May (insert your extraterrestrial/heavenly host here) Bless you and KY:
Okay, I'll bite. You recently wrote your list of comments you don't want to hear when you call an author and say "wanna go to the dance?"
Obviously, everyone in the universe is euqally qualified to get "the call" (I know, ha ha) so on behalf of us cross-fingered folks dreading or hoping for the phone to ring, what does an agent expect to hear . . .other than profound sobbing or the flat-line-tone from an ECG machine?
Yeah, I wanna go to the dance, but what color corsage do I buy you? I just gotta know.
First, there's hardly ever a "do you wanna go to the dance" call out of the clear blue sky. Here's what happens at Snark Central:
You send me a query letter. I read it and don't retch.
I read it again to make sure I was right the first time.
I ask for a partial.
I ask for a full.
I usually email you with typos, questions, comments, some sort of back and forth.
I might phone you to just see if you're a loon or not but it's not "the call" cause right now all I'm doing is figuring out if the ms is still available, if the ms can fly, and whether you are a nitwit. (Sadly good writers and nitwittery are not mutually exclusive). I'm also letting you know I'm interested so you can do some more research and make sure I'm the agent you want. Here's where you might email my clients and find out I'm not kidding when I say I'm famously distant.
While all this back and forth is going on YOU are getting back to me promptly on emails and phone calls. If by some chance you are out of the country for six months (or planning to be) when an agent asks for a partial or full, TELL THEM. You don't do this at the query stage but if I'm reading more than that I'm interested. In this day and age of cell phones and public access computers, it's not expecting too much that you'll get my messages and respond. I won't work with people who are lackadaisical about the business side of things. It bodes ill for when the stakes are higher. Here's where I'm looking to find out if I can trust you to be a professional.
Now, these emails are not really an invitation to conversation. I am not your new best friend and you don't want to email me with anything other than answers to questions. No asking for advice, no telling me six other people are interested, and REALLY no "do you like it, do you like it" of "have you decided yet". Mind you, this is all happening in a matter of weeks. Once 90 days have gone by, you get to email with your chosen variation of "get off your slacker ass and tell me what you think".
This period of time is agony for writers I'm sure. That's actually one of the things I've learned from y'all here and I've gotten a LOT faster in getting back to people once I've asked for a partial and full. The flip side of that is I'm asking for fewer partials and a LOT fewer fulls.
After I've read the ms, decided it will fly, and think I'm the best pilot, I call you up. I say "this is really a good project, and I'm going to make you an offer of representation for it."
You say something like "that's great" "I've signed elsewhere" or "no thanks". You ask for a sample contract. You ask what the timeline is. You ask what I think I can do with this. We discuss how soon you can have a finished manuscript to me and probably some formatting stuff. (Here's the first time I'm going to care about font, size, page numbers and chapter headings).
We assure each other of our mutual admiration. We toast our coming success.
Then we both get back to work.
This is when you can faint, scream, jump up and down or waltz the cat around the kitchen.