How to stress over an agent request

Today, I thought I’d write an educational post by letting you in on my process of sending off a full manuscript. As I said in my previous post, when I received an agent’s recent email, I was too sick to do anything about it. But in all those hours staggering from bed or sofa to the bathroom and back, I had time to think about it.

It had been 99 days (according to QueryTracker) since I’d queried this agent, and I had written her off as a “no response means no” type. I had since stopped sending out queries because I had been hit with a whale of indecision over the opening chapter, so her request took me by surprise. Nevertheless, there was no question I would take the opportunity to submit. Here’s the tale.

On Monday, I open the file to check the formatting and find two notes at the top. One I understand and edit accordingly, the other I don’t understand. It simply says “Leakey, paleoanthropologist” and though I do have one of the characters mention him, I don’t know why I wrote that. I check to make sure I haven’t misspelled his name, but eventually ignore the notation.

Still, I have the problem of a new first chapter I’m working on. My query to this agent had included the first ten pages of my book and the synopsis. After sharing my dilemma with you, I decide to leave the first chapter as she saw it. I will still finish up the editing of that new beginning, if only because I enjoyed writing it.

Okay, cover page attached, standard formatting applied … the file is ready to send. Ah-ha,  I have to attach it to an email, but do I send it as .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf? And do I start a new message, or reply to her reply to my query letter? I decide to reply. I mean, in the three intervening days she might have totally forgotten she requested my manuscript, so seeing her response to me right there in the email will assure her I’m not trying to pull a fast one. Right?

Oh, but what to say? This virus seems to have caused PARA (previous agent reply amnesia.) I don’t want to sound stupid, desperate, or stiff and humorless, but I also don’t want to sound too chummy, or not serious about my career. I want to come off smart, confident, pleasant, and easy to work with. I think I accomplish one or two of those. Or maybe not. Gosh, what if I came across desperate and too chummy? Or too serious … and stupid? *whimper*

Now, I’m faced with another crisis—two actually—the salutation and closing. She addressed me as “Ms. Lewis,” but signed off with her first name. Does that mean I should address her that way? And she used “All the best” which is not a way I usually close, and besides, I don’t want to copy her. Sincerely? Too formal. Have a nice day? Cliche. L8R? Get real. Aaarrgghh!

In the end, I go with first names, but a serious tone in my brief message. Even though I haven’t rushed my response, I hesitate before I hit the send button, sure that I’ve messed up somehow, and she’ll wonder why on earth she ever asked to read another word of my book. It could happen. Seriously.

(And if you wonder why I’m not saying how I closed the message, it’s because I’ve forgotten what I settled on and can’t bring myself to look. I just know I’ll see a stupid typo.)

Yes, indeed, I can manage to stress even when something good happens with my writing! If you think I made any mistakes in my response, please don’t tell me. I’ll just agonize over it.

😀 🙂 😉

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39 thoughts on “How to stress over an agent request

  1. And now comes the next part – stressing over how long it will take to get a response. I know, because i sent out fulls exactly 34 days, 20 hours and 12 minutes ago! I dread checking my e-mail and yet, I can’t resist. I’m trying hard to work on other projects, but the little pit in the bottom of my stomach never seems to go away 😉 Best of luck with it!

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    1. Thank you for the luck, Sessha. Your countdown is hilarious, but I feel your pain precisely. I’ve become so used to expecting rejection that with this last email, I almost didn’t read enough of it to realize the agent was asking for MORE.

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  2. So painfully true. I hate to admit it, but when I began sending out queries (this time around) I actually used the dreaded “fiction novel” term. Yes, I did that. Even after all the warnings, it snuck in there amongst the revisions and rewrites. But I caught the error quickly and the idiot-query only went out to one agent . . . my top pick.

    Maybe it all comes out in the wash. I’ve now received a manuscript request from another agent who probably beats the other one hands down. But who cares about that? At this point, I’m interested in ANY agent.

    A thought I had while reading your post was this: Which is more nerve racking, sending a manuscript electronically or via the post? If my idiot-query had been sent on real paper, I might have caught the error. You speak of being hesitant to look back at what you sent. Here I am, preparing a manuscript to send snail mail and can’t manage to get a good copy of the proposal. Makes me wonder. If it had been requested electronically, would I have taken this much time?

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    1. Oh, V.V., I can relate. One day when I was sending out a batch of queries, I used copy and paste and forgot to change the salutation from the last agent’s name. Even though I stress out over these things, I believe that things work out for the best. And I know that any agent who would pass on a good book because of a silly mistake, is not an agent I could work with anyway.

      You know, I think the electronic submissions are more stressful. I’ve only done one by snail, but I did catch an error in the cover letter before sending it out.

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  3. I’m the same when it comes to any email I send, I am always worried I’ll mess up in the spelling though I’ve CHECKED things over and over. Don’t worry, I’m sure you did well. Best of luck, let us know what happens next 🙂

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  4. Oh, c’mon, this is the *fun* part! Right? Right? Am I right? Okay, maybe it’s the most nerve-wracking, terrifying, mortifying, and many other -ing words, experience ever. I feel for you. Good luck!

