Illustration of a small person with a manuscript knocking at a large gothic gate

So far Bryony Pearce has helped us select an agent, write a synopsis and write a covering letter... So what happens once that's all sent off and your inbox brings no news?

So, it's been two weeks and three days since I sent my manuscript out... How do I follow up? How long do I wait before chasing? 

Hold your horses! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, agents receive hundreds of manuscripts a week, they aren’t going to get back to you quickly. If they like the look of your covering letter, synopsis, and first page, your submission will go into a pile for a closer look. So, in this case, no news could very well be good news.

In most cases, I’d say that six to eight weeks is a fair timeline. Any longer, then it would be reasonable to send one short polite email enquiring as to the status of your submission. Something like this would do nicely: "Dear Catherine As you know, I submitted Savage Island to you in February. I was wondering if you have managed to consider my submission? With thanks for your time."

Letters spell success next to an old fashioned key
The key to success can only be gained with much patience and
polite emailing. Credit: Pixabay

If however, you have heard back from another agent with a positive ‘I’d like to see your full manuscript’, then hurrah! You should now contact the other agents you are waiting for to let them know. "Dear Catherine I am writing to let you know that the full manuscript of Savage Island has now been requested by two other agents. I would very much like to give you the same opportunity, so please do let me know if you would like the same. With thanks for your time."

But what if an agent doesn’t like the manuscript? 

By this point in time you might have thought of all kinds of improvements... so, can you rewrite it and send it back? Sorry, no - only if the agent has specifically requested a revised version. That’s why I recommend only sending to five at a time. If you send a version out to all the agents you can find and then rewrite it based on their comments, you can’t send it back, those doors are all closed to you. However, the good news is that some agents will say they want to see a revised version, and others may say that while they don’t love this novel, they’d like to take a look at your next project. They aren’t just being polite, they are saying they love your writing and don’t want to miss out on the winner you’re going to write next.

If I get a rejection, can I enter into a correspondence with the agent? Can I try and change their minds?

If you get a rejection you could, and perhaps should send a quick reply, thanking them very much for their time and consideration. "Dear Catherine I am sorry to hear that you are not a fan of my work, thank you very much for your time and consideration and best of luck with all of your endeavours. Warm regards." You should not, under any circumstances tell them what a mistake they’ve made, what an idiot they are, how they are unable to spot real talent, or that they are a fatherless son of a dog! Not every rejection is a reflection of your work. Maybe they have enough writers in your genre on their books, maybe they know that while your writing is good, there are no publishers seeking a geocaching horror story right now. Maybe they like your work, but don’t feel that spark, or passion they need to feel when selling it. Maybe they’ll remember your name and pick you up later on (that’s what happened to me). Send your thanks and bow out. But don’t give up.

I once visited a writing group and met a writer who told me that she’d won a competition with a novel she’d penned years earlier. As a result of the win, she sent her novel out to a single agent. This agent proceeded to send two pages of suggestions for ways the novel could be improved (so this was, to be clear, an agent who was very interested, who took the time, not only to read her whole novel, but to send two pages of edits). On receiving this, the writer was so disheartened that instead of making the changes and sending the novel back, or on to other agents, she put it in a drawer and never looked at it again. It was like being told that a prospector had opened a mine, spotted diamonds in a distant shaft and then shrugged and blasted it closed again! 

That’s the difference between a published writer and an unpublished one. Published writers never give up!


Cambridge graduate, Bryony Pearce, fled her ‘real London job’ in 2004 and now lives in the Forest of Dean. She is a reader for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy and has her own consulting business called Unique Critique. Her novels for young adults include the multi-award winning Angel’s Fury, The Weight of Souls, Phoenix Rising and Phoenix Burning. She also has short stories appearing in the anthologies Now We Are Ten by Newcon Press and Stories from the Edge. / @BryonyPearce

Imogen Foxell is an illustrator with a particular interest in creating intricate imaginary worlds. She illustrates English literature revision cards for, and interesting words for Her website is, Follow her on Twitter, and Instagram.

Helen Liston is KnowHow editor. If you have any suggestions for topics, email

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