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popmuze
12-19-2005, 06:33 PM
The other day I had a strange, revealing experience about following up a solicited manuscript.The agent had asked to see the entire manuscript about eight weeks before. Friday I had the occasion to write the agent an email about another matter, but in doing so mentioned that he'd had my manuscript for two months.

I got a reply suggesting I call to set up an in person appointment, which sounded wonderful. But also in the reply was something to the effect of: "Did you send or email me the manuscript."

When I called I was told nobody could find my book (which I had snail mailed). It was never logged in. Maybe I had the wrong address, why don't I send it again. After about ten minutes chatting on the phone with the agent, lo and behold, the manuscript turned up (obviously still unread).

I wonder how many other manuscripts languish at the bottom of the pile, until the author calls (or becomes famous elsewhere) to provide the incentive to move it up the list?

I have two partials out, at four weeks and six weeks. Now I'm thinking I need to follow these up too.

Meanwhile, do I still have the appointment with the first agent?

WriteStuff
12-19-2005, 07:06 PM
I used to always worry about possible post office mix up... if you're in the US, and mailing within the US use Delivery Confirmation. No one has to sign for it, it doesn't get held at the post office on account of it, and it takes away the worry. (Caveat: it doesn't always work, if the postal guy on the other end forgets to scan it...well... lol, but it works better than the return postcards that agents, and pubs often, um, forget to send back, or get lost in the mail on their way back.)

That at least lets you know the manunscript is there, and if someone says they don't have it, you can say...um, yes you do.

blackbird
01-09-2006, 12:06 AM
It's very possible that even "solicited" mansucripts get relegated to the bottom of the heap, maybe not because the agent has no intent to read it, but because like everything else, it's a business and they tend to prioritize. If you've given them no reason to think that your manuscript deserves top priority, most likely it won't be given that status (this, of course, depends on how successful the agency is and how many projects they may have going simulataneously). I think the "we lost it" or "we can't account for it" is often an embarrassed agent's way of covering up for this when the writer calls. Personally, I would prefer they just be honest and say they haven't read it, but I guess it catches them off guard and we're all human; we don't want to openly admit to having strung someone along.

I don't think a polite follow-up call to an agent can ever be a bad thing. If they've solicited your manuscript, they owe you that courtesy after a reasonable amount of time has passed, and as in your experience, that call may be the thing that nudges your manuscript up the priority rank a bit. If they start to think that they may possible lose you as a client, they'll work harder to be more prompt in the future (depending, of course, on how much they believe in the project).

This reminds me of the scene from Coal Miner's Daughter (anyone out there remember that film?) where Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones, as Loretta Lynn and her husband Doolittle, show up at the radio station and are told by the DJ that her record "just sat" after he'd played it. On the way out, they happen to notice the record still in its wrapper--he'd never taken it out.

For sure, there's a time to be patient and wait, and a time to get on the stick.

Another true story: After Laurie Liss had solicited The Bridges of Madison County from Robert James Waller, she allowed it to "sit" until one day he gave her a phone call, inquiring about its status. Only then did she actually open the envelope and think, "Oh my gosh, I might have something here."

the1dsquared
01-09-2006, 01:40 AM
blackbird, thanks for the pep talk. After reading your post I emailed the agent who has had my rewritten manuscript since October. I'll let you know what I hear...