Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Let me know if you're popular enough for me to read you!"

I have a question about agents and requested fulls/partials. I'm in the query trenches and have gotten a few full requests, all followed by (so far) rejections a few weeks/months later. But two agents have had my full longer than any of the others - 7 and 9 months, respectively. One was initially responsive to nudges, but now neither are responding.

I realize they're both probably passes and am not holding my breath, but I've noticed a curious thing. Both these agents' QueryTracker pages are full of people like me, waiting in some cases years with no response, BUT there are occasionally folks who report that both agents got back to them immediately when they'd received an offer from someone else. I haven't seen anyone who heard back without another offer in hand.

So my question is - is it possible that some agents are requesting material and then only replying if they hear that another agent is interested? And if so, is there anything we writers can do about it?

It's entirely possible, and there's really nothing you can do about it.
What's very very tempting is to tell those agents you have an offer.
You know it's unethical, you know it's wrong wrong wrong, but you're tempted.

Do NOT do this.

Yes, it's wrong, yes it's unethical but it's also a good way to shoot yourself not just in one foot, but in both feet, and probably take off a couple fingers for good measure.

Here's why: we notice writers who say they have offers but never seem to sign or sell. When you query again, with no mention a previous agent, that's a huge red flag.

If you say you have an offer, but can't/won't tell me who it's from, I don't think of it as a compelling reason to read.  (It's entirely ok to tell another agent who's offering. It helps us sort the legit offers from the schmagenty ones.)

If it makes you feel any better, there are some editors who do this too. I don't submit stuff to them in first rounds any more. 


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I really got nothin' this morning except that waiting and wondering sucks. Knowing the writing on the wall, even when the wall is blank, sucks too. This business is a waiting game unless those tumblers, the ones that had to all fall in place at the same time during the sixties, actually do fall in place.
It may not help but you're not alone OP, we're standing in line with you and waiting too.
Good luck, be patient, don't lie.
Good luck to all of us.

Unknown said...

Please don't give up! From my anecdotal experience, 7 and 9 months is not very long. Seriously. It’s tempting to think that 9 months might mean the agent is not great at managing time, but more likely, a long response time is a symptom of being busy with clients, and probably not in great need of new clients, especially if the agent is making sales. Exactly the kind of agent you want. More than a year, even a year and a half is not too long. Patience. Persistence. Politeness.

David S. said...

With the last novel I queried, I’ll be at two years come June with one agent who has my full. I’ve nudged him a couple times and he’s always responded within about a day, politely saying he hasn’t had a chance to get to it, so no big deal. Obviously I don’t have high hopes of it being a yes, but hey, you never know.

B said...

These agents' tactics are, admittedly, an efficient way to filter out the promising manuscripts without doing much legwork. But honestly, I feel that any agent who needs others to confirm a work is good, instead of going by their own guts, will be late to the game. There's always an advantage to offering first, and believing in a book because you like it, not because others liked it first.

Hang in there, OP! One day you'll find someone who loves your work and pounces on it.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

You ’al may not consider this relevant but when I was pregnant for the first time I sat in the doctor’s waiting room, nervous as all heck. He was making me wait and wait and wait. I was on time, (early actually) and after ten minutes, I was upset. After a half hour of reading a months-old magazine on parenting, for the third time, I could have been climbing the walls but I felt very calm. Somewhere in one of those rooms a patient needed that doctor more than I did at the moment. After forty-five minutes I realized that someday I may be the patient who needs the doctor’s time and that others will have to wait.
Once I got to see him he was very apologetic and surprised that I was not upset. Really, how could I be?
So OP, as you wait, I wait too and I realize that someday we may be the writers who take the agent’s time away from other writers.
BTW, I had a girl and she’s thirty-three with two little ones of her own now.

Anonymous said...

Patience is SO hard. But, maintaining my good rep (or at least not getting a bad one), is worth it.

Early on in my querying process, I got a request the day after I queried!
I was so encouraged and excited! I sent it in the next day.

And then--silence.

