How long is too long, and how to tell

"I know as an aspiring author, the biggest hurdle to cross (or so we've been told) is getting an agent.

However, I know of one writer that's had her novel with a reputable agent (with a rather full client list) for about two years now, and no bites. I know of another writer whose agent just dumped her after 1 year (and never sent her ms off to anyone) due to her client list being too full.

I guess my question is that once you have the agent, what sort of timeline or progress should you be looking at? When is everything still hunky-dory and when should you run for the hills?

Thanks for taking your time to answer everyone's questions. You are the goddess of all that is publishing snark."

First, you LEAP a hurdle, rather than cross. You cross yourself at mass, Miss Snark gets cross about mixed metaphors, and she leaps tall buildings in a single bound.

Now, the question. Well, I have novels I haven't sold for two years. I'm amazed at how shortsighted some editors are. It's a really good novel. Periodically I ask my client if she wants to soldier on with me. She always does. I remind her that James Lee Burke was unpublished for more than 15 years at one point. She reminds me that we're not getting any younger and that anecdote is getting less appealing every time I tell her.

Now, what's troublesome about Friend #2 is that the agent didn't send the manuscript out. Is there a missing piece of information here? Was the agent asking for edits? rewrites? bribes?

My client with the unsold novel has a slew of rejection letters. Unsold does not mean unsubmitted (if there is such a word).

I'd be very very very leery of an agent who is not sending things out. We've had sturm und drang here at the blog about when to see rejection letters but if you ask for, and do not receive promptly, a list of places your work has been, and is now, that is a HUGE HUGE HUGE warning flag.

My data base management system allows me to email that information to a client in about ten seconds. I usually take a minute cause I remove the comments file before sending.

We can photocopy an entire file and have it in the Fed Ex by noon if a client asks.

If you can't get that info from your agent, the first step is to have a very frank discussion with your agent about what the hell is going on.

If the answers are not satisfactory to you, find another agent. There are one gazillion of them in New York City alone.

If you sign with an agent, and your work is ready to go out, s/he should have your work out to editors within a month at MAXIMUM. There are exceptions to this like summer, vacation, London Book Fair etc. but if your work isn't out there soon after 30 days, I'd like to know why.

1 comment:

moi said...

Dear Miss Snark,

Thanks for all the great info you share with us!

You recently mentioned that you sell about 70% of the manuscripts you represent. On average, of those sold, approximately how long did they take to sell and with how many submissions? What was the fastest sale you've had? The slowest? Did these surprise you? When, if ever, do you give up on a manuscript? Do you then suggest new projects or directions for your clients? A new agent?