Ditch the Follow-up Phobia

Querying agents is a humbling and pride-sucking process, but it’s also just plain weird.

You slave over your manuscript (sometimes for years), then craft a 300-word letter that perfectly encapsulates everything about your book, and it’s sent out to a multitude of strangers with the hope that one of them might want to take a closer look. If you aren’t used to tooting your own horn, the process can feel a bit…icky at first, like arriving for a first date in your wedding dress. Or showing up for your first day of work, resume in hand, without benefit of having been offered a job. Or sending your kids to college without admittance. Or…you get the picture.

Many people send their query letters and then hide under the bed sit back and hope for The Call. That’s what I used to do. Now I know better.

Beckie is the person who encouraged me to follow up with agents. She is relentless as well as restless in her pursuit of writing, and she shows no fear in gently reminding agents that they have her manuscript. Half of me was worried about bothering the agents and the other half just wanted to forget I was even querying. In my twisted logic, not thinking about it would make it happen (see also: a watched pot), but that wasn’t working out so well for me and I decided to do some following up.

And guess what? Ten sent e-mails led to three requests for more pages! It also led to seven “thanks but no thanks” responses, but at least it gave me some closure. And one of those rejections was the nicest “no” anyone has ever received. Ever. It actually made my day.

Rather than appearing desperate, sending a brief follow up simply demonstrates professional courtesy, and often encourages positive reciprocity. Worst case scenario? I get another “no” for my pimped-out, colour-coded, agent-tracking spreadsheet.

Best case scenario? I get an agent.

What’s your follow up strategy? Do you have one?


Filed under Getting published, Inspiration, Motivation, Trials and Tribulations

11 responses to “Ditch the Follow-up Phobia

  1. I prefer the hide-under-the-bed strategy. Except I’m afraid of dust bunnies.

    • Lori Dyan

      No dust bunnies…just me… (tangent: why do I still have an uncontrollable urge to ellipse you to death???)

  2. ms waiting on agent + – at the moment, but if need be we are SO game πŸ™‚

  3. Great advice.

    The belief that if I ignore my initial query it will A. magically be accepted or B. go away…

    …lives in my bones, too.

    I think my reluctance has something to do with the sense that I might DOUBLE the rejection; and that makes me quiver. And cry.

    But as long as you’re not hounding the agent, he/she will most likely see the follow-up as efficient and realize you’re a client who self-advocates and will self- promote (whether or not you really are πŸ˜‰

    My first query experience resulted in a “thanks but no thanks” that included a (perhaps throwaway) request to keep her in mind for my next project. She may have just been trying to let me down gently.

    But I did query her for my next book. First. And then signed with her agency.

    So worth it? Yep.

    (of course that book hasn’t sold and I have entered a whole new round of agony but it’s all worth it. right? right? it will all be worth it?)


    • Lori Dyan

      Ummm…that is CRAZY PANTS EXCITING!!! As I was reading this, I was thinking, “Oh Julie – that is a great response and they never say contact me again if they don’t mean it…” But obviously, you knew that! πŸ˜€

  4. Great post, Lori. I totally agree that following up is the way to go. But how long do (should) you wait before you follow up?

    • Lori Dyan

      Ahhh – great question, Trish! I defer to the all-knowing BJas, who advises a few months. For instance, I followed up with Nov-Dec in May and will send some to the Jan-Fed batch in June.

  5. What do you advise about finding an agent?…not that I’m at all at that stage but getting published is always a goal to strive for.

  6. Thanks for all the information, I’ve been reading it all and feel a bit more in the loop than before.

  7. Lori, LOVE THIS PROACTIVE POST! Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! True grit, remember? I have been really fortunate with my follow-up queries, and have received many full requests in return, SO WORTH IT!

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