Average Wait for Agent Response?

Dear Lisa…

I know you’re up to here with waiting, so here’s the quick answer: three to six months. The longer version: At three months, it’s fair to send a follow-up letter asking about the status of the submission. Do that now if you haven’t already. If you’ve had no reply after six months, consider this a “no deal” and move on. It’s possible you’ll hear back after that, but not likely. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already done so, multiply submit that ms to other agents pronto, noting “multiple submission” in the query letters. No need to keep your future agent waiting on an agent who isn’t replying.

Happy writing!

The Editor


    • It’s the #1 question I’ve had from writers since Day 1 of my editorial career. And with good reason.

      • Thanks for answering my question, however I don’t have an agent. I didn’t submit the Picture book ms to agents, but to editors that I hand picked. In this case is the wait 3-6 months? I did multiple submit, with full disclosure. Thanks!!!!!! Still biting my nails.

        • Same goes for editors. Send the polite status inquiry. Sometimes it does prompt an editor to move the ms to the top of their reading list for the next day of submission reviewing.
          The time frame is the same.

  1. I think that in this day and age a wait of six months is entirely too long. I think an agent should have assistants plowing through the slush pile such that a book of interest can be identified within 3 months. Making an author wait any longer is a power play and cruel and unusual punishment. Let’s face it, agents are losing their power. The ebook and self-pub route and smashwords.com are here to stay. Traditional publishers may pay an advance and may promise an advertising budget, but the author still has to earn out the advance and the budget can get trumped by something bigger and better that comes along after they committed to your book.

  2. Steve has some good points. It’s a really long time, from a personal perspective (who wants to wait that long), but also from a business perspective. Maybe it’s justified with the number of submissions they get, but the reality is in 6 months the world has passed you by. Everything moves so fast. I just see the current publishing model and timeframe as entirely too long and one apt to change. Already, bookstores are losing out to ebooks. And it’s only just started. The publishing world will look very differently very soon. Like music.

  3. Indeed, the time factor of the old model is under the microscope as it’s never been before. But as frustrating as the waiting is, do know that lack of professionalism isn’t behind the wait during the submission phase. Editors are simply overworked. I’ve sat at that desk and I can tell you, the volume of submissions is overwhelming. The long response time does cause them angst . . . as does their bosses’ breathing down their necks asking for the edits on books already signed up. That’s not an excuse but an explanation.

    • I hear you and even in my albeit limited experience with editors, I have known them to be very devoted to their work and caring about their clients. (A shout out to Dear-Editor!) They chose this profession out of love. I only think that the business model is changing, and as always with change, a lot is good and a lot is open for debate. My only hope is that what emerges is a boon to get books and stories into the hands and minds of readers.

  4. And most submission policies for publishers list their response times. It seems like the average is 3-4 months. Some two and some six. Also many say, “will respond only if interested.” And some say specifically NOT to send a status “query” or postcard. Happy submissions!

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