If you’re an author at the stage of querying literary agents you’re probably pretty excited. Digging through Twitter and Manuscript Wish List and Publishers Marketplace and a dozen other sites to find that handful of perfect agents for each round of querying. You do your research, dig into wishlists and interviews and social media profiles and credentials of every agent you can find, create a carefully curated list of potentials. Then you see it. That dreaded little line.
This is either the point where you get giddy and plan constant e-mail checks over the next two months, or you start to hesitate and wonder just how perfect that agent actually is. We’ve all done it. Seen that “response time of six months” or some other, even longer, window and started to hesitate. I know I have.
Here’s the reason those sorts of response times give me pause: if an agent is that behind on queries, do they really have time to take me on as a client? I don’t need, nor want, constant hand-holding but I still want to know my agent is going to be there when I need them—not a week later or what have you. And what about their current clients? Are they getting the attention they need if their agent is still determinedly slogging through queries from a year ago? Both myself and whatever agent’s clients deserve an agent that is there for them, not one who is strained under to many projects.
Obviously literary agents have a lot going on, and they’re amazing for the amount of things they juggle. But if they’re juggling to much it isn’t good for anyone involved. Huge wait times on query responses give the impression that they are indeed juggling to much. I would query an agent who only opens queries for a short window over one that takes them all time and ends up a year or more behind any day.