Attract Attention…(Part Four)

Stressed people waiting for a job interview

So we’ve considered three of the four BPs of attracting the attention of an agent or editor. BP number one was “Be Professional.” Number two was “Be Passionate.” The third BP was “Be Plugged In.  I’ve loved the discussion for each one, and look forward to reading what you think of this last BP. Especially since I think this is the hardest one for us. We writers are so focused on learning and growing, on doing what we’ve learned to do as we study the craft and market. We’re designed for doing. But this last BP is a reminder that sometimes, the only—and best–thing we can do, is…

BP#4: Be Patient

We know it’s hard on you, and we understand if you get frustrated. But the reality in today’s publishing climate is that things can take longer than ever before. Yes, we know how important timely responses are. But with all the shifts in the market, our focus has to rest more and more on those clients and authors we already have contracted. Which means reviewing proposals has had to take a backseat. We dislike that too, especially when we’ve got a huge backlog. And we’re doing all we can to get to the proposals and respond. But you can probably expect a few months minimum for evaluation from agents or editors (sometimes longer for editors). Even if you have a connection with the agent or editor, it may take that long for your editor to get to it. It doesn’t mean we don’t love you or your work. It just means we’re doing what we have to as things continue to shift.

Here are a few tips from agents and editors to help you as you wait:

  • When to email the agent/editor as you wait:
    • If another agent/editor expresses interest, as in “Please send me the full manuscript” or “Let’s set up a phone call,” it’s a good idea to let the other agents/editors know. For one thing, that can often jump your proposal to the front of the line. For another, it’s just courteous to let them know of any activity.
    • If you’ve waited 2-3 months with no response, a brief email of inquiry is OK. Sometimes company spam filters snag emails before they reach us, so a “Just checking” email lets us know to go back and be sure what you sent actually arrived.
    • If the agent/editor gave you a date for a response, and you’ve gone past it by more than a week, a brief email of inquiry is OK. Just be straightforward: “Really appreciate you looking at my proposal. Wondering if you have a revised response date for me?”
  • Keep working on your platform. The more you improve it, the more you expand your reach and readership, the better it is for everyone.
  • Keep working on your projects. Don’t let the proposal you sent out become your only focus. Keep refining your craft on the project you sent out, and keep working on your other projects as well. That way, if you receive a no thanks on your proposal, you’re ready to send out the next project. It’s all about perseverance.

So there you have it. Follow these ideas and tips from agents and editors, and you’re far more likely to attract an agent’s or editor’s attention—in a good way!

13 Responses to Attract Attention…(Part Four)

  1. Rachel Muller July 24, 2013 at 5:13 am #

    Another wonderful post! Thanks for keeping us informed as things change in the market. I still don’t know how you deal with all the proposals as well as manage the clients you already have! :)

    I have one question: If it does come time for a writer to send a “just checking” email, to which email/person would that email go to? I see the queries are sent to an assistant, is there another inbox for emails that are not queries?

  2. Bethany Kaczmarek July 24, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    Thank you! This is so clear and reassuring. I sometimes struggle, wondering if my silence will make it appear that I don’t care or that I’m content to put my career on hold indefinitely. (I know that’s not what my dream agent is thinking about me, but that niggling voice in my head peddles lies). In truth, it’s time for me to be busy–working on my website, my one-sheet, my next book. Connecting with potential readers and other writers and industry professionals face to face and through social media. Sharpening my craft and helping others hone theirs with my editing services. The more proactive I am, the fewer regrets I’ll carry. And it’s good to know my instincts are correct. I’ve been doing all of that, and I’ll keep it up.

    I love this: “With all the shifts in the market, our focus has to rest more and more on those clients and authors we already have contracted.”

    That’s the goal: to become a contracted client and benefit from the passion, wisdom, and expertise that an experienced and respected agent can offer. Any advice on how NOT to make a bad impression is priceless. Thanks again.

    • Rachel Muller July 24, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      Very well said, Bethany, and I agree with each word you wrote! :)

  3. Meghan Carver July 24, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    I agree that being patient is the most difficult of your BPs. Thank you for your suggestions for follow-up. And thank you for the smile — the picture is hilarious!

  4. Anne Love July 24, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    I was working on plotting my second book when I overheard a line from the series Castle while the kids were watching T.V. in the next room. It gave me pause. Castle says to another writer who’d just boasted about the completion of his first novel: “Yeah, I wrote a book. Then I shut up about it and wrote twenty-five more.”

    I love that challenge to keep working. It’s about the writing, crafting, and the stories. Yes, it’s about all the other BP’s you’ve mentioned. But despite all the snags and bumps along the way, hands down–it’s about the stories.

    Thanks also for the new thought that an email might have gone to spam filter cyberspace!

  5. Ron Estrada July 24, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    I think I’ve gotten a little better with my patience, or lack thereof. I find that if I get myself excited about the next project, it’s easy to put the last one out of my head. So I’ll start outlining the next one before I’ve finished editing the current project. It seems to help. Most of the time.

  6. T Denise Clary July 24, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Great post!

    Last year I attended a conference and interviewed with an editor of a well known publishing house. She requested a full manuscript based on my interview and proposal, I provided her one on the spot. She seemed genuinely excited and advised that she would have someone in touch with me within about 3 weeks, and if I don’t hear from someone, to make sure I gave her a call. She made sure twice, prior to ending the interview, that I had her phone number. I assured her I did.

    After returning home from the conference I sent a thank you card. I also followed up the card with a telephone call, as instructed, after about 3 weeks and not hearing anything from anyone. I never heard anything since…

    Question: Was I to assume it was a “pass” since I never heard back from anyone including the editor? I felt like I would be a bother if I continued contacting the publishing house. It’s probably too late now, but for future reference, should I have tried to contact the editor one more time(s)?


  7. Voni Harris July 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    I LOVE how you gave us the list of things to do while we wait. Good reminder life is certainly not on hold. thanks!

  8. Jaime Wright July 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Patience. With a good cup of coffee I can wait for anything ;) Karen, this series has been great! Thanks so much for giving us such quality insight and practical application to our writing lives!

  9. Peter DeHaan July 24, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Karen, you posted some most helpful guidelines. Now I will have more confidence of knowing when to wait and how to appropriately followup when needed. Thank you!

  10. Andrea Cox July 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Thanks for all the tips, Karen! I’ve really enjoyed this series of BPs. Patience, I agree, is one of the most difficult.

    Do you have any tips on working on more than one project at a time? I like to get different people’s viewpoints on this to help me tweak my own style.


  11. Penny Zeller July 24, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    Thank you for the tips, Karen. This series has been great!

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