Friday, October 2, 2015

Pay It Forward Friday!

Hello, writer friends! Today I'm doing my FIRST Pay It Forward Friday post, which will take place on the first Friday of each month. It's my way of giving back to the writing community. I've certainly received my fair share of help over the years, and it feels good to reciprocate.

Clearly I'm not an agent or publisher, but I've been in literary circles for the past five years or so, and have gathered quite a bit of knowledge about query letters and such. There are many different opinions out there on how to write a good query letter and proper etiquette and whatnot, so these posts will represent my opinions on the matter. Always do your own research (see my blog sidebar for some of my favorite query resources).

SO! Disclaimers out of the way, let's proceed to today's topic. I didn't have any sacrificial query letter lambs placed on my editing alter (promise I'll be nice if you want me to help with one!), but I did get a good query letter question on Twitter:

What is the proper way to submit requested materials, and when/how should you follow up if you've submitted them?

Part one first: how to submit requested materials.

1) SQUEE! You got a request!!! Be super proud. That means your query letter is great, or at a minimum, your concept rocks. Maybe both!!

2) Settle down BEFORE sending. Don't send when you're still high as a kite on agent request pixie dust. You might miss something and then you're not off to a good start.

3) Once you've returned to a reasonably calm and logical state, read the agent's instructions very carefully. Then read them again several times. You want to send EXACTLY what they've asked for, how they've asked for it. No more, no less. They want a two page synopsis and yours is five? Trim it. They want a .DOC file? That's what you're gonna need to send them. A bio written in purple ink from the blood of a unicorn? Grab a lasso and a virgin and get huntin'.**

4) After any tweaks to your query arsenal are made, hit reply. Unless the agent has provided specific instructions for what to put in the subject line of the email, change the subject line by adding 'REQUESTED MATERIAL' to whatever the original subject line was. Yes, in all caps. I usually would title the subject line of my initial query 'Query: Title', so it will end up looking something like this:

Re: Query: Huntress Found - REQUESTED MATERIAL

5) In the body of the email, say something simple like:

Mr./Ms. _____,

Thank you for your interest in Title of Book. As requested, I've attached [list whatever it is they asked for]. Please let me know if you need anything else.


Your Full Name

6) Attach everything they've asked for VERY carefully. Check this several times in an OCD manner. Check your subject line. Check the spelling of the agent's name. Check for typos in the body of your email.

7) Hit send!

8) Go celebrate. You are a badass!! You not only wrote something that caught an agent's eye, but you were brave enough to put yourself out there and follow through.

Now for part two of the question - following up with an agent if needed. Agents are BUSY, dudes. It often takes them three to six MONTHS to read a full manuscript. Don't follow up with them before the length of time they say it usually takes them to respond. And don't follow up with them the day that timeline expires. Some people may disagree with me on that, but hey. No one likes to be reminded they're behind on stuff. I say pad on a couple weeks and then follow up. If the agent hasn't stated a timeline for response, three months is safe. And remember, this is only for requested material. If they never requested anything, you probably shouldn't follow up. A lot of agents these days have a 'no response means no' policy. Now, if they said they respond to all queries and didn't, just resubmit after the window of times elapses. One of my good writing friends got her agent this way. Who knows what happened to the first query!

Proper etiquette on a follow up is pretty simple:

1) Reply back to your email sending the requested materials, so they can easily scroll down and remember what book they're dealing with and how polite and professional you were when you sent them exactly the materials they wanted. Keep it short, sweet and professional, as such:

Ms./Mr. _____,

I wanted to follow up on Title of Book and see if you are still interested. I appreciate your time, and thank you again for your interest in my manuscript.


Alexia Chamberlynn

2) Obsessively check for typos as you did originally.

3) Hit send!

Now, if they don't respond, don't follow up again. If they do, awesome! I followed up with my agent a couple times, and she responded very promptly, giving me an update on where I was in her TBR pile. This was not only encouraging, but assured me of her communication skills and professionalism. And it all worked out in the end!

So, that's my two cents on sending requested materials and follow ups. Hope it was helpful! If you have other questions or ideas for future Pay It Forward posts, let me know in the comments below.

Good luck with your queries!

**No unicorns were harmed in the writing of this blog post. Or virgins.


  1. Great advice, Alexia! I'd also heard that including your book description in the reply email was a good thing - you know to refresh their memory on why they requested additional words in the first place. But mileage with that may vary. Lord knows, I'm not an expert on any of that stuff.

  2. Very smart to wait until you are calm. Besides, you want time to read over your reply and make sure you did it right.


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