Tips When Waiting for a Response from a Literary Agent... plus When to Follow Up

The amount of time you will need to wait for a response after submitting your pitch will differ for each agent. During this time, you may receive rejection letters, continue pitching to other agents, follow up with agents who fail to respond, and receive requests to submit additional material.

Use Your Time Wisely

While waiting for a response to your query letter or book proposal submission, continue to prepare for your career as an author. You can use this waiting period to:

1. Begin formulating your next book idea.
Every author and literary agent I have interviewed agreed that the number one thing every writer needs to do while waiting for a response is to outline his or her next book idea.

2. Continue to build your platform.
Increase your social networking activities, expand your blogging to include guest posts on other writers’ sites, author articles, and make yourself available as a resource for reporters, journalists, and podcast/radio show hosts as a way to garner additional media exposure.

3. Prepare your next set of query letters.
When you have a stack of query letters prepared and waiting to be sent, any time you receive a rejection letter from one agent you will not have to waste time dwelling on the disappointment because you are ready to contact the next one - and increase your chances of becoming published.

4. Improve your writing skills.
The more you write, the better writer you become. The better writer you are, the more valuable, viable, and marketable your material will be. Devote more time to writing each day.

When to Follow Up

Most agents’ submission guidelines, available on their websites and in print listings, outline the agent’s average response time for queries and books proposals. This should give you a good idea of when to expect to hear from a particular agent. Average response times are:

  • Query letter: two to four weeks.
  • Book proposal: four to six weeks.
  • Manuscript: four to eight weeks.

If you have not received a response from an agent within two to three weeks past the date of his or her listed response time, you should follow up with the agent. For follow-ups to book proposals and manuscripts, it is perfectly acceptable to call the agent and inquire if he or she has had time to review the material. For follow-ups to queries, you may send a brief note along with a copy of the original query letter.