Barbara Poelle is an agent with the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, representing thrillers, literary suspense, historical romances, humorous/platform driven nonfiction, and upmarket fiction.
Barbara’s co-agent, Irene Goodman, offers manuscript critiques on eBay every month, starting on the first day of each month, with all proceeds going to charity. Click on the link for more details on these critiques and charity auctions.
Juxtaposed against the dog days of August, the publishing industry in September is all amped up like a toddler on speed. Many agents have spent the summer digging deep into their slush and attending conferences all in the hopes of plucking those rare jewels of talent to prepare for fall submissions.
Every year I plan on greeting the Tuesday after Labor Day with less than three client e-mails in my inbox and a large vacancy sign hanging over my slush pile. And every year September comes roaring in and I am covered in paper cuts and flop sweat, one hand clutching a Red Bull, and the other raised in victory that I am down to a mere 100 queries and 25 client emails that need a reply.
But I can tell you that for as much as I am hustling on my end, it is necessary that you, the querying author, hustle on yours. Here are some quick tips that I know work for me as far as authors “nudging” me on their solicited material:
1. Let agents who have your work know if other agents also now have it. If you have requests for partials or fulls of your manuscript within the first 2-3 weeks of submission, that is a great time to nudge the agents who have it: “Barbara, I just wanted to keep you in the loop that the partial/full for my novel Thunder Vampires has now been requested by three other additional agents. Looking forward to hearing from you.”
2. Be patient. If you are not getting quick responses on your submission, NO WORRIES!!! Simply mark your calendar for 8-12 weeks out from the date you e-mailed your submission. On that date, send a simple “Barbara, I am circling back to check the status of my requested submission, Thunder Vampires. I look forward to hearing from you.”
3. Use a little shame. If you are following up, send your one-line nudge e-mail as a response to the initial request from materials that the agent sent, so that when I scroll down I can see it. This accomplishes two things: it refreshes my memory on the material, and it shames me when I see the date of request 🙂
4. Be patient, again. Generally I send a “Thanks for the nudge! It is working its way up the queue!” e-mail, but don’t panic if I don’t. It really is working its way up the queue.
5. Resist the urge to call. Never call the office and ask to speak to an agent who is reviewing your requested submission. If you get an offer from an agent and want to communicate your next steps, e-mail. Don’t call.
6. Keep working. You should be working on your next novel/proposal while you are nudging on the first, this way you have further materials to offer should someone ask, and it will prevent you from barking and eating hair while you wait to hear on your masterpiece.