Dear Miss Snark,
I have been querying agents for about a month and a half. At this time, seven agents have partials and several have had them for nearly three weeks. I know that you tell us to avoid emailing before three weeks have passed, but I'm wondering if the following special circumstances mean that I should: Since sending the chapters, a mid-tier literary journal has accepted the first chapter of said novel for publication (good news) and I am about to leave the country for two weeks (and would be unable to get the full manuscript out during that time). Should I send a quick note letting them know this, or will I be seen as a sycophantic nitwit if I do?
Searching for an agent is very high on your list of important things. You're tracking how long people have had things, and you want to be johnny-on-the-spot if anyone requests a novel. Sadly, that is not the case with the agents reading your work. It's not a reflection of the quality of your work, but on the fact that you are not an income producer right now, and you might not ever be. You're last on the priority list right now. You are not un-important, you're just not on the urgent-must do now list.
Do not email them. There are only two answers you're going to get from any agent: 1. no; 2. send the novel. Set your email program for an away message "I'm in Rabbitania for two weeks" just in case an agent emails, and save the literary pub news for people who request the novel. (This is another good reason to have an email account solely for your professional writing messages-you don't want to tell the local video shop you're gone for two weeks when they email to say "Vixens of Fargo" is overdue).
I get these messages from people all the time and I pretty much ignore them. Frequently I have no idea who they are cause they don't list the title of the book or their full name. -Delete-.
It doesn't make one whit of difference to an agent if you're out of the country, taking a vow of silence, or standing on your head on the Brooklyn Bridge right now. After you are signed with an agent, it will matter a lot, but not now.