Saturday, September 30, 2017

Wait time with my agent

I can't tell if I'm being rational or if I'm on the crazy writer hamster wheel. I have an agent at a legit, reputable agency who has a great track record of sales. After unsuccessfully attempting to sell my debut last year, I wrote something new and sent it to him about three months ago. We worked together to develop the idea and I sent him a synopsis before diving into the writing as per his request, so I know he definitely liked the general direction it was going. But he still hasn't gotten back to me after I sent him my draft--the first time I followed up politely after about five weeks, he promised he would get to it ASAP, and I recently followed up again silence. Here are my questions:

1a) Do I need to hop off the crazy wheel


1b) is the feeling of "Oh, my gosh, I'm about to get dumped" legitimate?

2) Is the following up obnoxious? I feel like since I'm a client it's ok, but I also don't want to be That Person.

3) What should I do if the radio silence continues?

Drink more

Ok, enough jocularity about a very real problem: writers who live in Mercury's time zone trying to synchronize their watches with agents who use Pluto's clock.

Agents exist in publishing time. It is the time of epochs, glaciers, and dentist drill duration.

Writers, while spinning on their rodent wheels, are capable of counting nanoseconds out loud.

As you might imagine this leads to some confusion toes getting stomped whilst trying to dance the fandango.

An agent saying "asap" does not mean as soon as possible, or rather it does only if you remember that soon involves hell freezing over...twice.

Your agent does intend to get back to you in a timely fashion. It's just that stuff happens that makes that almost impossible.

For starters, remember this is an edit, and it's not on editorial deadline. That means there's no money attached to increased wait time.

And if your agent is trying to figure out how to tell you s/he doesn't like it, or it needs more work than you think, well forgive her for being slow to write that email. Those are no fun.

To give you some context:

In the last week I've had several things set fire to my do list including: reading a manuscript that had a next day decision offer pending; a client casually mentioning a crucial piece of information that meant the proposal needed to be revised instantly; three things that arose from other client calls that needed to be addressed pronto.

My to do list and to be read list is a moving target. What I think I'll do and read this coming week may not be what I planned.

I've learned (and maybe your agent hasn't) that a quick "not yet" often soothes a writer's fears.

Your agent may not do that because his/her clients reply not with "ok, thanks for the heads up" but "damn it, when then?' which is an email I don't like to get either.

And for all my virtuous words here, I had to send eight emails this week to writers who wondered if I was dead or fled (I am neither which I hope they were happy to hear.)

That said, you need to figure out what you're doing for the next year and waiting isn't it.

So the answer to (3) is this: email your agent with a kind but firm tone. You need to know if the ms is headed in the right direction. Ask him/her to reply with a simple yes/no (and be willing to abide by this!) by Date Certain (a week not less.)

By "abide by that" I mean you do not follow up asking for any other input. [One of the reasons I often don't answer emails from non-clients or query writers is cause I know it means a conversation will ensue and I don't have time for that what with fending off the torch carrying mob of writers who are chanting and boiling oil in my foyer as we speak.]

If you don't hear back, call.
If you don't get a call back or an email, call again.
If you have silence after that, you've got a problem, but let's deal with that later.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I kinda wish I had that problem and glad I don't but still wish I did, don't, did....

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I can't wait to have a cuddly wuddly agent to wait on. More grease for the rodent wheel.

Of course, still have that query issue... it's fine. This is all good. OP, keep writing. I hope you hear from your agent soon.

Donnaeve said...

Oh, I've been here before, and there is always a reason for this sort of silence - mostly it's just like QOTKU said - things happen and all good intentions, well, pfffft! There they went.

It's never easy to wait. The tends to take over and starts to run the scenarios. Of course none of them are good. You question every single thing. Every comma, even.

It's normal. I didn't want to be The Difficult Client - and this is not what you are by giving reasonable times and then nudging. Here's how I nudged.

"Hey, Worry-wart here. All okay with you? Did you get a chance to read? Can't wait for your feedback!"

I'd give that a week. And if I didn't hear back, I'd sound a tad more worried, as is typical of a worry-wart.

"Hey, just checking back. You know me, if I don't hear within xx time, I tend to think the worst. Help, before I chew my fingertips off."

