Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Oh no! (Revised)

I sent a submission to a wonderful agency in September and heard nothing. The email didn’t bounce back, or report as undelivered, so I presumed it got there safe and well. I was a bit surprised that they didn’t have a ping back email letting me know it had arrived but didn’t think too much of it. Perhaps, and very likely, they were inundated with email submissions.

Not wishing to pry, annoy, pester, or do anything at all to ruin my chances, I observed the rule of thumb and sat on them for two months. (Obviously sat on fingers as well, in fact sat on both hands to be exact.) Then did the same for another month just in case. I now have just sent a polite follow up, wondering whether it is still under consideration, and received a ping back message saying thank you. I never got this thank you before! Does this mean they never received my initial submission? Was that silence not the silence of careful consideration of my novel, but in fact the silence of never heard from me in the first place?

Nooo... *falls to knees sobbing, or at least would if not at real work and pretending to look Very Involved and Clever*

All those months of hoping... what if it never sent? What if now the only communication this agency has received from me is a polite follow up, with nothing attached? Will I have to wait another two months for their reply, which understandably will be What are you talking about? Will I now just look like a dumb arse?

Nooo... *beats floor with hands, or at least would if not at real work and pretending to Purse Lips at Important Document*

I am gutted. All because of a ping back email. Never under-estimate the power of the ping. So what can I learn from this?

One: When sending email submissions, if you do not receive an indication that your submission arrived then follow up and politely ask.

Two:Perhaps, and I know this is a shocker, but perhaps if there is no indication then another option is calling them to ask if it arrived. (Check their guidelines and make sure they won't automatically hate you for calling them though.) This submission might be my whole life, so to speak, but also should be treated as business.


Revised after nine comments

The thing about being a novice is that there is always something to learn, and the thing about blogging is that there are other writers out there who are willing to share advice from their experiences along the way. The consensus is have patience, my friends, no matter if you get a ping or not! Some shared good advice from the comments is:

Maria and Anne: The little nudge note could nudge your 'maybe' submission into a rejection (eeep!)
Christine: If you didn't receive an undeliverable message then your submission was probably safely receieved
Angela: Don't call - agents are busy and don't need anything else to add to their plate

So here is the revised guide of what to do when situations like this happen, when virtually you are rolling around the office floor in agony while the real you is Poised with a Brave Little Smile (which has no place on my face whatsoever, as I am about to click open an excel spreadsheet and those things should never be approached with a brave little smile but with a stoic Look of Doom.)

One: Read guidelines. Send email submission. Mark in diary correct date of when they say it is appropriate to contact them again (two - three months is usual). Sit on hands. Do not worry about getting a ping back email. Do not worry if it seems email has been sent into a void, fate unknown. Concentrate on next story and if you have heard nothing by the time the correct date comes around, send polite little follow up email. Sit on hands again. Continue submitting and querying elsewhere. If you really and truly hear nothing months later then it's probably safe to assume that the agency just wasn't the right fit for you and your story. Chin up!

Two: Just like there is no spoon in the Matrix, there is no Two.


Simon Kewin said...

I feel your pain : I'm sure this happens rather more than people suspect. I'm having some email problems myself at the moment and I know some emails haven't reached me. The agony! Maybe, just maybe, one of those was something vital ...

Eliza said...

Oh no, that must be so frustrating, I think I'd have done the same, not being the pushy sort. I hope you get some reply soon as to whether they received it in the 1st place. Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

Anne Gallagher said...

I sent out a query in October of 2009 and received a serious reply in July of 2010.

I waited the requisite 3 months on a partial, then waited 2 weeks more. When I sent the little nudge note (that all agents say is proper) she rejected me the next day.

Be careful in whatever you do. Don't worry about the ping back. It might just be newly implemented.
It doesn't neccessarily mean they didn't receive your submission.

And if they didn't recceive your sub. they would have told you that in the ping back email. (Who are you? We don't have anythng by that writer.)

October is one of the busiest times in agentland -- royalty payments and then there is the rush to get out all the promo for the Christmas books. I have a full out since Nov. 4. I don't expect to hear back until Feb. (And this is my whole life too.)

I know it's hard but you must wait.

The Words Crafter said...

Oh, the fun things I have to look forward to....

I hope it all works out for you and I'm sorry you're going through all that....

Christine said...

How frustrating! Your first email probably did arrive safely, given that it didn't bounce back and you didn't receive an 'undeliverable' message. As Anne says, the automatic response email might be a new feature.

At least all that hand sitting should be keeping them warm! :0

Jessica Bell said...

Oh no! What a shame :o( Damn. Well, now you know to never underestimate the ping! :o)

KarenG said...

Anne's advice IS good, I'd listen to her and wait....isn't that the WORST part?

Angela Ackerman said...

This is one of the most frustrating things about subbing. However, it's better not to call. trust me, agents are busy, and they don't need anything to add to their plate. I know it's tough and frustrating, but the best thing to do is to wait and then follow up after their reading time has passed.

This is also why agents asking for exclusive queries are often avoided. There's nothing worse than sending a query and NOT being able to send out others at the same time. The business is slow, and the reader needs to always have a few irons in the fire.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Maria Zannini said...

This happens all the time, Jayne.

3 months is the usual time to wait before asking though some agencies actually tell you 'when' you can inquire.

Some ping. Others don't. And company procedures change all the time.

