Dealing with writers, I notice they generally fall into two camps:
1. The ones that follow up too quickly
2. And the ones that don’t follow up at all.
Dealing first with 2), it’s your RIGHT to follow up submissions and queries. What’s more, you may MISS OUT on opportunities if you don’t. Emails, tweets, phone calls and submissions DO fall by the wayside. Contrary to popular belief, agents, producers, script editors etc are NOT waiting for you to contact them … They have work to be getting on with, so things get forgotten, even if they HAVE solicited contact or your script or novel. So make sure you follow up!
Going back to 1) then, first up: good for you, realising you have to follow up on queries on submissions. Secondly, CALM DOWN! Yes, an agent, producer, script editor or whatever MAY have solicited your work or your contact, but please remember that whilst it might be the most important thing for YOU, they are most likely not waiting by the phone/computer/letterbox for it, their existing clients or work comes first. Just a reality, I’m afraid!
But when is the “right” time for following up? Well as with all things, this is open to interpretation, but I’ve done the following and received no death threats in return, so I think it’s an okay strategy … Ready? Here you go:
Great news! Your script or novel has been requested by someone or you’ve found an open call … Bad news: you’ve heard nothing yet. When you follow up depends on how you’ve submitted and to what. Here’s my thoughts on the subject:
You’ve submitted via snail mail (no deadline). Wait eight to twelve weeks after your submission. That’s right! Eight to twelve, preferably closer to the twelve, since they’ve probably got PILES AND PILES to get through. If you haven’t heard after this date, no one minds a short, polite email “enquiring as to the progress” of your submission.
You’ve submitted via email (no deadline). This depends who you’re sending to. If an agent or producer, about six-eight weeks is fine. If a FAVOUR, leave it with whomever you’ve sent it to, to get back to you with a date that’s suitable for them – ‘tis only fair!
You’ve submitted via snail mail or PDF (deadline). Many schemes and contests will let you know they’ve received your entry safely, either via email or by sending back the stamped self addressed postcard you’re clever enough to send WITH your entry. After that, usually contests and schemes will make an announcement online and if you DON’T hear individually, you haven’t placed or won. Some good contests let EVERY entrant know, though sadly they’re in the minority. Generally the turnaround of contests and schemes are anything from 2-16 weeks.
Yes, if people list their phone numbers in The Writer’s And Artist’s Yearbook or on their Facebook pages, it’s perfectly acceptable to call them to follow up work. Make a phone script if you’re nervous. Just remember:
1) Mondays are usually a bust for bigger companies, so avoid this day as they will be very busy – mid week may be better
2) NEVER call individual’s mobiles after 7pm or on weekends
Also, DO remember there are busier and more lax periods in the calendar: agents are maxxed out thanks to book fairs in April, for example. Make sure you know when these uber-busy periods are, it’s very easy to find out with the internet.
General emails. In the past, email responses were a lot slower; generally you could send one and not get a response for up to two weeks and that was considered a “normal” turnaround. Nowadays, thanks to social media and the generally higher traffic of emails, email turnaround I would venture is more like up to 5 working days, with emails *after* this point considered “lost”. So follow up general emails after 5 days if no response.
Asking someone to do something for you. If asking a favour and that person replies to you saying they will do it, DON’T follow up right away – ie. hours later or the next day, it’s really annoying. Give that person time enough to get it done but not SO much time they forget all about it. If your favour has not been done in ten working days, a polite reminder is enough.
Query emails/Pitches. Sending queries/pitches via email asking people to read your script or novel is a great way of getting your work solicited. However, it’s really annoying if you BADGER people to read your work as it sends the wrong impression. If you don’t get a response to your query email in 14-21 working days, send another. If you still don’t get a reply – leave it. Similarly, if the agent/producer or person in question declines your query, don’t send another immediately, wait a while … 8-12 weeks at least.
Twitter is a great place to “e-meet” the people you admire and/or want to work with. However it’s VERY easy to give agents, producers and other writers the wrong impression.
Pitches. NEVER pitch anyone via Twitter, especially agents. It’s considered bad netiquette.
@ replies. Answering people you want to work with is far better than trying to start a dialogue randomly with them. So next time an agent, producer or other writer asks Twitter a question and you can answer, answer it. Let the conversation build naturally, don’t force it. Sometimes people will reply, sometimes they won’t.
RTing praise for your work. This is fine, but just don’t overdo it. And NEVER send these RTs to people you want to work with in the hope this will make them notice you!
Spamming. There’s a subtle difference between building a following for your blog, site, etc and spamming. Make sure you know what it is.
Do you have a different strategy or have a story about a REALLY EMBARRASSING follow up? I’ll never forget the time I called a producer to ask about the progress of my submission, it was going really well until the END of the phone call where I accidentally said “love you” as I was ringing off … AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGH!