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Serddar
07-13-2018, 12:26 PM
Hey guys, these are really exciting moments for me, so instead of simply sitting and thinking about certain possibilities, I thought it might be better to get into a conversation about it.

Exact topic I wanted to discuss is how much time agents usually need to read your query letter. I do understand there are no specific numbers, not every agent works in the same pace or has the same amount of work, but just hoping to hear your experiences.

For example - I had sent first (four) query letters six days ago and it makes me wonder, dose an agent really need that much time or has that much work to need more than a week to read a query letter and first 15. pages of a manuscript?

Now, just to be clear, I'm not saying their work is easy and should be done quickly, nothing of that manner, I'm simply interested in getting as much information about the "other side" of the job, that's all.

Elle.
07-13-2018, 05:09 PM
It doesn't take much time to read a letter and 15 pages. However, take that 1 letter and 15 pages and multiple it by 3,000 which is a number a couple of agents have used in the past as to how many submissions they can get a year, divide that by 49 weeks (allowing the agent a few weeks holidays), that's about 60 letters a week. In addition, take into account that most agents go through submissions in their spare time because most of their work hours are spent looking after their existing clients and you can see how it can take several weeks before they are able to get back to someone.

I hope this helps.

lizmonster
07-13-2018, 06:42 PM
When I was querying in 2013, most "no response means no" agents I researched specified we should assume it was no if they didn't answer in six weeks.

So I guess I've always figured six weeks is worst case for most of them. :) But I've heard of people getting Rs on query letters they sent a year ago, after they've already found rep with someone else.

Sage
07-13-2018, 10:03 PM
It takes very little time to actually read a query, but for some agents, it takes a long time to get a chance to read it.

Reading queries is not the main part of an agent's job. For some, it's something they do on their "time off" because they just don't have time to do it during working hours. Some manage to fit it in between other duties. Some have slushreaders to handle the task. With slushreaders, they might reject obvious ones but send potential requests up the chain to the agent, which would make a request take longer than some rejections. Some agents are notoriously fast at going through their slush. Some are very slow. I've had a request for a full come after a year in the slushpile. We don't know what a given agent's inbox looks like at the time we're sending a query, and we don't know what that specific agent has to do from day to day for the day you queried, the next six weeks, the next year, the 3 months they closed to queries to catch up, etc.

cool pop
07-14-2018, 04:34 AM
Does an agent need that much time? *giggling*

Of course they do! :ROFL:Let's see what agents do. Agents are very busy people especially top agents. They have their clients and their superstar clients who always take precedence over queries and submissions. They spend most of their times trying to get their clients deals and guiding them on shaping up their manuscripts. They have to call publishers, meet with publishers, etc. In other words, agents do A LOT. So yes, it can take a long, long time for them to get to your query.

Also, most likely the agent isn't reading your query anyway. Miss Suzy G Agent is not sitting behind her desk going through a pile of email queries herself while eating bon bons. No way. Those queries go to the summer/winter/spring or whatever intern's computer and he or she goes through them, evaluating each one to see if he or she thinks any of the submissions are good enough to bother Suzy with. When authors get rejected, that's the assistant sending out those form letters and emails. Agents don't have time to go through thousands of queries a day. And that's another thing. Do you realize how many queries a top agent might get a week let alone a day????? Remember, you're not the only writer querying this agent. You're one in a gazillion. They're getting queries from all over the world from many, many writers. They don't get to the queries immediately either. No way. It could be a month before the intern even reads your query.

Back when I started writing (20 years ago) you couldn't even email agents. There were probably less than 10 that took email queries and NONE took email submissions so I had to snail mail every single thing I sent with a SASE. Take what I say with a grain of salt. I haven't queried anyone since probably 2009 so things might have changed concerning the time but from what I hear it still takes forever and a day to hear back from an agent.

I believe the shortest time I heard back was a week (remember this was snail mail submission) and the longest time was probably two years. Yep. I remember an agent writing me back about a query after I'd gotten a publishing deal (2 years later) and I had forgotten all about her. The average range for me was 1-4 months.

If you haven't heard back in six months then it's probably a no.

