Following up

In the March/April 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest, I have an article on what I learned about writing (and publishing) from being an agent, even though I thought I knew pretty much all I needed to know before joining the Salkind Agency.  In the article, I mentioned that one thing I’d learned was that you shouldn’t take no response to mean no, even if an agency’s guidelines say, “If we don’t respond, we’re not interested.”  I didn’t say this because I like to irritate the agents who don’t respond to queries they’re not interested in, but because I’ve found that a great deal more e-mail goes astray than you’d think. 

In my inbox today:   “I never thought to follow up like you suggest in this month’s Writer’s Digest. Dare I go back after all this time to find out what happened or should I just move to the next on my list?”

The writer mentions that she has had some queries sitting at agencies for a while with no response.   So, yes, I would suggest sending a follow-up.  Before doing that, though, I would double-check and make sure that you actually sent a pitch — that is, a query letter outlining what your book is about, plus a few details about you.  I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me how to pitch me, or how to pitch someone else, or how to make it in the business without an agent, or whatever.  Things that aren’t actually pitches.  I respond to all pitches.  I’m hit-or-miss about anything that’s not a pitch.  So if you sent a pitch, and got no response after a reasonable amount of time (maybe a month or so), then following up is fine.   Don’t be a stalker, and do include your original pitch in your follow up.

The writer asks a second question — “or should I just move on?” — and my answer is “follow up AND just move on.”  When I was working in academia, I thought it was the slowest-moving business in the universe.  Ha.  Publishing is the slowest business in the universe.  Keep your queries out there and pitch more than one agent at a time (I always suggest about ten per batch so you can edit your letter if you get no interest.)  You need to keep moving or you’ll drown.

A few of my favorite things

LESSONS IN MAGIC
A CERTAIN KIND OF MAGIC
THE IMPROBABLE ADVENTURES OF A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN
DOJO WISDOM FOR WRITERS

1 Comment

  1. Hi Jennifer, I've been reading your great article in the latest WD and came upon something I wanted to ask you about. You say "…there's no reason you can't get to know whatever people you need to get to know…"
    I write and illustrate children's books, belong to the SCBWI and am about to attend my third SCBWI conference. So I know conferences are one way to get to know editors, but what else do you recommend? I sometimes friend editors on Facebook, though I do wonder if this is considered intrusive. I always read "no phone calls!" on web guidelines and other places, but do you recommend going against this advice?
    thanks so much!

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