Columns > Published on April 29th, 2013

Ask The Agent: When to Nudge Agents, Hiring Editors, and MORE!

Navigating the rough terrain of today’s publishing industry shouldn’t be a solo event. This week in Ask the Agent, I’ll explore and dissect a few of the industry’s mysteries, straight from the shoulder.


Question from Julie

How much time should I give an agent who has requested a full manuscript before sending a polite email asking for her thoughts? I don't want to bother the agents who have asked for a full manuscript, but nor do I want them to forget about me. And if they're interested, I'd love to stop querying now!

It’s different with every agent. Make sure you check their website before you do anything to see if they indicate a response time. Some agents have a “no response means no” policy so you want to make sure you don’t nudge those agents. But I’d say absolutely no sooner than a month. Six weeks is a good time frame.

Also, I wouldn’t necessarily ask for “her thoughts” because if they haven’t gotten back to you, they most likely haven’t read it. So there will be no thoughts to give. The best approach is something like this:

Dear [Agent],

I’m writing to check on the status of my manuscript [title] sent to you on [date]. I understand you are very busy; I just wanted to make sure it arrived safely in your inbox. Thank you again for your interest in my work. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

[Name]

This is a polite, no pressure nudge. Agents request many manuscripts and sometimes our response time can be a few months. I wouldn’t worry about an agent “forgetting about you” because they obviously have interest in your manuscript and they wouldn’t request it if they planned on never reading it.

Pro tip: You said: “And if they're interested, I'd love to stop querying now!” Don’t stop querying until you have signed with an agent. You are selling yourself short if you stop querying just because an agent shows interest. Even if it is strong interest.

Question from Tom

I have completed the first draft of my first novel. Is it worthwhile to hire an editor to review my work before the first rewrite or should I wait until I have done at least one edit and rewrite?

I’ve never been an agent who encourages writers to hire editors. Book Doctors, maybe. But I suggest that you exhaust all of your free resources before you hire an editor. By that, I mean: join a critique group, use beta readers, have a critique partner, and read read read. All of these things will help you get your manuscript in tiptop shape.

Pro tip: You should always be editing and revising. Finishing your manuscript is the easy part. Edit it until it can no longer be edited by you. Then let your critique partners have at it.

Question from Lauren

I’ve written what I consider an urban fantasy, but a CP just pointed out that the origins of the “special abilities” in my novel are genetic (a la X-Men). The rest of the book sits firmly in the fantasy category, in terms of tropes. So, two questions:

(1) Do I have to go w/ sci-fi if I include genetics in the novel, or can I stick to calling it fantasy and mention a sci-fi element when I query?

(2) What’s more likely to be picked up in the coming year: YA Sci-Fi or YA Fantasy (and yes…I know they’re both pretty cramped right now)? I’m willing to embrace the sci-fi elements, but I’d like to know what the market is like first.

Ahh the ol' genre question. Such a difficult thing to pin down. To answer your first question, I would call it fantasy and say that it has genetic aspects that are firmly planted in reality. And say it in the same sentence so they know all at once what they are being queried with. There are plenty of fantasy/sci-fi forms of media. Star Wars is probably the most popular. The shows Alphas, Fringe, even Supernatural at times. It’s not a rare thing.

To answer your second question, I don’t think either genre will ever be out of vogue (and remember, it’s nearly impossible to predict trends) but like you mentioned, both genres are a bit saturated right now, especially sci-fi. It doesn’t mean they won’t continue to sell. You just have to be fresh in your writing approach.

Pro tip: I can’t give you a solid answer as to which genre will be hotter in the coming year, there is no way to know. You just have to write what you love.

Thank your for all the wonderful questions this week. "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch" -Garrison Keillor


Have a question about the publishing industry? I would love to discuss the specifics of researching and querying agents, finding the right agent, proper publishing etiquette, how to go from idea to completed manuscript, marketing yourself, social media for writers, and anything else you can think of! I am now taking questions for Issue 23 of Ask the Agent. Issue 23 answers will be posted Monday, May 13th.

About the author

Bree Ogden is a literary agent at Red Sofa Literary and a comics/TV columnist and reviewer at Bloody Disgusting.

When she's not agenting, compulsively watching horror films, reading comics, hiding out at her local science center, or killing off her bee colonies, she serves as the managing editor of the macabre children's magazine Underneath the Juniper Tree, which she co-founded in 2011 with artist Rebekah Joy Plett.

Bree teaches query craft and graphic novel scripting at LitReactor as well as serves as the Assistant Class Director. Unless you are an exciting new piece of taxidermy, she'll probably never let you in her room. You can find her at agentbree.wordpress.com.

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