Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Querying Advice: Nudging (without an offer)

I've seen this asked over and over: when and how should a writer nudge a literary agent about a full or partial request (if they are without an offer). Writers are in awe of agents. Afraid of making a pest of themselves and somehow ruining their chances to get an agent. They don't want to be a bother. Writers tend to tip-toe around nudging as if they don't deserve to reach out to an agent.

You were so happy just to get a request. You don't want to mess it up.

Be unafraid!

Without writers there are no books. It's a writer's talent that opens new worlds for people who love to read. This is your manuscript. You worked hard on it. You have every right to inquire about it.    

Agents understand. After all, they use nudges all the time with editors. During submission, they may need to follow up with an editor on material the agent has sent. Sometimes they have to ask for an answer on a pitch letter. How can they fault you for doing something they have to employ? As long as you are sensible, there is no problem with politely asking an agent the status of your request.  

Though I don't recommend you nudge about a query letter unless the agent's website specifically says to nudge after a certain number of weeks. So many agents use a no response policy now. Is your query lost or just not right for that agent? It's better to leave well enough alone with a query that goes unanswered and assume the letter has been rejected. There are plenty of agents to query that you don't need to worry about every letter going astray. Chances are it hasn't. (There are exceptions and the choice is yours, but I'd think twice about nudging for a query letter.)

Now if your material has been requested it's a different story. Perhaps you've been patient for a long time and you want to know what's happening.  Before you take action, though, consider the timing.

It's very important not to let your natural impatience get out of hand. Everyone is ancy when material is being considered. Important decisions are being made that could get your baby in front of editors from the Big Six. But has a reasonable amount of time passed or are you just anxious? Publishing is notoriously slow. You have to give the agent plenty of time to read as things always come up. 

So first, check their website for a clue of when to nudge. If their website says nothing, then a solid guide is never to nudge until it's been three months. My own guide was to go a week or two past three months just to be on the safe side.

Then you'll want to use the email chain you've created with the agent (Yes, save the email asking for pages in your email provider so you can reply to it.) A RE in the subject line is more likely to catch their eye and prove you have had communication in the past.  Be short and to the point. No need to waste more agent reading time by being long winded. 

Dear Agent so and so,

I'm checking in to see if you had time to read TITLE which I sent as requested on DATE. Thank you very much,


That's really all you need to nudge. Have you had time to get to it? It's called X and I sent it on Y. Agents will get back to you with a yes or no. Usually they need more time, but now you have reminded them. Hopefully, the nudge will lead to a faster read and a quicker final response.

Occasionally, a nudge receives no response from an agent. In that case, wait a week or two more and send a second nudge just like the first. Give them time to get to your first nudge just in case they are out of the office or very hectic. 

If the second nudge goes unanswered, then you have to put it out of your mind and set that request aside as a no. It's hard to do that, but let's face it-- Do you really want an agent who doesn't find the time to reply to two nudges? It's like the movie; he's just not that into you. Good communication with an agent is crucial. Take the agent off the pedestal. Time to move on and show some pride. Don't go for a third nudge. 

So there you have it. It's really not that scary if you make sure you give the agent plenty of time to consider before you nudge. Be polite and to the point.

Good luck and profitable nudging! 


  1. This is great advice! I also use Query Tracker, just to see the average response time on partials and fulls. Comments from other writers on their experience with agents can be most helpful when deciding to nudge or let more time pass. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Very good analogy with that movie. lol An agent I just queried won't be accepting any after a certain time this Friday, so I know if she hasn't gotten back to me to wait at least a couple months after she returns or opens back up.