Querying writers hate this, but we all have to do it at some point.
What is nudging?
Nudging is the gentle reminders you send to agents and/or editors who have not yet responded to your work.
(Note: you might be submitting to agents or editors or both. From here on out, I'm going to use "agents" as a general term, just to simplify this blog post)
Nudging is a normal part of the business, and you should not feel embarrassed to do it when necessary. You're not being rude, you're being thorough.
Agents are swamped with queries, and it is entirely possible that yours just fell through the cracks. Email is still not perfect, and sometimes outgoing messages get caught in spam filters or stuck in some firewall settings somewhere. You deserve to have an answer, if one was promised, and these glitches shouldn't be held against you (or the agent in question, either).
When should I nudge?
After an agent's stated turnaround time has passed, but only if they say that they respond to every query.
A nice - though not technically necessary, I guess - step to take would be to check that agent's social media. Just a quick glance, see if they give a reason for being behind. I've seen agents pin a tweet to the top of their profile, stating that they're out on paternity leave, bereavement, or other personal leave and have fallen far behind on queries as a result.
If an agent does not give a response time, twelve weeks is a good rule of thumb. You can nudge after twelve weeks, unless one of the No Nudge situations is happening (keep reading).
If an agent has your partial or full manuscript, feel free to gently nudge after six months. And then again every three months after that.
"Hello, I'm checking in on the status of my manuscript. I sent it back on <date> - do you have an estimate on when you'll have an answer for me? Thank you!"
Gentle, polite, and directly to the point.
No need to couch it with "I'm really sorry" or "I'm just checking in". This is a professional interaction, and you don't need to grovel or justify your presence in their inbox.
If you get an offer!
Nudge, nudge, nudge, nudge!
Every agent who has your query deserves a chance to offer on your work, if they want to.
If an agent uses QueryManager, click on their link and there will be a button telling you how to proceed if you have received an offer elsewhere.
(note: many agents will simply step aside with this nudge, don't take it personally, it just means they don't have time to drop everything and read your manuscript before your deadline)
Any agent who has your query and has had it for less than their turnaround time can be nudged. Any agent with a partial or full manuscript who has not yet explicitly rejected that manuscript should be nudged. Give your deadline (1-2 weeks is normal).
When should I NOT be nudging?
If an agent says, "No response means no," then their lack of response is your answer. Don't nudge.
If an agent uses QueryManager, don't nudge. Nudging pushes you to the back of the queue.
If the turnaround time has not passed, do not nudge. You're just spamming up the inbox and are more likely to get yourself blocked.
Remember: Be professional. That's the key here. Pay attention to submission guidelines, keep your emails brief and professional, and only nudge when necessary.