But there are way too many variables. Just know, yes, you will be doing a lot of waiting. :)

Shoeless
07-14-2018, 08:17 AM
So much of this varies from agent to agent. I've had an agent read and send a form to reject to my query about five minutes after I'd sent it. Conversely, I've had queries I'd forgotten about that get a form reject a year and a half later.

The responsiveness of an agent to queries pretty much depends on how they schedule themselves. Some might make it a point to through at least a few queries every day, while others might only set some time aside for it once a week, or every few weeks. And of course, in between all that, they're actually working to get sales for their existing clients, or networking with editors and other people in the publishing industry at meals, or at publishing events like cons. When you get to certain parts of the year, such as summer, or Christmas, they'll stop accepting queries entirely. And in some cases, the backlog of queries will get so big that an agency will just notify the Internet-at-large that they're closed to queries until they can get that backlog back under control. Some agents get so many that they've been forced to resort to "no response means" no, since it's so time consuming to respond to every single one that comes through. Others will still take the time to at least send a form. It really varies from agent to agent.

Harlequin
07-14-2018, 02:12 PM
To the OP--would you really want a rejection four minutes after subbing? It occasionally happens and most writers are a bit crushed by it tbh. A few days at least is honestly kinder IMO.

There are lots of videos and talks about how busy thy are. Here is merely one.

https://www.greenhouseliterary.com/2017/01/a-day-in-the-life-of-an-agent/

Serddar
07-14-2018, 05:16 PM
Thanks for the info guys! This is what I have been looking for, just pure information from much more experienced people on how the other side operates and works. Reading your experiences really helps, like a lot, because I had no idea where to begin with guessing how much time the agent needs (generally).

Serddar
07-14-2018, 05:21 PM
To the OP--would you really want a rejection four minutes after subbing? It occasionally happens and most writers are a bit crushed by it tbh. A few days at least is honestly kinder IMO.


I wouldn't want a rejection, at all to be honest. :D

That was not the point I wanted to make, I was simply interested in how they work and how much time they have for reading new submissions, info like the one you shared in the second part of your post. :)

Harlequin
07-14-2018, 06:01 PM
Fair enough. It varies from agent to agent but a ballpark stat I seen batted around is that 90-95% of their time is taken up with existing clients who need them for x y z.

Anecdotally, most of my query responses seem to come after hours (rejections or requests). EDIT: suggesting that query reading is being done around their other, more urgent duties.

paddismac
07-14-2018, 06:31 PM
Fair enough. It varies from agent to agent but a ballpark stat I seen batted around is that 90-95% of their time is taken up with existing clients who need them for x y z.

Anecdotally, most of my query responses seem to come after hours (rejections or requests).

You've probably said elsewhere, but are you querying mostly UK agents or US as well?

Harlequin
07-14-2018, 06:49 PM
Mostly US. There's only a handful of UK agents who take my genre and a lot of them seem to be sky-high improbable chances who rep celeb authors.

The other thing is that my book is targeting the American market. It's set in the states and is aiming for American-centric ideas/audience (though whether it's achieved that, who knows!)

Re replies, they all seem to come in 1-3AM my time (so 7-8ish for east coasters?)

paddismac
07-14-2018, 06:53 PM
Mostly US. There's only a handful of UK agents who take my genre and a lot of them seem to be sky-high improbable chances who rep celeb authors.

The other thing is that my book is targeting the American market. It's set in the states and is aiming for American-centric ideas/audience (though whether it's achieved that, who knows!)

Re replies, they all seem to come in 1-3AM my time (so 7-8ish for east coasters?)

Huh, interesting. Good info to have, thanks!

mpack
07-14-2018, 10:33 PM
For example - I had sent first (four) query letters six days ago and it makes me wonder, dose an agent really need that much time or has that much work to need more than a week to read a query letter and first 15. pages of a manuscript?

12 seconds.

That's the rough math for how long an average agent spends on an average query. Now, many of those are insta-rejections based on serious problems: unrepresented genres, inappropriate word counts, and serious grammatical errors. Others will be quick as they are topics the agent knows have an oversaturated or underperforming markets. Or maybe the agent is just tired of a certain topic. In these cases, the agent may never move on to the sample pages at all.