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  5. And I thought I was the only one that ever stressed over a send button before and after hitting it. I believe it will turn out right because I think your excellent writing inspired her to ask for the entire manuscript. I think she still wants it very much. Blessings to you, Linda.

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    1. Thank you for the blessings, Carol.

      Actually, I was only joking that she might have forgotten she requested the full. At least, reading the opening would remind her, right? If not, she’s as absent-minded as I am and we’d probably make a terrible pair. 😀

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  6. Linda, this request is great news–congratulations! Boy, do I hear you about the angst/self-doubt/over-analysis of the requested submission. How we pore over the details–it’s universal. And I appreciate how you don’t want to revisit the letter–I am always the same way–there’s nothing I can do about it once the send button is depressed, so what good does it do to know? I look forward to hearing more news as it comes–in the meantime, celebrate!

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  7. Man, oh man. Linda, you always seems to sum up exactly how things go for me in exactly the right way. You must be a writer or something. 😉

    I wonder if Stephen King, James Patterson, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, J. K. Rowling, heck, even Stephenie Meyer go through this wave of dizzying insecurity when they send something off like we do. Or did they when they were wannabes?

    I believe you’re on your way now. I’ll always be able to say I knew you when. 😉 (Even if it’s not really true. Heh.)

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    1. Most days, I feel like it’s “or something” Dane. 🙂

      Well, we all know that King threw the manuscript for Carrie in the trash and if not for his wife … who knows? I can’t recall who, but awhile back I read an interview with a well-established author, and she said that every time she writes a story she doubts her editor will accept it. So, I think this insecurity might lessen, but will never go away.

      Heck, I’m looking forward to saying I knew me when. 😀

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      1. And how, how for pity’s sake, did I NOT remember to say CONGRATULATIONS to you?! I’m a buffoon!

        So congratulations! You’re going to be stellar! I can feel it! …or something. 🙂

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  8. Oh goodness, to be sick AND stressing about the submission? Your poor brain 😦

    But I think it is ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC that you have this opportunity and I am so so so so so excited for you, especially after the wave of defeat you suffered not too terribly long ago.

    GREAT JOB, LINDA! No matter how this ends, you captured her attention. If this doesn’t pan out immediately, it will again. Rest assured. One day, we’ll be able to read Brevity & so “OMG I LIKE SO TOTES BLOGGED WITH HER. L8R.”

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    1. Thank you, Melissa. It’s good for my self-confidence even if she passes.

      Okay, I know OMG and L8R, but I’ve seen “TOTES” three times this week and I need someone to tell me what it means. (OMG, I’m sooooo old!) 🙂

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  9. have I told you, Linda, that I sent the wrong copy of mt ms to an agent?
    Once I realized, I panicked, called her and she laughed – actually laughed! deleted it and I re-sent.
    At the same time Canada post lost the ms I sent to another agent in Toronto. And another requested exclusivity – demanded it actually, even though the others were already out. It was a mess mess mess. I was not represented by any of them, but the mess has nothing to do with it.
    don’t worry about these details – if she wants, she wants.
    good luck!

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer.

      No, I didn’t know about your “mess.” I do try to keep in mind that agents are human. 😀 (That’s one good thing about following some on Twitter.)

      Not worry about details? You realize you’re talking to a perfectionist, right? 😉

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  10. good luck 🙂 I think insecurity and the endless thought that you got something in the process wrong is so very normal. I once submitted a story, but failed to actually attach said story – something I typically double check. I triple check now 😉

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  11. To go back to the days of simlple written communication would be great. At least back in those days there was time to process information without having this constant sense of urgency.

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  12. I’ve never submitted anything, but I did the same thing Cassie did once when submitting a resume electronically – I forgot to attach the resume. I can honestly say that are few times in my life when I felt as foolish as I did when I realized that. I’m sure the e-mail you sent her was fine. Look at it this way… at least you had the courage and conviction in yourself to send it, as opposed to getting so nervous and worked up you decided to forget the whole thing.

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    1. True, Chibi, I could have just not replied. 🙂 Actually, I’ve read several agents question why some writers do ignore a request for a full. I suspect it’s usually because they queried before they finished the book. Anyway … flubs or no, there was no way I would pass up her request.

      Btw, congratulations on your astounding word count today. I’ve never come anywhere close to writing 6,500 words in one day.

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    1. I was only mildly stressed, Cathryn, no more than I usually am in any aspect of querying. I’m not stressed now. It could be a long wait to hear back from this agent, so I’ve pretty much put it out of my mind.

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  13. When I returned to college after many years away one of the things that became apparent was the inability for many to write properly.

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  14. I also had a fellow student complain that our teacher was teaching our class to much like college. All I wanted to say to her was this. Didn’t you read the sign of the side of the building?

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  15. Linda, that was hilarious. So glad you can see the lighter side. There’s nothing like a writer for getting tied up in knots about the littlest details.

    Good luck with the sub!

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  16. I still remember taking so long with my query, synopsis, and first fifty pages that when I sent it, along with my e-mail cover letter, I was so nervous I forgot to click spell check on the cover letter. It took hours later and a lot of courage to read that cover letter after the fact.

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