For a while I’ve thought that one of the lamest moves a writer — or anyone — can make is to send a follow-up e-mail to “make sure” someone (an editor, for example) received a previous letter or e-mail. It’s a move that carries a whiff of desperation: “If they didn’t respond to that one, maybe they’ll respond to this one.”

Yesterday, I sent just such an e-mail (cloaked as an “update”), and boy, am I glad I did. In mid-May I’d queried an agent regarding various of my manuscripts — six or seven in all — and as the months passed, I stewed over the lack of response. I’d mailed the query, along with a synopsis and chapter outline for my novel, but I deliberately did not send an SASE, so as to encourage a response via e-mail. Finally, yesterday, quite suddenly, I decided it was time to follow up.

By mid-day, I’d heard back from this agent. Not only had she received my query, etc., but she had already replied. She’d replied in mid-June with an e-mail — just as I’d hoped — inviting me to send her every manuscript I’d mentioned in my query. For whatever reason, I never got that e-mail.

And it’s not as if it’s the first time this has happened. A couple of years ago, I’d e-mailed a Big-Name Editor with a picture book biography manuscript (not The Day-Glo Brothers), on the recommendation of one of her published authors. Months went by, and I heard nothing. Finally, I went for the “just making sure” gambit and heard quickly from this Big-Name Editor that she’d mailed a request for a rewrite — along with two recently published picture-book biographies to serve as guideposts — a few months earlier. Her package had never arrived.

In that case, the Big-Name Editor resent the books, I rewrote my manuscript three times, and in the end, nothing came of our efforts. But the relationship and the improved manuscript that resulted from my following up on that original e-mail sure made up for any self-perceived lameness for following up.

The other day Jane Yolen touched on the frustration of not having other professionals in this business reply to calls, letters, and e-mails in a timely fashion. It’s worth remembering that the postal service or its online and even voice-mail equivalents may possibly be at fault, and that any editor or agent who would spurn you just because you followed up on a previous missive is probably not someone you’d want to work with, anyway.