Monday, December 09, 2013

Question: How long is long enough?

How long do you think it's appropriate to wait on a response to a requested full before withdrawing the manuscript and perhaps submitting to a small press? I've checked in every three months or so and received friendly "I'm getting to it" replies. In January it will be two years since the original request. I did send a revised manuscript (with the agent's permission; she hadn't started reading the original) but that was more than a year ago.

I understand that everything in publishing takes a long time, but while I've been waiting for an answer from this agent I've had time to write four novels (and revise and polish two of them). I'm wondering if I should close the book on the first manuscript (a travel memoir) and start over with an all-new agent search--or even release the novels on my own to avoid another two-year limbo. Basically, I'd like to hear your thoughts on finding the balance between being patient and continuing to wait on someone who has been stringing me along for years.

There's slow, and there's glacial and then there's stasis.  Two years is stasis.  Two years without any intervening communication (editing notes, suggested revisions) is a real brake on any momentum in  your writing career.

Have I had fulls and partials for a year or more? Yes I have. Do I now? No, I do not.  I have learned that if something hasn't caught and held my attention it's better to let it go.  Not every good project is suitable for every good agent.

I think one year is long enough to wait for an answer on a full manuscript.  Absent any kind of encouraging words, there's no reason for you to wait.

Of course, my advice is to start querying with your best new work rather than self-publish, but you should decide what your career goals are and what publishing strategy is most likely to accomplish those goals rather than just follow my advice blindly.


ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

I confess that I cannot even imagine waiting a year. I can see 6 months. I respect that agents are extremely busy and that their current clients come first. Therefore, 6 months gives me a clear picture that my manuscript is either A) not compelling enough and/or B) the agent is not ready or able to take on new client. Obviously there could be other issues, but these 2 are certainly valid and enough for me to let go and move on.

Adam Heine said...

I could be wrong, but I think you can start a new agent search and (maybe) submit to a small press without bothering the agent in question.

Self-publishing would be a different matter, of course, as it's taking the MS off the market for the agent. (Same if the small press or another agent made an offer).

Laura said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm in a similar situation where a BIG NAME AGENT'S assistant read and liked the manuscript, had me revise twice, and I am now waiting to hear what BIG NAME AGENT thinks. This whole process began eleven months ago, and it's hard to stay hopeful when you're told to be patient and wait.

french sojourn said...

I have been debating about commenting on this...but could you maybe re-title this's kinda off putting.

Good night Irene!


Terri Lynn Coop said...

I had a novella under contract with a reputable small press. Extensive edits and finally it was turned in. And it sat and sat and sat and sat.

My emails got the same, friendly "we're getting to it" answer. After 2 years the term of the contract ran and all rights reverted. It was never published.

And I'm glad. It is a decent work, but at best it is a good premise with a lukewarm presentation.

If you've written 4 more in the interim, you have better work that you should be shopping elsewhere.