How Long Should a Writer Wait for an Answer?

The “Your Questions Answered” Series


How long should a writer wait after sending an agent a query email, bio, and book synopsis? Two weeks ago I sent these to an agent who was recommended to me. So how long do I wait and/or what should I do next?

First, look on the agent’s website for guidelines. If the agency includes guidance regarding response times, they’ll run the gamut from something like “It takes us two months” to “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Well, not really; but they’ll say that they’ll contact you if they are interested. For an applicable, cool video and music earwig, press here.  You’re welcome.

If the agency offers no response as a rejection, which I refer to as a passive no, then there’s not much you can do except to accept their lack of a reaction as a decline. I’d give them at least two months to fish or cut bait.

As for agents who try to respond to all queries, which we attempt to do here at our agency, please give us a month before following up. I started to say, “six weeks to two months”; but that’s a long time to wait if your submission simply got lost in cyberspace. And sometimes that does happen. If then we respond to ask for more time, the clock does not start ticking again. In other words, asking us doesn’t put you at the bottom of the pile, where you will have to wait another two months. I try to get back quickly to authors who send me a nudge. I wish I could say, “Within 48 hours,” or some such magical number.

However, sometimes I’ll hold onto a submission I like while I study how the market is moving at that particular point in time. The study can take time. But as an author, you have a right to sign with an agent who moves faster. If you want to work with us, however, we’d appreciate a heads up before you sign on the dotted line with someone else. When another agent moves faster than I do, I make a point of getting back to the author within a few days since another agent is waiting.

Your turn:

What is the longest time you’ve waited to hear from an agent or editor? The shortest?

What words of encouragement can you offer to authors who are waiting?

For the entire series click here: “Your Questions Answered”

Leave a Comment

The Best Ways to Submit Your Work

I started writing for publication back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The process was fairly simple then, if unpromising of success. I wrote a query, article, or book proposal, put it into an envelope along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) for its return, sealed it, and mailed it. And …

Read More

Is It Ready to Submit?

You’ve poured out your soul. You’ve written your heart out. You’ve struggled and sweated over how to say what you want to say. You’ve paced the floor, clicked your heels, and now you think maybe it’s ready to submit. But how do you know? Good question. “Good question” usually means …

Read More

Who’s Your Book For?

A critical part of writing a good book—and a good pitch or proposal for a book—is defining your book’s audience. We all know, of course, that you shouldn’t try to write a book “for everyone.” But your book’s audience can be an elusive target. I suggest three distinct and mutually …

Read More

What Caught My Eye

Last week we talked about the hook, the sound bite, or the ability to “say it in a sentence.” One reader asked for examples so I thought I’d give you a few.

Below are the short pitches of proposals that have caught my eye over the years from debut authors. Please realize that the sound bite is only one of many factors that goes into a great proposal. Ultimately it is the execution of the concept that makes for a great book. For example, The Help by Kathryn Stockett would not have succeeded as a word-of-mouth bestseller if the writing did not support the story. (No, we did not represent that title, I’m only trying to make a point. :-))

Your challenge will be to see if you can identify which books these sound bites are pitching. Each one has been published. One is obviously non-fiction, the other two are novels. The answers to each of these will be provided later this week in the comments section. along with a link to the title so you can see it in its final form.

Read More

Write Like Paul

Somerset Maugham wrote, “There is an impression abroad that everyone has it in him to write one book; but if by this is implied a good book the impression is false” (The Summing Up). Far be it from me to add to Maugham’s words, but I’m going to. So I …

Read More

Say It in a Sentence

Can you present your book idea in one sentence?

Can you present that idea in such a way that the reader is compelled to buy your book?

What motivates someone to spend money on a book? It is the promise that there is something of benefit to me, the reader.

Books are generally purchased for one of three reasons:

Entertainment Information Inspiration

If your book idea can make me want to read it, whether it is for entertainment, information, or inspiration, then you are well on your way to making a sale.

Read More

First Lines in Fiction

The opening words of your novel may be all a prospective buyer will read before making their purchasing decision. Are yours an opening salvo; an opening punch; or an opening sigh, easily dismissed? They will also be the first words an agent or an editor reads when they see the …

Read More