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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Info Post
by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Recently a friend sent off a manuscript to an agent and asked me how long she should wait before sending it out to other agents. Under normal circumstances, I would have said she could send out simultaneous queries, but this agent was a referral who had requested the entire manuscript so I counselled her to wait to give this agent a decent chance to respond. But, she asked, how long should I wait? 

Good question. How long should you wait to hear back from an agent before you start following up/move on/feel resigned to your fate?

I'm not sure I have the answer - all I can say is that, in my experience, authors are (by and large ) an impatient lot and agents are (by and large ) an extremely busy lot who can take their sweet time in getting back to you. So today's blog is about expectations as to agent responses (and I'd love to get some feedback from my fellow TKZers on what is a 'reasonable' response time). I think (as a pretty impatient author myself) it can be tricky knowing when to expect a response from agents, particularly when you are a debut author.

When I first sought out an agent I had no idea what to expect but, after I had some requests for partials following on from the SF Writer's conference, I sent out my material and waited. I had some responses within couple of weeks but the agent I eventually signed with took close to 6 weeks to respond. I even had one agent (the outlier!) who contacted me months later to ask if I had representation yet! (Then again, an editor did contact my agent a few weeks before my first novel was due to be released expressing interest in the manuscript so I wonder if their isn't an alternate form of time known as "publisher and agent time" out there in the ether!)

Obviously, if you haven't heard from an agent within what you think is an acceptable time period you should follow up with a professional email (no - "why have you not bothered to contact me, can't you tell my work is genius?!" emails please!). I think it's also perfectly fine to ask them for an estimated date that you could expect to hear back from them - though be aware, you may not still not receive any response.

So what do you think are reasonable time frames for an agent to respond to:

  1. An initial query letter; or
  2. A partial manuscript; or
  3. A full manuscript and (hopefully later on...any subsequent manuscripts you send!)

How long have you waited for an agent to respond?


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