I spent a couple of months reading Query Shark posts, taking copious notes, and hammering out my own query letter. Thanks to your terrifyingly sharp advice, I learned enough about querying to land an agent.
Unfortunately, it turned out there was a reason I was getting positive responses but no offers from the dozens of other agents I queried. The agent I signed with managed to get my manuscript in the door of several big publishers, but all the agents who had rejected me turned out to be right: this was some really good, totally unmarketable writing.
I took the hint when my agent stopped sending me cheerful updates about which editors were reading my novel and started asking pointed questions about how my next novel was going. After pitching the premise to her and confirming that this novel wouldn't have any red flags, I wrote a YA Suspense/Thriller.
I sent this manuscript to my agent a little over a month ago. She replied enthusiastically that she couldn't wait to read it.
I sent a friendly nudge a few days ago, updating her on my current project (yes, I'm keeping busy!) and saying I was excited to hear what she thought of the finished manuscript.
I was hoping for a quick update – something like "I'm swamped, but I should be able to give you a reply in X days/weeks/months." I haven't heard anything back from her.
I need a reality check from someone in the field so I don't turn into That Writer. My agent's site says that querying authors should be prepared to wait up to four months to hear about a manuscript. But I'm a client – my name's on their site and everything.
I've spent plenty of time in the slush pile, and I can hang out there a little longer if that's what I have to do. I guess I thought signing with someone meant I'd worked my way a little closer to the middle of the desk.
There are really two questions here: (1) how long does it take for your agent to read your new work, and (2) how quickly should you expect status updates.
Let's answer the second one first: you should get a reply within a couple days if only to say she got your email and will be able to answer it soonishly. Soonishly is my word for I have no idea but I know it's important and you're not forgotten, really.
What gets in the way of this kind of quick email is guilt: I know I should have read this by now, but I haven't and maybe I can get to it in the next three days so I don't have to tell you I didn't read it and holyhell, where did those three days go, now this email is a week old, and this is just mortifying, and maybe I'll just pretend I'm dead.
We've all been there. It took me a long time to realize that "I got this, I'm a slacker, you should throw me to the wolves" replies were better than silence. I hate telling clients that I haven't done something. HATE IT.
That said, it happens.
So, to avoid being That Client you'll email her about once a month. "Hey, just checking in, hope you're doing well, I am being fitted for a straitjacket!"
If it goes beyond six months, let your agent know you're seriously having a hard time with this silence and let's figure out what we're doing here. In other words, she doesn't get to drag her heels for an indeterminate amount of time here, guilt or no guilt.
The first question is what you really need to know though: how long does it take an agent to read your work. And the answer is a whole lot longer than you think. Remember that she's going to read your whole manuscript AND give you notes, or at least feedback. In other words, she's not just skimming along with "do I love this, can I sell this." That kind of read takes time. (Read, not reading for my eagle-eyed proof readers out there)
Agents prioritize their reading. The rule of thumb is: the closer you are to the money, the faster you get read.
Thus, things I read right away are: contracts. Contracts trump everything.
Next: books on editorial deadline. Those books have contracts and production deadlines. I read those as close to instantly as I can. Often getting that book to the editor triggers a payment and we like that a lot.
Next: books/proposals ready or close to ready to go on submission. Revisions to books on submission are here too.
Everything else comes after those three categories. Your book isn't under contract, and it's not on editorial deadline. It's not on submission. That means you're probably not going to be read as soon as you wish (or your agent wishes either--trust me, I'd love to have eight eyes and a robot brain most days.)
What will surprise you here is often I'll read queries and requested fulls before some client manuscripts. That's because I can often get them an answer pretty quickly. I don't have to do more than say yes/no and I don't have to read the entire manuscript on a request if by page X I know I'm not going to take it on.
It can feel good to get something done, and off the to do list at least once a day, even if it's not the most important thing on the list. Sometimes mental health requires that. (At least it does for me.
And just to make sure everyone is having a good time here, there's the really fun moment when you're just about to read something that's eight weeks overdue, and a client pops in with a manuscript on editorial deadline. Or a contract for a short story they sold. Or an editor calls with an offer to be negotiated.
Sayonara reading plans.
With manuscripts like yours I have to respond in detail and that means time.
Blocks of time are increasingly hard to find. Any kind of schedule is a fervent hope at best.
Bottom line: don't get on the rodent wheel of panic. Don't assume your agent is a slacker nincompoop. Do not assume she's lost interest in you. Stay in touch with her gently. Have patience. Keep writing.