Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Submissions and Queries: How Long Will it Take?

As a writer myself, I understand the agony of waiting for a decision-maker to read my work. Or, as we say in publishing, “to get a read.” Therefore, I thought I’d address the question that seems ever on the tip of querying and submitting authors’ tongues: how long until we read their query or submission? Here’s a look at what to expect.

All queries route through our address. I typically answer queries within a week, often the same day. At present, I only have queries in the box from Saturday onward. An important tip here: the Net can be a wonderful tool, but not all e-mails arrive. If you query and don’t hear from us within ten days, please re-query to be sure we’ve gotten it. Unless I am traveling (note: and therefore office life is on hold), I stay current. If I get into a major traveling season, then it takes longer.

On partials, I then decide who will get each submission based on a variety of factors: current workload, tastes, interests, geography. You name it. We’re looking to make the best match here for all parties, so in deciding how to direct each submission, those are the kinds of factors that play into the decision. I’m current on my own partials right now, and I have roughly seven completes in my in-box. More on complete manuscript submissions next. Nephele, I believe, has partials dating back about six weeks prior to now. Pamela is current also. Typically, we do review all partials in roughly 6-8 weeks time. Roughly. Remember that reading submissions is in addition to reading anything from our clients, doing our jobs, and so forth. We’re truly not trying to torture anyone, but think about this for a moment. Would you rather agents wait until they have a calm moment to truly settle in with your work—which might mean more of a wait—or would you just have them look quickly and therefore be less receptive to a new client. I think the answer is obvious—and it also leads us to the issue of complete submissions.

Full manuscripts will always take the longest to consider. Recently a comment from a writer made its way back to me. She was asserting that our agency tended to sit a long while on complete manuscripts, which is generally untrue—last year we fell a bit behind after a death in my immediate family. Generally on completes authors should hear within a week to four months. How’s that for a range? Why should there be such a broad timeframe in our reply? Because a complete manuscript requires a significant amount of consideration. We’re looking to make a partnership with you, to determine if we can champion the work in the marketplace. And the reading does not take place during the work day—it happens on the weekend or at night, when we’re also trying to steal a moment with our families or for ourselves. Plus, this reading has to be squeezed in between all of our necessary client reading. Case in point: just this past week no less than four client manuscripts have come in the door. That means before I can read any of the seven submissions I have here, I must first read these clients’ books. See the problem?

And sometimes at night, after a day conducting auctions, or dealing with Hollywood, or reviewing contracts, or whatever it is I have done, there’s just not any energy left to engage that part of my brain. You can imagine, I’m sure!

Just remember this—we don’t want to torture you. We’re not in the business of requesting material simply to sit on it. We’re looking to find bright new stars of both fiction and nonfiction, and there is only one way we can accomplish that: by reading. By taking the time to read first your query, then your partial, and ultimately your complete manuscript.

I’ll give you a piece of advice gleaned from my own writing experiences. Once you’ve made the submission, put it as far from your mind as you can. Otherwise you will make yourself sick wondering about responses, whether it be from agents or editors. To sound like Tony Soprano, “Fugghetaboudit!”

Post your questions on this thread!


Blogger Motherhood for the Weak said...

No questions, I just wanted to say I really enjoy both your author and agency blogs.

You make me want to send my work to you, but it's not ready yet :)


Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 10:43:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question. If we've sent you a proposal, and another agent responds on a full with an offer of representation, do you wish to be contacted at that point so you can either a) not waste your time reading it or b) give it a quick read to see if you're interested?

Robin L. - trying to learn the protocol for all possible scenarios. ;-)

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 12:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

I absolutely want to know, and for both the reasons you name. The last thing an agent wants to do is spend a whole weekend on a manuscript only to learn another agent has signed that author on. It's like a professional hit!! :) And, of course we'd like to jump in the game if you have another offer. Thanks for asking!

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 12:15:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another excellent blog post, Deidre (and I'm not just sucking up!). I have a suggestion. Both this post and the one about pitching contain extraordinarily useful information. As your blog archives, I think it would be a great idea to retain links to this post and the pitching one on the home blog page. That way, readers new to the blog don't have to go digging through the archives. Maybe you've already thought of this, but, in case not, I thought I'd mention it.

And dense question #8326... When you say you and Pamela are current with your partials (and then a bit later you say partials are read in a 6-8 week time frame), does that mean you and Pamela currently have no partials to read or that you still have some recently submitted partials to go through within that mentioned 6-8 weeks? Or should those of us who've submitted partials in the last couple of weeks assume our partials are with Nephele?

the ever curious, who's gonna try really hard now to focus on her new project...

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 1:25:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First and foremost, I consider myself VERY fortunate to have had Nephele Tempest recently request my full manuscript (any idea where she is on those vs. partials in her backlog?)And I guess I can take (slight) comfort in the fact that the max wait time has been moderately reduced from the six months you mentioned in a previous post to four months. And as to your recommendation to "fuggedaboutit" HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! As if! But seriously, I'm doing my best, starting right in on a new project while I wait to hear. Luckily, my baby boy is due in a few weeks, so I'll soon have plenty of distraction as I wait to hear back. :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 1:57:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a quick addendum to my message above. Though patience is a virtue I continue to cultivate (with little success), I do agree that I'd much rather wait, knowing that my work will get a real attentive read by someone who's not completely stressed out and distracted. So I'll just sit here with every finger and toe crossed for luck, reminding myself that for now, no news is... not a rejection.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 2:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Okay, first to Cindy: you are correct in that I've forwarded all the current partials (roughly there were ten) to Nephele. I looked again, and I do have two still with me, but neither is yours. So you're in our fine Nephele's hands!

