January 8th, 2010


letters from the query wars - about those non-responders

# of queries read this week: 156
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

Note: Still closed to queries and catching up from the sprains (which are better but still not fully healed). The queries referenced above pre-date the query hiatus. Any queries received during this time should be getting a reply indicating authors can resubmit after January 15th.

When I posted my 2009 query stats on Monday, I mentioned that out of the 47 partial- and full-manuscripts I had requested throughout the year, 3 of those had not garnered a submission, or, indeed, even a reply. In each case I sent a follow-up request a few days later just in case my initial request had been tagged as spam. In case anyone is curious, 4 of the 2008 requests remain MIA as well.

A number of people in comments seemed to be somewhat baffled about these non-responders. A few even seemed a little put out (not a reaction I anticipated). Other than the possible spam-trap, four things occurred to me:

(1) Upon receipt of this request, panic ensued and manic revisions commenced. I hereby reiterate (and other agents have said the same) -- don't query before you're actually ready. But, evenso, should this occur, one supposes the author could still get in touch when they are finally confident in the submission again. While it's possible the agent's circumstances may have changed and they will have to pass at that time, in most situations that probably won't be the case.

(2) Said author received a prior request for the material from elsewhere, and granted an exclusive. In this scenario, I recommend still letting those who have subsequently made requests know the situation. Agent Janet says "exclusives STINK" but I can think of reasons an author might grant one. Based on some horror stories I have heard, though, the author should be sure to set a reasonable time limit should they choose this route.

(3) Author netted an agent extremely quickly. Agent response times aren't all the same, and apparently some absorb manuscripts by osmosis off their desks. Wrist injuries aside, I do try to respond to queries within the 4 week window listed in our submission guidelines but I know my schedule for reading isn't always cooperative with other demands (you know, made by those client people). I think I would still respond to a request for submission in this case and let the agent know. I'm not sure why a person wouldn't do that.

(4) Just as writers may not be aware of certain things going on in an agent's life (unless they blog or twitter them and the writer happens to be following same), an agent may not know if something else has happened to cause a delay in responding. Unexpected events cause unanticipated effects. Life happens.

Anyone have any other scenarios to suggest?