This week I had a response from a literary agent to a submission I sent out 8 months ago (and withdrew 8 months minus one week ago). It was a slightly surreal reminder of the submissions process (and for information, it was a rejection)…
When I was submitting I kept an excel spreadsheet of my submission dates, to whom I submitted, the initial response time etc and I thought it might be time to share. This was my process for finding an agent:
1) Look in the Writers and Artists Yearbook for agents that handle literary fiction, accept unsolicited submissions and were currently open to submissions from new authors.
2) Consider which authors my writing is similar to, and find out who represents them.
3) Draw up a long list of agencies, then check out their websites, google them and see where they have turned up on the web, what novels they have sold, articles they have written, etc etc.
4) Draw up a shortlist of 20, take a deep breath, start sending out queries in batches of four or five.
I don’t know if that’s a good process or not, but it felt right to me.
In the end I submitted to eleven agents before signing with an agent in early November. Of those agents, six hadn’t yet responded, so I wrote to them, and e-mailed, to withdraw my manuscript.
Of those six, three replied by email the same day, to say thank you for letting them know, congratulations and good luck. The three that replied had variously had my submission for 3 months, 6 weeks and 1 week.
Of the remaining three, one never replied. One responded to my original submission in January this year and one replied to my original submission this week, after having had the submission for 8 months!
Is 8 months normal for a response?
For those of you who have work out on submission at the moment, how long do you consider is reasonable for a response? What does an eight-month high slush pile even look like?
In other stats – for the five agents who responded to my initial submission:
One replied after a month to say their slushpile was too big and they had stopped accepting submissions.
Two rejected – One after two weeks, one after three weeks.
Two requested full – both requests arrived 6 days after I posted the query + 3 chapters (from France to the UK). And then pretty fast turnarounds for the fulls – two weeks for one agent and four days for the other…resulting in The Call.
Getting a rejection from an agent saying this: “With such a full list of clients, it is rare that we are able to take on new authors – and then only with material we are extremely confident of placing with a publisher. Regretfully, we do not feel that your work fits into that category.” several months after my novel sold to Bloomsbury doesn’t have the sting to that it would if I were still looking for an agent. But it’s a sharp reminder that this industry is so incredibly risk averse and subjective.
Wishing all of you slush-pile warriors courage and the best of luck.