Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Being Internly: Question from the Comments

An anon asked a question in the comments of my Submission Follow-up Post: In case of an offer of rep, should an author send emails to any agents they have queried or merely the agents who have requested a partial or full?

At the end of 2012, when I first ventured into my boss's slush email, she had emails from the beginning of 2012 that still needed to be processed. My organizational soul was positively shocked, but my boss's priority is, and always will be, her current clients. The other interns had things like "lives" and "families" occupying their time, while I was pretty unencumbered by such matters. So I was the logical choice to start imposing order onto chaos. 

The first thing I did when I opened a query was to search for any other emails associated with the queryer's email account. In some cases, my boss had already made a decision about the query, but neglected to file the query email in the appropriate folder. In others, the query might have been marked as unread in the inbox, but the full manuscript was sitting in the aptly named 'fulls' folder. And sometimes there would be an email letting my boss know that she'd missed out and the queryer had been signed by someone else. Those were the easy ones because the next step after the email search was to Google the query's author (a post about the importance of having an online presence will go live on 1/13/13).

I Googled pretty much every query I read because I was looking to see if the book had been self-pubbed or if there was agent information listed anywhere on the author's website. If the answer to either of these questions was yes, it meant we didn't have to spend time evaluating the query in question. However, not every author has a website (my techgirl heart shudders at the thought) and not every author puts agent info up. So sometimes there'd be a query or a partial or a full that we'd be interested about and my boss would email the author and we'd get a lovely response back saying, 'Sorry! I'm with someone else now.' It's like seeing a really awesome movie trailer that you get pumped up about and then having the studio yank the film. I took the time to watch the trailer, I got excited for the trailer, and now you're telling me no? It crushes my fragile soul. 

This is a very long way of saying that if it were up to me, I'd say, yes, send every agent you queried an email telling them that you're no longer available. It makes life easier for the interns. 

However, one must be practical about these things. 

How long has it been since you sent in the query? Some agents have language on their website that say if you don't receive a response within a certain time period, you can assume they've passed. So if almost a year has gone by and you haven't heard from the agent at all, you're probably in the clear, but if you just sent the query last week, the polite thing to do would be to email and withdraw. 

Was it unsolicited or did you meet them at a conference? If you've met them in person, it wouldn't hurt to let them know you've been snatched up by someone else. They may remember you and now they know you're a marketable commodity. You may choose to switch agents one day and you don't want to burn any bridges unintentionally. My boss remembers people. I'm crap with names so I might send her an email referring to the 'query with the duck and the mongoose' and she will be like, 'Ah, yes, Author X. I think they pitched me a book at a conference that I passed on because ducks weren't selling at the time and I told them to query me again if they completed manuscript-altering revisions.' So what do you have to lose by letting them know you are off the market? 

Have you sent one hundred and fifty queries out? Kudos to you for being so dedicated to your craft. The previous questions still apply, but, goodness, would it really be time-effective for you to email the one hundred and twenty-nine agents who haven't yet replied to you? In this case, it would probably be better for you to focus your energy on polishing your manuscript to its very best state and giving the agents the bad news as they respond to your query. 

Are you still hoping your dream agent might swoop in to sign you? So you got an offer of representation from an agent, but while you are very happy that your publishing dreams are moving forward, you still have a non-stalker-y author-crush on, say, my boss. If you have not yet said 'Yes, omigod, please represent me!' to the other agent, you can totally email my boss and be all, 'Just so you know, this other person asked me to the prom, and I haven't said yes yet, but if you don't answer me by the end of fifth period, I'm for sure gonna go with them.' My boss has actually gotten emails like these and those queries/partials/fulls moved to the top of the list. Nobody wants to go to the prom with a less than perfect date simply because they didn't ask in time. If you don't hear back from the agent within the time frame you specified, you are free and clear to make the decision that's best for you. 

But don't actually ask my boss to the prom. I will find it hilarious. She will not. 

My Boss Says: Yes, send an email (according to her, this would be the only acceptable time for a mass mailing). Put OFFER OF REP in the subject heading and be clear if this is a courtesy heads-up (i.e. you wouldn't be open to any other offers- think of it like an engagement announcement) or if you are trying to suss out other options. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Being Internly: Submission Follow-Ups

I've learned that agenting does not exactly have normal business hours. It's not uncommon for me to get emails from my boss at 3am because she's awake to deal with foreign right issues. They also have to do a delicate balancing act between seeking out new clients and being available for the clients they already have. So time is a precious, precious, commodity and it's not uncommon for agents to get very, very, backed-up in reading submissions.

My boss has been closed for submissions for over six months. People still send her queries. If it were up to me (because I'm the strict one), every unsolicited query (my boss sometimes asks authors she meets at conferences to email her stuff) that came in during the closure would get an automatic rejection.  However, my boss is a nice person, so every email gets read and evaluated. My current assignment is to help my boss get caught up with her backlog, which means reading every query, partial, or full that's been sitting around, waiting. I've been trying to make this a priority because some of these authors have been waiting for months, which, good God, I commend them on their patience. My head would have exploded from the anticipation by now. 

If you've been caught in a submission limbo hell, my sympathies, man. Check the agent's webpage for any language about sending follow-up emails. My boss doesn't specifically say anything, but she makes it clear that it'll take about two months for a response. Personally speaking, as in this is my opinion and my opinion alone, I've made it a priority to read manuscripts where the author sent a polite, professional, follow-up email after three months have lapsed. The follow-up tells me the author has been keeping track of the queries they've sent out, that they are actively engaged in getting their book published, and that my boss is still someone that they are interested in hearing from. In today's market, authors need to do their part in marketing their books, whether through Twitter, Facebook, or a blog. So if you're on the ball enough to know when to send a follow-up, you can probably handle a blog book giveaway. However, multiple emails in a relatively short time frame sends up a red flag. Patience is your best friend during the submission process. 

If you've gained representation from another agency, dude, you rock! Our team missed out so you should send a polite, professional, email that informs us that you are withdrawing your manuscript because you've been contracted elsewhere. This helps us because then we don't devote time to reading your totally awesome, but unavailable, submission and we'll just have to buy the book like anyone else if/when it get published.

If your patience has completely run out and you've decided to self-publish because you want to share your book with the world, please send the agent a polite, professional, email informing them of this. Janet Reid and Rachelle Gardner (professional literary agents that I don't know) share their opinions on the subject quite articulately. My boss has a similar policy. From my personal experience, I've gotten burned twice where I spent time reading the manuscripts and really liking them, only to find out later they've already been self-pubbed. It's frustrating as hell, especially for this one book that I was loving and mentally plotting different ways to make it shine like a frickin' diamond, and it was all for nothing. Please, won't you think of the interns? Email.