Thursday, December 13, 2007

Question: How long should your agent take to get back to you?

I am an unpublished writer with a reputable agent (my first novel did not sell, unfortunately). I sent my second novel to my agent 14 weeks ago -- she still hasn't read it. I understand how busy agents are, so I haven't been haunting her with phone calls. In her responses to my (three) emails, she said she'd read the manuscript "soon."

My questions: Does the fact that the agent hasn't/can't get to my novel mean she's not interested in my genre (thrillers) any more or is it just that she's swamped? I feel like she should let me know if it's going to be another month or two before she can get to it. Is that an unreasonable expectation? Short of emailing or calling her every week, what can I say or do to get the ball rolling (if you'll excuse the cliche)? When do I know it's time to start looking for a new agent?

I can't tell you exactly what's going on with your agent. She could be swamped (October and November is the busy season for us), or perhaps she might have something personal going on. However, fourteen weeks is quite a long time, and at this point you definitely deserve an explanation and a realistic deadline for a response, and if this isn't forthcoming or her answers don't satisfy you than it might be time to start looking for a new agent. I would think an email to this effect would get the ball rolling.

Sadly, it's quite possible that the agent took the lack of sale on your first book hard and has simply lost enthusiasm for your work. This is something an agent typically won't want to admit, but it's a reality of life. It could also be possible that she's lost enthusiasm for thrillers generally, but that's more doubtful since it's such a broad category. A more realistic possibility is that she might have lost the passion for your subgenre, whether it be political, legal, international, etc.

I can take a horribly long time to read something, but I don't think I've ever taken fourteen weeks to read one of my client's projects, unless I already have a project out on submission for them and the work is in the same genre.

8 comments:

Josephine Damian said...

Sadly, it's quite possible that the agent took the lack of sale on your first book hard and has simply lost enthusiasm for your work. This is something an agent typically won't want to admit, but it's a reality of life.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is the norm of the industry - much like a marriage, the honeymoon between an agent and client ends the minute that first manuscript gets it's first round of rejections. The thrill is gone for the agent, and my guess is they start to doubt their own ability to judge winners and understand what the markert wants. They just want to move on from what they may perceieve as their own mistake.

jason evans said...

Stopping by to congratulate you on your new client! You have a wonderful writer there.

Best wishes to both of you.

Bernita said...

Yes, indeed. I echo Jason.

Jonathan Lyons said...

Thanks!

Cocaine Princess said...

I have a question- is it possible for a literary agent to reject a query because he/she may have no interest in that genre or may even hate that genre or do they keep an open mind?

XOXOXOXO,
Cocaine Princess

Jonathan Lyons said...

Some agents won't look at anything in certain genres, regardless of the author. Others have a less strict response, but it all depends on the agent.

Nicholas Borelli said...

Your agent is trying to find a way out. I had an agent who could not sell one of my novels. He flat out refused to take on anything else. He did me a favor. I moved on. Tell your agent to paint or get off the ladders. What's the point of having an agent that ignores you? It prevents you from moving on to get another.

Church Lady said...

I'm here to jump on Jason's and Bernita's bandwagon! Your new client has quite a following in the blogosphere!!
:-)