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OK, a question for those who went the traditionally published route.


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How long, roughly, do you think it should take for an agent or publisher to get back with you on whether they want to move forward with your manuscript?

 

I have my own numbers, after querying, but I just want to inquire what others think is an acceptable timeframe.  This includes those places that state, "If you don't hear from us in X number of weeks, consider it a pass."

 

And no, this isn't another of my rantings about getting traditionally published.  I don't really want to go into the details of why I'm asking this question, but suffice to say, it is a result of a rather odd back-and-forth I had with someone over the topic (not on this site, I might add).  I'll drop my results after a few responses.

 

 

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Generally I have found that the common trend nowadays is for agents/publishers to say on their submission guidelines something along the lines of 'if you have not heard back from us by XX we're not interested.'  or they will say 'if interested we will be in touch within x weeks/months.'

 

The average 'don't call us' is about 6-12 week or 3 months (I think that is the longest period). Similar for the' we'll get in touch'  ETA.

 

Basically, if you have not heard within 6+wks it is probably a No.

Next agent please.

 

 

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OK, well, I guess this is it.

 

Yes, I contacted the publisher in question over three months later, and was told that no one comes back that quickly.

 

Roughly 80% of the agents and publishers I queried replied back in 12 weeks or less.  I contacted one agent that was "overdue," not too long ago.  They nicely replied that they were backlogged, which was fine.  I can understand that.

 

I have a strange feeling that a new rejection is forthcoming...   🙂

 

 

 

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You could be right - things do seem to be shifting and agents/publisher seem to be developing the attitude that writers who submit so be grateful for them even looking at their work.

 

COVID has certainly created a backlog for many agents/publishers because of furlong, working from home and the sheer volume of wannabes writing in their enforced time and then there is the priority for many to keep their best selling authors selling books.

 

From what I have heard most publishers have pushed back their 2020/21 publishing schedule back by anything between 12-18 months. Slow boat to chine time me thinks.

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Here's the thing: there is nothing that an editor or agent does that can't be done from home.  I work with technology all day, every day,  Nearly everything I work on can be done at home or in the office.  And, especially with these queries, the vast majority of work is all done through e-mail or a website.

 

The only exception is that if you're at home and now have to homeschool your kids.

 

I suspect that part of the problem - in the US at least - is that a lot of people were making more on unemployment than they were actually working their job.  So when the door was open to come back to work, they decided to stay home anyways.  So, there's now a shortage.  This, of course, doesn't account for agents because they look - to me - to work semi-freelance.

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On 7/29/2021 at 11:14 AM, Jeff Potts said:

How long, roughly, do you think it should take for an agent or publisher to get back with you on whether they want to move forward with your manuscript?

Should take? Immediately. I'm impatient, so why not? 😆

 

But I've queried agents who represent MG. Almost all agencies listed in QT. Sometimes more than one agent, when the agency says that's okay to do. So, even if I don't have experience publishing. I have experience querying.

 

Here are my stats:

-- Half never get back.

-- Even the ones who ask for a full or partial didn't get back. (I nudged. The one who had my full -- for a year -- still didn't get back. Still hasn't gotten back, but hey, it's 4 years later, so I chalked her off as never-gonna.)

-- Out of the ones who do get back: the majority get back within 6 weeks, 2-4 months is the next group, and some even get back within a day to two weeks. (Surprisingly, the ones who take that short aren't simply emptying their slush piles. I did a few individualized reject letters.)

-- The most famous have assistants who will get back to you in 2-4 months. Lean toward 4, not 2.

 

I do know you aren't supposed to make more contact for 3-6 months, and when it is time to contact, as gentle a nudge as possible.

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48 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

Here's the thing: there is nothing that an editor or agent does that can't be done from home.  I work with technology all day, every day,  Nearly everything I work on can be done at home or in the office.  And, especially with these queries, the vast majority of work is all done through e-mail or a website.

 

The only exception is that if you're at home and now have to homeschool your kids.

 

I suspect that part of the problem - in the US at least - is that a lot of people were making more on unemployment than they were actually working their job.  So when the door was open to come back to work, they decided to stay home anyways.  So, there's now a shortage.  This, of course, doesn't account for agents because they look - to me - to work semi-freelance.

I don't know what editors do. Too broad a word. But I disagree with you on the agents. Agents are doing two things at the same time -- pushing their clients into the line-of-sight of publishers and keeping the cycle between clients and publisher churning. (Agents seem to like about 20 clients.) Finding new talent doesn't even make it into their day-job. Not enough time. They do that added step at nights and on weekends. (Think that one over as you realize they too are supposed to have real lives.)

How do you push clients into the line-of-sight of publishers? The reason it's not good to query from February to April is because most agents are doing book fairs. The big one that publishers go to. Try doing that one at home. And they schmooze publishers by calling every so often, taking them out to eat, seeing what the publisher is looking for while discussing the tracks of the client(s) they have in common. An axiom in marketing is "Out of sight, out of mind." How much harder was an agent's life when they couldn't be seen, except on Zoom, by publishers? And do get there are gatekeepers for the large publishers. You don't just zoom them. You get scheduled in by their receptionist, or secretary, or office manager. So, you have to schmooze them just as much, but in different ways.

