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Thread: Agent Read Time

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Toni1953's Avatar
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    Agent Read Time

    Does anyone have any idea just how long an agent might take to read your manuscript once he or she has requested it, or what their process entails? Do they read it themselves, hand it over to an associate, what? I'm just curious as to the actual process involved in deciding whether or not to represent a book.

  2. #2
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    I think it varies hugely. If it is a really hot manuscript, and the agent knows that other people have it too, then inside a week. OTOH I'm still waiting on one agent who has had my manuscript for 16 months.

  3. #3
    Preditors & Editors Requiescat In Pace DaveKuzminski's Avatar
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    At 16 months, I think it's time to renew the search.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW Toni1953's Avatar
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    I guess it all depends on how the ms "hits" them - how excited they get about it???

  5. #5
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveKuzminski
    At 16 months, I think it's time to renew the search.
    Oh I agree.
    This is far from the only agent I'm pursuing

  6. #6
    storm central stormie's Avatar
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    It all depends on the agent. You can get a response on your email query in a matter of hours, your snail mail query in a matter of a week, or you might not hear from them until three months later--and then, if they ask to see a partial or full, it depends. Could be a week, could be a few months. If it's longer than that (that they have your ms.), then you can send a polite follow-up email or letter on the status.

    Remember--they have many other mss. to read, and a client list to take care of. Also, if they have an assistant, that assistant might read it first, then if he/she likes it, will then pass it on to the agent.
    Last edited by stormie; 02-24-2006 at 12:56 AM.

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin spywriter's Avatar
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    agents

    This is my experience.....

    I sent a snail mail query to Al Zuckerman on a Tuesday and receievd a request for the 1st three on Saturday. After that, it was 2 weeks later that I got the thanks but no thanks. My subject was HOT and he knew it. Too bad I didn't have my best work for him...didn't know it at the time...had to mature a little. On another note, I had a book that had a pretty avereage topic and it took Mr. Z five weeks to get back to me on the query. He didn't want to see it.

    So....18 months later, I decide to query the same HOT book...now rewritten...with the same HOT subject and this is what happened...

    I sent a snail mail query out to a "major" agent on a Wednesday and on Friday night, I got an EMAIL request for the WHOLE THING! I received an email from the agency saying that it usually takes about 4 weeks to read, but that they will try and expedite the reading.

    Long story short, if they want your stuff and you have a great topic, you hear from them really fast. If not, they take their time. MANUS was the only excpetion for me....I love 'em, but BOY! are they slow to do everything.

    Dont know if this helps, but I truly believe that the more time goes by, the worse the news.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW Toni1953's Avatar
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    You mean the more time lapsed on the query request is bad news, not the actual reading of the manuscript, i imagine.

    what is standard read time for a full manuscript? I heard the average is 4-6 weeks. I wonder if they read it a few times or maybe also give it to another person to gauge their reaction.

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin flotsamarama's Avatar
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    I, too, want to know the answer to this question. An editor with a publishing house has had my manuscript (a rewrite incorporating his suggested changes) since August 2004! An agent has had the same manuscript for 11 months. That doesn't count the partials & queries I've also got out there for the same manuscript... I've been hoping that no news is good news (because the only "news" I've had so far has been rejection from those agents who have bothered to respond -- some nicely). I nudged the publisher about a year ago and got a reply last May that it was "still under consideration." I know another nudge is in order, but haven't been able to bring myself to do it.

    What can the hold up be, if they're not still trying to decide how to respond?
    Last edited by flotsamarama; 02-25-2006 at 01:47 AM. Reason: fix typo

  10. #10
    figuring it all out
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    One week

    I sent my 70-page proposal and received a call from a savvy, veteran agent after a week. And, after a minor rewrite, he offered me representation. As you can see from my usersname, I write non-fiction sports, so the agent had to have publishing contacts that dealt with such a genre. As one agent told me, "Patience is a must in this business."

    When you stop brooding over the agent skimming through the manuscript, and start mastering the craft, your chances of an irresistible proposal will increase. Many agents are a sucker for good writing.

    A good place to start is reading, On Writing Well, Harper Collins, by William Zinsser. I Just finished, How To Tell a Story, Writers Digest, by Peter Rubie.