About 4 months later, when I would have nudged, I'd had a lot of feedback and was working on revisions.

When I finally nudged her a YEAR later, I offered her my latest and greatest.

She replied the next day! Asking the extent of my updates, so I told her.

And... crickets. She didn't ask for the new version, she didn't reject...

I've emotionally moved on, but just haven't brought myself to close out the query yet. Maybe after I pass the 2 year mark?

Best of luck!

Unknown said...

I realize that it’s probably not a good example, but Becky Albertalli has queried Brooks Sherman a week after she met him at a conference. He offered representation five days later, and he sold her book called 'Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda' four days after she signed with him. Sure, usually it doesn't happen so fast. We all know that. But isn't it risky for editors and agents to wait like that?

Luanne G. Smith said...

I worry about this. I had an offer a few years ago from a very new agent and did just this -- notified everyone who still had a partial or full. After the dust settled I ended up with a much more experienced agent also being interested, but she wanted a revision first. So I declined the new agent's offer and went with the revision, thinking it surely would end in an offer. Four months later it didn't. Anyway, I worry sometimes that I've left the impression I was bluffing. Just one more thing for a hapless woodland creature about to query again to fret about.

BunnyBear said...

When an agent requests a full and then doesn't reply, that's like a guy asking you out on a second date and then standing you up. "I'm interested enough to go farther, but...I changed my mind and don't have the courage to say so." Agents need to show authors the same respect they expect and deserve. We keep score, too.

Mary said...

Sigh, this just prepares you for the potential even longer wait for the ms to be sold. I feel like I should have started submitting when I was 8 not 38 (you mean my journal of traveling the western states with my Barbies and my parents in a camper and trying to learn math wouldn't have been a best seller?)

Donnaeve said...

What Mary said, plus there's more ways to worry post-publication than pre. Trust me on this.

Timothy Lowe said...

Luanne G. Smith,

All I can say is, "ouch!"

This biz ain't for the weak. That's for sure.

Best of luck, OP. Keep the faith. And keep writing new material while you wait. That's the most magical part of this whole writing bag, in my opinion.

julieweathers said...


I don't get upset with doctors if they are late to see me. Usually they are right on time. If they are late, there's usually a good reason.

When I was pregnant with Will, my youngest I kept flipping into premature labor and had some other problems that were high risk. I went in for a regular check up and the nurse took my blood pressure. Outside the door, I hear Dr. B blow a gasket. "Can't you nurses take blood pressure correctly anymore! Get everyone in here now. We need to have another lesson."

So, in come all the nurses and Dr. B. takes my blood pressure. Lo and behold, it was correct. I was about to stroke. There was an intense flurry of activity to get me to the hospital. It could have been someone else in that position making me late.

Another time they were running late and then came out and asked me if it was all right if another doctor saw me. My doctor was in emergency surgery. I said that's fine. I hoped the patient was going to be all right.

"No, you don't understand. The doctor is in surgery. He had a brown recluse bite that went bad."

Agents will get to me when they get to me. Their clients come first. You dance with the girl you brought to the dance. I've only withdrawn my manuscript from one agent over time issues and I will never submit to him again.

Steve Stubbs said...

People who wait years for a response from an agent who has probably gone out of business anyway are being dealt a valuable lesson in How The Business World Works.

There used to be an agency that charged reading fees. I doubt they still exist since the character who ran it is jerking people around in the infernal regions now. As soon as the customer's money changed hands, suddenly they cut off all communication.

That's known in the business world as "letting 'em drift out to sea." An editor told me they were "legendary for that sort of thing."

That is a standard business practice. Robert Ringer has an hilarious cartoon in his book on how to win in business by intimidating everybody that depicts a skeleton waiting by the phone covered with cobwebs. That's the business world. The problem is, you won't live forever. The best thing you can do is, forget nudging, forget waiting, and get on with your life. You could consider getting some opinions on your opus. If it is not ready yet, or worse, if people tell you that you are writing disabled, you might want to start over before trying again.

If you want a free opinion, you are invited to pass it on.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...


