Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Nudging timeline

What is the appropriate timing and wording to use when following up with an agent or editor? I know a little more about the former, from what I’ve seen online, but I haven’t been able to find out much about following up directly with editors/publishers, if you’re currently not represented. How long do you give an editor/agent if they don’t specify a timeframe. Is it 3 months? More or less? And what do you say without sounding pushy or desperate? Would be curious to know if they’re similar!

A lot of agent websites will tell you their timeline.
Mine is 30 days on queries, 90 days on full.
I miss that deadline a LOT.

I have reconciled myself to nudging emails from writers even though I hate to get them cause it means I've made a writer anxious, without actually being there to enjoy it. Wasted torture.

In fact, in my email acknowledging receipt of a requested full, I specifically tell them it's ok to nudge or check in as their nerves require. Waiting sucks.

That said, not all agents are as awesome as I am, and they might not tell you their timeline, or they might tweet something rude like "don't nudge me you writerly types, I'll get to you when I get to you."

Now, that kind of stance tells you something about the agent of course, but it's also not some sort of legal restriction.

My view is you nudge after a businesslike 30 days on queries, and 90-120 days on fulls.

Now, what to say.
Well, "get off your asterisk and read, you slaggard" is of course what I prefer to see, but again, not all agents are as awesome as I am.

I recently received a GREAT nudge email from a writer.

I hope January is treating you well. I've managed to keep half of my resolution (Muay Thai) but have yet to kick in the dietary side, which I've postponed in the name of family stress (I'm back up to Maine again in the morning to help out-maddening things, families). I rationalize that my ability to rationalize the delay in diet is a sign of free will, ahem. I managed to close out 2017 with a fit of writing and finish a draft of a novel and have half of another written, so that side of life is productive.

Oh, another plus - I'll admit I sank into a cynical funk prior to the recent Women's March (I attended last year's march in DC) and was blown away by the tremendous turn out in cities across the country this year. It was deeply satisfying to feel cynicism collapse in the face of such a massive display.

I'm looking forward to your thoughts on (REQUESTED FULL TITLE) when it claws its way to the top of the TBR pile. Oh - if you haven't read Victor LaValle's The Changeling yet, grab a copy. It's spectacular and my favorite read of 2017.

Here's what made it great: it was interesting, illuminating AND also about something other than his novel. He didn't ask me if I'd read it yet. He didn't remind me how long I'd had the ms (120 days).

And he mentioned a writer I admire a lot: Victor LaValle.

In other words, this wasn't so much a nudge as a friendly note, and of course, I responded with alacrity, both about Victor LaValle and about the requested full.

The entire email exchange did a very important thing: it showed me this author is professional, interesting and subtle. All of those are very good things.

So, I'm not going to give you specific wording here, but more of a guideline: be pleasant, be interesting, be about more than the nudge.  Easy peasy, right?

That's for agents.

Double everything for editors. As an unagented writer, you're generally in the lowest priority strata, and editors have incoming submissions that would make you weep.


Kathy Joyce said...

Hmmm. I would have sent the last paragraph, assuming a busy agent would find the rest to be bothersome fluff. Good to know.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"...be pleasant, be interesting, be about more than the nudge."

Be pleasant: How the hell are ya?

Be interesting: I used to live in Africa.

Be about more than the nudge: Wanna discuss politics?

If you were reading my full, by the time I nudged, I would have gnawed away every fingernail, emptied the liquor cabinet (I don't drink but would start)and sold my soul to the guy in red who breaths fire and carries a pitchfork.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

So its ok to stray, a wee bit, from the business at hand. People are people.

Mister Furkles said...

Sent in my query and heard nothing for three whole days—72 hours yet. So what if it was a holiday weekend? Naturally, I nudged her:

“Hey, lard ass, get off your fat duff and get to work; sent my query last Friday and crickets. What’s the haps?”

It worked. Got an immediate response. A rejection—but aren’t they all? And some new words and phrases I’d not seen before. They’ll go really well in the pirates’ dialogues of my “Pirates of Lake Tahoe” novel.

BJ Muntain said...

Interesting. I've always been of the business mindset - Dear Agent, I sent a query to you four months ago. Your website says you reply within three months. Did you receive my query? If not, I can resend.

I always like to give a person a polite out.

But I may have to rethink this.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I would think nudging a shark would be dangerous business. Getting a requested full from shark would probably cause me to drown in shock rendering my nudging impulse mute. Good question, OP.

BunnyBear said...

