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Some Advice on Agent Angst?


So some background: About a year ago I was querying my novel and had some interest from someone at a Really Big Agency. She had some revision suggestions she wanted to see first, so over the summer I did a big round of rewrites and resubmitted in early fall. But she had just come back from maternity leave and was backlogged, so she referred me to a new agent at the agency who was interested. She read through it and made a few more suggestions. I spent NaNoWriMo on that second round of rewrites and then resubmitted it.

This second agent is perfect, even more perfect than the original one I submitted to there, but...she's had it for a little over five months now and while my occasional (monthly or so) pokes have gotten apologetic but still enthusiastic responses, I'm starting to wonder if I there's anything I can (or should) do but wait. I know the right agent is worth being patient with, and I know from her Twitter that she's behind on queries too, and the last update I had from her (about three weeks ago) said she was halfway through it, but my greatest fear is that I'm going to wait and wait and it's still not going to be good enough and I'll have spent all that time waiting with nothing to show for it.

Should I just wait it out? Check back in with that first agent? Start querying again? ...Try to passively-aggressively nudge her forward by mentioning querying again? I know traditional publishing is a long game, but the uncertainty is giving me ulcers!

Caged Maiden

Article Team
First of all, Congratulations for getting so far in the process! And greetings, neighbor, I'm just up the road from you!

I think at this point in your waiting, you have to weigh whether you want to wait around on this agent or whether you want to keep sending the manuscript to the next agent on your list. I mean, if I had an agent really interested, I'd hold out for them as long as possible, but only if they were someone I really wanted to work with (Kristin Nelson was my #1). Is she being professional? Is she keeping in contact tough she's taking a long time? Those are all the kinds of things that might affect how long you feel like waiting.

One of our other neighbors (in Ohio), T. W. Ervin II had to wait a really long time for one manuscript, and he's shared his experiences on this forum. So, I guess it comes down to what you're willing to put up with for this dream agent. If you have a manuscript that you think is red hot for today's market, you might want to consider looking elsewhere (even maybe politely telling the agent that you'd love to work with her, but you need a response ASAP so you don't lose your prospective market, or whatever).

I mean, it isn't fair, sometimes, how writers can be strung along only to be rejected, but if the agent is keeping in touch with you and letting you know what's on her mind, it might just be a waiting game. Perhaps she's doing research on whether she can place your novel? It sure would be nice if she could just give you a status update, you know?

Sorry I couldn't be more helpful. Usually when I post, I am a bit more decisive, but in this case, the decision is really a personal one. Unless the agent you queued specifically says you cannot send queries to other agents, i'd send them out. That way, if she takes another four months and decides to pass on the project, you weren't completely inactive that whole time, but allowed other agents a chance to reply. I think in some respects it's like job offers. If you have a job and you aren't happy with your pay, by receiving an offer from a competitor and taking it to your employer and asking them to match it, it can score you a raise without having to leave. On the other hand, some bosses get butthurt about that kind of thing and just tell you to go take that other job, then. :(

Best wishes as you find the right agent to represent you. Just getting some agents excited about it is a HUGE accomplishment. And the fact that you have already gotten feedback form them on revisions is great!


You're the only one who can answer this question, but here are some thoughts.

Firstly, what will you do if you get rejected in the end? Query someone else? Shelve the book altogether? Self-publish? If you're planning to carry on querying, then it's probably worth waiting this one out, because a Maybe is better than a No, and it isn't a No yet. But if you plan to self-publish if all else fails, this whole year you've spent waiting is a year when that book could have been out in the world gathering readers and making you a bit of money.

Secondly, and most important, what are you doing while you wait? There's only one correct answer here: writing another book. Or several other books, possibly. Each book you write improves you as a writer, and gets you nearer to your goals (whatever they may be).

Good luck with your writing!


There are some good thoughts on the posts above mine, so I will try to supplement them rather than repeat them.

It is very hard to give precise advise without more information, like who the agent is, or answers to the questions from PR above.

One of the factors is, did you query just one agent and get a positive response, or did you query a whole bunch and then one took interest in your work?

Traditional publishing can be like being in the military, 99% waiting and 1% pure insanity trying to get things done in a hurry. Patience is a virtue.

You are in a grey area right now, they have shown significant interest but I am guessing you have not signed a contract yet. Once you sign they are your agent, and professionals should get back to you quickly. One reason my wife let her first (fairly well known) agent go was slowness of service. Her new agent (and far better agent) gets back to her quickly. If they are responding relatively promptly to your "pokes" that is a good sign to my find.

You can also try a more personal approach. See if you can schedule a teleconference with them to discuss your book, which will create a informal deadline, and allow you to build more rapport. If they are in NYC offer to take them to lunch sometime to discuss your book and get career advice. Nothing beats some good face time to build a better relationship with them. E-mail is fine but in person contact is better.

