The short answer? YES! Most agents these days ask for an average of two months to respond (and no response within that time means NO). My first EVER query to an agent was an unsolicited exclusive (I was SO sweet and innocent back then) and I had to wait an excruciating SIX WEEKS before I received a rejection from their assistant with the title of my manuscript typed out incorrectly (welcome to being a writer—where you quickly develop the hide of an elephant).
I’ve queried about thirty agents in my time—more than some but less than most. Be prepared to do the same—unless you’re EXTREMELY lucky. And, YES, I said LUCKY, not TALENTED—as writing as SO subjective—even Gone with the Wind was rejected from 38 publishers and Harry Potter 12 (or nine, depending on your sources)! Of course, it helps if you have a manuscript that performs a flying roundhouse kick to all of the other manuscripts in the slush pile (cue a plug for my previous post on HOW MANY DRAFTS ARE TOO MANY if you want to make sure your manuscript is all it can be and MORE).
SO, how many agents should you query at once? My recommendation would be between five and ten—erring on the side of five. This gives you a chance to revise your query if you’re getting no requests for a partial or to revise your partial if you’re getting no request for a full.
A little insight into my system when querying agents:
- Set up a spreadsheet with the following columns: agent, agency, email address, submission guidelines, partial date, full date and rejection date.
- List your agents in order of preference (you might want to include a column on why you are querying them for your own future reference, e.g. recent six figure sale in your genre, represents your favourite author, etc.)
- Send your query to the first five in the list—being sure to individualise them based on your research and their submission guidelines.
- Every time you get a rejection, send a query to the next agent on your list.
I found this system helped me deal with rejection. WHY? Because I was able to move straight on to the next agent—turning a knock back into an opportunity (remember that song Tubthumping? It should TOTALLY be your theme song while on submission).
So what are you waiting for? Go find yourself an agent (for some pointers, check out my earlier post on HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT LITERARY AGENT).