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Agent reply: how long??

Hi all,

I'm currently pitching a crime thriller to literary agents and wondering how long it takes for them to generally reply.

Many of you may have been through this experience and might shed some light.

Agent profiles on their websites etc suggest they take from 8 to 12 weeks to reply.

But then you hear stories about writers pitching to agents and getting a deal in a day ... 

I started pitching yesterday and that hasn't yet happened to me, haha.

Love to hear from you all.

Jeff

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Replies (33)
  • Expect long waits, and in lots of cases complete silence. The submission process is always painful, but keep at it and try not to get down. Putting yourself out there is the only way to make progress, and one day you‘ll hopefully strike gold.

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    • Strike gold! Yeah, I'm banking on it.

      Thanks, Kate.

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      • Hi Jeff, 


        The first round of submissions, I never heard back. Ha! But I started my second round at the beginning of this month and had two rejections within a 2 week period. I take this as good as you can move forward quickly. I have also written a crime thriller. 

        Happy to help with any tips on pitch letters.

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        • Hi Francesca,

          I haven't bothered with rounds and am just firing it out en masse. (I already got excellent feedback on my pitch from the Jericho agent feedback sessions in the summer writing festival, and tweaked based on that, so am confident to fire out my pitches now.)

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        • Hi Jeff, it varies greatly. Taking out of the equation the agents that didn’t answer. The quickest I had was 15 minutes and the longest 6 months. So it gives you an idea. Things are particularly slow at the moment so that’s another factor.

          Good luck with your submissions!

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          • Hah ... 15 minutes to six months ... that's a big window.

            Was the 15 minute reply a 'yay' to your MS?

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            • Why are things slow at the moment?

              Because writers have time to finish that MS stuck in their drawer for years?

              And bang it out to agents.

              I'd have thought agents/comm eds had more time to read submissions.

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              • The 15 minute one was a request for the full MS, it was a US agent so maybe they work faster, the 6 month one was an agent who had the full for that period of time.

                As you say people have had time to finish their current MS, get old ones out of the drawer. My agent normally gets about 70/80 submissions a week during normal time and she's getting more at the moment. Also agents have been working from home but also been looking after children who weren't at school, creating work space at home and sharing it with partners, so they definitely don't have more time for submissions. Most of the time they read their submissions during their down time anyway because their working hours are filled with things they have to do for their clients.

                I honestly do not know how my agent finds the time to do all that she does.

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              • Good luck, Jeff, keep us posted!

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                • Hi Jeff,

                  Like the other posters, I have experienced various lengths of time for a reply. A few years ago I had varying responses from two weeks to none at all for my first novel attempt. I've just consulted the list I kept at the time and three were around two weeks, four came in at the month mark and then a few more at around six weeks to two months. This time around, with my second effort, I had two form rejections at around two weeks and nothing since. I submitted about five weeks ago. Good luck with yours, hope you have a positive response soon!

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                  • Great info re the timeframe on your replies.

                    I pitched to a pile of agents (tailored to each) and expect I'll rack up nays - and maybe one yay - by January.

                    Thanks for the well wishes and good luck with your own submissions.

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                  • HI Jeff

                    Gosh that's a question - the shortest I had was 21 seconds - a resounding no landed in my inbox from an agent in under 30 seconds - not sure she even had time to read the headline!! Initially I thought that it'd be an out of office reply but nope she'd typed - NOT FOR ME in capitals on the reply - and before anyone asks yes it was genre specific and she was in the genre specific open to submissions agent list. So that was encouraging!!

                    The longest was 16 months and 11 days (I keep a spreadsheet) for a kids picture book - not my normal genre but my girls had pestered me to do this one. Never found a home for it but that dropped into my inbox in May - probably during and agents lockdown clean up - they were very apologetic but still said no..

                    My advice - is don't wait for replies but sub to as many as you can before you lose the will to live....once the rejections start coming it can be very disheartening...

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                    • 30 seconds ... hah ... incredible. 

                      16 months ... 

                      I'm going to pitch far and wide.

                      I was a freelance journalist for 15 years, pitching stories to editors, often getting knocked back, so I have a thick skin. But usually I found that Paper A didn't want Story x but Paper C did. What's dung to one editor is gold to another.

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                    • I’m with you Jeff. Although you can edit a hundred times to reach perfection, which of course is impossible, in the end you have to submit. I guess the more you submit to the greater the chances. If you don’t buy a ticket you can’t win the raffle! 

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                      • Thanks, Debbie.

                        I decided to stop tinkering the MS and send it out.

                        Then get back to tinkering!

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                      • I think the general advice is to only send out in batches and wait for some responses rather than sending to every agent who handles your genre all at once. I'm sure your JW feedback was top notch and it sounds like your submission was well polished, but you never know - some agent might send you advice you'd never considered, that your can use to tweak your submission and improve your chances even more.

                        My fastest rejection was a week, average about a month on those who replied. I've since had two full requests, though, (the second after a rewrite) so I'm improving!

                        Fingers crossed for you, Jeff 

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                        • Oh, you won't find it hard to hone a list looking for book club reads - very many agents looking for those. What are you planning to do, send out a batch then revise according to feedback? I made a spread sheet to keep track of who I've sent to, expected turn round, outcome - I'd never kept track otherwise 😂

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                          • Hi Lynn, yes, re spreadsheet, simply who I sent to and when.  I have found a few left field type agents too, but apart from the genre (which Debi Alper told me it was) it's difficult to describe and I can't find another book to compare too, which is hard. I may have to put a sample on here for help....thank you for all your help and interest, and let us all know what becomes of yours....

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                            • You shouldn't be able to find just another book to compare it otherwise it's not original. What you need to compare to books with have similar elements, settings or themes as your book.

                              When I was submitting to agents my comp titles were The Hunting Party (for setting), My Dark Vanessa (for some of the themes) and My Lovely Wife (for the style). My MS is not exactly like any of these books individually (for example it has a completely different plot than The Hunting Party). Think of comp titles like the one liners you can find on the cover of books, such as "For the fans of Gone Girl" it doesn't mean like it's exactly like Gone Girl but it has similarities. Does this make sense?

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                            • "Agents used to get 20/30 MS a week now they get that a day."

                              So I just heard on the Ask An Editor Anything with Tanya Byrne webinar now.

                              I'm not holding out on getting a fast reply on my pitches.

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                              • I've had responses from about 80% of the agents I have pitched to. Typically responses have been within any time indications they give on the website. Generally it's been about six weeks. The fastest I had was about a week. The slowest was about three months. All responses negative.

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                                • Pretty much my experience last year with book one, Bella. More than 30% simply didn't respond. Since then, admittedly, I can see how I can improve my first book and since doing the self edit course, I feel much more confident with with WIP and sending it out. Those who have read it so far feel it's good enough. I think, in the end, it's all subjective isn't it, finding the agent who likes it enough. 

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