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Playing the Waiting Game After You Send Query Letters

Writing and trying to get published can be a frustrating affair. The hardest part of this process has to be the wait before you receive responses from agents after sending out query letters. Literary agents can be compared to glaciers when it comes to doing things like acquiring books, publishing them, and (typically) issuing checks.

The slow pace at which they do these things is very frustrating for writers who want to know what the agents think in order to plan their way forward. This waiting period usually throws most authors’ work into limbo because they have a lot that depends on the response they expect from literary agents.

Both new and experienced authors ask themselves how long agents will take to reply and how many agents will actually bother to reply. In the worst case scenario, it will take a long time and few agents will send replies. If you are an author and receive 50% responses, regardless of whether they are positive or negative, you are doing quite well. Some authors receive rejection letters long after they have already published the books with other publishers. That’s usually more than one year after sending their query letters!

What should you do after sending query letters and exactly how long should you wait?

If you are just starting to send query letters for a new book, don’t wait. You should send as many queries as possible to increase your chances. If you know 100 agents who would accept your work, you should send all of them query letters. The best way to do that is to send 10-20 letters at a time and keep a record of the letters, to whom you sent them, and on what date. As long as you have a good list of agents that are appropriate for your manuscript, query your heart out. Researching literary agents is an important part of sending query letters and you should make sure that you do it meticulously.

Let’s say that you have an amazing query letter and agents ask you to send them part of your work. What do you do then?

If you are asked for the full manuscript, you should ignore this request and keep sending query letters. The standard practice for agents is to ask for an ‘outline’ or ‘partial.’ This is the synopsis and the first three chapters. The only time you should consider sending the full manuscript is when an agent asks you for an exclusive manuscript of the work. Such an agent wants you to send only him/her a full manuscript of your work for a limited amount of time, usually between 30 and 60 days. If an agent does not tell you how much time he needs with your book, you should specify the duration.

If the time you set for an exclusive has expired, you should give several days for the agent to respond. Send the agent an email asking if he/she got a chance to read your work and then send the work to other agents if you receive no response.