Ref: Anne's experience
I had the same thing happen to me. It's as if the ms. had been in a 'maybe' stack, but reminding them nudged it into the 'no thanks' stack, just so they could have one less manuscript to consider.

My thinking is this, if they really loved it, they would have jumped on it already.

There are a lot of other agents out there. If one won't pick it up, someone else might and then it'll be the 'first agent's' loss for not responding more quickly.

Cast your net widely. Don't pin your hopes on one agency's response.

Old Kitty said...

Oh dear!! I think Anne is so right that you should carry on waiting and to banish such thoughts now. You'll be fine!! Have some chocolate!! GOOD LUCK!!!!! Such nail bitingly exciting times ahead for you!!!

All the best!! Take care

Facing50Blog.com said...

I stumbled across your blog and empathised immediately. I'm having the same problems and frustrations getting my first novel published. It is 'gutting' some days and I have far too many rejection emails. Good luck and keep at it. I am now your latest follower and supporter.
Please feel free to drop by and maybe become my follower. It's nice to meet a fellow Brit and budding author.
Warmest regards
Carol from www.facing50withhumour.blogspot.com

Joanne said...

If you do follow-up, I would also be sure to paste in your original query at the end of your follow-up email so they can give it a quick glance at that time.

Terri Tiffany said...

I enjoyed the comments. I have sent a ton out with no reply at all and won't follow up. Some of them have automated replies, some don't. I let it go and move on to write the next book. If it grabs them, they will respnd.

Colene Murphy said...

Ugh! Oh that whole scenario is terrifying to me! I hope they reply soon. I'm sure they will tell you they never got it if that is the case, since the follow up email was about just that! Right? hope so!

Joanna St. James said...

Everything Anne said makes sense. hang in there.

The Golden Eagle said...

I wouldn't want to be in that kind of situation. Oh dear--I hope it gets resolved!

Fran said...

Sometimes it would be SO COOL if it was permissible for growed-ups to lie down on the floor and have tantrums about this kind of thing. Frustrating, or what?

Kit Courteney said...

Oh Jayne, if only you weren't so funny!

Been there, done that... stressed over it. Got p*ssed off over it. Ummed and ahhed over it.

Gave up.

And that's why I'm sitting on my arse with real life getting in the way right now.

Once back on track I'll be wibbling too... Only my wibbling won't be as cool as yours!


mise said...

My goodness, agents are like this? The bounders, the blighters. Thank God I don't write. I'd pick up the phone straight away and ask, mindful that my book was so good that they were letting themselves down if they didn't accept it. Clearly the wrong thing to do.

Shayda Bakhshi said...

It's agony, isn't is?

Maggie May said...

Its a hugely stressful thing, this writing.
Lets hope you receive something favourable very soon.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

lakeviewer said...

Just remember that you are in good company. Today's publishing is at a crossroad, afraid to take chances on new writers, stuck with little money and a lot of uncertainties.

The Las Vegas Writer said...

This is a great post. I'm sure it got there safely and maybe they had all these other writers asking about no ping email and decided to incorporate :)

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

I feel positively sick about this. All I can say, is that I hope someday 'soon' you will get a speedy reply to your submission and be put out of your misery - and ours!

Good luck Jayne. Crossing fingers and toes :)

Karen said...

Being In Limbo is truly agonising. I hope you hear something (anything!) soon :o)

Elaine AM Smith said...

That's the way it goes. Miserable, isn't it?
Surely, the kind of email that says: We received your submission, if you do not hear from us in 8 weeks unfortunately etc should be the minimum level of response.

Rula Sinara said...

A lot of great comments and advice here. I feel for you. I also think that Anne and Maria's comments are spot on.

Be sure to check the agency's site. There are some that flat out say they won't respond if they're not interested (there's one I never heard back from). Others will invite you to check in with them after a given number of months. And I do think it's smart to past the original query etc...in the follow up email.

Fingers crossed for you! The best thing is to write forward.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

It really is so hard to know what to do in a case like that! I know the feeling for sure.

Anonymous said...

Frustrating; I've been there. At least 1/3 or more of my queries never receive a reply of any kind. So what do I do? Query another dozen agents! =]
in medias res

Ev said...

Poor you! The whole world of publishing - from finding the agent to getting a book deal to actually signing the flyleaf of your book - is a torture designed I'm sure by the Spanish Inquistion. the one thing you have to remember about the world of publishing is thatyou - the writer are the least important part of the cog. You may have given birth to a beautiful book but we'll take over now thank you and if we remember we'll let you know occasionally whats happening. And don't complain. If you complain we'll spread the word that you're difficult and you'll never 'work in this town again'. Are you comforted?

penandpaints said...

Aw you poor thing, I feel your pain! I've just sent a query email about a short story, but I dread them, in fear of the instant rejection from a cross, over-worked editor. Cringe! It's been five moths though and this particular mag usually responds in two months so it's possible it has been overlooked.
I agree with the advice from others, especially chocolate, it's what waiting time is made for!
Fingers crossed for you getting good news!

penandpaints said...

Five moths?
Don't see where they'd be any help. Haha, months, months I meant. Honestly, I can spell, sometimes :)

Priya Parmar said...

yuck. it is horrid but the answer is always to let it be. my first agent did not get back to me for nearly four months! it is so yucky!

Carolyn V. said...

Oh no! I hate the wait. And it's so frustrating. I hope it all works out in the end though. ((hugs))