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If an agent says if I haven't heard back in eg 3 months, they will not be getting back to me, can I assume that they are too busy and it's been rejected without being read? 

  • Hmn. If an agent has that on their auto-reply or website for example, it could be that they're too busy to read it or that they have read and are not interested in hearing more and are choosing not to send a rejection. Either way, if the three months mark has passed I would focus on submitting to others. 

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    • Are there any details on the agency submission page? A few agencies mention that if you don't hear from them after 8 or 12 weeks (depending on the agency) then assume it's a no from them.

      I agree with Holly, I would focus on submitting to other agents.

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      • The worst are the agencies that give no idea of time frame at all, just saying they won't reply if they're not interested. It leaves you in limbo, not knowing months down the line of your work is not for them or if they're just a really busy agency and still haven't read your submission yet. We've all heard stories of writers being contacted by an agent a year after submission. 

        Though I do agree with L and Holly. Best to focus on the next agent and/or the next project. Great distraction to plunge into something new while the old story is doing the rounds and if an agent does come back to you, you'll have another project to show them.

        All the best with it

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        • Hi Marian!

          I think that your submission would have been read, or at least the first couple of pages were. Everybody knows the story of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter first book having been rejected by a dozen agents. And now she's earning the one who acceped her a big fat figure... At one time she was earning around 250K pounds per day... Can you imagine how the agents that rejected her must have been feeling all these years to today? None of them would dare do the same mistake. Agents are all looking for their big opportunity as much as you. If they do not read submissions, the big one could be passing them by.

          They do read. They must. Otherwise how would they make a living?

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          • The first Harry Potter book was turned down by 12 publishers not agents. IIRC she signed with the 2nd agent who got back to her. With publishing, not matter who you are and how successful or great a writer you are, you will be rejected at one stage or another it's just part of the writer's journey. 

            Agents or publishers at the end of the day all you need is for one to say yes to you.

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            • Thanks for correction, L. Much appreciated.

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            • Most agents seem to state on their website if they are not open to new submissions (because they are too busy). So if that is not stated then I think you can assume your submission will be looked at within the time frame given, but they will only contact you if they are interested.

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              • Being new to the game I am astounded with what of read about agents. Is it not a common courtesy to reply to an email? Especially when so much time and hope has gone into the submission. How can they be so busy that one minute of response is beyond them. Perhaps they should more regularly state on their websites they are not accepting submissions until they catch up and reply to the ones they have. Seems very reasonable to this old fashioned, courteous, and behind the times guy.

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                • Robert, I can't disagree. I've even seen a video from a top agent stating the they always reply and if you don't hear from an agent who says they will reply within eight weeks, don't bother with them. It's now over six months.

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                  • I don't disagree with you Robert, I really dislike the "no response means no" practice when no time frame is given.

                    However, consider the volume - say an agent gets 50 - 100 queries a week. And say each query takes around two minutes to reply to - that's an extra 2 - 3 hours of work a week they're not getting paid for. 

                    And it's not just that, there's an unfortunate minority of people who take a form response as an invitation to demand further input, or tell the agent what a large mistake they're making turning down this brilliant novel.

                    As long as it's stated up front with a time frame, I don't have a problem. 

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                    • Thanks, Theda. But as I said, I'm old fashioned and to me it's a common courtesy. Hit the reply button, and say, 'Thanks, Rob. It's not my cup of tea, but thank you for contacting me.' = 30 seconds. Old fashioned is me.

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                    • Agents are receiving about 200 submissions a week (probably more during lockdown when everyone who has never had time to write a book have decided to do so).

                      Unfortunately 95% of what land in their inbox is either:

                      1 Not in the genre they represent.

                      2. Poorly presented 

                      3. Hasn't followed the guidelines on agents website (e.g the whole manuscript has been enclosed not synopsis and first 3 chapters)

                      4. Isn't very good.

                      I'm not defending agents my experience of dealing with them has never been very good but they will only respond if you've avoided the above mistakes AND if they think they can sell your manuscript. That's why they don't respond a lot of the time - saying that I got a response on Friday for something I sent out 15 months ago which is a record for me!!

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                      • 15 months! I have heard of this kind of thing, but never met anyone who's experienced it.

                        This is the problem with the 'no response means no interest' line many agents take. I subbed to a few last August that took this approach - when do I give up on them, when do I add them to the rejection pile if some take this long to reply? 

                        I need to know so I can decide whether to go forward with editorial advice.

                        Congrats on the contact, Danny. Hope it was positive.

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                      • Hi Lynne

                        It was a no - but no surprise there. 

                        Being a writer is all about rejection the competition is fierce - I think 3 months is long enough - if no response move on - plus don't wait - just email as many as possible - keep a note on a spreadsheet so you don't send them the same thing twice.

                        I liken it to getting a job - most of the time you won't get an interview - when an agent contacts you and likes what you do - that's like the interview, if they take you on, that's like probation or perhaps an unpaid internship is a better description and you only become an employee once they've got you a deal - then you change from a writer to an author!!

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