Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Question: staying in touch with an agent from a conference who liked your work

In March 2014 I attended a pitch session organized with SCBWI and met Agent X. Already in the introduction when she listened to everyone’s ideas, she expressed that she was interested in my project.  Then after my 5 minute pitch and her reading a sample query that I addressed to her as if it were by mail, she was explicit in her interest.  

During the ninety minutes she told me three times that she was interested in my manuscript, to  send it when it when ready.  She gave me her business card and told me she was very pleased to meet me. I told her I would send her something by Christmas.

I will not have a polished manuscript by Christmas but revising first draft.

My question to you is: Should I contact her (end of November)and say that I am still working on the manuscript and need a few more months to send her my query and that she will be the first.  Or should I just wait until I am ready.  This may be June 2015.

It's never wrong to stay in touch (gently) with someone who has expressed interest in your work.  By gently I mean, you recognize that while your manuscript and her interest in it are of Burning Hot Importance to you, they fall somewhat to the cooler side of the lava flow for the agent.  Yes, she's interested but she's not planning her vacation schedule around your promised delivery date.

Here's how you do this:  About 30 days before the date you'd thought the manuscript would be ready (in your case December, so November) you drop her a SHORT email reminding her that you met at the conference, she expressed interest in your work, and while you thought you'd be sending in December, you are still in a preliminary draft.

This email is NO LONGER than five sentences of no more than 15 words each.  In other words: short! In other words: you're going to have several drafts of this, and it's going to take longer than five minutes to write. It's hard to write succinctly, but it is imperative you do so. (Your question to me above is 178 words in four paragraphs. Your email to her will be one paragraph of no more than 75 words.)

Why is it imperative to be short?  Because you want to convey the impression that you write well (long emails conveying ONE piece of information do NOT do that) and you only want her to use three seconds to get the info.

If you aren't ready six months later, repeat the above.

Don't fret if you don't hear back on something like this. Don't fret that she's dead, fled, or no longer interested.  Time to worry about those things when the manuscript is ready.


Kitty said...

It's hard to write succinctly, but it is imperative you do so.

Which is why those contests are so helpful (hint hint) :)

Ardenwolfe said...

Good advice as always.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

...five sentences of no more than 15 words each. In other words: short! In other words: you're going to have several drafts of this, and it's going to take longer than five minutes to write. It's hard to write succinctly...

New rules for a contest ?

Colin Smith said...

I agree, Kitty/Carolynn--that's contest talk if ever I heard it... :)

Anonymous said...

Aside from a contest - this is great advice/rule to follow - I am notoriously long winded. I will shut up right now.

Oh! Except one teensy request...don't have a contest this weekend. Yeah, I know - selfish!! It's not about you donnaeverhart! But...if you did/do...I can't participate due to travel. Wah.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

So much to learn on this blog.

Writing a comment often takes much thought and revision.

Then you push submit and see the typos. Ouch.

contest: burning hot, lava, vacation?

Julie said...

Oh. My. Gawd.

I truly think you folks need to pay for my psychotherapy. And my meds. Really. Like get together and put me on Xanax.

What if you think you're becoming - Gawd help me - FRIENDS - with some of them??? And by "FRIENDS," I mean the ones who aren't representing you because you made the ridiculous error of deciding to include Angels in your novels, thus turning Historical Fiction into Fantasy?

THEN can you write them whatever emails you want?

Or are you back to Mug and Thug showing up at your door with bats and bad English?

Julie said...

(Pronoun Glossary: "You" as in "You Folks" - "Agents" (Not inflammatory at ALL)...

"My" as in "My meds" - "Julie"

"You" as in "You think you're becoming friends" - the individual sending the email, in this case, me - see "My"

"You're" - see "you"

"Them" - "Agents" - see "You" as in "You Folks"

"You" - as in "You screwed up your novel" - see "You" as in "You think you're becoming friends"

"Mug and Thug" - Not Pronouns, refer to previous, currently not published, blog post, in which I relate my continued tremulousness regarding Big Scary Agents

That clarifies things.... right? :D

Colin Smith said...

@Julia: Are you suggesting the possibility that an unagented writer might strike up a level of camaraderie with an agent (or agents) such that querying and corresponding on current projects seems less like sending missives to the Pope, and more like talking with friends?

I guess it could happen... :)

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

We've learned from the shark: don't tell me you are my number one fan and that you can't buy a good agent.

It doesn't seem the writer trying to befriend or make any promises.

Otherwise they would have been calling and now complaining of the sure rejection.

As an artist, I've had my share of rejection from galleries but when I have shows I still remind them I'm there, with an invitation.

Illustrators do this too.

About 99% of the galleries never respond and are f-ing rude but that's their problem.

Thanks to the shark for her generous advice.

Julie said...

Colin -
I now have two acquaintances (I will not be so arrogant as to use the term "friend" until I've actually met these people) who happen to be Agents with whom I've exchanged emails completely unrelated to my manuscripts.


In both cases, these are Agents that I know with absolute certainty will NOT accept the manuscripts on the basis of their content. In the first case, the Agent "does not do Angels," and in the second case (this one), she doesn't manage fantasy.

So the pressure's off, and I can just be who I am. Sure, someday I might write something else, but for the time being, my projects relate to topics that these people won't represent. Still, I think they're cool folks, and, at the end of the day, people are people.

That being said, should I one day require their services as Agents, you can bet your beans that my header will read "Dear Janet," or "Attn: Mr. ," because these are their stated professional preferences - and those would be professional queries. And I would take my relaxant of choice before sending the queries off (in my case, I'd plug in some music and re-re-re-read my query and make sure I had it as concise as possible, because CLEARLY word count is a problem for me.)

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MNye said...

...measly months...phshaw!

Lance said...

Carolynnwith2Ns, five sentences with exactly 15 words each. And each sentence has to contain one -- and only one -- of the five prompts. You could really get carried away with this, couldn't you?

Anonymous said...

Good advice about being succinct. It seems the most important part of any communication with an agent: give them the info without overwhelming them with a novelist's flow of words. That's why queries are one page max.