What Keeps You from Following Up?

You’ve been to a conference, probably at great expense and some trouble. You’ve met a few agents and editors. And you probably got at least a couple of requests to follow up with a manuscript.

Now you’re home. And it’s time to follow up.

Will you?

If not, why not?

Fear

Fear is a natural emotion. In fact, if you don’t feel any fear, maybe it’s time to be scared. Or at least, worried. When you release a work of art into the world, you’re putting yourself out there to be criticized. Or worse, praised. Can you handle both of these reactions? Because you’re likely to be both celebrated and disparaged. Remember, the Lord is with you no matter what. Once you know your work is ready, take a deep breath and press SEND.

Remorse

Your dream agent wasn’t at this conference so you visited with a different agent who seemed excited about your work. Or your dream agent wasn’t available and you talked with someone else. Or your dream agent and you didn’t click with this project. Or…for whatever reason, you didn’t come back from conference with a request from your dream agent. But you came back with a request from one or maybe even two other agents. Your choice? You can work up another project that might attract your dream agent, or go with your current project that can seal the deal with another agent. Only you can decide if the project itself is more important, or if the agent is more important. Do pray about your decision. It is not one to be taken lightly.

Uncertainty

At conference, writers often receive conflicting advice from other writers, agents, and editors. One may say, “Make the manuscript more romantic,” while another says, “Needs more adventure and a three-legged dog.” This is especially troubling because this conflicting advice is coming from experienced professionals. But remember, each professional is advising from her own perch. As an agent, I’m advising from the perspective regarding what type of story I think I can sell to any number of editors at top drawer publishing houses. An editor is advising from what will work for his publishing house and isn’t thinking about what will work for another line at another house. A writer will usually be focusing on pure story and craft. It is your job to take this advice and decide what market you want to target with your unique story, what group of readers you want to pursue, and which team of publishing professionals can take you to publishing success. The conference can help you discern this by giving you a chance to visit with us. Our enthusiasm about your work should help you overcome uncertainty. Please follow up with us.

Your turn:

Have you ever returned from a conference and not followed up on a request? Why?

Can you think of other reasons not to follow up?

What conferences do you plan to attend this year?

What is your favorite conference?

26 Responses to What Keeps You from Following Up?

  1. Avatar
    Michael January 14, 2016 at 4:02 am #

    Mrs Murray, thank you very much for this post!
    As much as I’d love to attend conferences, geographical location isn’t making that visible for now (I live in Nigeria).
    I would like to ask a question though. Can a writer secure a contract through email correspondence without having met the agent/editor?

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 14, 2016 at 7:18 am #

      Yes, Michael, it is entirely possible to secure a contract through email correspondence without having met the agent. After all, the likelihood of most readers meeting an author in person is slim. So your work speaks for yourself regardless. Just keep putting forth your best effort and keep submitting. Also, I do recommend making sure you have an unbeatable social media presence to help overcome the geographic obstacle.

  2. Avatar
    Jackie Layton January 14, 2016 at 4:12 am #

    Fear and uncertainty are huge reasons not to follow up. One time I didn’t follow up with an agent who never made eye contact at our brief meeting. I figured they were bored and rushed the end of my presentation. At that point they asked for the full manuscript. I walked out completely confused and uncertain.

    I originally planned to attend two or three conferences this year, but my son proposed to his girlfriend and the wedding will throw off my vacation days. But that’s okay because we are so excited they are getting married. I did ask them not to pick the weekend of ACFW conference, so I’m going to that.

    Thanks for encouraging us to follow up.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 14, 2016 at 7:22 am #

      Jackie, congratulations on such a happy family event!

      I’m sorry you felt uncomfortable with the agent, but perhaps the agent was not feeling well, shy, or nervous. I don’t know, but I’m glad you shared this because it’s a reminder to us agents that we need to stay on our toes with authors, too. Conferences are a two-way interview. The author needs to feel good about us or she may not follow up.

      That said, I’m glad we’ve connected and I hope to see you at ACFW this year!

      • Avatar
        Jackie Layton January 14, 2016 at 8:34 am #

        Thanks!

        I did wonder if the agent had received bad news from home or was sick. We can’t always be up. But I think I questioned the interview so much, and felt so uncertain, I just couldn’t submit.

        I’ll be sure to look for you at ACFW this year.

