Day #12 – How Long Should You Wait?

By Dawn Frederick

I feel this discussion needs to brought to the surface again, due to being a regular search term (in the query process) and one that consistently arises after finding an agent.

1.  Before finding an agent 

Yes, this takes time.  There is no defined time in which one will find an agent.  Some folks will have very commercial, new, & fresh ideas. Thereby acquiring agents quicker than those who may write in a more popular book category.  i.e. Where lots of similar themes/plots/stories may exist, and it literally comes down to one’s ability to write, as well as the unique slant of the story.

If a writer follows the submission guidelines of an agency/agent, it’s reasonable to wait 4-6 weeks for a response. Sometimes responses may arrive faster; especially if the agent has been seeking a book similar to the query or actually has time to catch up on emails (a rarity nowadays). If  submission guidelines aren’t followed, and there’s no response, it’s always a good idea to double check if the agency/agent is even a good fit for your book. Some agents will not respond to queries that fall outside their categories.

If additional materials are requested, another 4-6 weeks needs to be budgeted for waiting (yes it’s hard). I am usually on top of this, with the exception of this past summer where personal life events required 100% of my attention. This is the same with other agents too, there’s the challenge of juggling real life with our agent duties. Just like everyone else who works.  So a bit of patience is always apprecated, as we’d treat you the same way. 🙂

2. After finding the agent, the book is out to publishers

Yes, more time, more waiting.  If there’s one thing your agent will bring to the table, it’s the ability to give editors the necessary wiggle room to do their jobs. Editors have the same challenges as agents, working on current projects, while making time to consider new ideas. It’s a constant work/real life balancing act; to which the busier months of the year can affect response times.

Additional barriers will also happen outside of their realms of control,  ex: a hurricane, snow storms with 4 feet of snow, etc. Instead of getting antsy, agents will try their best to give the necessary room for editors to deal with those things (be it personal or a greater regional issue); as we would like to be treated the same way too.

In the meantime, what can YOU do with all of this waiting? Take all of that antsiness and field it in a different direction. How about starting a new book? Or joining a rec team? Or focusing on your author platform? As Milo in THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH found, one can truly never be bored, bored, bored, bored – or in my eyes, stressed, stressed, stressed.  It just means that all the restless energy needs to be used up, and that one doesn’t need to go far to see how to use that time wisely for a good writing career.

What has your experience been as a writer?  How have you handled the “waiting?”



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  1. jarviswrites on November 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I’m horribly inpatient, so when I’m waiting, I get grumpy. At the FWA conference in Florida back in October, I had four agents ask me for either part of all of my manuscript, plus I had a fifth request based on a blind query a few weeks later. My plan was to completely forget about hearing back from any of them until December and spend November doing NaNoWriMo. However, my impatience got the best of me. I was able to completely outline my new book, build my world building notebook, write the prologue and…. that’s about it.

    Now, I’m counting the weeks since I submitted and waiting for that six week period where I can send a kind, checking in email. Teaching a very large class load has been helping somewhat but at the end of the day – I turn into an anxiety storm when I’m impatient.

    On the positive side, ice cream sales have been slightly higher in my area recently….

  2. Phil Dwyer on November 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    I remind myself of a piece of advice I read a few years ago (I forget where I read it): the period before publication may be the best days of a writer’s life. There are no expectations to meet, no ‘fans’ to disappoint, nobody to please but oneself. That changes once you become a published author, and it has to drive some of the joy out of it. Sounds a bit Pollyannaish I know, but it’s a perspective that as genuinely helped me be a bit more patient on the path to publication.

  3. khaula mazhar on November 13, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Writing something new is the best way to kill all that time. Short stories for contests or magazines are good because they don’t take too long and you can practice writing different genres.