And to anonymous, not sure how long Nephele has had your work, but with your upcoming delivery, if you wanted to write me privately (though, everyone, please don't start doing this!! The woman is about to give birth--we can make an exception) I will check status.

But you are right. I'm reminded of the fine words of Bachman, Turner, Overdrive: "Any love is good love..." So long as we have it still, you're still "getting the love."

And now a favor: for those of you posting anonymously, if at all possible, please give yourself a "name" in the opening line of your post, like Anonymous and Hungry or Anonymous and loving it...or whatever. With a lot of people posting anonymously, it's getting a tad confusing. D

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 2:23:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Deidre,
Thanks for the offer of a status check. Since Nephele's only had it for about 2 weeks (which is equal to like, an hour in publishing time, right?), I'll put off bugging you until she's had it for at least a month.:) And as always, thanks for taking the time to respond to all of our posts.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 2:37:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for satisfying my curiosity, Deidre!


Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 2:50:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now a favor: for those of you posting anonymously, if at all possible, please give yourself a "name" in the opening line of your post...

I posted anonymously in another thread, but I'm sure you'll recognize:

Anonymous who hasn't parted ways with current agent yet :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 4:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Male Whore said...

Between a query and a submission, it there a "book proposal?" I can now see why this exercise would make process more efficient. So a related question: which is the best source for reliable information about comparable fiction (copies sold) and other numbers relevant to the manuscipt?

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 11:49:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

I don't think a proposal for fiction is really necessary, since if we like it, we'll want to see the full manuscript. A nonfiction proposal serves a whole other purpose. The way a nonfiction book hits the market is totally different, i.e. you don't want there to be too much competition on the subject, you're selling on partial, that kind of thing.

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 12:42:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. I want you to know this is invaluable information. Thanks for helping us.

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 1:41:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Ellen said...

Deidre, are you ever interested in representing an author whose current romance is a novella? Or is the market for novellas simply too limited? I notice the market for novellas has expanded considerably since Brava's bad boys came on the scene, but I'm still not sure a novella is a feasible project with which to approach an agent. What are your thoughts, please?

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 4:00:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Deidre: Nephele has my full manuscript (it's been about 6 weeks now), and I assume that if she's not interested in my book, she'll just return it with comments in the postage-paid envelope I provided. But, if she likes it, will I get a letter? A phone call? An email? Just curious. Thanks so much for all the great information on your blog(s).

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 5:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Really we're only looking for full-length manuscripts given how we hope to build an author in the marketplace (though if your RT reviewed one is a novella, I'm curious to see it, but only b/c I'm intrigued!)

Anonymous With Nephele,
I believe--though I'd need to verify this with her--that Nephele will send a hard copy letter back with the manuscript, though she may also email in addition to that. I'll let you know what she tells me, since I wanted to verify her process.

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 5:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Ellen said...

Thanks so much for the information, Deidre. I think Brava would be a good market for the romantic comedies I write, hence the question. I do understand why you generally look for full-length novels, though.

The RT-reviewed book with the robotic hero was a full-length novel (about 88,000 words). If you really have an interest in reading it (in your *hee hee* spare time:-), I'd be quite happy to send you a copy-- just let me know.

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 6:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

See you went and told the robot secret when I'd so *deftly* avoided it! Yes, I'd love to read it. I do read for fun, too, you know (not much, but...)

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 6:45:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

FROM NEPHELE--just verified her procedure...

If they send a postage-paid envelope, I send a letter. Otherwise I e-mail them. If I like it, I e-mail to set up a good time to call. :) >>

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 7:06:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a tangent, so please ignore if appropriate: foreign rights. It is possible to get published by a publisher in one country and then another in another country? Or by different international branches of the same publisher?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 4:24:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Deidre,

I finally found the nerve to query you sometime in Dec 2004 and was delighted you asked for a partial of my paranormal suspense "Mine for Eternity" to be sent.

As requested I sent you my first three chapters and the synopsis in the first week of Dec...and quite literally put it out of my mind...LOL (until now!!)

I live in India so I had sent you my requested by email

Point is I never heard from you or anyone at your agency and figuerd that it had been rejected but I never receieved a form letter or any kind of missive from you.

I'm just wondering what happened to it?!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 5:41:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just popping in to catch a few of these unanswered questions.

Foreign rights: this depends on what sort of deal you have with an American publisher. You might sell North American rights, in which case foreign rights will be shopped separately and yes, you could have different publishers in different countries. If the original sale is for World rights, than different branches of the same publisher would distribute the book.

Sheepish One: e-mail does sometimes go astray. None of us are holding any submissions from that far back, so please do resubmit your chapters with a brief note as to what happened. It's likely we either did not receive your original e-mail, or perhaps our own reply got lost en route. We never just ignore anyone, so if you don't hear from us, please let us know.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 12:57:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Nephele,

I will definitely resubmit the partial.


Thursday, May 19, 2005 at 12:38:00 AM EDT  
Blogger patricia said...

Hi, Deidre. Could you tell us the pros and cons of an aspiring author querying editors and agents at the same time? Another agent recommended aspiring authors not query editors because that narrows the field of editors an agent can approach. Could you share your thoughts on this subject?

Thank you for your time.


Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 7:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger New to this business said...

I've gone through the whole queries and partials route, and after a ton of rejections, three agents have requested full manuscripts. I'm just not sure what this means, in terms of probability. In general, what percent of full manuscripts do agents take on?

Thursday, June 9, 2005 at 2:19:00 PM EDT  

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