Friday, January 3, 2014

How long should I wait to hear back from an agent?


So when I first heard back from an agent at a respected NY agency she requested the rest of my manuscript, but told me very clearly that she never officially represented a novel until it had been written three times. She gave me great advice on the first draft I sent her, providing excellent line editing and assistance with plot and character. The book got better. She worked with me on the second draft and we went even deeper, sometimes working together in person. She even told me it might take years to get the draft just right. She even told me she had spoken to publishers about the concept and they had asked to be kept informed about the development of my book over the months and possibly years to come. About a year and a half later I resubmitted what I hoped was a pristine (or close to pristine) draft, but now it's been 6th months and she still hasn't read it. I know this business takes time, but should I be seeking representation elsewhere, or is this wait time normal? I know I'm not required to stick with her, but I feel bad looking elsewhere because she put so much work into it with me. Thoughts? I don't like feeling like I'm waiting for just one possibility to work out, especially with the weeks flying by. But as I said, we HAVE put a good chunk of work into this manuscript together, so this long wait seems odd. I just feel like if you're really interested, and you've got publishers interested, wouldn't you want to push that particular manuscript closer to the top of the pile? Maybe I'm wrong. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

First, I address this very topic at length in my FREE ebook HOW TO LAND A LITERARY AGENT. I also address this topic in my FREE ebook ASK A LITERARY AGENT. Both are available for download here on this blog. I suggest you read them both.

That said, I will repeat again that one should never wait this long to hear back from an agent. It's absurd for any agent (or editor) to make an absolute statement like "I never represent a novel until it's written three times." Every novel is different. Some may need to be re-written more than three times, and some may be perfect the first time you read them. How can one possibly apply an arbitrary number like 3 to all novels? That would be a major red flag to me.

Additionally, no agent should take so long in working on revising a novel, and/or in waiting to read your book. An agent telling that you it will "take years" to get it right is another major red flag. I know of no legitimate agents who would do this. Most agents tend to either want books that are ready to submit and/or to want to take on books that can be revised relatively easily and quickly.

I would move on. Query many agents at once. Agents should reply to a query letter within 2-4 weeks. To a manuscript within 10 weeks. It's your career. Do not put it on hold.


  1. I have a question:
    I am reading your "How to land plus bonus material" You are preaching to the choir in my case and I thank you for the validation and your generosity for making this information available. As a singer song writer who was signed to WEA Elektra in the 80's I can say that much of what you present is similar to the music business and 100% of it is true.
    Here is my question- (I have not read the entire doc yet- so forgive me if you answer this in it) I love the idea of serializing and making ones work available, sharing and getting it out there. Here is my concern- I recorded two albums. The internet sells three. The third is every private demo that I made for record company executives. With the way the internet is, pirating books is a piece of cake. I am concerned in this climate that putting work that I am planning to pitch out there will diminish potential sales to the point where publishers will feel that the value of my intellectual property has been compromised. This is a big subject. Right now I am prepping my first novel - a SciFi- to be pitched. Trust me- I am going to every length to make sure it is a polished finished product before I even crack open the door and talk to the industry. Could you talk a little about how to protect ones work from piracy before it is pitched and how the industry views this? Thanx again. best S

  2. I've just published "We live among you," a funny alien conspiracy tale on online at: A couple of
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