How to Nudge An Agent Who Has Your Full MS

Right now I have 21 full manuscripts in my To Be Read pile. I have blown past my deadline on 14 of them. Some of the oldest manuscripts were requested in January, which means I've had them for four months (my quoted response time was two! I've had these twice as long as I said I would). 

I am not proud of this at all. In fact, it haunts me a little bit. I also now know that I've gotta quote longer lead times on requested manuscripts. Eight weeks isn't realistic for me and I need to be more accurate when I set expectations. 

Being late doesn't MEAN anything, other than I have a much heftier workload than I anticipated. That's it. I still want to read your manuscript. The fact that you didn't get an overnight read does not signal disinterest on my part. It just means that other parts of the job have demanded my focus (I'm about to go out on sub with a client's manuscript next week!) and I haven't been able to devote myself to reading the way I want to. This is just human failing, and the fault is mine. 

But that doesn't mean that you should sit waiting in perpetual agony. If I quoted you a response time when I requested your full and we've blown past that deadline, please do nudge me! I will not get annoyed. I want to be reminded that I'm slipping behind and I want you to feel comfortable coming to talk to me (because, after all, if I end up signing you as a client once I finally read your MS, you're going to need to be comfortable doing that!). 

Step One: When to Nudge
I do appreciate a bit of a grace period. If my quoted deadline falls midweek, maybe wait until the following Monday to give me a chance to wrap it up and get back to you. Usually I slate my reading days heading into the weekend, so I'm more likely to read material at the end of the week than at the beginning. But hey, if you want to nudge on a Wednesday, that's OK too!

Step Two: How to Nudge
It's always helpful for me if you reply to our existing email chain. I've got all my email flagged and sorted, so this way when I get your nudge it will already show up as a requested MS and I'm more likely to open the email right away, rather than risk letting the email languish amid other queries and wait to be opened in chronological order.

Step Three: What to Say
Short, simple, straight.

"Hi Kelly, I'm checking in on my manuscript TITLE, which you requested on DATE. Can you please confirm that you've received it and let me know when I should expect a response? Thanks!" 

If you have other pertinent information--like an offer of representation--definitely share that, too. 

Optional Step: Withdraw Your Ms
I really hope that you'll forgive me for delayed responses and allow me to finish your manuscript and give it my full consideration. But you don't have to. At any time and for any reason you can withdraw your manuscript from consideration if you no longer want to potentially work with me. Slow responses on requested material is an unfortunate reality in the publishing world. One I hope to mitigate by adjusting my quote times, and building dedicated reading time into my work weeks. You should never be met with silence; I aim to respond to all nudges within 24 hours whenever possible--if not with a response to the MS, then at the least with an apology and a request for more time. And please also remember that existing clients and their needs will always be a priority over potential clients. So I hope that a slow response alone isn't enough for you to determine that you need to move on. But if it is, or if there's any other reason why you'd like to close out your query, you may absolutely do so. Here's how:

"Kelly, with this email I am withdrawing my manuscript TITLE from your consideration. Thank you."

And that's that. 

SO. Please don't ever be afraid to reach out to check up on the status of your manuscript. And thank you again for allowing me to consider your work. Now, I've got quite a bit of reading to do, so I gotta go!