10.23.2006

"Friendly prod" is an oxymoron

Dear Miss Snark,

Do friendly nudges ("Dear agent, you requested my novel three months ago, have you had a chance to look at it yet?") ever prompt you to dig something out of the pile, read it, and offer representation? Or are they just annoyances that are more likely to make you snappish?

no
yes

It doesn't prod me to do anything than consider changing my email address.

27 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

Kudos for honesty, Miss Snark.

In the situation mentioned, how would you like to be approached?

M. G. Tarquini said...

Here's the way I figure it...

1) If they had the chance to look at it and haven't called to sign you, they either want to look at it again or they don't want it and what they really haven't had the chance to do is compose their rejection.

2) If they haven't had the chance to look at it, it's probably because they are busy. Busy people hate being bothered. Capisco?

3) Agents keep track of what they ask for, right? If something they ask for doesn't arrive and they really do want to see it, they'll ask if you ever sent it, or have you secured representation elsewhere, and, if not, ...um...could you send it again.

4) Agents who don't keep track of what they ask for will think you're trying to bypass the system and slip 'em a full disguised as a Mickey Finn.

Query somebody else while you wait. Or write another novel. Visit Nepal. Anything. Just don't nudge.

writerdog said...

What part of this process do many of you NOT understand? How many times does Miss Snark have to go over this need for infinite patience before it sinks in?

Your query, partial, manuscript is NOT about you. Send, wait, write and get over yourself.

If you believe this concept is too difficult to comprehend or you are somehow above the process, get out now.

michaelgav said...

I'm new to this, but if an agent says, "I should get back to you within X months," what is wrong with checking in after X+1 months with an email along the lines of what the writer had suggested?

Agents like to remind writers that theirs is essentially a business relationship (usually when the writer is being preciously high-maintenance). But when writers expect a level of communication that is comfortably within the bounds of what is considered normal professional courtesy in any other would-be business relationship, they are told to go stand in the corner.

Miss Snark has spoken about the early-warning signals that writers give off based upon their professionalism, or their lack of it. I think an agent who goes churlish in response to a two-line email a month after the back end of a time window the agent created is sending a clear signal about what a business relationship with that person might be like. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Part of my thinking has been shaped by the "exclusives" culture (Feh!), where response windows are needed. Miss Snark has done an admirable job of changing my thinking on this.

Do non-exclusive requests for full manuscripts carry any kind of likely timeframe for a response?

Anonymous said...

Writerdog ... m. g. tarquini ...Since when did Miss Snark's comments require a condescending reiteration of her remarks?

Miss Snark said...

since today

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Miss Snark isn't suggesting that you should send requested material and then never, ever ask about it. For all the poor, hapless author knows, the manuscript got eaten by the USPS--or the agent's response did. After a reasonable amount of time (see agent's guidelines and then pad generously) has passed, I hardly think it's unreasonable to check up on the status of one's manuscript.

Back in the day when I was unagented, I used to send letters that said something to the effect of "I wanted to confirm that my manuscript is still under consideration." I tended to send them after six months had passed with no word (unless the submission was to a publisher whose guidelines said they'd take more than six months to get to submissions). Sometimes, it prompted the quick return of a manuscript. But sometimes I discovered my manuscript never arrived or got lost once it did.

Anonymous said...

I have always followed that don't follow up rule, but you are saying (again) that it's ok to have no reply at all even when I've included an SASE. Isn't that just bad business?

Kimber An said...

You people crack me up!

Seriously, though, I think there are general guidelines which Miss Snark and other agents have laid down many times. Help me out if I got them wrong:

Query - two months

Partial - two to four months

Full - six months

I write everything down to keep track and get on with the rest of my very full Real Life.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Michaelgav. This is a business relationship, even at the full ms review phase. Why are agents so high and mighty that sending them a two line email is a gross breach of etiquette? That's absurd.
How's she going to treat you if she signs you as a client?

My agent told me, "Call anytime." Of course, I don't, but I could. That's a business relationship.

Alanye said...

I have what I consider a better response to agents who cannot be bothered to reply/follow up: two 'no replies' and they are removed from my Approved Agent List.

Reinstatement can be quite difficult.

Anonymous said...

alanye, if you're a writer, I hope you won't take offense to agents' potential responses to your sense of entitlement: one pushy email and you are removed from their Approved Client List.

Reinstatement can be quite difficult. Plus, they talk to each other, so you'll be other agent's lists, too.

Anonymous said...

Dear anon who rapped writerdog and m g tarquini on the knuckles:

Miss Snark's response is clear: i.e., don't diss the regulars. I've seen it before. Which is why, after 9 months reading and commenting on this blog, I still won't get an ID. I'm too old to join a little girls' club, and derriere-licking isn't my style. Other than that, it's a great blog.

Anonymous said...

Michaelgav, I hear ya. It's a business, be professional, you hear, but don't ever think you have a right to expect the minimum of same from the agent. At least that's the message we seem to be getting.

Thankfully, some agents are not like that. An agent requested my full and said she'd get back to me in 6 weeks. I planned on giving her 3 months before nudging. At the end of 8 weeks she called to make an offer, and was extremely apologetic about the two weeks she had taken beyond her timeline. Some agents do indeed behave like the pros they're purported to be.

And this lady is a very busy, very successful agent whose projects and clients are household names.

angie said...