"...it means I've made a writer anxious, without actually being there to enjoy it" nearly made me snort my breakfast cereal across the table. Thanks, Janet, for starting my day with a laugh!

Kregger said...

I don't nudge on queries. If the intranetal, fickle finger of fate has decreed a misdirection-so be it. The agent gets listed as a Norman on my spreadsheet.

By the way, Ms. Reid's advice on keeping track of agents-queried prevented a SWAT-like response from the query police the other day. Thank you, Mr. Excel.

I'd like to give a shout out to the agents at (redacted). Although most of my posts here are filled with cynicism and sarcasm. My intention, here and today, is 100% sincere. I received a rejection with a nice note within 24 hours of submission. In my experience, this is unheard of.

Is it bragging to say I've received a lot of rejections? I know that says something about my writing, but for the life of me I can't figure out what.

Does anyone have any opinions on me nominating this young agent for sainthood and how it would impact on the rule of the QOTKU?

I always send a thank you (unless there is an autoresponder, and does this remind anyone of "Animal House?").

While the query police were breathing down my neck, I deleted the addition of a request asking if I should query the other agents at the agency. I stuck with a simple thank you for their time.

Back to the hamster wheel. Did you know the query police have bad breath?


Casey Karp said...

BJ, keep in mind the difference between nudging on the query and on the full.

I figured that in the first case, you don't really have a relationship with the agent, while in the latter case you do. It's not much of a relationship, but it's there. You've gotten her attention, and you're no longer part of the Great Unwashed Masses.

So for a query, I do pretty much what you described. For a full, though, take advantage of the opportunity to develop the relationship. As in the example Her Majesty gave, you're building on the fact that you stood out in a good way enough to get the request for the full.

Kathy Joyce said...

Kregger, bad like shark breath?

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

"...not all agents are as awesome as I am." HA! And also too true.

Kathy J, I imagine there are agents who would find all the other stuff bothersome.

I have a tendency to allow the business professional I'm corresponding with take the lead. My personality can tend toward too familiar, too friendly, too open. If I sense all that wouldn't bode well, I reel it in. But if the correspondent seems equally familiar and friendly, well, I might let my freak flag fly.

The publisher/editor of my nonfiction was very kind to me. She was also prompt and professional, but extremely formal and all business. Thus, I left the chit-chat out of my correspondence to her.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I'm within sprinting distance of the query stage, and reminders like this are always helpful. Of course, first I have to write the query... *panic*

Side note on general badgering: I always worry about being an inconvenience whenever I have a question for a coworker/boss/accountant/front desk assistant/restaurant server/distant cousin. The social anxiety builds and builds, until about two months in, when I reach the end of my rope in a spectacular fashion. I usually end up kicking down doors and shouting, 'Miss me, b****es?'

My point is, life is better once you care less what people think of you. Usually, that's also when you start making friends.

Not that I would ever kick in an agent's door. I imagine most of them are padlocked.

Craig F said...

I haven't nudged a query yet. I have written what I think is a good nudging letter, but I have not yet deployed it. Most days I think that I will never deploy it.

I have faith that my e-mail works. I have gotten quite a few auto-replies and several rejections. Some of those came just hours after sending the query. Others have been a few weeks later. Of those, a few have been from agents that have a habit of not answering every query. That leaves me a glimmer of hope that my query is worth serious consideration. Those that feel I am not worth even a rejection are not likely those I would care to deal with anyway.

I have not yet gotten any requests but I am querying a hard nosed thriller and not everyone can sell those. Many don't really want to. Some agents want to find another GONE GIRL or GIRL ON A TRAIN, my work is not along those lines. Maybe today is the day I find the right one, maybe tomorrow.

Sherry Howard said...

This was so interesting. (My autocorrect wrote in interstellar and I almost left it because I don’t ever get to use THAT word.) Other than JR, I wouldn’t shoot the breeze, I’d put my business pants on and get straight to the point. Great to know it’s ok to be a humanoid.

Steve Stubbs said...

You wrote: As an unagented writer, you're generally in the lowest priority strata, and editors have incoming submissions that would make you weep.

Please comment on "incoming submissions that would make you weep" further some time if you wish. I have always wondered why publishers publish anything but bestsellers.

This is old news and the company probably does not exist anymore, but Robert Ringer started a publishing corp(se?) years ago that DID publish only bestsellers. If he was running a business and not an art museum, that just makes intuitive sense.

My thinking is, submitting a book is like buying a lottery ticket. The fun part is waiting to find out you lost again. Finding out you got every number wrong while your wastrel cousin keeps hitting the jackpot over and over and over again and buying another hotel chain in the Bahamas with the winnings is not the fun part.