    Such books open your eyes to the importance of plot, character development, scenes, and active verbs and pinpoint adjectives.

  11. #11
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    I just got a request for the full manuscript in response to a query letter + 1st chapter sent at the beginning of December.

  12. #12
    A Work in Progress aadams73's Avatar
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    Wow it can really vary in my experience. I've had agents take up to 6 months. My current agent had my ms for 4 months, misplaced it, then when she found it she started reading and called me at home the next day to offer representation.

  13. #13
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Smile

    In my experience, it happened kind of quick. Two weeks from query sub to full manuscript read and offer.

    Your miliage may very, though.

    Tri

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW Toni1953's Avatar
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    So it looks like the general consencus(spelling???) is that it's a crapshoot?????

  15. #15
    A Work in Progress aadams73's Avatar
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    Yup, definitely a crapshoot.

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW Toni1953's Avatar
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    Maybe it all varies depending on the agent's contacts and the type of manuscripts he/she feel they can sell quickly.

  17. #17
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin flotsamarama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sportscribe

    ...When you stop brooding over the agent skimming through the manuscript, and start mastering the craft, your chances of an irresistible proposal will increase. Many agents are a sucker for good writing.

    A good place to start is reading, On Writing Well, Harper Collins, by William Zinsser. I Just finished, How To Tell a Story, Writers Digest, by Peter Rubie.

    Such books open your eyes to the importance of plot, character development, scenes, and active verbs and pinpoint adjectives.
    Congratulations on your quick response from a "savvy, veteran agent." Please don't presume, however, that your success makes you the authority your reply suggests. Considering you know nothing about us, our writing experience, our education/training or our target market, your response about "brooding" and "mastering the craft" -- coupled with your suggested reading list -- comes across as very arrogant.


    Sorry if my comments offend. I feel much better now.

  18. #18
    figuring it all out
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    No offense

    I was just trying to be helpful. I'm sure there are a wealth of talented, educated, and compelling writers on this board, but I'm speaking to the overzealous one that wanted to submit proposals before getting a grip of the writing. Why? Because, at one time, that was me.

    And based on my experience, those books helped me.

    Excuse me if you felt my sincere effort to assist a writer poked your ego.

  19. #19
    figuring it all out
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    Clearing the record

    For the record, though, if I offended anyone with my comments, I sincerely apologize. My suggestions were not laced with arrogance or malicious intent, rather a sincere desire to utilize the turbulent beginnings of my writing career to encourage.

  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by flotsamarama
    An editor has had my manuscript since August 2004! An agent has had the same manuscript for 11 months.
    What can the hold up be?
    Have you considered the possibility that they've lost it?

  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW Toni1953's Avatar
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    Would you say that the longer it takes for them to read your manuscript, the better your chances that they will take you on?

  22. #22
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Cool

    Would you say that the longer it takes for them to read your manuscript, the better your chances that they will take you on?

    Toni, I don't know about this because they could be extremely back-logged, giving the impression that it is passing many hands. This question is really so subjective as to produce no real concrete answers. I work with a really fast agent--so fast and attentive, I don't know how he does it with over 45 clients. I tend to think that when an agent is really thrilled with a query that they read those submissions first, even though they log everything and suposedly take first come first serve in order. It's difficult to ponder the personal habits of agents, since they vary so much.

    Tri

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW Toni1953's Avatar
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    Thanks, Tri. it looks as if there is no rhyme or reason to the process.

  24. #24
    practical experience, FTW Toni1953's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=flotsamarama]I, too, want to know the answer to this question. An editor with a publishing house has had my manuscript (a rewrite incorporating his suggested changes) since August 2004! An agent has had the same manuscript for 11 months. QUOTE]

    I agree, they may have lost it. A query from you as to its whereabouts certainly wouldn't hurt.

  25. #25
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    An example from Donald Maass' submissiion guidelines (my emphasis:
    How long will it take...
    To answer your query letter, two to three weeks. To read your sample chapters and outline, about the same. To read your whole manuscript, overnight to a few months. (If we request it, please check with us.)

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    Do you know what you are? You are a manuscript of a divine letter. You are a mirror reflecting a noble face. This universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself; everything that you want, you are already that ...
    ~ Rumi

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