  3. Avatar
    Robin Bayne January 14, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    I’ve followed up on every request– probably too quickly! It’s exciting to get a request.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 14, 2016 at 8:41 am #

      Robin, it’s never too quick. I’ve received follow-up emails while still at conference!

      • Avatar
        Robin Bayne January 14, 2016 at 9:28 am #

        Really? Wow!

        • Avatar
          Tamela Hancock Murray January 14, 2016 at 9:32 am #

          Hey, if it’s ready, go for it! I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with several months later. I’ve even received follow-up submissions years later. I’m fine with any time. Whenever it’s ready. Publishers are always publishing. God’s timing is best.

  4. Avatar
    Carol Ashby January 14, 2016 at 9:00 am #

    I haven’t attended a conference yet, so I haven’t had the chance to be nonresponsive to a request. I am planning to attend two conferences in Colorado this year: Write in the Springs (Colorado Springs ACFW) and Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I’ve always loved meeting people in person at professional conferences. Some became good friends. For me, the hardest part of leaving a research field or retiring is losing regular contact with the friends I’ve made. I’m very excited by the possibility of meeting some of the folks I feel I know somewhat from here.

    I try not to even allow procrastination due to negative emotions in my playbook. I used to get on my kids’ cases for doing it. I always told them nothing ever gets easier by waiting. It’s usually scarier contemplating something you have to do than actually doing it. I also used to tell them to try even if they are afraid they might fail. If you don’t try, you’ve failed already. If you do try, you might succeed beyond your wildest wishes.

  5. Avatar
    Christine Henderson January 14, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    I think the biggest reasons someone does not follow-up with someone they met at a conference is fear of rejection and insecurity about their writing. However, that defeats the purpose of attending the meeting in the first place — which is to network and learn.

    Each time I’ve attended a conference, I have followed up with people I’ve met when the editor or agent covers the genre where I want to submit. To me this is imperative as many of these individuals will not accept unsolicited manuscripts otherwise.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 14, 2016 at 9:33 am #

      Christine, yes, you bring up a good point. Some agents cull submissions this way. I still accept submissions unsolicited through email, however.

  6. Avatar
    Tammy Fish January 14, 2016 at 10:48 am #

    I’ve only attended one conference so far, but I followed up with my manuscript quickly. Where I struggle is finding the courage to send out query letters. It seems fruitless. Why? Blogs proclaiming the necessity of platforms; seminar statistics on followers, not just some, but 10,000-100,000; agents requiring manuscripts upwards of 100,000 words. I sigh and upload the book on Smashwords. I know, I gave up too quickly, but honestly, I read the blogs, never at The Steve Laube Agency :), chiding would -be authors for not using due diligence in the process, so if I know I have a measly 73 followers….why send the query? Anyone feel like me?

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 14, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

      Tammy, I’m sure people feel like you, but only celebrity kids are born with a platform. Keep at it!

  7. Avatar
    Linda Riggs Mayfield January 14, 2016 at 11:28 am #

    Tamela, This is going to be too long, but I pitched two very different books–one historical fiction, one a Bible study, at my first conference last spring and came home with seven invitations to submit formal proposals. I delayed following up on some and did not follow up at all on others for different reasons.

    There I learned that my chapters in one book were about twice as long as they should have been for popular preferences, so I took 6-8 weeks and rewrote that book with shorter chapters, then submitted the proposals to two agents, including one who had been VERY enthusiastic. I never heard from either one. Another agent from one of those agencies told me six weeks was too long to still be remembered–contact should be made within a week, which doesn’t match what you said. Sigh.

    After waiting the 90 days and 60 days to hear from the agents, I submitted a proposal for that book to a publisher and received a response the very next day. After the in-house review process, they declined on that book due to the controversial theme, but invited me to submit a proposal for another book. I haven’t done that yet because my computer crashed after I wrote it, and I haven’t found the backup flash drive for it yet. (I do have a print copy, and now have multiple backups for anything I write!) Lame reason for no follow-up?

    I did not submit a proposal to another agent who invited me to because the agency’s web site had so many errors on it I would have been embarrassed for people to find me there. If the agency doesn’t attend to the details of its public image on its own site, would it attend to the details of mine? (Is that arrogant?)

    I have not submitted any proposals for the Bible study I wrote and had already taught because all three publishers who expressed interest wanted me to merge all the components–12 PowerPoint presentations, workbooks, teacher’s manual, handouts, into one book, which didn’t make any sense to me. Not sure I’ll ever do that, with no promise of a sale. It would be a huge amount of work to change something I know worked the way I developed it, and I don’t have the vision of how it would work in one gigantic book.

