Dear Miss Sloth

Helloooooo Miss Snark,

Love the blog and I have a question (well, two actually) that I am hoping you might be able to help me with.

First, what is the appropriate amount of time to follow up with an agent who has requested a full manuscript? I know that they need sufficient time to get to it, and I thought I read somewhere that 3-4 months was long enough before bugging them about whether they have gotten to it. I have had three agents request full manuscripts but none of them indicated a turn-around time to read it. I am coming up on the three month mark for the first agent to request it and am wondering whether it would be a good time to follow up and see where I stood.

Second, there seem to be plenty of web sites and resources around for sample query letters, but do you know of any that give examples of how to word an appropriate follow-up letter? Not that I couldnt write a polite follow up on my own, but I am just wondering if there is a standard format that should be used for these.

Thanks in advance

Well, I'm so glad you asked. You don't even want to know how many manuscripts I have here that are four months old. If I've learned one thing from you all, it's to be religious about staying in touch with people when I have their work. They may think I'm a sloth but they know I've got it and I'm not dead.

90 days is industry standard on a full. LOTS of people take longer, me included right now. I've read some things in under six weeks, but other things just don't get read that fast.

Follow up is businesslike: Dear Miss Sloth, Thank you for your interest in my Huge Ass Tome Of Fabulosity. I sent the full ms on October 10, 2002 and I am just checking in to see if you've had a chance to take a look at it. I'm very interested to hear what you think (insert sound of sucking up here). Love, and kisses, Thomas Pinchin

I know it drives you crazy that it takes so long. Since I do all my own reading, my speed depends on how busy I am with other things. Right now, its nutso. That's a good thing for my clients, and me, but it's hell on wheelbearings for the queriers.


Anonymous said...

Just to clarify: does it take four months to get to the manuscript, or four months to get back to me?

You've said before that if you smell a bestseller you respond quickly to beat out the competition. Is it reasonable to assume that if I don't hear back from an agent quickly, regardless of how "good" the work may be, it's not GREAT and probably needs improvement of the grab-you-by-the-throat variety?

Anonymous said...

And I would assume if you do so and don't get a reply, you can cross that agent off your list? It's been 5 months since a particular agent rqstd my ms and 3 weeks since I sent a polite following-up email with no reply.

Lee said...

Good to know...I'll remember that the next time I'm requested. One thing I have learned, when I get a quick turn around, its because the agent doesn't want it all...So keep that in mind.

Anonymous said...

Do bestsellers have a certain smell? ;)

I think polite follow ups either by email or mail would be a great idea. Should someone sending postal mail send a SASE with that too? What do you all think?

Mark said...

Thanking in advance is actually an entry in Strunk & White. What this means isn't good for those so inclined to use this phrase.

Anonymous said...

While going through my tax stuff, I came across a receipt for delivery confirmation for a full manuscript I sent to an agent from a conference request dated 2001.

Haven't heard back yet. I guess she's not interested.

True story.

Terry Odell said...

It IS frustrating. You get a request for a partial, web guidelines say wait 12-15 weeks. You wait. Send a polite follow-up email well after that timeframe. No response. A month later, one more, just in case the first was relegated to cyberspace. Or, for that matter, the entire partial never made it, because the agent wants e-subs. But their website says "NEVER CALL" so you don't.

And this is a big, well-respected agency.

I don't know what I hate more--the immediate form rejections I used to get, or the requests for partials that just seem to disappear.

Tyhitia Green said...

Miss Snark,
How much extra time do we give agents after the 90 days before we send a follow-up?

Anonymous said...

All of my books go to the same editor at the same publisher I've been with for years. I email the ms to her and my agent at the same time.

I don't think my agent even reads my books anymore. It's kind of depressing.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think my agent even reads my books anymore. It's kind of depressing."

I wish I had your situation -- the sales, not the agent. I agree that if the agent doesn't read the books, it might be depressing, but only if your expectation is that your agent is a fan.
But he or she's the business end; you're the creative end. And as long as he or she is doing the job, what more do you need? You can always find a few more fans. A good agent? A lot harder to come by.

Anonymous said...

Well, one agent I sent a full to has a blog; the blog is mostly about what she does during the day, her health, her dogs...so what does that tell me? That she, just like all of us, has a life and must split her time, just like we do, between her agenting job and her life. So, yes, we all need to be patient and understand that. Especially since most agents or solo or one or two staffed so how much can they do? Better than being shut out completely by the pulbishing houses. Gin, whiskey and wine, oh yes.

Anonymous said...

its PYNchon- retard

Unknown said...

I find what works best is if you send a decapitated teddy bear to the agent in question.

Pin a little note to the bear's chest politely inquiring as to the status of your manuscript.

Something along the lines of, "If you haven't read my work of opus, GENIUS UNFILTERED, yet, I'd strongly advise you get on the ball."

This has, in all cases, worked wonders for my publishing career.

If you send the head and the body of the teddy bear in separate boxes, it really brings the point home. Oh yeah, and make sure you send it certified mail.

They love that.

Miss Snark said...

Last anon-clearly you're a newcomer to the blog who doesn't have a grip on my sense of humor (or much of anything else) yet.

I'm sorry you were confused by my subtle humor in using "Pinchin" as a name.

This happens a lot but we have a built in remedy. Ask not for whom the cluegun cocks....

and yes in case you're pretty sure that's a misquote, yes I know it's "for whom the bell tolls".


Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Dear Anon. I have three daughters with autism. Why don't you strike that word fron your vobulary? I realize that could cut your list of seventh grade put downs dramatically. But really, Miss Snark is made of rubber and you're made of glue. So what you say bounces off of her and sticks to you. But not before it cuts me and other parents of kids with issues to shreds. So please, drop the word.

Kim Stagliano, not afraid to post with my very own name and proud mother of Mia, Gianna and Isabella, three beautiful girls who just happened to draw the short straw. Not by choice, pal, not by choice.

Miss Snark, I apologize for going off on your blog.

Jena said...

Dear anonymous,

Here's a free clue: the word is "it's" when you mean "it is."

And if you can't say anything nice, keep it shut, eh?

Anonymous said...

I'm not defending but...

I have a DS (Down Syndrome) Uncle and I'm wondering how that word can "cut you and your family to shreds?"

Friends of my uncle use the word themselves. It's just a word. I've noticed that parents are often the ones who react more to the word than those whom the term is pointed at.

I don't consider my Uncle 'having drawn the short straw' he a person unto himself, he doesn't need others qualifying who was blessed and who was cheated.

FYI - The only person who can 'cut you to shreds' or 'make you feel bad' is yourself.

I've learned that from my uncle...

Anonymous said...

I have a grandson that is autistic and bright, charming, and as kind hearted a child as you would ever hope to find.

I am sure that anon was mistaking "cruel" for "snark" and that it won't happen again. Right, Anonymous? :)

Ginger Duran

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this advice, Miss Snark. Is the 90-day-rule in effect if an agent has requested exclusive access to the manuscript?