A Piece of String

Cat measuring string

Image courtesy of Stefan Tell

I have stalled.

A couple of weeks ago I fired off the first 50 pages of my first novel to the first agent I have met. A week of firsts.

With the sense of a job well done and 4 years well spent in writing the novel, I then settled back and waited for my ship to come steaming into the harbour amid a riot of confetti and bunting.

And I waited…

And I waited…

I waited some more…

Then I did a bit of pacing about…

Then I went back to waiting…

I really am rather concerned about this agent. Clearly he has been taken gravely ill. Or has lost his job. Or is embroiled in a protracted and painful relationship meltdown. Or is stuck in a shed. Or has been eaten by badgers. Or his eyes have fallen out.

Surely he can’t just not like the book and isn’t telling me? Impossible! Inconceivable!

Maybe my email got caught by his spam filter and any day now he will spot it sitting there.

I shall go back to waiting.

The question is… how long does one wait before chasing up an agent? Is two weeks inappropriately needy of me? Or does it imply that I set too little stock by the quality of my work? Should I have called last week? Should I email tomorrow?

Meantime, while all of this is going on, I have, as I stated at the very outset, stalled. I have written not one word in those past two weeks, nor have I pursued the myriad marketing opportunities for my book and my personal author brand (OK, I hate the phrase “personal brand” because I reject entirely the notion of people as brands, but it fits here so I’ll cheapen myself and use it). I have, in short, assumed that just one phone call away was everything I have ever dreamed of.

The most nonsensical part of this whole farago is that I know for absolute fact that there is an immense chance of getting rejected by every agent on the planet, yet still I thought: “Ha. Jolly good. Made it first time. Now to relax with a piping hot crumpet and become a world-renowned author overnight.”

I haven’t even submitted the self-same 50 pages to any other agencies yet. I did get as far as underlining a few in the Artists’ & Writers’ Yearbook with an orange pen, as if by some alchemical happenstance this would cosmically alert them to my presence and have them clamouring at my door in a frothing maelstrom of acquisitional lust.

Still waiting…

So, rather like a little field-mouse poking his head out of a stuffy burrow as the first tendrils of spring waft their freshening way to his nostrils, I shall endeavour to shake off the langorous turpitude in which I have been cloaked of late and re-double my efforts.

I shall write. I shall research. I shall pitch and query and synopsificate. I shall do all of this and much much more!!

As soon as I’ve checked to see if my agent has replied…


14 thoughts on “A Piece of String

  1. I would say to check if the agent gave you an idea of when he would get back to you. It sounds like you’ve had some correspondence with him, so did he happen to mention a time frame? If not, then check the agency’s website to see if they offer a general response time. I think most do. If it’s past that amount of time, by all means contact him again! Clearly he just forgot to hit send on your acceptance email. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Other than that, all I can say is that I would give it a little more time. Getting to see the other side of things now working as an editor for REUTS Publications, I can tell you that sometimes it takes longer than we like to respond to queries. At REUTS, we’re averaging anywhere from a week for a simple query to a month or longer with a full manuscript. And we’re small in comparison to much larger agencies/publishers. I can only imagine how busy they can be! I think typically it takes about 4-6 weeks to receive a response from a submission. But I could be wrong. Regardless, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t like your work. They could just be really really busy.

    In the meantime, maybe some impartial critique from an editor would help alleviate your fears? I happen to know you won a pretty kickass prize recently that would fit that bill. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  2. “Inconceivable!” — I don’t think that word means what you think it means…

    KWhipkey has good advice above, and I wouldn’t have expected anything faster than a 4-week turnaround. At that point, a “I sent you the 50pp you requested; have you received it?” query might be okay. It’s not like you’re the first anxious writer with an over-active imagination they’ve ever come across, now is it? ๐Ÿ˜‰


  3. Jon, I’d leave it four weeks minimum before sending a polite query to ascertain that he really did receive the first fifty. He may well be waiting there, elbows on the desk, chin in hand drumming his fingers and wondering if you are ever going to send him the pages of the greatest novel he has ever seen.
    Oh, I DID read a report that Badger attacks are on the increase in that area. They are funding their activities by selling stolen manuscript samples that they have siphoned off the internet. And by kidnapping prominent literary agents too.


  4. I agree with some of the above comments, check the average response time for that agent or agency and wait that amount of time before querying. BUT, I totally am with you on the being anxious and restless and unproductive during this waiting period. I am quite sure I would be under the same kind of stress, were I in your position!!! O_o I am having enough difficulty as it is waiting the FOUR months for my rejection letters from literary magazines, if my stuff were actually with an AGENT who had REQUESTED a sample, sheesh… that would be tough! But hang in there! You can do it! I’m sure you will receive a favorable reply shortly!! ๐Ÿ˜€


    • Thanks for the encouragement ๐Ÿ™‚ On the back of everyone’s advice I’m sitting tight for the 4-6 weeks stipulated on the agent’s site. But it ain’t easy… I’m not a patient soul at all… I want it all and I want it yesterday! Or sooner!!


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