[From my first three posts on this topic: Many writers look for an agent or publisher once they have finished writing their novels. If you are one of these people, first, you must take the time to research and find out the agents’ or publishers’ requirements for submitting material. Second, you must follow their submission directions to the letter. Third, you must be resolute and take rejection in stride. Remember that old saying about living to fight another day?]
The final truth in this series is that you must expect to wait, wait, wait. Patience may be a virtue, but it isn’t one of mine. So this is the toughest part for me.
Once you have sent out your submission or query to an agent or small press, you can expect to wait inordinate amounts of time. After all, they are busy, busy, busy. You have all the time in the world to wait on them.
And you probably will.
Often the websites of agents will give you some idea of how long it may take them to study your information, whether it is a query or an actual manuscript. Some of these estimates may range from three months to nine months. Occasionally, they will suggest that if you haven’t heard by a certain date you might send a follow-up, brief email, explaining your book title and the date you sent your information. It is not good to pester these people (who hold the keys to your publishing future) with random and numerous emails. You simply must wait on them.
As I mentioned previously in this series, you may not hear at all from some agents or publishers. And again, they often state on their websites that if your material does not interest them, you will probably not hear from them. After I gave up on the agent hunt, I heard from an agent ten months after I had sent the query.
If you submit to a small press, and you generally do not need an agent to do so, their website may tell you how long it will take to hear back from them. Usually they give you a range like three to six months. Sometimes their entry in the reference book, Writer’s Market, will give you a range. When you look at the publisher’s website, you may also see a notice that says they want an exclusive reading of your manuscript. This means that while they are reading your words, you may not send your manuscript in to another publisher.
If you are relatively young, this process will probably not bother you very much. You have a great deal of time. But someone like me, who started writing in my sixties, is definitely on the downhill slope of that mountain of life. So time is not on my side. Kind of makes me think that those people who self-publish might have something.