Writing and Waiting

So the queries have gone out. Now what?

Now you do two things: wait and write.


The appropriate wait time on a query is about a month. Most agents or editors will get back to you by then with either a rejection or a request for more material (like the full manuscript). If you haven’t heard from someone after a month, you can write a polite “just checking the status of my query” letter. If you still don’t hear after another month, you can safely assume you’ve been rejected and cross that market off your list. If you want to be super careful, you can write a (still polite) letter that says, “Since I haven’t heard from you, I’m assuming you aren’t interested and will submit my material elsewhere. Thank you for your time.”


You finished your first book. That’s great! Congratulations! You are now officially ahead of all those people who start a book and never finish, and you are way, way ahead of all those people who say they’re going to write a book “some day.” You have demonstrated amazing self-discipline and you deserve to be commended. This is not sarcasm–I’m quite serious.

Now you’re going to start writing your second book, right?

You’re a writer. You have to do something while you’re waiting. And any agent or editor who calls to say they’d like to buy your first book will inevitably say, “So what else are you working on?” Or you might get a rejection that ends with, “but your writing shows promise and I’d like to see your next project.” Best to have a head start on that next project.

It’s generally a bad idea to write the second book in a series if you haven’t sold the first one yet (what if the first one never sells?), but you should definitely start on an unrelated project. Sure, give yourself a week’s vacation when you finish your first book, but if you’re a lifer, I’m betting you’ll be itching to get back to the keyboard anyway.

Next time: Handling rejection

–Steven Harper Piziks

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Writing and Waiting — 5 Comments

  1. Only a month? The wait times I’m familiar with go up to a year and a half at some places. I would wait at least three months before assuming they have become aware I sent them something (this is for the book companies). Magazines can take up to six months, easily. I’m glad that you receive responses on a more timely basis, but that has not been my personal experience.

  2. Queries (especially email queries) can expect a faster turnaround time. The wait time on a full manuscript or a treatment with sample chapters runs a little longer–three to six months, usually.

  3. I should add that all this is variable. A Magazine of My Acquaintance does take upwards of a year on a full manuscript (which is why I won’t submit to them). I lose patience after three months with anyone. Anyone who is so snowed under that they can’t respond within 90 days should close themselves to submissions!

  4. Start on something new? Did you not give your novel a minute or two on the backburner so you could revise it with the advantage of perspective? Did you not write in the meantime?

  5. I’ve seen more careers fizzle because the authors placed their hopes (and hence all their writing time) in an unsold series. If that first novel doesn’t sell or if the series fizzles, you might as well start again from scratch.

    More than that, beginning writers need to stretch their wings before they get locked into a given type of story.

    Great advice, Steve.