Writing is Hard Part 6: The Waiting Room of Querying

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This gorgeous header was made by Rey Noble

Ah, querying. When you distill your tens of thousands (some people have written hundreds of thousands? wow!) of words of a novel into 250-300 words in the hopes that an agent will pick it up. But how long do people wait? How do you know if your query is working? Well, I wanted to share my experience and hopefully help ease people’s expectations around the querying journey by answering:

  1. Is my query working?
  2. How long have I been waiting on different responses?
  3. What were the outcomes?

Things to Keep in Mind

  • This just my querying journey for one novel
  • For all agents queried, this just a snapshot, not ongoing data collection
  • The category and genre of the work is adult fantasy
  • Queries were sent between October 19, 2018 and October 8, 2019
    • The majority were sent during the Summer of 2019, due to an R&R and additional feedback coming in between Autumn 2018 and early 2019

Statistics

Because I am the way I am, I have sent 137 queries for this one book. Of those, 78 have been true rejections (as in, I got an email or reply from someone expressing that they don’t want it. Another 12 are positive responses (either partials or fulls). The rest are either closed/no response or outstanding.

For rejections and partial requests, the fastest response time has been same-day.

Rejections

  • Average time: 40 days
  • Longest time: 330 days, followed by 145 days

Partial Requests

  • Average time: 12 days
  • Longest time: 36 days

Full Requests

  • Average time: 54 days
  • Shortest time: 12 days, though same-day if you count #SFFPit
  • Longest time: 145 days

Takeaways

Clearly, my query is working. I am getting requests for more pages. That is all your query has to do: get the agent to read more. Also, fast response can result in positive or negative outcomes—there’s truly no rhyme or reason for timing at all.

The other thing you might already know: you’re going to be waiting. You’re going to be waiting for far longer than you think you will be. The key to keeping yourself fine is to have friends you can yell to, another project in the works, or take the opportunity to celebrate you finishing a project by going back to the hobbies you’ve neglected during drafting and revisions.

I bet someone reading this is waiting for the end where I go “and that’s how I got my agent” (let’s be real: I would’ve opened with that).

But I can’t!

And that’s okay.

I wrote one technically good book with a fine query that got agents’ attention. I can write (and have written) another. And you can, too.

Querying Resources

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