I’ve found there is a wide variation of response times to queries, from days (almost always a rejection if they come back quickly) to months to never hearing anything at all.
I e-mailed one query last March. It was St. Patrick’s Day, actually, and the sample pages were as had been requested by the literary agent during SFWC. That was nine weeks ago yesterday and I’ve heard nothing back. The agent’s Web site doesn’t say anything specific in regards to time frame, only that she tries to get back “in a timely fashion.” And who’s to say what counts as “timely”?
Another set of pages went out on April 28. This agent only accepts hard copies in the mail, so I know they were delivered on May 1. Again, pages requested at SFWC, and this agent’s note told me 4–6 weeks. So I should hear from her soon, I guess.
Still, it would suck to wait so long only to get a rejection.
Nature of the business.
And better to hear than not hear . . . Or is it? It’s weird because I feel like there’s a point wherein I give up on and/or forget about the submission anyway, so when a rejection comes after I’ve already decided it must be a no go, that’s almost worse. Being timely DOES matter. There’s a psychological window in there somewhere, and if the agent is late with a rejection, it’s like they break that window’s glass after you’ve already closed it in your mind. Or, to use another metaphor, once I’ve come to the conclusion I’m being silently rejected, it’s like I’ve put a psychological Band-Aid on the sore spot. When a rejection comes later, it’s like the agent has ripped off the Band-Aid, the scab, and I’m bleeding all over again.
Agents and editors at conferences always say they don’t like having to say no. Fine, cuz we don’t like having to hear it either. But don’t be the asshole who waited six months or whatever to finally just say, “Pass.” Because that sucks even harder than having to hear it when we first send in our query or sample pages or whatever.
Of course, as I said, there are times when one never hears anything. I find this mostly true of screenwriting. No one in Hollywood likes to say “no” either because they don’t want to be the one blamed later if the script they rejected ends up a big hit. I’ve found it the exception rather than the norm to hear much of anything back from producers, directors, agents or managers in Hollywood.
There’s no winning this game. It’s just ’round and ’round . . .