5 Things To Do If An Agent Has Your Manuscript For Months

Writers always ask: What does it mean if an agent has my manuscript for awhile?

Answer: Nothing.

It means nothing if we’ve had it for a long time.

It doesn’t mean we aren’t interested.

It doesn’t mean we’ve read it and are failing to get back to you.

It means that we likely haven’t even got to it yet. So you can presume absolutely nothing.

So, what do you do when an agent has had your manuscript for months?

1. Write more. The answer to everything is keep writing. Don’t let the waiting game slow you down. When an agent is interested they’ll want to see what else you’re working on too. So keep writing.

2. Check their guidelines. Most agents say they’ll get back to writers of requested material in 6 weeks to 3 months. But some say 6 months. And some say they’ll only reply if interested. Base your expectations on their actual guidelines.

3. Only follow up once their guidelines timeline is up. Or, if you have an offer or other news to update them with (important blurb, award you’ve won etc).

4. Keep querying. One nibble doesn’t mean you’ve caught a fish. The more lines you cast the better chance you have!

5. Avoid playing games. You’ll waste a lot of unnecessary energy playing games like reading too much into an agent’s social media feed, emailing them to ask about the status of their slush pile, or other things like that. It’s not worth the stress. Remember: no answer means nothing.

Don’t forget: You can always listen to sad music and write angsty poetry or start a funny parody Twitter account. You know, if you’re still feeling melancholy.

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.

14 thoughts on “5 Things To Do If An Agent Has Your Manuscript For Months

  1. I have been writing a book for a while now. I am more than half way through, I have an ending on my mind, and I know where it needs editing. However, I have recently started a new job that takes up a lot of my energy and I haven’t been able to focus on my story. Would it make sense to submit it even though it isn’t completed yet? If an agent would pick me up and said, “I need it done within two weeks!”, I think that would be the motivation that I need.


      1. Okay. Thank you so much!!

        One more thing: I have written a book in the past; it was more of a book for children, but when I started writing, the wording got a little more mature, I would categorize it for children ages 10 and up. It has less than 17,000 words. The characters are fictional, but the idea is based on true events which include a flamingo couple. And therefore my characters are talking flamingos. I actually received positive feedback from a few agents, however, most of them replied I should try it next year again because they wouldn’t know how to categorize it since it was too short to be a novella. They did mention the potential and that they liked the idea. How would you respond if you liked the concept and idea but it was too short?

        Oh my, I totally drifted off now, didn’t I?


      2. It’s my job to know the market for the book. But, if I loved something and knew the author was willing to work on things I might reach out to them.

        But if I’m not crazy about something then I’m not the agent for it. No matter what.


  2. Thank you, Carly. This is so timely for me as I just entered this realm. The first thing I did after sending my MS was to join NaNoWriMo and begin a prequel to that same MS (while taking a break from working on the sequel). Yes, you are so right to remind us to keep writing. It’s the best stress buster.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀


  3. Thank you for an informative and educational post. Your suggestions to writers about how to pass the time while an agent has their manuscript are excellent. I appreciate that you took the time to address a concern which I expect many writers have when they query agents.


  4. Hi Carly.
    Don’t know if this blog is still active, haven’t noticed any recent posts.
    I’m at the stage with a book that has received some positive feedback and the full manuscript is currently out there being read. It’s week four now and obviously that appears to be nothing in the writing world.
    The problem is you start to think. ‘ I wonder if they received the e-mail with my ms?’ Then you convince yourself you will sound like a neurotic stalker if you query the status. It seems the rules are, there ain’t no rules. Just be patient!
    It’s a tough time waiting. I’m on my second novel now, so as you say, you will at least be able to convince your (hopefully) new agent you are not a one trick pony.
    Bye for now. I’m off to bite my nails a bit more and have a glass of merlot.


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