Doctors, agents, dates, repairmen and women, parents who hold off one kid while another jumps on, what's a human to do?

Wait, wonder and wish everyone well I guess...UNLESS
I'm not sure what I mean by that other than you can only push so far...UNTIL
I think I'll check my email, this could be the day...MAYBE

Unknown said...

Carolynnwith2Ns, I love reading your posts and love your pregnancy analogy here. I also think you have the right of it. An agent MUST deal with clients first. Any agent who doesn't isn't going to work out. And the attention we want from our agent when we sign, (in the same way that we want time and attention from our (or our wife's) OB GYN ) is all the attention and time that we need, no matter how long it takes, or how much that extends the wait time for potential author/clients to get submissions read. It doesn't make the agent into a bad person, it makes them into a better agent.

Whoosh, two long posts today. Back to my usual quiescent state of blog lurker, waiting patiently (and eagerly) for agents. I think I’ll send out a query and write another WIP while I wait.

Unknown said...

Hi, OP. Prior to my surgery, AKA writing days, I had an agent who requested a full. I sent it in, and waited patiently. She's quite active on Twitter, so I knew she was around. After 6 months, I nudged. Then 9 months. I never heard from the nudges but I knew she had a long response time even though the agent website said they responded at X,Y, and Z times. After a year and a half and not hearing from her but seeing she was still alive and kicking, embarrassment took over. Then, I nudged again, this time more directly but still professionally. Still nothing. At close to two years, I thought, No. I really wouldn't want that kind of agent...even though she's very friendly on Twitter. But what also played into the scheme was the agency itself. I had to make a judgment call, but I don't regret it. If the agency was one worth fighting for, my decision might have been different. And if truth be told, the manuscript wasn't a story I would now fight for. That is, it was good--but I think (or thought) I could do better. So, win/win over the loss. If I am able to write again, would I send my mss to her? No.

Sam Mills said...

A perfect example! During one of my obgyn checkups the nurse was so apologetic: "he's going to be late, unexpected c-section."

By all means, please take your time! When it's my turn on the table, I want your 100% focus! XD

Craig F said...

OP: If there are agents who would do such a thing, you do not want to drag yourself down to their level.

If you can't learn patience from this at least learn about what kind of agents you don't want.

Before you query any longer, though, get someone reasonably honest to read your work. Maybe there is a flat spot that is causing agents to be knocked from the story.

Lennon Faris said...

I guess everyone has their own MO of completing a task. In an ideal world, though, I'd prefer someone who likes my work just fine on their own.

2Ns, I love your analogy. That is a very positive way to look at things.

JEN Garrett said...

What may work in real estate and shady car dealerships will not work in the query trenches. Nope, it doesn't sound better if you have "generated interest". You know what sounds better? If you have a knockout book that the agent can't wait to run out and sell. Yep. It's the writing. (and a good, honest author to work with is important to)

Colin Smith said...

So... I guess I'll just underscore what's been said about waiting for replies from agents on requested mss: remember why you're waiting. It's because agents read this stuff in their after-hours times, when they are not handling their clients' careers. You know, that time in the day we spend snuggled up with a book, or, if, like me, you work full-time, all the time we spend writing and wishing we had more time to read. I don't know about you, but it takes a few days (plus!) for me to get through a novel with all else going on in my life. So, have some patience.

That said, don't be shy to nudge after a reasonable amount of time.

But y'all know all this. :)

AJ Blythe said...

>>It's entirely ok to tell another agent who's offering. It helps us sort the legit offers from the schmagenty ones<<

I've always wondered this and whether it was ethical to mention or not. Thanks, JR, for answering a question you didn't know needed to be answered!

Julie, your comment about the doctor being bitten by a brown recluse had me hit google. In my head I immediately pictured a Fagin-esque person not wanting their shots and attacking. Turns out it's nothing quite so exciting (a spider, for those as ignorant as I was).

Colin Smith said...

AJ: I was about to say that, given the brown recluse venom causes necrosis and can be lethal, it's hardly "nothing quite so exciting"... but then I remembered you're in Australia, where the bugs carry away small children in their beaks. ;)

The Sleepy One said...

