You agonized while writing your book and thought the query letter might kill you, but the real torture comes with the wait. For most agents, you can expect to wait 6 to 8 weeks to hear back from your query. The amount of time has nothing to do with how much they did or didn’t like your letter; it’s directly related to how busy they are. Sometimes agents read queries every day; sometimes they save them up. You could get a call from someone a day after they received your letter, or a month. The timing is just coincidence.

There are several possible outcomes for your query:

  1. You never hear back from them. Cross them off your list. Consider that a no.
  2. You receive a form rejection letter. Happens to everyone. Brush yourself off and move forward.
  3. The agent contacts you requesting to see more, either the full manuscript or a much larger portion of it. A very good sign. Send it immediately.
  4. The agent calls you on the phone for a quick interview. Another great sign.
  5. You receive a rejection letter with a little feedback. This is a sign of a great agent that truly cares. Consider fixing what they suggested and re-submitting.

To Nudge or Not to Nudge
I know many writers swear by nudging — calling or emailing to gently remind an agent that you haven’t heard back from them yet — but most agents hate it. As a writer, I’m far too familiar with the purgatory of waiting, but I still have to side with the agent on this one.

Agents have hundreds of submissions to review. They have a system to go through everything, and they go through it. They want to. They want to find good, unpublished authors. It’s how they make money. Remember, though, that agents are also working with their signed clients on dozens of books in various stages of development. They are darn busy!

If you call and remind them you haven’t heard from them, will it make them whip out your query from the stack and get right to it? Probably not. Will it make them aggravated that you’re calling them out/calling them lazy/questioning their system? Maybe. Not worth the risk in my mind.

If it’s meant to be, it will happen exactly when and how it’s supposed to.

Zen and the Art of Writing zen
That’s not to say the waiting isn’t brutal. It is. The best way to fill the hours and days and weeks of agony? Keep writing! Revise your current book, work on the sequel, or start something new.

And if you do receive a rejection, don’t despair, it only means you’re in good company!

John Grisham and Stephen King were rejected dozens of times. Judy Blume was rejected for 2 straight years. But my favorite story of inspiration comes from much more recently:

After spending 5 years writing her first book, unknown author Kathryn Stockett sent it out to agents. And was rejected. Over and over for 3 1/2 years. 60 rejections in all. She didn’t give up though. Agent #61 agreed to represent her. Her book “The Help” went on to sell 10 million copies, spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and became an Academy Award-winning film.

Sometimes authors get rejected even after they’re published. Danielle Steel explains: “I was very lucky that my first book was published — but the next 5 weren’t, and were never sold or published. But my 7th book was. If I had given up before that, I would never have had the career I have today.” That career includes selling 800 million books (!!!). What author wouldn’t want that career? How many of us would keep going after writing 5 books that were rejected?

Keep Good Company
While you’re waiting, revising, or wading through the rejections, keep your chin up, your laptop fired up, and keep good company in your own circle of friends and acquaintances. While family and close friends might not understand the peculiar pain that comes with being a writer, you can find tons of other people just like you, just like me, who will more than understand. Try these places for a start:

  • Local Writers Groups
    Google the words “writers group” and the name of your town.
  • Meet Up
    Go to Put the word “writers” in the search box and hit enter. Writers groups near you will appear, although you might have to expand the search area to 25 miles or more from your house.
  • Social Media
    Reach out to and befriend other authors on Twitter. Find your favorite authors and then see who they follow as well. To get you started: my handle is @HeatherMaclean. 🙂
  • Absolute Write
    I cannot recommend highly enough for all things relating to being a writer. The site is a wealth of information, but it’s the Forums that I adore. They have boards relating to every genre, amazing writers (lots of big published names) willing to help, and even a daily “office party” where you can have virtual drinks and let your fellow writers talk you off the ledge.

That’s it! You’re ready to go and I’m sending you good thoughts! Good luck! xx

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