I didn't have to do that a lot. And doing it with humor gave me the opportunity to ease my mind about being a pest, while getting what I wanted - and, I always did. My agent is fantastic. And he always, ALWAYS has lots going on. Nowadays, I'm chill. I email and know he'll either call when he can, or he'll reply back. Sometimes it's in seconds...sometimes it's in days. It just depends, ya know?

It'll be all right OP. I'm sure of it.

:> )

Donnaeve said...

Oh, and I should clarify - my nudging didn't start for WEEKS. I'd send off a ms, (usually turned in early) and give it a couple months before I cropped up wearing the worry wart hat.

Matt Adams said...

OPie, I feel ya'. As I've told before, the same thing happened to me -- debut didn't sell, wrote the second and sent it to the agent, who was very excited to get it.

She had it for about eight weeks. I nudged her a couple of times -- usually sent her jokes and pleasant reminders, which she always responded very nicely to. Also sent toffee at Christmas. But I think I might have pressured her, because she eventually told me she didn't like it and wouldn't rep it -- she couldn't imagine the market she'd sell it to. Even when i asked if it was salvageable, she said no. This is what we in the tree-cutting-down industry call a bad day. I don't know whether my expecting her to read it fast -- and I was never impolite or anything of the sort -- meant she just gave it a cursory read, the kind she'd give a requested full from a query, and when she didn't love it she passed. Ot she might have just disliked it. Or it might have just been bad (I haven't had the courage to query it to the world again).

She's a very nice person and a very good agent at a very big and reputable firm. But she can't sell what she don't like.

So not to tell you to worry too much, but I'd also encourage you to let him/her take as much time as they need. If s/he is hesitant, the last thing you want to do is force them into a decision on the book. Because if you force the issue, the path of least resistance is to say they can't sell it, and then you're out of luck.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

E.M. I read your first sentence "to wait on" as in "serve"... HA!

Sage advice from our Queen, and good reassurance from our Donna.

As I watch more and more people struggle with the angst of this business, it seems to me that it's important to make every effort to somehow enjoy the process. Tough to do, I know. I'm right beside you all. But I know a gal who worked her tail off to land an agent, then a publisher, the contracts, book signings, marketing and so on... Now all she does is complain - loudly and frequently - about the deadlines and how they're sucking the life out her. Be careful what you wish for.

Melissa said...

Matt, what do you think of your second book? What have other readers thought of it? Seems like such a waste to let a book sit based on one person's opinion.

I worked in publishing for a number of years. At our bi-yearly sales conference, we presented new books in an old series to our sales reps. "No," they all groaned. "The series is outdated and tired. Everyone is sick of it." We ignored them and released the books. They sold well and revived interest in the series as a whole, making good money. What the sales reps meant was they were tired of the series, not the actual readers and buyers.

An agent takes on a book they both like it and think they can sell it to a publisher. Publishers are looking for specific books to fill out their line. They have a number of spots for x type of books. That doesn't mean there isn't a place in the market for your book.

Colin Smith said...

Matt: Did you and your agent part ways because s/he wouldn't rep your second novel? If so, that seems a bit harsh, unless the agent agreement was on a book-by-book basis, not with you as an author. I would hope that my agent (whoever that might be one day--I'm open to bids) would say, "Sorry, I just can't get behind CAPTAIN KALE AND THE FLATULENCE MONSTER OF KRAAJ. It stinks! Are you're working on something else? Send it to me when you're ready."

Janet: Is that realistic? Is that how you work? Is it common for agents to drop clients at their first clunker, or do they normally wait until there have been a long succession of clunkers and no-sells? Assuming all other aspects of the agent-client relationship are good, at what point to you lose confidence in your author's ability to give you work you can sell?

kathy joyce said...

Such interesting insights! Given everything, one would expect that self publishing would have taken down the industry by now. Cut out the middle person, etc. It hasn't, which means that there's value added in the traditional pub process that self publishing has not yet conquered.

However, traditional publishing will always filter work through an agent's eyes, then through eyes of editors, publishers, etc., and through the "can I sell it," judgment.

The bizarre part is that all the filtering is to judge direct sales, which self publishing does naturally.

For me, the bottom line is that trad publishing does add value, and favors books that can make money. But, it's based on individual judgment (informed and wise, of course).

Bottom line: Always get several opinions before giving up."Giving up" means quitting, but it also means "changing everything based on one comment."* Other definitions of quitting: "losing faith in yourself," "letting yourself get emotionally down," and "giving someone else power to own your story." Don't choose any form of quitting based on one person's reaction.

