Agent response times

If agents offer responses to queries and requested material (4 to 8 weeks is standard) it might seem like a long time to wait. You’ve just sent them the most important document you’ve ever written! (Or something to that effect…) Here’s why it’s worth the wait:

  • Not only are agents trying to balance incoming queries and combing them for projects that pique their interest, agents are simultaneously managing the projects and careers of the agents they do have.
  • When you get an agent you’ll want and expect them to give their full attention to you, so you have to respect how agents divide their time in the process leading up to that stage.
  • I know weeks seems like a long time, but an agent doesn’t have time on a daily basis to check queries let alone read manuscripts that are not from clients. Agents read queries and requested material once all the other work is done, and even then it takes days and weeks to make time.
  • We do feel the weight of the query inbox on our shoulders and know that there are manuscripts staring at us, waiting to be read. Because we’re busy we expect you to let us know when you have offers of representation so we can get to your material faster. Give all agents a week to get back to you once you have your offer.
  • Don’t take delayed response times as a sign that agents aren’t interested. They might just not have gotten to the material yet.

Final thought: Only check in with agents if it has been much longer than the response time stated on their website.

Any questions about agent response times?

Image via NPR

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

13 thoughts on “Agent response times

  1. I have three agents who have had my manuscript, which was requested, since February. I pinged them in July, but never heard anything back. Do you think it is becoming more accepted for agents to not response to materials they do not want (even if they were requested)? Or should I check back with them once more?

    Note: While I waited, I was able to write a whole new book.


  2. I have been given contradictory views on trying to secure an agent for picture books. I have been told that you need to be published first before an agent will consider your PB work. And I have been told that you have a better chance of getting published if you have an agent. The classic Catch-22! As you recently took on your first PB author, I wonder what your feeling is on this?


    1. Well as I sold a debut picture book that confirms that you don’t need to be previously published in order to sell a book. So that dispels that myth. However you do, in all likelihood, need an agent.


  3. My coauthor and I were very excited about getting a fast request for a full from one of our selected agents. Three months later, when she wouldn’t even reply to our follow-up emails, we were somewhat less excited about such unprofessionalism. Even now, yet another month later, were she to respond with an offer, we’d decline. Requesting a full should mean at least a polite rejection instead of silence. *grumble*


    1. Depends on what they say on their website. If they say they won’t get back unless it’s an offer, then you have to respect that. But some agents with large client lists really do take 6 months.


  4. Thanks for this Carly! As someone also waiting in trepidation for a response, twitching at every message that comes into my inbox, thank you for reminding us to be patient! :-)


  5. Writers are by nature centered in their own worlds, and sometimes slip into feeling the rest of the world should be also. It’s too easy to overlook the fact that in the larger scheme there are a lot more connections, exchanges and noise going on than you imagine. Agents also get swamped by amateur demands and have to cope nicely as possible with them. These all add up to burning a lot of hours while the tortured soul in the ivory tower waits for the magic email top come and rescue her…


  6. Reblogged this on Ana is the Bookworm and commented:
    I just found this post on Carly Watter’s blog and I thought you guys might like it, because I did. As some od you are also interested on this field, the response time is something I consider important to know. Just for… you know, keep you from going mad.


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