It's worth noting any agency that charges reading fees is violating the AAR's Canon of Ethics and is an agency to run, not walk, away from.

I feel for you, OP. I've been in your shoes and it's frustrating. I wrote those agents off (and signed elsewhere). Good luck!

Janet Reid said...

Alina said
I realize that it’s probably not a good example, but Becky Albertalli has queried Brooks Sherman a week after she met him at a conference. He offered representation five days later, and he sold her book called 'Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda' four days after she signed with him. Sure, usually it doesn't happen so fast. We all know that. But isn't it risky for editors and agents to wait like that?

I was around for that fun time, (and yes it was fun!) The gap you're missing here is between "offer" and "signed"

Brooks offered, but there was a hellacious week for some of those Other Agents when Becky let them know the book was moving fast. I know she had a multitude of offers at the end, but she was very smart and went with the best.

That week is when the slowpoke, lollygagging agents have to read or pass. I really hate reading under the gun like that cause I always like to think about something for a few days before I sign it.

In fact, with non-fiction, I often work with authors for MONTHS on their proposal before offering. That's adult non-fiction though, a very different kettle of shark from contemporary YA (which is what Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is)

Panda in Chief said...

The late (in the day..I'm not dead yet) Panda in Chief, chiming in after a very day of diligently staying off the internet until a bunch of work got done. Yay me!

I can attest to the glacial wait time between signing with my agent, getting the book finally ready for submission and selling the damn thing. It's been "a while" and lots of interest but no sale yet. I'm using this time to work on the next books in the series. I have a solid working draft and storyboard for book 2 (these are MG graphic novels) and am now trying to pound out the first draft of the 3rd book.

Graphic novels take a hell-uv-a-long time when you are both writing and doing the art for them. I don't think I could do it any other way - the back and forth between words and images helps me figure out the pacing and the story arcs. (Who ever thought I'd be using words like "story arc"?)

WHEN this book sells, there is a whole lot of work to do, since you don't do the final art (beyond the sample pages) until an editor gets their hands on it, I'll have 4-6 months of pretty full time work to do the art. And then they will want the next book sooner rather than later.

So, after the initial disappointment of not having my book sell immediately, I am now grateful that I have the time to work ahead on the next book so that they won't be coming out two years later.

AJ Blythe said...

Hah, Colin, you made me laugh.

Aussies are quite proud of our deadly creatures, so much so we even make up extra ones (and that's on the Australian Museum official website!)

Joseph S. said...

I wonder how many authors literally die (and get buried or cremated) while waiting for an agent or editor to respond.

Colin Smith said...

Joseph: I believe it happens. Which is why it's good to be sure you have a will that spells out who has rights over your work, and can act on your behalf with an interested agent.

Joseph S. said...

Yeah, Colin, but if I were an agent I'd be inclined to pass on something written by a debut author who passed.

For one thing, death hampers revisions.

Colin Smith said...

Joseph: Yes, I agree. I imagine it would be hard taking on a project whose author was no longer available via regular means of communication. Even if they assigned by will a trusted writer friend to handle revisions, the agent doesn't know this friend. It would be a tough call emotionally, but if I was an agent in that situation, I might counsel self-publishing.

I'm sure we've discussed this before... I don't remember what Janet said, though.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

It's 1:31am MT and I've just finished querying and researching for the day (well, the previous day, actually).

Big, big sigh, I understand everyone here being impatient and frustrated.

I'm just the same, although I'm not pregnant and don't need to see a doctor, but my problem is with immigration. My boyfriend can't get a sponsorship by any company, I'd have to have a publisher (or at least an agent) to be recognized as a writer. Everything moves at glacier pace, we need some sort of miracle, otherwise we'll probably be expelled from Canada in less than two months after two years of trying.
Do miracles happen? I still refuse to give up :) !

Good night everyone - most of you must be sleeping :).

Gigi said...

Yikes! It hadn't even crossed my mind that agents might do this.

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