I read a book by an agent of the NORMAN persuasion some time ago in which he said if he ignores writers for six months they probably figure out he rejected them within ten seconds of their work arriving - which is in fact what he does.

The way I see it, if you want to sweat, get a gym membership. Nudging just creates the risk that you end up on somebody's list de merde. Submit a book and forget it ever existed. Assume everybody else forgot already. Resolve to think your work is not important to anybody. When the word gets around that you see things that way, agents and editors will be shaking your hand and slapping you on the back. They may even invite you to somebody else's book signing party. If you buy the coffee and doughnuts.

Stephanie Bittner said...

I'm not at the point of nudging yet, but it's nice to hear that it's all right to send more than just a couple business-like sentences. I imagine that's mostly the case with fulls rather than queries, though. And the agents who hate nudges will hate you no matter what you send.

Colin Smith said...

I only nudge queries if the agent is NOT a NORMAN and explicitly states she reads all queries or invites nudges if no response has been received by a certain date.

I would nudge for submissions, following the agent's guidelines. When it comes to submission nudges, I agree with Casey. If she's asked for more, then you have started to build a relationship, so I think the nudge can be a bit more informal. Especially if you follow them on social media and can "chit-chat" about life.

For example, if I was nudging Eric Smith, I might ask how fatherhood's going. Or recommend a not-so-scary episode of Black Mirror to Jessica Sinsheimer. Of course, with Janet, I'd just say, "Hey, Shark-for-brains! Where's me stuff??!" ;)

Timothy Lowe said...

Over the past few years, I've encountered the NORMAN response to nudges, namely "we read your book a while ago and decided it wasn't for us, even though it was absolutely fabulous [or some similar language that didn't make up for the fact that they'd decided to decline it]"

Those always made me wonder - why didn't they just let me know?

I guess a lot slips through the cracks - the lesson? Don't be afraid to nudge, even if you can't make yours quite as personal as the one Janet received.

Kathy Joyce said...

Colin, you misspelled it. It's shark-is-brains. Geez, people are gonna think you like Carkoon.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Color-me-stunned. I didn't know we could be friendly with the agent-Gods!

Now I'm intimidated. Not only can I gather my courage to nudge, I have the option of sounding friendly and chatty, without boring them, mentioning things they might like without sounding like a creepy stalker.

I kinda feel like the bar for nudges is like 10 times higher than I ever thought possible.

I didn't know nudges could be impressive.

Colin Smith said...

If you're still fairly new to the blog and/or the comments, you might be a tad confused with some of the conversation. What's a NORMAN? Where's Carkoon? And who is this Felix Buttonweezer? Am I a bad writer if I don't know him??

There is a blog glossary that attempts to explain some of these terms unique to our corner of the universe (though I contend "NORMAN" should be industry-standard language). It's linked on the top right of the blog, or you can click HERE.

If there are other words or phrases you don't understand, feel free to ask. There's a good chance the commenter is speaking utter gibberish, in which case, you're on your own. ;)


Kathy Joyce said...

Colin: "There's a good chance the commenter is speaking utter gibberish..."

If I knew how, I'd add that laughing-so-hard-I'm-crying emoji.

Julie Weathers said...

I'll be querying this year. I have the agent from Surrey who requested it and has read Gone With the Wind twice, (What I wouldn't give for a program that lets me search agents by how many times they've read GWWTW.) plus the agent who gave me the comments on Far Rider who said, "You will be sending me that historical, correct?", plus the others who passed on FR, but asked me to keep them in mind for the next project. They go to the top of the list. Then we start sorting as usual.

Please note, The Rain Crow is not comparable to GWTW, nor do I compare myself to Mitchell, but at least it indicates an interest in the subject matter.

On the negative side of this master plan, my excel sheet with the agents and their comments is missing. My techie son says he can find it. If not, I'll have to pore through emails and reconstruct it.

I despise nudging. It makes me feel like an inelegant harpy. I guess the solution is to be an elegant one or not do it.

I'll be a little more aggressive on my querying this go round. I'm not getting any younger.

While the queries are out, I'll go back to work on Far Rider. If I sit too long, I may get baked in a squat like a flat little biscuit and never rise up.

I think winning some money on the lottery would be horrible. I knew someone who won $1,000 once and then spent $60 a day on the lottery every day after that trying to get lightning to strike again.

"Resolve to think your work is not important to anybody."

Never in this life or the next. I don't deal in defeat.

How do you like me now?

Janet Reid said...