So why do they need two months to reply? Because your query is number 1087 in their "to-read" pile. And slush reading queries is at the bottom of their "to-do" list after work done for their existing clients.

I've had a rejection after five minutes. I've had request for further materials after six months. The timing says more about the agent's workload than your submission.

A.graye
08-10-2018, 11:43 AM
I think time management is a really good idea to discuss, especially since there seems to be a notion that writers should be grateful they landed an agent in the first place--regardless of whether that agent is the best fit for that writer or book. (Thank goodness agents and those seasoned in the writing community combat this.)

Waiting a couple of weeks isn't that bad, especially if a clear yes or no will come out of it. Waiting a year for a response doesn't feel good, it isn't the norm, but it also happens.

That said, you don't *have* to query agents with crazy wait times. If they're that backed up in queries, it's reasonable to wonder how far backed up they are with fulls and partials, how long it takes them to read in general, and how long it takes them, on average, to sell a book from their existing clients when their clients first present them with a new novel.

Bear in mind, some agents with crazy wait times have crazy wait times because they aren't just agents--they're also writers themselves, teachers, professors, doctors, dentists... agenting isn't their only career, so you've got to ask yourself, is this okay with you? This is YOUR novel, YOUR career. Do you want an agent who can only dedicate 3-4 hours a day to their clients, or an agent who can dedicate upwards of 12 if need be?

I'm not saying an agent who takes so long to respond to a query will also take as long to respond to a full, or sell your subsequent books once you become a client (sometimes the agent that takes a year to respond can sell your book faster than the agent that requests your full five minutes after you send your query), but those are very valid questions to ask yourself (and the agent if they call).

I'm also not saying an agent who has another career is incapable of being amazing at this one. But, you've got to decide for yourself: does the fact that their other career carries the potential to impact yours bother you? If they get promoted in their 9-5 and decide they don't have time to agent anymore, is that okay with you? Some people are fine with it, some people are absolutely not.

You don't *have* to query every agent who represents your genre. The process takes time, but it's okay to be off-put by less-than-stellar time management, and it's okay to accept an agent's second career if it really doesn't bother you.

That's slightly off-topic, but I just wanted to throw that out there.

To address the other parts of the post... Some agents read a few queries every day, some only read them once every month or every other month. Some have assistants... Some agents get 60 queries a week, some get as few as 10. And some hold on to a query that they aren't completely sure they like, but also aren't completely sure they don't like and want time to think about it. All of that can impact wait time.

I think very few actually read every sample.

Hope this helps.

Filigree
08-12-2018, 02:56 AM
I have simply not queried decent agents who showed 10 to 18 month backlogs on queries.

Because of a publishing offer, I pulled a submission barely three months into querying, because 1) many top agents of my 45-agent list had already responded, and 2) the remaining agents showed a huge backlog on their social media posts. I also pulled the mms from one agent who requested a full, because it became apparent the agent was over their head and probably not a good fit. (The mms was also linked to an existing published book, so agents might not have bitten, anyway.)

It depends on how long an author is willing to wait, not just on queries but on submission to publishers. Even when successful, this can be a multi-year slog.

A.graye
08-12-2018, 04:31 AM
I have simply not queried decent agents who showed 10 to 18 month backlogs on queries.

Because of a publishing offer, I pulled a submission barely three months into querying, because 1) many top agents of my 45-agent list had already responded, and 2) the remaining agents showed a huge backlog on their social media posts. I also pulled the mms from one agent who requested a full, because it became apparent the agent was over their head and probably not a good fit. (The mms was also linked to an existing published book, so agents might not have bitten, anyway.)

It depends on how long an author is willing to wait, not just on queries but on submission to publishers. Even when successful, this can be a multi-year slog.

This.

So many queriers are afraid to pass up an agent, and it doesn't have to be that way. It's okay to do what's best for you, to know what's normal and what's not, and to move forward accordingly.

Congrats on the offer.

Filigree
08-12-2018, 07:28 AM
Thank you. It's been a fun strange trip getting this series off the ground.