*Yes, I know yesterday's post was all about me doing this. I'm learning! And yes, I did get a story rejected today. So yes, I am preaching to myself, but I figured we could all use a pep talk! ;)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Colin, I wondered why CAPTAIN KALE AND THE FLATULENCE MONSTER OF KRAAJ never made its way through the long passage of traditional publishing. Not surprised though because the system is just so bound up by the norms of big business. I guess such projects sometimes simply disappear on the winds of time. You're right though, it does stink but I think if you enter it in a contest it just might win by a nose.

Colin Smith said...

kathy: These days, I think it's fair to say a book's life doesn't end because an agent can't sell it. And I think I'm right in saying most agents are not opposed to their clients self-publishing for titles that are a hard sell the traditional route. As the author's advocate, I can't imagine an agent would oppose their clients trying to get the best of both worlds. I'm not sure how that works in terms of the agent's cut (is that worked into the contract, or does it depend on the extend to which the agent assists in the self-publishing process, editing, using contacts to get good cover art, etc.?). Janet?

Colin Smith said...


I sold one of my stories to Empyreome Magazine!!!!! It will be published in their October edition!!!!!!! :D :D :D

I'll probably have a blog article about it soon, and I'll mention it again when the magazine is available.

Thought you might like to know... :D :D :D

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Congrats Colin and spam alert which has nothing to do with Colin.

Mark Ellis said...

There's a meme for this waiting thing.

Nice going, Colin, perhaps you can help me with this link:

Colin Smith said...

Thanks, 2Ns and Mark!

Joseph Snoe said...

Matt, what became of your second book? Please tell us the "rest of the story."

Oh, and OP, Instead of drinking more, try gobbing down Blue Bell ice cream. It works better, and after a month or two you can (must) shop for new clothes.

Donnaeve said...


Congratulations!!!! I'm glad I came back. I've been dropping my comments and then having to leave for the day...

I'm so happy for you. I'm off to check out the mag.

Wow. And I just found out another Kensington author won the Sir Walter Raleigh award (Danny Johnson, THE LAST ROAD HOME, 2016) Dang. Makes me wish I'd put lil ole Dixie Dupree in NC instead of 'Bama! Always next year though!

Barbara Etlin said...

Congrats, Colin!

John Davis Frain said...

Colin, Fantastic news. Way to go. Let us know when the magazine is available. Sounds like a print mag, good to hear there are still some of those producing fiction.

OP, I was supposed to have lunch with a good friend first week of September. I still haven't given them a new date. Which makes me a)too busy, b) a bad friend, or c) gaining experience to become an agent.

Point is, life gets in the way of our plans. Five weeks seems kinda short in this publishing world. But maybe that's my hunger talking--just realized I haven't had lunch this month.

Lennon Faris said...

Oh, OP, I feel for you. I hope to never need this advice but good to have it.

Melanie - I feel like printing out and posting your comment on my wall! I think that is something to strive for in every area of life.

Colin! - congratulations!!! that is awesome!

Casey Karp said...

Congrats, Colin!

Matt, count me among those who want to hear the rest of the story of your second novel.

Still at the waiting on queries stage here, so my nudging's a bit different. But my rule of thumb for when to do it is roughly 1/3 longer than is reasonable. If the agent says "give me three months," I'll give her four before I nudge. I did the same thing in my last job: "We need this Thursday," I'd say, knowing full well it could go until the following Tuesday. Then I'd nudge on Friday, 'cause stuff happens.

And yes, a little humor does help, as Donna said. Just don't recycle the same jokes too often.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Yay, Colin! Congrats!

And now it begins:)

Colin Smith said...

Thanks, yooz guyz! :D

John: They're an e-zine (e-pub, whatever), which means you'll be able to read my story in HTML on publication day, OR purchase a nice pdf/ereader version of the mag.

Of course, the exciting part of this for me is that an editor chose my story and parted with money for it. It's validation. So, yeah, I guess I'll quit whining about that now. :) And, of course, I excited that you'll get to read the story. It's one of my favorites.

Now, enough about me... :D :D :D

Panda in Chief said...

Congratulations Colin! Huzzah! Persistance pays off!

