Literary agent turnaround times vary greatly. What are typical literary agent turnaround times? What are the best literary agent turnaround times? And what are the worst literary agent turnaround times?
Scroll below to find out…
This article is part of a 17-part series
called How to Get a Literary Agent.
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Turnaround Times for Authors
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The good news about literary agency turnaround times is… I’ve seen some authors hear back from literary agents in as little as four minutes. That’s the quickest response time I’ve ever seen for one of my coaching clients.
He literally got a request for his full manuscript within four minutes of sending out the email query I helped him write. Even better, that same book agent agreed to represent the author and got him a deal with Random House just a few weeks later.
How awesome is that?
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The bad news about literary agency turnaround times is… some literary agencies don’t have any turnaround times any more. In the “good old days,” literary agencies always responded to queries from authors with rejection letters (unless you were one of the lucky ones that got an acceptance letter asking for more material).
Now literary agencies no longer feel obligated to reply at all.
Unless they’re interested in your work.
That means most authors are left staring at their mailbox (physical or digital), waiting for a reply, wondering if anyone even read their material.
And it’s kind of my fault.
I was the first agent (way back in the 1990s) that instituted an “Email Query Only” policy at my literary agency. It stated that authors would only get a response from us if we were interested in seeing more material or offering representation.
Authors don’t like rejection letters anyway.
And, I didn’t see the point of literary agencies sending out form rejection letters (I still don’t). At least I made up for my new policy by responding within 24-48 hours to the authors that I was interested in.
I told some other agents about my new email query policy, and now it seems like everyone is doing it (although I’m sure they would have figured it out eventually if I hadn’t done it first).
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Literary Agent Turnaround Times – The Silver Lining
I believe that literary agent turnaround times have improved over the years, thanks to technology making everything easier and faster. But also thanks to the fact that agents are no longer wasting hours every month mailing and/or emailing meaningless form rejection letters.
Yes. Some book agents still seem to need 12 weeks to respond to a simple query (or anything else for that matter).
Heck, some literary agencies still don’t have websites.
By the way, some publishers are just as bad.
When I was an active book agent I got a full manuscript back in the mail from a publisher with a rejection letter (yes, book agents get them too) and an apology… fourteen months after I submitted the manuscript.
So, although I feel for you when it comes to slow literary agency turnaround time, don’t expect me to feel too sorry for you!
Here are the literary agent turnaround times you can expect…
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Various Literary Agent Turnaround Times
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- Good Literary Agent Turnaround Times: 5 minutes – 48 hours
- Average Literary Agent Turnaround Times: 48 hours – 4 weeks
- Poor Literary Agent Turnaround Times: more than 4 weeks
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Sample Chapters and/or Book Proposal:
- Good Literary Agent Turnaround Times: 48 hours – 2 weeks
- Average Literary Agent Turnaround Times: 2-6 weeks
- Poor Literary Agent Turnaround Times: more than 6 weeks
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- Good Literary Agent Turnaround Times: 2-4 weeks
- Average Literary Agent Turnaround Times: 4-8 weeks
- Poor Literary Agent Turnaround Times: more than 8 weeks
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How to Find Literary Agent Turnaround Times
Obviously, you have a better chance of getting faster literary agency turnaround times if you submit your query letter and other material by email (or online form). You’re certainly not going to get an acceptance letter (or request for your complete manuscript) within five minutes if you submit your work by postal mail!
To find out which literary agencies accept submissions via email and/or online form, visit my Directory of Literary Agents. There you’ll find submission preferences and guidelines for every active literary agent in the world. Click here now for free access to my Literary Agent Directory.
Then click here to read the next article in this 17-part series
and learn about Literary Agent Feedback.