QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, September 20, 2010

Waiting on an Agent's Reply

Most writers get nervous waiting for an agent or an editor to respond. I've been known to send out a submission and then immediately post to Twitter, "Dear Unnamed Editor: I sent my story ten seconds ago. Why haven't you responded yet?" Other writers usually reply to me with, "I hear ya."

We all know the guidelines: wait three months to "nudge" on a partial, six on a full. But we're writers and we're nervous as we await the verdict. Isn't there anything we can do?

Here's my solution: when you want to bother an agent or an editor, go ahead and bother an agent or an editor.

No! you gasp, but before you send me nasty email, consider what I said. I said to bother an agent or an editor. Not the agent or the editor who has your material. Go bother a different one.

It works like this. Agent John Doe requests a partial of your novel, The Long Wait. You send it, but two weeks later you're chewing up your fingernails in nerve-wracked suspense. Every time you get your email, you scan for his name or your novel title in the subject line. You waken at midnight tasting the urge to bug him for a decision even though you know if you do, you'll get a decision all right, and it won't be the one you want.

Take all that nervous energy and head over to QueryTracker.net. Look up similar agents to John Doe. Pick out a few who represent similar authors. Check out their websites, and query those agents instead. Like magic, you have resisted the urge to bother John Doe by bothering five other agents.

With any luck, one of those will request your partial, and you can send it. When you get nervous again, you can once again use waiting-jitters as fuel for sending more queries. By the time John Doe gets back to you, you'll have five other agents reading your material, and you won't have spent time obsessing over the one agent who's had your partial for seven weeks, three days, four hours and twelve minutes. Not that anybody's counting.

This technique works even better with short fiction. Bother an editor! Polish up one of the short stories on your hard drive and find a market for it. Write multiple short stories (or poems, or essays) and bother two or three editors simultaneously--because they won't think of you as bothering them. They'll think of you as submitting. They won't know (or care) that you submitted to Awesome Short Fiction Magazine because you hungered for a response from Chicken Soup For The Nervous Author's Much-Rejected Soul. And the editor you're waiting on will remain unbothered.

Does it work? Well, in the two weeks after I signed with my own agent, I had a novella, a short story and a poem accepted for publication because I'd gotten so jittery by the end of my agency search.

So remember: when you want to bother an agent or an editor, go ahead and do it. Just make sure you "bother" a different agent or editor than the one you're waiting on.

Jane Lebak is the author of The Guardian (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) andThe Boys Upstairs (this December from MuseItUp). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four children. She is represented by Roseanne Wells of the Marianne Strong Literary Agency.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I'm in the waiting pool now, so I'll surely take these suggestions to heart.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Sound advice, Jane. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Love this concept! Thanks Jane!

feywriter said...

Love this! Definitely passing the advice on.

Kristen Howe said...

I'm with you Jane. This is my 5th week of querying. Maybe I'll do some short stories in the spare time between reading.

Anne R. Allen said...

Excellent advice!

Reena Jacobs said...

Excellent advice. There are so many agents out there to query, fretting over just one or two is more of a drag than helpful.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

This is brilliant advice - and it really does help! Thanks for this. :-)

Stina said...

Love this advice!

Of course then you're biting your nails waiting to hear back on your queries. ;)

Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

Yay, Jane! I love this advice. Time to bother a new agent. :-)

Ruth Donnelly said...

Great advice--a very effective strategy!

Susanna Hartigan said...

I considered myself extremely fortunate for getting rejection letters as quickly as I did. Some were within a week. I had expected a much longer wait.