Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How to Word Those Pesky Follow-up E-mails

Several people around forums like Absolute Write and QueryTracker have been asking recently how to word those pesky follow-up e-mails you sometimes have to send to agents, and since I’ve had plenty of experience with those, I thought I’d throw this post out there. Keep in mind that these are only my suggestions and that I certainly don’t think there’s only one right way to word these. My hope is that these templates will help other writers come up with something of their own.

To those of you who think that nudging is a bad idea, I admit that I used to think the same, but somewhere along the way, I changed my mind. As long as you use them sparingly, follow-up e-mails can actually demonstrate that you’re a smart, savvy writer who plans to make a career out of this.

But first, here’s a quick example of the note I would include with requested partials or fulls, since you always have to send one of those:

Dear [agent’s name],

Woohoo! [TITLE] attached! [Personalized agent tidbit, if you have one]

I look forward to hearing back from you.


[signature block, including my phone number; my street, e-mail, and blog addresses; and my Twitter handle]

I used the agent’s first name if she’d used my first name when requesting the manuscript. Also, if the agent requested a partial instead of a full, I said, “First fifty pages [or whatever] of [TITLE] attached!” Lastly, notice that I included pretty much every piece of contact information imaginable in my signature block. You want to make it REALLY EASY for the agent to get in touch with you, especially if the news is good:)

Oh, and I’m sure you guessed that the “Woohoo!” isn’t required:) That was just my way of celebrating every request.

Follow-up on a requested partial or full (no offer)

Dear [agent’s name],

Just dropping in to check on the status of my manuscript, [TITLE], which I sent on [date]. I know you’re crazy busy, so if it’s still in your to-read pile, great. But if it did go astray, I’d be happy to resend it.

Thanks again for your time and consideration.


[signature block]

If the date you sent the manuscript varies greatly from the date the agent requested it, you might want to mention both. Other than that, the only commentary I have on this one is that you want to keep it simple and straightforward. Say what you have to say and leave it at that.

Follow-up on a requested partial or full (with offer)

Dear [agent’s name],

Just wanted to let you know that I received an offer of representation for [TITLE] and that I told the offering agent I'd get back to [him/her] by [date]. If you're still interested in the manuscript, feel free to get in touch!


[signature block]

I also sent this e-mail to all the agents who had outstanding queries. I simply omitted the word “still” in the last sentence, since they hadn’t expressed interest in the manuscript before.

Follow-up on a query (no offer)

Dear [agent’s name],

I sent a query on [date] for [TITLE] but haven’t yet heard back from you. Since you typically respond to all queries, I just wanted to check in and make sure you received it.

If you're still considering it, great. But if it did go astray, I've included another copy of the query below.

Thanks again for your time and consideration.


[signature block]

[another copy of the query]

For the most part, I don’t recommend following up on queries, but since I’ve broken that rule a few times myself, I thought I ought to own up to it:) As the note above implies, I only followed up when I was certain that the agent usually responded to every query. (In fact, some agents encourage you to query them again if you don’t hear back within a certain timeframe, and when I do, I always reference the earlier query, just in case they’re still considering it.) I also only followed up if I was reasonably certain that they’d never received it in the first place (although you can never know for sure).

Follow-up on a query (with offer)

See “Follow-up on a requested partial or full (with offer)” above.

Well, I think that about covers it. Do you have any other tips or tricks for managing your agent hunt?


Susan said...

Thanks for this. My critique partner just got an offer of rep yesterday (!!!), so I'm sending her a link to this article. Super helpful.

Michael G-G said...

This should be bookmarked by every querying writer!

T. Drecker said...

Thank you for making this post! It's nice to see some examples.

Kristen Wixted said...

Very helpful--I was wondering about this very subject.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Great summary, Krista. I wish I'd had this when I was querying. I always managed to sound like a soulless wraith in my responses. ha ha! I like that you kept your personality in your return emails. :)

Suzi said...

I want to send a nudge to an agent, but have been waiting. It's two weeks past what she states on her blog is her timeline for partials. So I'm gonna try it.


Melodie Wright said...

Jessica Sinsheimer wrote a great post on how to resubmit a requested MS if another agent has asked for an R&R (and the MS is now much better than the original.) I used her suggested email almost verbatim. Find that here: http://agencygatekeeper.blogspot.com/2010/07/heres-my-revision-will-you-read-it-how.html

Yvonne Osborne said...

Good tips! It's nice to know it's okay to kindly nudge.

Traci Kenworth said...

Thanks for the advice!!

Karen lee Hallam said...

Thank for this Krista. I will put this page in my pocket.

A question I have though, is, What if an agent asked you to resend a manuscript they only saw 50 pages of, and made some informal suggestions, saying they'd be happy to look at it again? But the fifty pages were sent snail mail?

Not complicated, probably, but I am twisted over this. Thanks for any suggestions.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Karen, if you agree with the changes (that's probably the most important point to consider), then I'd make them and resend it. If you're not sure whether the agent wanted you to send it back via snail mail or via e-mail, you can always shoot him or her a quick e-mail once you're finished to ask. In that e-mail, I'd let the agent know that you're perfectly happy to send the pages in whichever way will work better for the agent; you just wanted to make sure.

Does that help?

(And I'll respond to everybody else's comments in a bit!)

Karen lee Hallam said...

Thank you Krista--that was very clear. :)

Aldrea Alien said...

I am so bookmarking this.

Thank you so much for making this part of the communication so much clearer.

Ali B said...

Thank you, Krista! Great guidelines and I love your examples. I'm big on examples.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Susan, congratulations to your critique partner! Can you tell us who he/she is?

Michael, thanks for that vote of confidence!

T., you're welcome! I would have appreciated some examples back before I developed these:)

Kristen, just call me psychic:)

Great phrase, Amy, "soulless wraith." Too bad you don't write horror or urban fantasy;)

Good luck with that nudge, Suzi! (Although, if you haven't already sent it, you might want to wait 'til after BEA...)

Thanks for sharing that link, Melodie! I believe I remember stumbling across that post a while back.

Well, Yvonne, I think it's okay. I suppose some people might disagree, but like I said, as long as you're polite, I think it's perfectly all right to send a friendly nudge. (Agents send editors nudges all the time.)

You're welcome, Traci!

Glad it helped, Karen!

You're welcome, Aldrea and Ali! I'm big on examples, too.

E.B. Black said...

Thanks for this advice. I try to stay as professional as possible with follow-up e-mails, but I always feel stupid when I write them. This helps.

Kimberly Gabriel said...

Thank you for this helpful post!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

E.B., I know what you mean about feeling stupid when you write a follow-up e-mail. It's hard to sound both professional and not-like-a-robot at the same time. Glad this helps!

You're welcome, Kimberly!

SueJay said...

This was super helpful. I too feel like a bit of an idiot and a fraud writing follow up emails. It's hard to write a professional sounding email while I'm dancing in my pajamas.

Thanks for clearing this up.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

You're welcome, SueJay. Glad this came in handy!

Nicole F. said...

Thanks so much for posting this! Following submission guidelines is straightforward enough, but little ambiguous details like nudge emails send me in a tizzy.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

You're welcome, Nicole! Good luck with those nudges!