Friday, November 07, 2008

Response Times Based on Length

Dear Rejecter,

I sent out queries to 5 agencies on 10/10. I got a request for a full MS on 10/20 (which I was able to email the next day). How long does it usually take to get a response, either positive or negative? I write middle grade fiction and it was approximately 43,000 words long - so a relatively quick read for an adult.

I realize that even requested material has to stand in line & the agent probably has dozens upon dozens of other manuscripts to look through, but I thought that you folks could make a pretty quick negative decision based on the first few pages.

Should I take it as a good sign that I haven't yet received a rejection? Or, should I send an email to the assistant who requested my manuscript and ask how things are going & whether or not they've had a chance to look over my MS?

Just wondering.

I think most people would agree that you probably have solid material there for such a high hit rate and you should not be worried. Nervous, but not worried. Sounds like you're going to get an agent unless your query was horribly misleading.

As to response times, they vary not based on the length of the book but when we get around to reading partials. Yes, we can sometimes reject after 5 pages, but most of the time a partial was requested for a reason and unless the prose is absolutely hideous, we will read until we see a reason to stop (or if you're paid hourly, you will read the whole thing). So if there's been no response, it's because the agent hasn't gotten to it yet. Length is not a huge issue, unless it was 700 pages. Then they might put it off until all the minor stuff was done.


About Me said...

Author, you're very luck to get a full request... I agree that you shouldn't be worried, happy, yes, and nervous, definitely. You must have gem in your hands, based on the success rate you're having. Best of luck.

AndieJ said...

Thanks for the votes of confidence & encouraging words. I'm trying to be as patient as possible. I'm working on a new MS at the moment so I'm not obsessing. :)

I was just curious as to when it might be appropriate to check back with the agent. If I haven't heard anything at all after a month or two should I email? Or, do you think it might take longer than that to get a response?

I certainly don't want to seem pushy. I can easily occupy my time with my current project and a few others that are on the back-burner.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you should worry yet :)

Obviously I can't opine on agents in general, but one to whom I recently sent a partial MS noted in her request that she might take up to 3 months to read it and get back to me; another turned the partial around in a few weeks, I think, but has now had the full for ... a while ;) I think in general publishing time lines are longer than one would think from outside.

Congrats and all the best! :)

Anonymous said...

To answer the question, it is way too early to consider contacting the agency. I know you're eager, but give it 3 months.

Also, speaking from experience, it's way more exciting for an agency to ask for a full AFTER they have asked for and read the partial. That means they're really interested. I had some agencies ask me for a full based on the query but ended up passing. I much preferred the agencies who asked for 3 chapters, read and liked them, and THEN asked for the full. Much more promising, and much less wasted paper and postage.

I'm surprised the Rejecter was so upbeat about this one...and I don't mean to be a downer...but I sent out 50 queries. I got roughly 35 requests for partials. Of those, I got about 10 requests for fulls. An amazing hit list! But I did not get an agent from that book. People always tell you that it's hard to get published and get an agent, and it is -- even if agencies legitimately are interested in your work!

Again, I don't mean to be a downer. Maybe there was a part to the question we didn't get to see, because I don't see how a request from a full based on a query is reason to assume the writer will end up with an agent. I hope you DO end up with an agent, and I hope they get back to you quickly. I'm just being realistic.

Anonymous said...

If you reaaaaaly want to know how long the agent is going to take to review your partial/full, then pay the $25 to join and sort the advanced reports based on partial/full response times.

That'll give you a window, or at least prepare you if they tend to read pages at a glacial pace.

Kristi Holl said...

I would recommend patience and not calling anyone yet. Even when you have an agent, it can take them a couple weeks to read the stuff you send to them. They're busy, like all of us. It's good that you're busy on the next ms.
Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid blog

The Rejecter said...

3 months on a partial or full is pretty solid, in terms of when to check in.

The Rejecter said...


Please do not link to your blog in your comments. Blanket policy for this site. Thank you.

AndieJ said...

Thanks for all of the honest & helpful feedback. I'm trying to remain upbeat about the waiting game. I know that a lot of people would probably be hitting hard and heavy on the querying even with an agent looking over a MS, but I'm new to this so I'd sort of like some kind of feedback from an agent (any kind of feedback, even if it's a form letter) after having actually looked over the MS.

I've never querried before. I know that all writers think that their writing is good (at least, if you're sending out queries you must think it has some merit). I'd like to hear something from a professional before I go nuts on the querying. That way if it seems that something needs to be tweaked, I can do that before trying again.

So far as wasted paper & postage, I haven't spent a dime on either yet. Thankfully, most agents are now accepting (and even prefer) email queries. And, the agent's assistant that requested my full asked for it as a word document attachment, so again, not even a dime spent on ink or paper.

This is really the only reason that I finally broke down & decided to query to find representation. "I" think my work is pretty darned good, but that doesn't mean that any professionals will. I feel better about having the opportunity to find out without spending a fortune in the process.

Anonymous said...

I also don't want to be a downer, this is exciting for you. BUT, please don't put all your book eggs in one basket. Certain agents are known for requesting everything, and taking on very few clients. I hope sincerely that this is not the case with your book, but you do have to protect your feelings in this industry.

That said, three months -- I'd actually say checking back in two months -- is a good rule of thumb.

I had an agent I'd signed with take five months to get around to reading a new book of mine. I'm no longer with that agent, obviously. One of the hardest thing about this industry is having to communicate how "others" want you to, rather than in the efficient manner you normally would.

Good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Just a note: 43,000 words for general fiction is pretty short if that's the full ms (unless, of course, you are writing novellas). Most companies target at least 80,000 for that genre.

And I agree, 3 months is about the standard. More if it's conference season (March to June) or, of course, holiday time.

AndieJ said...

My MS is a work of middle-grade fiction. The shortest of these can run around the 20,000 word range, but there are plenty that run 40k, 60k or even longer.

I believe there are some that run even shorter than 20k, but I don't think that's what the market is looking for at this time.

Anonymous said...

Rejecter, I'm not sure why you referenced a "such a high hit rate and you should not be worried" -- from what I'm reading the author only got one request for a full from sending 5 queries. That's fine, but it's far from certain.

I agree with others that this is not an unusual wait time. Maybe at 6 weeks I would send a casual, friendly Email to the assistant asking if she's gotten to it yet (and if not, what she thinks the timeframe is -- and then don't Email again until that timeframe has passed.)

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to comprehend. I have a manuscript that has been in the hands of an agent for more than a year, and when I query about the status I"m told she's still serious about it and will get to it shortly.
I have the same manuscript in the hands of another agent for five months, yet the agent's website says about three months max, So I've queried several times, even telephoned his assistant, but received no word as yet. When I met the agent he shook my hand and said, "You will hear from me."
The same full manuscript has been turned around in less than a month by two other agents. There's something there that appeals to them, but apparently not enough for swift action.
No one has offered any suggestions or ideas as to why the full is eventually rejected.
Short version of this: Who knows

Anonymous said...

Is it possible Rejecter saw the 10/10 date and read it quickly as 10 out of ten maybe?

Because I agree, one request out of five does not guarantee anything. However I like the authors attitude and that she's working on a a new MS.

I would never wait a year for any agent. OP, I agree that 6 weeks at the earliest for an email check of status. Three months is fair. But I also would continue to send. Best of luck for finding the *right* agent for you.