Agent Response Times – What Do They Mean?

If you’re querying agents, you’re probably checking your inbox every day. Ah. Who am I kidding? You’re checking it every hour, aren’t you? Maybe more often? Don’t worry. You aren’t alone.

Querying can be tough. All the waiting. And the rejections. And the waiting. Did I mention the waiting? When you get a response (a request or rejection), you can’t help but wonder why this agent responded so quickly and that agent is still reading your query. Or maybe you have full manuscripts out and some agents are responding a lot faster than others. Are you trying to figure out what their response times mean? If this agent responded within a week, does it mean she really hated your writing? If that agent still hasn’t responded after six months, does it mean he wasn’t hooked enough to dive right in? Is all of this giving you a headache? Keeping you up at night? Or causing you to need an extra dose of chocolate?

No worries. I have the answer. I know what the response times mean. Get ready for this. Momentary pause. Cue elevator music. Another pause. Drum roll… If an agent responds immediately or takes months to do so, it means NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. Stop reading into this, peeps. You’re causing yourself a whole lot of stress that your body doesn’t need.

Okay, let’s be real for a second. Agent response times mean SOMETHING just not what you THINK they mean.

Here are some of the reasons an agent might respond quickly:

-She has an assistant whose job is mainly to go through the slush and/or read subs as they come in.

-He’s all caught up on client work and submission reading, so he can jump right on yours.

-She doesn’t represent your genre, so she rejected the query as soon as she read it.

-He didn’t need to read the full to know this wasn’t the right project for him. You know they don’t usually read the whole manuscript, right? They stop as soon as they lose interest.

-She’s actively seeking this genre, so when your sub came in, she pushed it to the top of her pile.

-He was really excited about the story based off the query and has been watching for it.

-You have an offer of representation on the table and a deadline for agents to meet before you make your decision. Don’t try to speed up response times by pretending you have an offer. Some agents will check up on your offer. Some will instant reject because they won’t be able to read as fast as you need them to read. Some will reevaluate the query and sample pages and might decide they aren’t excited enough to fight for it.

-If you’ve won major contests with this manuscript, she might want to read it sooner rather than later.

-If you have a request from a publisher, especially one of the Big Five, he’ll probably want to add your MS to the top of his list.

Here are some of the reasons an agent might not respond for a long, long time (translation: eternity):

-She’s behind on her reading. Some agents have little time to read subs and quickly get behind on their reading, which is why some agents can take six months to a year to read your full.

-He’s a really popular agent who receives a gazillion queries A DAY, and it takes a while for his assistant to sort through the queries and requested material.

-She took time off to have a baby and didn’t do any reading while she was away.

-He didn’t read during July and August because he was busy with conferences and his vacation.

-She took on several new clients this year and is busy helping them polish their stories so she can submit them to editors.

-He’s been dealing with health issues or family issues or someone close to him died. Basically, life is getting in the way.

-She’s busy, busy, busy. Oh, yeah, and she’s busy.

My point is that you can get requests within an hour, though that’s rare, and receive a response up to a year after you’ve submitted your full manuscript. I know authors who have gotten an offer of representation within days of submitting their full. Others had assumed the agent was no longer interested because she’d had it for almost a year, but once she got to it, she loved it and offered representation.

In other words…

Don’t. Give. Up. Hope.

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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