Following her highly popular #querytip series on Twitter, literary agent Julia Weber will be sharing more valuable query advice, and real examples, here with Writers and Artists. Follow Julia on Twitter @jawlitagent
How (not) to behave during the waiting game
Disclaimer: All examples are 100% real… no, honestly they are!
The moment has come. After months and months of writing, editing, proofreading and yet more editing; and weeks of researching agents and perfecting your query letter, the words “email sent” pop up on your screen. Your query is finally on its way through the vastness of the internet to the literary agent(s) of your choice and now… yes, now what? Well, this is where you have to prove that you possess one of the most needed qualities in an author: patience, because the excruciating waiting game has begun, and – just like any other game – it has its own rules.
1.) Dear querying author, please do not call me every couple of hours with additional information you just remembered. #querytip
One time, a querying author called me four (yes, four!!) times in one day to tell me about things he had forgotten to mention in the query he had sent out to me a few hours previously. The problem: the postman hadn’t even delivered it yet. And I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. If you feel you’ve forgotten a crucial bit of information in your query and you think it’s something the agent must – and I really mean MUST – know… do NOT call. Why? Well, even if you are put through to the right person (the agent); the chances that they’ve already had the chance to read your query are slim, super slim in fact. So if you call with additional information, it won’t actually mean anything to me. You’re telling me something significant about a character I haven’t even ‘met’ yet? Trust me, I won’t know what to do with the extra bit of information. And, considering the number of queries agents receive and read each week, I will probably not even remember it once I get to yours. If a follow-up is absolutely necessary, send an email. You could, for example, send a new query email with the missing information included and ask the agent to delete and ignore your previous email. This should only be a last resort. Take your time when writing your query and try not to forget anything important in the first place.
2.) Got the same submission twice in 9 days. If *I* remember that the author called (and then queried) a week ago... how can he not? #queries
This is an easily avoidable mistake. A list of agents you have already queried or still have to query will prevent you from querying the same agent twice – or forgetting one.
3.) Do not send me an email to 'thank me for my arrogance and ignorance' just because it's been 4 weeks since you queried. #querytip
Writers, this is something you should never ever do because a) it is unprofessional, b) it is terribly rude, c) it upsets me (because, contrary to popular belief, agents are humans with feelings), and d) it won’t get you published. Most agents state in their submission guidelines when you can expect to hear back from them. Waiting times of 6 weeks - 3 months are standard (and some agents only even get back to authors if they have serious interest in the manuscript). I, for example, state in my guidelines that it may take up to six weeks and believe me when I say that I try to get back to authors as soon as I possibly can. I know how nerve-wracking the waiting game can be, but my mantra regarding incoming queries is ‘first come, first served’. I won't prepone yours just because you're impatient – even less so if you insult me. Agents spend an awful lot of their free time reading queries and manuscripts. So, a little patience and respect on the side of authors should not be too much to ask. If you think I’m taking too long with your query and my stated six weeks are up (not before, please), nudge me. Nudging is so much better than insulting.
4.) The awkward moment when you're mid-email-conversation with a querying author and he suddenly starts calling you by a name that isn't yours.
Always double-check the name of the recipient of your email. I cannot stress this enough. I’ve had authors get my name right in the initial query, but then call me a name that didn’t even have any resemblance to mine whatsoever when sending their full. Yes, these things happen and it may seem like a minor detail but all these minor details can quickly add up and leave a negative impression.
5.) I requested a full a few weeks ago but never heard back from the author. That saddens me. #minisob
This is annoying, especially if I really liked that query. There are two possible reasons for the author never getting back to me- a) my request landed in her spam folder and she never saw it, or b) she was no longer interested. Either way, I never got a reply and therefore wasted my time. So, please check your spam folder regularly! You never know what may await you there. And, more importantly, don't be a tease and just disappear, writers. Let us know if your manuscript is no longer available. If you have received an offer of representation or publication from someone else, it’d be polite (and fair) to send a notification to all the agents you have queried. To either ask them to get back to you within a specific time frame – or to let them know that you’d like to withdraw your query. The same applies if you have changed your mind about wanting an agent, or have decided to self-publish. Basically, don’t let us waste our time.
Next week: How (not) to respond to an offer/ rejection
Julia Alexandra Weber founded the J. A. Weber Literaturagentur GmbH in January 2012, and is specializing in representing international authors of unique and captivating commercial fiction, namely thrillers, teenage, young adult and women’s fiction of all sub-genres. Prior to having her own agency, Julia obtained Masters of Arts in ‘Media and Communication Studies’, ‘Creative Writing’ and ‘Publishing’ and gained practical experience at Toby Eady Associates and David Higham Associates in London. Follow Julia on Twitter @jawlitagent.