An agent has opened the door to conversation. Now what?

King QuoteThe moment has come, an agent has requested and read your full manuscript and while it wasn’t an offer the agent has provided editorial notes and opened the door to seeing a rewrite or future work.

Great news! You’ve caught someone’s eye, and even though it wasn’t what you wanted (i.e. ‘the call’) it’s a step in the right direction.

What are the rules of agent communication and unsigned authors?

Get in touch only when it’s appropriate

Now that the door is open it’s not your chance to bombard us with emails, questions and more. Don’t be the author that latches on and doesn’t let go. Agents will see this as a red flag for future correspondence and will lessen your chances of getting signed by them. When your revisions are done, you have received an offer of representation for the project they are waiting on from you, or your next project is ready–then it’s time. Whatever guidelines the agent left for getting back in touch (i.e. revisions or next project) follow those closely.

Reply to the email that opens the door

If an extensive edit letter is provided confirm that you received it. Agents want to know that their extra time and efforts are being seen by you and considered. If we don’t get a response we’ll think that you have moved on or don’t agree with our edit notes. This is another instance where we see the communication style of an author and whether we jive with it.

We do get a lot of submissions, but we also have a good memory

You don’t need to keep checking in to update us, we do have a good memory for manuscripts we provided lengthy notes for. When you are getting in touch again remind us of your book, the title (the title it was at the time and if there is a new one now) and the hook of your pitch so it jogs our memory.

We say what we mean; if we ask to see a revision or future work we mean it

We don’t tell everyone to send us revisions, if we did that would double our workload. We reserve that phrase for manuscripts and writers that we truly are interested in seeing more from. So when you’ve taken the time to revise, or deem your next project ready to query please do get back in touch. So take your time and show us why you were worth the wait.


Sometimes the revise and resubmit process works and we sign authors from it (I know I have!). But sometimes, it’s a sign that it wasn’t mean to be. A good way to tell is how well you connect with the agent’s editorial notes. Are you on the same page? Do you like the agent’s communication style? You’ll know what feels right and whether opening the door with an agent is worth pursing.

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

12 thoughts on “An agent has opened the door to conversation. Now what?

  1. This is exactly what I needed to read today. This just happened to me, very recently, and as “dumb” as this may sound, I wondered if it might be just a nice way of saying no. It was a no for a partial, but a request for a different work. Guess what I need to do? Get over to my email and prepare that “different work” for submission.
    Thank you for this blog post. It encouraged me:)


  2. It might also be worth mentioning that some agents ask for a revise and resub as a standard for signing a new client–particularly a debut author. I know several agents who ask for a resub with every project that they want to sign simply to see if the author is in fact capable to revising and taking editorial suggestions.

    Editing is a huge part of the publishing process and like anything else, it’s a skill. And like any skill, it takes practice. It’s not always easy to make changes to a finished manuscript and have them flow fluidly with the story, even when you as the author agree with the changes being made. (And it’s even harder when you don’t agree.) Revisions are a huge part of the biz and sometimes agents want to know that you can make them before signing with you.


  3. I appreciate the advice, thank you… and Jen’s added explanation. Sometimes a door gently closed can be perceived as a door locked when it’s not.


  4. When I have had an agent review my material, and then they decline representation, I am always very polite and thank them for their time and consideration. They may not want to represent me, but I am still appreciative that they took the time to review my work.


  5. Lots of great points here! I think it’s especially hard when you’re fresh to the publishing scene and dream of receiving that ‘call’, as you called it. But even receiving editorial notes or a request for a future project is definitely a step forward for any debut author.

    Thanks for sharing!


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