I have read Gone With the Wind more than 18 times.
I stopped counting at 18.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: I think Janet's trying to tell you something. In fact, with regard to the case of your missing agent list, I smell a shark... ;)

Gayle said...

I don't think I would nudge on a query unless their guidelines say they respond to all and then not until a week or so after their timeframe expires, if they provided one. I also think I would keep the nudge short and businesslike, after maybe a "I hope your January has been going well."

I am happy to have the manuscript nudge example. If I ever get any full requests *fingers crossed* no doubt I'll have need to use it.

I'm actually querying now. I'm on hold for a minute because I wasn't getting any requests, so I'm working on revising my query with an editor. She's not as good as Her Sharkiness, but she's really helped me figure it out and it's almost there at this point. I will be nudging one agent whose agency has the almost miraculous response time of 2 weeks (supposedly) and will take that opportunity to update my pitch, so yay? It's clear from Query Tracker she doesn't follow this timeframe, but she doesn't know that I know that. And I wish I had signed up for QT before sending, because i would have picked someone else to send to first. I'm finding myself prioritizing next rounds based on their stats--who requests the most and who responds the most (and the fastest although that's a deeper dive.)

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Kregger, I have had a query rejection from an agent within 52 minutes. She strongly recommended that I take a second look at the other agents at her agency.

I did. I queried again. 19 minutes later, I received the second rejection. I worked 3 years on my project, so 19 mins was like a slap in the face with my manuscript.

Colin, so true, I've got no idea what a NORMAN is. And quite some other stuff. I don't even know what OP stands for but have understood that it's the person Janet has responded to at the beginning.

P might mean 'person'. So it's currently O-person to me :).

Colin Smith said...

OneOfUs: OP = Original Poster. Sometimes affectionately called Opie. :)

Check the Blog Glossary for the others.

Lennon Faris said...

Hmm. This answer surprised me.

The one nudge I ever wrote was polite but short and to the point. I think I based it off something I read here (I can't imagine not, actually).

KariV said...

When I came to America, I got a job as a waitress. I tried my best to be what I thought was professional. The best piece of life advice I got while going through my cultural transition was from two ladies at a table I was serving. They told me to smile. Turns out, what I thought was professional was coming across as aloof and disinterested. Once I started smiling and interacting with my customers, I enjoyed my job more and my tips went up.

The point is, professionalism seems great at face value, but a balanced combination of professionalism and personalism will open many more doors for you, no matter what your career.

Colin Smith said...

KariV: Maybe it's an American thing, but it seems to me over here people much prefer warm professionalism. It's considered a great skill if you can be competent at your job, and add to that friendliness without being too friendly, and humor without being inappropriate. You come across as someone who is approachable, and who enjoys what they do. That's my impression, anyway.

Theresa said...

I've found my GWTW people! I read it every year, so like Janet, I've stopped counted how many times.

Anonymous said...

Good to know these timelines. So when I start querying I'll be able to tell my [future] therapist how long I'll need medication. I'm sure this will go well.

"Hey, Doc, I'm sending queries next week, so I'll need to be heavily sedated for 30 days."

"Queries? For what?"

"It's the next step in my professional career as a writer. If it goes well, I'll need to be heavily sedated for 90-120 days after that."

"I-- that's not really-- what?"

"Do you know anyone who can come in to feed my cat while I'm comatose?"

Okay, seriously, after reading that nudge example I really want to read that writer's book. Love the voice and the humour. Get off your asterisk on that one, would you, Janet?

Julie Weathers said...


Janet is always on my list. That goes without saying.


Being friendly is never amiss. I used to deal with a multi-millionaire investor who would call me up occasionally and ask me out to lunch. He was interested in a condominium I had listed. He figured it would be cheaper to buy that at the right price than rent hotels when he was in town. We never closed the deal, but he'd still call me up to see if there were any other good prospects. He was kind of a shark about real estate investing. It had to be the right property at the right price.

Anyway, he said one way he decided if he wanted to have anything to do with a person is how they treated people in lesser stations, such as waiters. If they pulled the pompous ass routine on them, he didn't waste his time on them.

I knew another guy who gauged out prospective girlfriends the same way. He'd take them to a VERY nice restaurant to see how they acted to the wait staff.

Kregger said...

Oh, great...how long will it take me to listen to GWTW on audiotape during the ten-minute drive to and from work...eighteen times?

All I remember of the movie was Clark Kent in the first ten minutes.

I know, I know...my cultural education/experience is a wasteland.

Mary said...

I agree. Maybe that's where I've been going wrong.