A quick Ask Daphne this morning before I dive back into the query pile. H.S. writes:
I had a question about writer-agent etiquette. What’s the appropriate amount of time to wait before checking back in once an agent has requested your full manuscript? Two agents are reading my full right now. One has had it ten weeks, the other six. I haven’t heard back from either. Do I wait to hear back for them? Or, would it be appropriate to contact them, and if so, when, and what should be my approach?
Most agents will try to give you some idea of how long they might take to read a full. For my part, when I get a full or a partial, I respond to let the author know 1) that I received it and 2) that I’ll do my best to respond within two months.
So if the agent who has your full for ten weeks were like me, you could very easily dash off a quick email checking in, and seeing where they are in terms of their submission pile. For the six week-er, you might wait another three weeks or so (to give them the benefit of the doubt) before sending off a status request.
Now, some agents don’t give a timeframe, and there you have to use your own best judgment. How long did they take to get back to you on a query or a partial? If they took two months to respond to just a letter, changes are they’re going to need even longer to respond to a full. But if they got back to you on five chapters within a week, and seemed very excited, I think you could ask for an update in a month. You might also be able to check the agent out on Querytracker, or other online references for writers, and see how long other writers have had to wait for a response.
But basically, there’s no hard and fast rule. Every agent is different. The key is recognizing that we’re all overwhelmed with reading, and that reading work for prospective clients takes a backseat to work for already existing clients.