I keep hoping that life on the hamster wheel will make less pandy. Good to know that the anxiety doesn't end, even after you ave an agent.

BJ Muntain said...

Congrats, Colin!

OP: You could also start preparing for the next book, just in case. If you're an outliner, start an outline. If you're not, then just try to come up with ideas or characters or a plot for another book (whichever piece is what gets you writing). You could look at the current story, and see where and how you need to revise... but if it hasn't sat for long enough, look at a new one.

I think Janet is always so patient with us nervous writer-types.

Amy Johnson said...

Colin: Congratulations! Look up--here come the balloons falling from the ceiling! Hooray!

Gypmar said...

Congratulations, Colin! It was only a matter of time, and that time has come! How exciting. :)

kathy joyce said...

Colin and Elise (EM here) had a twitter conversation about whether Colin should post his news here. Please!!!!! Hearing about others' success gives me so much hope! Everyone, don't hesitate, please post!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin Wow! So proud of you - of course, I never doubted you. Fantastic. I can't wait to read your story.

Sherry Howard said...

Go, Colin! Validation is what we need most to keep pushing through.

Thanks for sharing your nudges, Donna!

I'm at an SCBWI conference right now. It's full of writer energy, and shared angst at EVERY STAGE OF THE JOURNEY! Most speakers have shed tears sharing their emotion-ridden tales of their journeys. The road to hell may be paved with writers' souls.

french sojourn said...

Well done Colin, never doubted your talent.


AJ Blythe said...

Colin!!!! On holidays at the moment at the beach, so I haven't been online much at all, so have missed this news. That's totally brilliant (but not unexpected). Understand the need for an industry person to give that validation, but I don't think anyone here is surprised. Cheering for you =)

Wow, Mark, is that "waiting" on exhibit at the museum? I never get to see much 'cause the kids drag me to Kids Space. Once school's back I am going to hunt that down and photograph it for myself. Love it!

Steve Stubbs said...

Hobbyist writers might feel better by bot taking themselves so seriously. It is a very tough business and if you don't make it, it doesn't really matter. You are not going to win the lotto. So what?

I belong to the Don't-Bug-the-Agent school of time management. Realistically the answer is almost certainly no. Why get impatient for bad news? You can always write an email that says no and send it to yourself if you can't wait.

I got some perspective yesterday looking for a published book to practice my crit skills on. Some of them are pretty bad. But I inadvertently picked one that needs no editing at all. The damn thing is freaking FLAWLESS. That says a lot about the skills of New York editors because the author said it went through several revisions. The title is RUNNER and the author is Patrick Lee.


I have seen the competition and it is intimidating.

He sets the bar.

Can you do better than that?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

So my attempt to comment from my phone didn't work...

Opie: Lots of good thoughts to reflect on in this here comment trail. I've nothing to add.

Colin!! Congrats! What wonderful news!

Lynne Main said...

Congrats, Colin!

After reading OP's post--along with my own query waiting--I'm convinced glaciers actually do move faster than things in the publishing world. ;)

Matt, keep querying that second novel. Someone else might love your book. You won't know unless you try.

Joseph Snoe said...

Congratulations, Colin

Good news is always exciting.

CynthiaMc said...

Way to go Colin!

Matt Adams said...

Thanks to everyone who asked, but the second book is sitting comfortably on my hard drive, waiting until I can figure out how to make better. I like the book, but I don't have any confidence in it and until I do, I don't think it makes sense to send it out in the world.

I find myself feeling like Harry Chapin's Mr. Tanner a lot these days, singing only to myself late at night.

And congrats, Colin! That's beyond awesome!

Inktruffle said...

I've got four fulls and one partial out right now, and I nudged two agents at the appropriate time, got very quick, kind responses, and decided to just enjoy the season of autumn instead of proposing marriage to Querytracker. If they requested it, they want to read it, which is sometimes hard to remember. So as OP is an actual client, I feel for them. I always wrongly operated under the assumption that once you were a client, you got your work read quickly. But knowing it takes several months for a client to be read makes it easier to stomach having fulls out for longer. I used to think I couldn't wait eight weeks for an answer without dramatically withering. Turns out I'm still dramatic, but not yet withered.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

Congratulations, Colin! Awesome! Can't wait to read your story.

Mark Ellis said...

AJ: What museum, that's my living room. Thanks, Colin.