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.