re: I Don’t Know What to Make of This Agent’s Letter

in Submissions by

Dear Editor…

When querying by email, it’s hard to know if an agent’s response is a form letter or a personal note. This came to me recently: “Thank you for sharing your work with me. Right now my list is full but I invite you to query back in two months. Thanks for thinking of me.” I’m guessing this is more of a form letter response. Am I right?

Thanks,
B.

Dear B….

I’ll take your “form letter” guess and do you one better: I suspect it’s an automated response and the agent didn’t read your query. Otherwise, the answer would’ve been yes, no, or wait to hear back because it’ll take me a while to read it. View this response as a polite (and needlessly vague) way of saying, “I’m not accepting submissions right now.” Instead of marking your calendar to resubmit in two months, put your energy into looking for agents actively acquiring. Look in Literary Market Place and Writer’s Market, check the member resources of your category/genre’s national writers’ organization for a directory of agents, and scan the acknowledgment pages in your favorite authors’ books for their agents’ names. Google promising names to research their interests and author lists to be sure they’re well regarded and rep projects like yours. Your manuscript is important and your time precious—better your chances with strategic submissions instead of knocking on the same closed door simply because you know where it is.

Happy writing!
The Editor

8 Comments

  1. I suspect that many new writers would be so caught by the ‘query back in two months’ that they would be elated, never send out any other queries and wait and wait. Thanks for the straight talk!

    • The agent is probably trying to be positive and encouraging, and I do appreciate that. The submission process can be a painful one. That said, I prefer straight talk myself. There’s enough guesswork in that process.

  2. A much better resource for querying writers is querytracker.com. It’s the best place to find complete and updated information about agents, including response times/acceptance rates for both queries and submissions.

  3. I got this same response, but the agent said he had just acquired a very big new client with a big backlist so retry in 2 months. I did, and got some nice feedback, but it was a no. It can’t hurt trying, bt I wouldn’t hold your breath.

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