While I consider myself rather well-versed with the querying writer’s life and expectations, I recently ran across something new and worrying.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, literary agents are well-read people, familiar with the industry, who are versed in contract law and help writers find a publishing house. While you can go it alone, the larger publishing houses often do not even accept submissions from un-agented writers. Querying is the process by which we entice the agent with the characters and stakes of our story, let them know where our story fits in the market, and include any relevant biographical information. It’s a one page letter that works almost like a job application — only, if the agent selects us (with that lovely external validation) — they’re working for us, to promote our writing.
Back toward the end of October, I was gearing up for NaNoWriMo, waiting to hear that I did NOT make the cut (again) for PitchWars, when someone in my Middle Grade Waves PitchWars support group (middle grade is what comes before YA books, but after chapter books) mentioned that they’d queried an agent… and the agent had:
a – gone on twitter to complain about someone querying outside of business hours
b – rejected them promptly
First of all, email is asynchronous communication.
Secondly? Queries are business emails. No querying writer should ever expect a response at 2 am on a Saturday night. But, that might be the time of day that the house is quiet and they can put their thoughts together and work up the nerve to send the email.
We should never expect a response at 2 am on a Saturday night. In fact, most of us expect our query letters to be filtered into a ‘queries’ folder and only looked at when the agent has finished dealing with their pre-existing clients. Maybe just before lunch on Wednesday, or Friday evening before they head out for the weekend. Sometimes, we suspect agents just set aside a day, maybe not even once a month, where they go through and clear out the queries that are pushing ‘past due’.
An immediate response was never an expectation most of us even thought could be a possibility.
So. Now I’m not just worried that my story isn’t ready, or that my query needs work, or that the market is oversaturated, no matter how good my story and query are. Now I get to obsess over timing of my email!
I’m already factoring holidays, school schedules, and elections into the mix. I usually hold off if there was just a pitch contest on twitter, because I know agents usually bump those to the top of their queue because they seem a bit more time sensitive.
How do I handle this?
Was this just one agent? Do I just assume an agent who dislikes this is not the match for me? Or is this more a common pet peeve?
Maybe I’ll start prepping my query letters and schedule them to submit on Tuesday mornings. Not Monday, because they’ll have all the weekend backlog, but not so close to lunch that they’re hungry and distracted…
Agents — is this a common practice?
Do you feel frustrated when you get emails outside of regular business hours?
Querying writers — what else have I missed about properly timing my query letters?
Anything else I should be stressing about?