Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Agent Response Time

In response to a recent post on Maintaining Enthusiasm, a reader asked:

So if a writer doesn't receive a request for more material or an offer if they sent in a full manuscript, fairly quickly after they submitted, does that mean the agent in question probably isn't interested? I understand your agency gives a 10 to 12 week response time, but some agencies do not give a time table at all. And does your agency respond back faster if they're interested?

Typically I, and probably most agents, do weed through submissions and pull out those that seem most promising or of the greatest interest, so yes, a fast response can mean that an agent was interested and therefore got to it faster. Of course, a fast response can mean the exact opposite, that an agent thought, from your letter, that the project was so not right for her that she rejected it immediately, possibly not even reading the material.

It certainly benefits us to respond as quickly as possible, especially if the project is of interest. I want to be the first agent to get back to you so hopefully you sign with me before even hearing from anyone else. Of course, what benefits us and what we can actually do are two different things. We do hope to get to all submissions in the 10-12 week timeframe, but I’ll be honest, that doesn’t always happen. And more often than not I come across something that has been sitting on my shelf for much longer than I’m comfortable with. Something I think sounds fantastic, and reads just like it sounds. Something that I will request and possibly offer representation for.

Ultimately there is no one answer to your question, but I hope I’ve at least given you a little insight. And by the way, this same logic works for submissions to publishers, but keep in mind I did once sell a project that had been sitting with an editor for (and I’m not exaggerating) two years. Sometimes it just takes a while for the timing to be right.



elysabeth said...

Great topic and one thing more should be added - everything is subjective - whatever Jessica may like may not be what Jacky likes nor what I may like. I may love something and Jacky or Jessica or Kim hate it and it could be the best selling book that gets taken - so just because an agent or publisher or editor don't respond, doesn't mean that the work doesn't have potential - it is a subjective market - E :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering my question, Jessica! I've also wondered about the SASE, if you're interested, do you send a letter back saying you're interested in the whole manuscript or representation or do you call or email the author?

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

When requesting more material I usually email and will often follow-up with a letter in the SASE (for fear of spam filters). If offering representation I always call. And sometimes, I will really send authors into a tailspin and call just to talk about the material and/or why I'm rejecting it.


Anonymous said...

This blog is always so helpful! You guys are great to do this!

I have a related question - I have had a partial out to an agency for four months and have never heard back from them. I assumed they weren't interested and started querying other agents this week. I got an email from one today saying they would like a partial, but require temporary exclusivity. Should I wait to hear back from the first, even though I may be in for a long wait or should I send the partial along with an explanationof the situation to the second agent and hope that's all right with them?

Anonymous said...

So sorry - I forgot to add that the first agency said they had a response time of 6 to 8 weeks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering my second question too, Jessica!

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


I think I'll blog on this more at a later date, but to help you out now I would simply send the material and in your letter say that because it is already being reviewed by other agents you cannot grant exclusivity at this time, but will be sure to let them know immediately if any other agents express interest. There's no reason you should halt or even slow your submission process for an exclusive. And, I can almost guarantee they'll read it anyway.


Shelli Stevens said...

Thanks for the insight! That's one I've always wondered about too. I forgot about this blog, but am glad I found it again. Great tips and info on here :)

Anonymous said...

I should have read this earlier. I am in a kind of similar situation as Rose (I'm the one who told her to post here) except my second agent wanted exclusivity for the full manuscript instead of just a partial.