I'm sure agents (especially the high and mighty ones) throughout the 212 and the rest o' publishing land are horrified to hear that they are losing potential clients. And all because they just can't work on the writer's timetable. Oh the horror. The horror...

Anonymous said...

To take up the case for alanye:

Expecting an agent to observe the minimum of business etiquette after s/he has requested a full does not translate to a sense of entitlement for the writer who submitted.

The sense of entitlement is all on the agent's side if s/he expects that a writer should wait patiently and quietly while she goes 2,3,4, or 6 months beyond her given timeline without a word. What the hell other business operates like this?

Anonymous said...

That's just rude. People (writers and agents both) need to pull the Rod of Self-Importance out of their collective (or not, if they're unlucky) arses.

Kaylea said...

Bartender: "It was darn nice of Bumbay to send me that little purple bottle with their newest product. But I sure wish they'd at least tasted it themselves first, or hired someone with taste to do it for them! All I did was check the box on the reply card that said I'd take a free sample, I didn't sign on to be their new distilling consultant! But wow -- your story takes the cake. It would really annoy me if hordes of Bumbay salesmen also started calling all the time and sending me e-mail just because they found it on google. Verifying my address hadn't changed -- yeah, right. Stopping by on a Friday night to see if I'd had a chance to drink it or serve it, whatever it is -- oh, thanks, like I don't have drinks to mix. Nothing personal to the salesmen, but there's hundreds of them! Glad I don't have your job..."

Alanye said...

Anonymous said...
alanye, if you're a writer, I hope you won't take offense to agents' potential responses to your sense of entitlement: one pushy email and you are removed from their Approved Client List.

Reinstatement can be quite difficult. Plus, they talk to each other, so you'll be other agent's lists, too.


Dear Annie Onymous: I trust your writing is less derivative than your comment.

M. G. Tarquini said...

"Miss Snark's response is clear: i.e., don't diss the regulars. I've seen it before. Which is why, after 9 months reading and commenting on this blog, I still won't get an ID. I'm too old to join a little girls' club, and derriere-licking isn't my style. Other than that, it's a great blog."

oh man.

But taking potshots from the land of Anon Enmity is okay?

Anonymous said...

for goodness' sake of course you can chase an agent after 3 months, at least to ask politely how things are going! A short note or email won't hurt anything! I've had 12 books published in tons of countries and I've chased and been chased up lots of times. Just don't do it more than once.

Anonymous said...

Dear Miss Snark,

Come. Prod me.

Yours,
George

Anonymous said...

Agents are investing in your book. They're investing their time, energy, reputation, contacts in the business, and expertise.

Publishers are also making an investment...a huge financial one.

There are lots of good books out there that don't make money, and writers aren't absorbing that loss. Many writers forget that agents and publishers are doing YOU the favour of helping create the book you've dreamed of. They're assuming the risks and believing in your work and getting it out there. Be reasonable.

Yes, agents and publishers should be professional and get back in the time frame that they say they would. Remember, there are authors who don't get their manuscripts in on time either, and I bet they're dodging phone calls, too. But sometimes life gets in the way. They have a problematic author. There's an illness in the family. They're working with paying clients. Things happen, and it's always a good idea to give someone the benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous on 10.25 wrote:

"Many writers forget that agents and publishers are doing YOU the favour of helping create the book you've dreamed of."

Do you want to pick up your "Biggest Load of Horse Shit" award, or shall we mail it?

If you are an author, immediately sell the award for a cup of self-esteem. If you're on the agent or publishing side, sell the award for an injection of reality juice. (Your spelling of "favour" suggests you are in the UK or the Commonwealth. Not sure of the VAT or exchange rates, you'll have to figure those out.)

Random House is not in the favor business -- it sells (inter alia) BOOKS to readers, for a profit. Agents are not in the favor business, they sell (inter alia) BOOKS to publishers, and are paid a commission by authors. Authors are not in the favor business. They sell (inter alia) BOOKS, to publishers, through agents. Thr authors are paid by the publishers and the agents' commission is figured with reference to that.

All these parties should act in a manner that is courtesy and makes good commercial sense.

Is this complicated?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous offering the award:

Hilarious post!

One thing though. I believe that publishers sell books to booksellers (discounted at least 40% below list price). The bookseller sells to the public at full list price (plus taxes if any). If the bookseller can't sell the book, then they return it to the publisher, and adjust the invoice (which the bookseller probably never paid in the first place) to reflect the return.

Hence the expression, "Here today, here tomorrow" in many publishers' warehouses.

Anonymous said...

"Biggest Load of Horseshit Award"!!! ROTFLMAO

Well said, anon. Favours indeed! What an eejit. Agents aren't agents for philanthropic reasons. They're there to make a dollar. They're always on the lookout for the next one. That's the ONLY reason they take submissions at all.

Reading through the reams of crud is the price they pay for stumbling on to the next John Grisham. They don't do it out of kindness and love, although, like any other segment of society, some of them do exhibit these virtues.

Sorry about stating the obvious, but some people really don't seem to get it. When the agent's timeline has passed, give her some extra, then follow up. Then move on.

Moral: you're not a beggar seeking alms.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if anyone's reading this thread anymore, but it's intersting to note the warehouse to bookstore process. The agent keeps their commission, the author keeps their advance, and the publisher bears the financial weight of production, printing, paper, binding, storage, marketing publicity, touring, etc.

Who's your daddy, authors?
Just an observation.