All the best with getting your work published.


Thanks for your thoughts! It always makes me feel a bit better when I can bounce things off other people, and right now my closest writing buddy is more involved in the short-fiction market, where this kind of turnaround would be totally unreasonable.

I'm pretty determined to get this one traditionally published, enough to be willing to go through two rounds of pretty significant revisions at agent suggestions, so I suppose I need to just get comfy where I am and wait it out. It's kind of vaguely trendy -- Norse-flavored (that'd be the trendy part) commercial fantasy with a dark, diverse, and feminist twist -- but not so much that the market won't be there in a year. I tossed out about a dozen queries before settling in for that first big R&R, and honestly I blame my query-writing skills as much as anything for not getting more responses.

My biggest problem is that I've spent the last few months on the fence about starting on the second book vs trying to get better at short fiction. (Of course there's a second book -- a debut author can't sell a 300,000-word epic fantasy!) I don't want to start the new one just to have some editorial suggestions ruin all my plans, but I love these characters and want to get back to them. And short fiction has a nice, solid market and would get my name out there, but I'm awful at it. And the other thing I've been working on during that time -- finally getting proper treatment for a depression/ADHD combo that made writing a novel at all quite the challenge -- has made making a decision on that hard, but...I'm getting there, and that discipline is something I need to master.

My hope at this point is that not hearing a "No" yet is a very good sign there'll be a "Yes". She's a big enough agent that I want to believe she wouldn't ask for an R&R unless she really wanted to love it, and a lot of the stuff she posts on social media makes me feel like we're really on the same wavelength. But like I said, she just moved to the agency from another one, and then she literally moved because I guess the new one doesn't require her to live in NYC (just nearby), and all signs suggest her query queue is backed up too, so... *takes a deep breath* Patience.

Thanks for your thoughts! :)


My advice is get working on the second book. Series, trilogies etc are standard in fantasy these days and your agent being able to tell an editor, the second book is 75% done can help sell your work.

I can't remember the exact number but something like 75% of authors who publish will not publish a second book. Editors are very wary of "one book wonders" and you want them to know up front that you can be a long and productive writer for them.

Short fiction is a different skill than novel writing, and I think the market for it is pretty poor. Your agent to be won't be much interested in trying to sell your short fiction in any event.


Short fiction is a different skill than novel writing, and I think the market for it is pretty poor. Your agent to be won't be much interested in trying to sell your short fiction in any event.

Oh, I figured, it's more of a side thing that I can sell by myself (ideally) to pass the time.

Good point that having actual completed pages of Book 2 will help her sell it better than just "plans" for Books 2 and 3. Best to focus my working energy on that, then, and leave the shorts to the fickleness of inspiration.


toujours gai, archie
I'm not nearly so far along as Trixter (currently taking large doses of jealousy suppressants), but I expect to be there soon. I have a couple of novelettes, a short story (published), and more books waiting anxiously in the wings. My novel is within a month or two of being ready to show to an agent and I'm starting to worry about similar issues.

I want to publish this traditionally, not least because I already know the self-pub path and intend to work both in symbiosis. I certainly shall be working on Next Novel as This Novel makes the rounds. But for how long? How do I make the decision?

It's not like this is a decision made and then forgotten. Deciding to keep going, keep submitting, keep waiting, keep not self-publishing, is a decision that gets re-visited and re-made every single day. Worse, it's a decision that has no clear "oh yeah" point. Every day's decision is filled with as much self-doubt as the day previous.

Nor is the decision to abandon ship (or, rather, transfer vessels) all that quick and easy. Decide to end the queries, end the waiting? Fine. Now you have to find a cover artist. Find an editor. Have the money in hand. Have your marketing platform in place. Und so weiter.

Given that it's all guess and golly, here's my entirely arbitrary plan. I'll give queries six months. I've got a good-sized list to work through, and six months should get me down into the third tier. Six months is also the time I've allotted to myself to write the first draft of Next Novel. If the queries have gone nowhere, then it's self-pub. Knowing the six month time limit means I can start looking for artists and editors in month five.

If I get past the queries to an agent (hi Trixter!), then it's another six months. By then, Next Novel should be ready to go through the same torture. If by the one after that I still have no bites, then it's self-pub all the way. The time frames may change, but tying This Novel's fate to Next Novel's progress feels approximately right.



Oi, I feel for you skip.knox, if I was thinking of going the self-pub route, this waiting would be giving me more ulcers than it already is! Best of luck when the time comes!
Hi Skip,

I think you're making the right decision. I can't say whether six months is the right amount of time, but I think everyone trying to go the trade route and get an agent etc, needs to set a deadline. So many months, so many submissions, and then that's it. Once you've set the deadline, drawn your line in the sand and committed to it, the stress of it should go away. Then comes the stress of cover design, editing, marketing etc! You can't actually win at this game.

Cheers, Greg.