    I’d love your feedback on the approaches I took!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 14, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

      Linda, the agent’s comment about the 6-8 week delay shows that opinions differ! But the agent may also have meant that a follow-up email saying you’d be sending the manuscript would have sufficed. So in the future, you might want to do so to alert the agent you do intend to follow up. This is helpful. I might talk to 30 people at a conference. If I know whether to expect 5 or 25 to follow up, that gives me a heads up.

      I would definitely let the second agent know that you need to retype the second manuscript.

      As for the terrible web site? No, you are not arrogant for deciding not to pursue the third agency, although your individual agent might be stellar and probably has nothing to do with the web site. The agent may be just as frustrated as you are with the site. However if you talked to the CEO, that’s another matter. When you are thinking about booking conference appointments in the future, you might want to visit agency sites first. 🙂

      As for the Bible study, no need to make changes that don’t work for you, especially if you have another project to sell.

      Hope this helps!

      • Avatar
        Linda Riggs Mayfield January 15, 2016 at 10:37 am #

        I targeted certain agents, agencies, and publishers before I went to the conference and studied their web pages and sites, other authors they represented, etc.; but once there, I took every serendipitous opportunity to engage any other agent or rep that appeared to be free at the time. That’s how I met the one with the iffy web site. Your Reply definitely helped! Next time I’ll check out everyone who is listed as coming that represents or publishes my kind of writing, so I can make an informed decision about dropping in on them if they appear to be alone for one of those 15-minute slots. 🙂 Thanks!

  8. Avatar
    Ginger January 14, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

    Maybe in the beginning of my writing career, I was too embarrassed to actually send my work to agents and editors. No one likes rejection, especially on something that has taken loads of time and caused countless tears.

    Despite my desire to have an agent and publish traditionally, I do not plan to request meetings with one at either of the conferences I hope to attend this year (one of which is ACFW).

    Why?

    Because in the last few years, I have sat in front of three different agents, from three different, well-known agencies (not this one), and had my novels requested. I sent in my stories–two in a timely manner, the third nearly a year later (because of a requested rewrite). Neither bothered to respond, even after polite follow-up e-mails approximately three months after submission.

    It’s not even worth it to me to bother with the anxiety, preparation, and angst while waiting.

    I lost all respect for all three agents and their corresponding agencies, sadly.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 14, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

      Ginger, the passive “no” is a tool that some agents and editors use for many reasons. It’s nice when they don’t, especially when they’ve met and interacted with the author. However, when an agent has met and genuinely liked the author, saying no can feel even harder than writing a rejection to someone who sends an unsolicited query. I’m sorry you had this experience. However, I suggest you try agents again. When we want a story, we do respond. Pinky swear!

  9. Avatar
    Terri Weldon January 14, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

    Definitely fear. Worried the agent won’t like the proposal.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 20, 2016 at 10:11 am #

      Terri, I didn’t realize I hadn’t responded to you, so I’m sorry to be tardy. It’s true the agent may not connect with the project you pitched, but a rejection may open doors to talking more since you have established a conversation with the agent. Or, the agent may love it! Either way, I suggest sticking with it and following up.

  10. Avatar
    Loretta January 14, 2016 at 6:38 pm #

    I attended a conference, my first, two years ago. I was invited by a publisher to submit a manuscript with minor edits suggested. First I was thrilled. As the conference went on I grew more panicked because I had no platform and no clue on how to build one. (It was a non-fiction work).
    Ultimately, I decided that even if I did manage to build a platform this was not a niche I would relish long term. I never sent the proposal. I feel kind of guilty that I blew the opportunity, but I just think I was too green and not ready. I have more of a peace about it now, a better thought about platform building and am thinking I might be ready to try again.

  11. Avatar
    Tamela Hancock Murray January 20, 2016 at 10:12 am #

    Loretta, I didn’t realize I hadn’t responded to you, so my apologies for the delay. I think you should try again, showing the interested agent that you have used this time to develop a platform. Better to be later with a stronger proposal than too soon with one that’s not ready. All best to you!

  12. Avatar
    Loretta January 21, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

    Tamela, thank you for your encouragement! I will take your advise. My fear was that my delay was a deal killer! Good to know its possible that is not the case.

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