Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How Long to Respond?

I have read on numerous agent blogs about how they read an author's query, requested the partial five minutes later, requested the full two days after receiving that partial, then offered representation the moment they finished reading the full (taking only three days to do so).

My questions are these: Is that the norm for manuscript interest? Or is it more likely that an agent will take, say, four months or longer? And if it's the latter, what--if anything--is generally going on in those months aside from reading the manuscript? Provided the agent has verified receiving the manuscript, can an author read between the lines one way or another: He/she loves it? Hates it?

Sadly, I don't believe there is a norm. Some agents read quickly, others don't, and often times the speed of response is dictated by things out of the agent's control.

For example, for the past few months it's taken me FOREVER to read and respond to partials and full manuscripts. I'm still interested in all of these projects, but I'm just swamped with client issues that must come first.

Of course, there are a few agents out there that will read a partial or a manuscript and not like it, but choose not to respond because they don't want to have to pass on the bad news. They figure that after a year of no response the author will get the picture. This certainly isn't something I condone, but it happens.


Jennifer Jackson said...

I know my own response time varies wildly throughout the year. Sometimes I can get to queries the same day they arrive; sometimes it takes a week or two (and I know some of my friends who are agents can take a month or more). As for partials and manuscripts, it may depend on the volume currently waiting to be read as well as whether it is a conference-heavy time of year. And, then, of course, what the clients need varies as well, so that response time becomes even more challenging to estimate. I have to agree with Agent Jonathan here and say there is no "norm" not even in my own inbox, let alone from agent to agent.

Ryan Field said...

There's no norm anywhere, or in any facet, of publishing. It can take up to a year to learn that a simple magazine piece has been selected for print (it's like the mss float through the universe in limbo until the time is right), or you'll know the same day you submitted it. And the checks usually arrive late, so don't spend the money until you have it in your hand :-o

C. Taylor said...

That's helpful to know. However, it doesn't keep me from checking my inbox 50 times a day. Okay, it's probably more like 100, but really, it's not a problem. ;)

Kelley said...

hmmm. do you think it's fair to assume though, if a query and then a partial/full came across your desk that got you really excited--it wouldn't sit for months? because I think that's where the question comes from. the more excited or interested an agent, certainly the more an agent suspects there will be competition for a ms, the faster you'll hear. the longer it sits, well, it's just not that big of a priority/interest for the agent?

would you say it's still variable, or do you think there's some truth to that?

Jonathan Lyons said...

Sorry Kelley, but no, I don't think you can assume that.

Sure, there are times where I've read a query, a partial, and then the full manuscript and offered representation in less than a month.

But I've also had partials I loved, and then requested the full manuscript for, but then something comes up that prevents me from reading the rest expeditiously.

Sadly, I think the only thing you can assume is that current clients are always an agent's priority. as Jenn said, there really is no norm.

Kelley said...

This is so good to know, because I think it's a major assumption out there. (or should I say fear, it's a major fear?)

On the flip side, agents have said they are aware writers are querying widely and usually assume this is the case. So, if you end up not getting to a ms for several mos, but you also haven't heard from the writer regarding any other offers for representation based on the ms--well, does this ever color your impression of the ms?

I ask because you know every week a writer's ms sits, without an offer, they are fearing agents are thinking "well, no one seems to be beating down the door for this ms and maybe they have a good reason" thoughts. Any chance this is also a wrong assumption?

Adaora A. said...

So the rule to live by is....there are no rules. Sit tight and only query agents who actually realize that this means a big deal to you, and therefore (regardless of whether short or long waiting), they actually respond.

Cheers Mr. Lyons.

Jonathan Lyons said...

It doesn't color mine since I know how slow agents are generally, but I can't speak for other agents.