Here’s my guide to what silence from agents and editors really means and why you shouldn’t jump to conclusions:
1. We haven’t read it
This is the most common reason. If you’re nudging an agent after 4 weeks and you think, “4 weeks! They’ve had it forever! They must have read it by now.” Honestly, for an agent, 4 weeks is not a lot of time. Depending on the time of year those can be a busy 4 weeks of client deals, conferences, editor lunches, proposal writing, pitch writing, and client manuscript editing. I’ve talked about this before–that client work comes first–but if you think about it: reading a manuscript takes 4-6 hours for me. That means if multiple clients send me their work AND I have multiple unsolicited manuscripts on the go, that’s at least 24 hours of reading I have to do at any given time. Plus all those emails to respond to…
2. We’re thinking
I genuinely try not to take too long to think because my reaction to unsolicited manuscripts is often instant. However, there are some times I think about the following:
- Timing (do I have time to fit in a new client?)
- Editorial notes (how do I really feel about this and should I write up notes?)
- Gaps in my client list (do I have something too similar?)
I know how writers feel about waiting (checking email multiple times a minute) when they are waiting for a response. But I think you want us to make a fully informed decision. And sometimes that means waiting for weeks while we clear our schedule to make time to think!
3. We’ve read it, but we’re sharing it with other people
This is more common with editors, but sometimes I’m waiting for a reader’s report which is an in-depth analysis of the manuscript from an editorial point of view. So not only is there reading involved (the 4-6 hours) PLUS there is an extra couple hours to get thoughts together and write up a report. That’s a whole day’s worth of work, right there. Once I get a report in hand, which can be 3-10 pages, I go through everything carefully and compare the thoughts against mine. I want books that connect with people, so those reports are important to me. It’s a subjective business, so those other comments are valuable, but I always make my own decisions at the end of the day.
Remember 9 times out of 10, silence means it hasn’t been read yet. So forget those fears and try to be patient. (I know that’s a tall order.)