When to Follow Up With Literary Agents While Querying
When querying, sometimes the waiting becomes too much and the idea of sending nudges to literary agents is really tempting. Here are some rules to help you decide when you should and shouldn’t send a nudge:
Read the submission guidelines. Most literary agencies will have estimated wait times for query responses. For example, the P.S. Literary website says that we typically respond to queries within 4-6 weeks. So in this case, you wouldn’t want to send a nudge until after the stated six weeks. This time frame will change per agency, so make note of the information and use it wisely. There are also agents who don’t respond to queries unless they want to see more material. For them, no response equals a pass. You won’t want to nudge those agents at all.
Don’t rush agents to read your manuscript. Sometimes agents can take quite some time to read requested material. Our clients are our first priority—reading partials and full manuscripts is, unfortunately, often pushed to the bottom of our to-do list. A good rule of thumb for nudges is three months for partials and six months for full manuscripts. If you’re going to send a nudge, make sure it is polite and void of expectations. If the agent requested the material, then the agent wants to read it. Believe me.
Always nudge when you get an offer. If you’ve received an offer of representation from an agent and other agents previously requested the manuscript, you should absolutely send a nudge. Let them know about the offer and either give them a deadline to respond or kindly retract your manuscript. If an agent that you would love to work with has your query letter, you can let the agent know about your offer. Just remember that if you only have one week to respond to your initial offer of representation, agents who don’t already have the manuscript may not be able to get back to you in time (and some who do have the requested material may also have trouble reading by the deadline).
Querying literary agents requires a lot of patience. It’s impossible to know when you’ll receive a response to a query letter (either good or bad) or requested material (again, good or bad). As frustrating as it may be, patience is a necessary quality for every stage of the publication process. Approach the querying process as education for the future; as a writer, you have a lifetime of waiting ahead of you.