Ask Daphne! When to give up

February 7th, 2008 • Kate

Brigid asks:

At what point does no response to a query (an e-query) mean NO from an agent? Say you’ve sent out, I don’t know, 25 queries to agents who are NOT setting up a new shop. You’ve had some rejections, you’ve had some requests for partials, but there are still about ten out there that are floating with no response. Two weeks? Four? Six? When do you cut the cord and say, “Ain’t gonna happen. Stop praying.”? ๐Ÿ™‚

Well, the first thing I’d do is check the agency’s website or the agent’s blog, if they have one. Do they accept e-queries in the first place? If they don’t, then do things the old fashioned way and send a letter. It’s likely your email was just deleted unread. If they do accept e-queries, have they posted anything about a backlog, or a delay in responding? Even if they haven’t, have they given a timeframe for responses? Agent A may promise to respond to email queries within two weeks, in which case, if you haven’t heard in a month, I think you could be justified in sending a reminder. Agent B may say she’ll respond within a month, so I’d give her twice that much time before resending. Whatever timeframe you think might be long enough, double that, then you can resend, or send a reminder.
In any case, when you resend, my personal request would be a brief cover email with your original e-query attached, saying simply something along the lines of “Dear Agent — I understand you may be overwhelmed with queries at this time, but I didn’t want to take the chance that my letter was somehow lost, and I am delighted to resubmit my query of Date.” You can flower that up, of course, make it pretty, and I always like to allow the possibility of blame to fall on the intrawebs. But keep it simple.
And of course, keep submitting! Find other agents to query who will respond. It sounds like you’ve got some good feedback already, so track down some more of the good ones, and keep trying until you get that offer of representation.

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3 Responses to “Ask Daphne! When to give up”

  1. DwightWannabe Says:

    Most of the time you can find a blurb on the agents Web site that says "If I haven't responded in X weeks, I won't respond at all."
    Sometimes this is coded a little more cryptically as "I only respond if interested."
    Where email queries are concerned, this is merely part of the process. I checked my handy-dandy statistics generator (Querytracker.net) and I can see that on my previous novel I sent out exactly 110 queries.
    E-mail non-responders: 28.6%
    Snail mail non-responders: 18.3%
    Got that? Approximately 20 agents threw away the SASE I mailed them. Didn't even bother to stuff a form letter post card in it. Just threw it in the circular file.
    That's how the game is played, unfortunately. When you set up your tracking spreadsheet, expect a flake-factor of around 30% for email and 20% for snail mail queries.
    (And when you query your next novel, query courteous agents like Kate FIRST and query the agents who ignored you LAST!)

  2. Caryn Says:

    Thank you. I just thought that there were some agents out there who simply don't respond to queries if they aren't interested, and I wouldn't want to bug them by re-querying, so this is really helpful. Or it will be come summer, when I start querying my latest project!

  3. Trish Says:

    A great resource for checking agent response times is the Verla Kay message boards (www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php). Obviously, agents don't follow a standard formula when responding to queries, but you can get an idea if Agent X is generally quick to respond or tends to take his time. If he responds in a day or two, and you've been waiting several weeks, you might feel more confident about making the decision to requery.