 

As for getting unemployment goes? That's only tempting if you're American and making less than $31,500 a year. Honestly? Don't pick an agent that's making that little.  That's the assistant's salary, and they're accepting it in hopes of becoming the agent. (And part of me is chuckling, because I haven't worked in over 20 years, and never made that much. ☺️)

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Posted (edited)
28 minutes ago, Spaulding said:

I don't know what editors do. Too broad a word. But I disagree with you on the agents. Agents are doing two things at the same time -- pushing their clients into the line-of-sight of publishers and keeping the cycle between clients and publisher churning. (Agents seem to like about 20 clients.) Finding new talent doesn't even make it into their day-job. Not enough time. They do that added step at nights and on weekends. (Think that one over as you realize they too are supposed to have real lives.)

 

Yet, the agents are open for queries.

 

I'm not addressing the other aspects of their job, merely when they look for new talent.

 

That being said, in situations where everything is shut down - or in New York where restrictions are pretty high - you adapt your schmoozing.  This means connection on Twitter, phone calls, and so on.

 

The VAST amount of work you specified - visits restaurants and book fairs aside - can literally be done on your couch, and usually is.  And with restrictions in place (especially seeing that lion's share of publishing for the US is located in New York City), everything ends up being equal.  

 

Some of the activities you mentioned aren't all that dissimilar to IT headhunters.  The vast majority of them are remote.  Also, in that profession the supply / demand curve is turned on its head - there isn't enough supply to meet the demand.  So their time is spent cold-calling to fill positions.  That, I will tell you, is just as much work as reading new queries.

 

I will say this: the one thing I have noted about the publishing industry as a whole is its reticence in adapting technology in general.  When I was first looking to publish my book, I had to send queried and manuscripts by mail.  This was the early 2000s.  I was able to look up many publishers and agents online using the Internet, but many of them I had to find in writers periodicals.

 

Contrast this with IT.  When I first started my career - back in the late 80s, early 90s - you used look through the want ads in the paper, then send resumes by mail.  However, by 2000, no one - and I do mean NO ONE - was looking in the local want ads.  You were submitting resumes online to websites like Monster and Dice.

 

Needless to say, I thought having to mail letters to agents and publishers via USPS seemed a little, well, archaic.

 

Granted, things are different now, two decades later.  However, I'm still stumbling over a few places that require you to send in your manuscript via USPS, or whose website, or submission process, make me cringe.

Edited by Jeff Potts
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2 hours ago, Spaulding said:

I think I see why the publisher was ired. How about this for an authentic answer for your original question from someone who does know.

 

My response is going to sound pretty harsh, so I'm lettling you know that in advance.  Don't take it personally.  I'm writing this to make a point.

 

No one has an easy job.  No one.  Period.

 

If anyone who thinks they have a difficult job wants to step into my shoes for a while, fine.  You'd better be able to produce, at the same qualitry I do, and do it consistently.

 

And, I might add, respond PROFESSSIONALLY when someone sends you an e-mail, asking about your status.  Not blowing them off.

 

Oh, and on top of that, how about staying up until 2:00 am either working social media, writing, editing, and taking care of issues around the house.  In addition to your day job.

 

How about spending 32 hours straight - no sleep - either flying to Europe, getting to a plant, and standing around for another 8 hours having people try and blame all of their problems on your software, and rebutting them every single time?  I've done a few of those at my last job.  Being sent to a hostile customer because you're the sacrificial scape goat who's being pulled in, at the last minute, to salvage a screwed-up project?  Oh, yeah, 30 minutes of a customer yelling at you for something you've never done...that's a treat.

 

Then there are doctors that pull 14 hour shifts, catching sleep whenever they can.  People who work 70 hours plus, and still are able to respond professionally to an inquiry.  No excuses.

 

I'm not one to say one person has a harder job than the other - quite to the contrary in fact.  But, in business I always endevor to reply promptly to any inquiry, and go out of my way to help people when they need to figure something out, or fix something.  It's part of my job.  I'm a professional.

 

Or how about working on impossible timeline imposed upon you?  You know, like getting a system up and running in six weeks, when it takes a whole department of people six months, and they still couldn't get it done?  Anyone want to try that?  Or get something done in 3 months, when it takes most people a year?

 

(The guy who imposed the six week deadline did it so as to have an excuse to get rid of me, I might add.  Even attempted to hamstring me partway through.  He failed.  No joke.)

 

I've gone years with roughly 4 - 5 hours worth of sleep during the weekday.

 

First and foremost, I play by whatever rules someone sets.  I don't bug people unless it is warranted.  However, WHEN YOU DON'T SET CLEAR GUIDELINES, the rest of us are left to guess.  So, all some of us ask is that you are professional, and respond to a inquiry when things are, well, a bit vague.

 

In the case of this publisher, I sent one inquiry, offered one response, and will leave it alone for couple more months before I just write them off.  Pure and simple.  No bugging someone.  I just want to know.

 

But make no mistake, their job ain't any harder than mine, or most of the people in this country.

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