finally she said she wanted to represent it and I should send her a formal proposal, which I did.
No response. I sent a follow-up email after two weeks, to confirm that she received the proposal and ask if she had any suggestions for improvements, or if perhaps she was having second thoughts about its mainstream appeal.
Again, crickets. Now it’s been a month and I still haven’t heard anything.
Is this normal, or is she just not that into me?
Having spent two years building a friendly relationship with a real live agent, I don’t want to burn that bridge, but I'm passionate about this project and I would like to move on and query other agents if this is going nowhere.
If you had asked me this question even just a year ago, I would have said something like "hang in there, agents are often behind, her lack of reply doesn't mean lack of interest."
In the last three months I've had three specific instances of agents basically dropping the ball and leaving clients (let alone queriers) high and dry.
I posted about one agent who was essentially forced out of a job which is not quite what you're talking about here, and there are two other instances where I'd helped writers connect with agents other than me, and had those agents drop the ball.
Now my advice is this: you're not running your railroad on Agent Time. If she's dawdling, you start querying. She has not offered you a contract, and you have not agreed to work with her. It's not only fair to query other agents, it's smart.
I've gotten off the rails with clients before, and I will again. It's part of the time management problem of balancing the important with the urgent. However, when I'm wooing a client to work with me, I'm generally trying to put my best foot forward and NOT behind too much. And I've learned (which this agent clearly has not) that keeping queriers informed is the ONLY way to assauge their fears while their work is under consideration. I tell queriers who have full manuscripts with me that they can check in any time they need to. And I do reply. It's often "haven't gotten to it yet, but I'm not dead, and I am working."
Query widely. Just because you've spent some time talking to this one agent does NOT mean she's the right agent for you.