Feeling Lost?

Hello Miss Snark:

I sent thirty queries, including the first few pages (10, 20, 50, whatever the agent requires) of my manuscript. It has been eight weeks and only half the SASEs have come back. What percentage of "just following up" messages do you receive from writers in whom you have some interest?

I understand that hundreds of submissions must arrive weekly (daily?). I guess that I'm asking if an agent can lose the initial submission from a "please send me more" writer as easily as from a "blechh, please go away" writer.

Happens all the time.

Right this very moment I'm on page 143 of a 211 page novel that I've had here since...hold on to your lid, September 2005. Now before you faint dead away, let me just say that I HAVE been in email contact with Mr. September a couple times in these last 11 months. He's been good about sending hilarious emails, and I like his stuff enough not to get huffy about being nudged.

There is no, zip, zilch, nada way to graph out an x/y relationship between time to respond and ANY other factor. Each agent works differently, and most agents don't even handle the incoming submissions as a regularly scheduled thing. I sure don't. I do them when I can. Sometimes I'm really prompt. Sometimes-more often- I'm a slug.

Don't fret. Don't nudge. Go read something really juicy.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear. Miss Snark and her ilk must know that we poor unpublished writers are sitting out here with an eagle eye on the mailbox, every day. Will this be the day? There's that ***** SASE--am I strong enough to open it now? Maybe I should hit the gin pail first. And so on.

We (the senders) can arrange for delivery confirmation, no signature required, for a small sum. That way we know it has arrived at your door, if not exactly to your hands. But then the wait begins. A month, two months...a year?

I've grown a rhinoceros hide, and I'd rather nurse some small hope that receive that dreaded "not for us, thank you" letter in my SASE. But could you please enlighten us--if Mr. September's query was good enough for you to request more, and you've read much of the more and you still haven't tossed it into the shredder, and you know Mr. September is out there chewing his nails down to the knuckles--what's the delay? I thought all agents knew in the first few pages if they liked something--and that you all are capable of immediate decisions. Am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

As agent, so editor?

I sent in 50 (revised) pages at a big-house editor's request. It's been 8 weeks. Do I assume these 50 (requested) pages are sitting in the ole slush pile with the over-the-transom projects?

T2, antsy as ever

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Better than going to read something juicy, get to work on an even better follow-up. *wink*

Anonymous said...

If it took you nearly a year to read my work after you'd expressed an interest, you'd be fired. Nothing personal. Just business, babe.

I'd want my work with someone who had more enthusiasm for the project. I'd be concerned that you'd take that same relaxed, unhurried attitude when it came to selling my work.

I'd assume you were reading and selling other writers' work in front of mine. That I was your if-I-can't-find-anything-better-to-do boy. That's the signal we need to press cheeks, kiss air, perhaps murmur lies about having lunch sometime, and move on to more promising relationships.

I'd need to find an agent who could bring more enthusiasm to the project and free you up to represent clients you find more inspiring.

Anonymous said...


It pains me to say, but I needed to hear that. The wee little voice in the back of my head was quietly screaming for me to be patient and not follow up on dusty queries.

The insecure little devil on my shoulder encouraging me to follow-up was starting to win out.

Thanks for the reminder, Miss.

Unknown said...

Mr. September obviously forgot to enclose the twenty-dollar bill and the photo of George Clooney with "Miss Snark" tattooed along each thigh.

But really . . . why are you still reading this ms if it's taken you eleven months to get to page 143? I'm guessing that this tiny novel (211 pages?) isn't compelling and you're hoping the author gets the hint. I'm also guessing this is a partial you requested, rather than a full ms you agreed to represent. I'm also assuming you snarkly dismissed her/him when the nudging emails came but the author didn't take the hint.

But heck, the author probably wrote this novel at the same pace you're reading it. S/he needs to take the hint, query others and/or give up the ghost on this project and move on.

Anonymous said...

God Almighty Jesus.

Do ANY of read what Miss Snark WRITES here time and time again? Or do you think somehow you are above what every other writer in the world has to do?

If working with agents and editors is somehow beneath you, then put your pen away and go back to you Playstation or quit whining, write well, persevere, be patient and write because you love writing.

Anonymous said...

Why in the world would it take a year to read 211 pages if you liked it enough to consider it? I know, it's my choice to play the game or not, but if agents are THAT busy, why do they encourage queries?? If I conducted business that way, I wouldn't have any. Maybe it's accepted in this industry but how, on a personal level, can you treat someone that way? What ever happened to respect? Is it greed? Power? Do you have any idea how Mr. September must be feeling right now?

I'd say I hope I'm not in your query pile but I'm sure the other piles aren't any different.

And WHY would you tell such a story to a group of people who have put their heart and soul and lives into manuscripts that you trade funny emails about?

It's as simple as saying no until you're caught up.

Anonymous said...

I think an agent who can sit on a requested full for 11 months has no business getting huffy over a nudge. From anyone.

Unknown said...


I remember the time that I walked into a porta potty, and got stuck in it. Imagine my horror as it began to move and I had to fight my way out of it.

And now, aromatherapy is a trigger word for me.

I will never use another porta potty again. Ever.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous who asked about why agents request queries when they can't keep up with what they have. I asked if it had to do with power, or greed.

That particular post of yours was extremely frustrating to read. Both because of the subject matter and because it came across like you thought a year, or six months, or three, wasn't a big deal. I'd like to apologize- not for my reaction, or my thoughts, because I believe they are valid, but for expressing my frustration in the way I did. I love your blog. I've learned so much from almost every post. After discovering it last month, I read every single archive entry in a few days. I think you're kind, intelligent, funny, and most likely one hell of an agent.

I wish the query process were different. Not necessarily easier- after you complete a novel or two, easy pretty much disappears from your vocabulary. I don't mind doing the work to find an agent; I relish the challenge. I just wish the game were such that both sides played by the same rules and that all of us could hang on to our respect of each other and ourselves.

I am sorry if I offended you or worse, hurt your feelings.

Anonymous said...

From one anon to another,
I agree with the last anon's comments. It'll be simpler if agents would let us know what their particular rules are. At least Miss Snark is in contact with Mr September. Mine has ignored the last two emails so I'm assuming, rightly or wrongly, he's rejected my requested ms. Playing the waiting game gnaws away at energy which should be used for writing.

I hate to say this but I was told by one agent that sometimes the slush pile is so high, they just return to sender. I'm sure not all do this!