Query Week 2: After the Query

16 Feb


After the Query

By Sarah J. Maas


So, let’s say your query was stellar, and you’ve got a whole pile of requests from agents!  Excellent. But what the heck do agents mean when they ask for the first fifty pages, or the first three chapters, or—eek!—the full manuscript?

First of all, this is AMAZING. This means you’ve got the agent’s attention. Feel free to do a victory dance. Go ahead. You know you want to.

Done? Awesome. Now, let’s get down to business.

When an agent requests the first fifty pages or the first three chapters, this is called a Partial Request (ooooh). They want to get a sense of your writing before committing to reading more from you. This is precisely why your opening pages are SO important—this is your only shot to get that agent excited about your work. If an agent likes your partial, they’ll most likely request the rest of the manuscript.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. When I got my first partial requests, I freaked out. Why? Because Page 50 stopped right in the middle of a scene! Most often, your first 50 pages will end somewhere inconvenient.

You can either choose to end the partial at the scene closest to page 50 (maybe it ends on page 48), OR you can just find a good final sentence on page 50 and end it there. It doesn’t matter THAT much, but I personally preferred to close the partial with the end of a scene, rather than stop in some random place/in the middle of the action. If your scene ends on page 51, it’s okay to go over by a little bit, but not by much.

But what if an agent replies to your query with a request for the full manuscript? Well, the short answer is: Jackpot! They want to read your entire book. This essentially translates into: “Your Query Blew My Mind, and I’m Hoping Your Book Will, Too.”

When you send off your partial or full manuscript to an agent, it should ALWAYS look professional.  To help with that, here are a few rules to abide by:

  • Your manuscript should be double-spaced in Times New Roman, 12-point font (unless the agent specifies otherwise—make sure to check!!!).
  • You should have 1-inch margins.
  • DON’T FORGET PAGE NUMBERS! Upper or lower right corners are fine.
  • Be sure to add in a header that includes your name and the title of your work (example: Sarah J. Maas, Queen of Glass).
  • Chapters should begin around 10 lines down from the top of the page (like in a book).
  • When sending electronically, remember that some agents don’t have computers that support .docx, so always send your manuscript in .doc format.
  • Again, some agents might prefer a different set up, so ALWAYS double-check their agency guidelines before you send them material!

Once you’ve sent off your material, the hard part begins:


Waiting to hear back from an agent is like being in limbo. You jump every time the phone rings, you flinch every time you see your inbox announce that you have 1 new message. Sometimes, all you want to do is lie on the couch and eat bag after bag of Cheetos as you watch reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Normally, after sending your material, you can expect to hear back between 8 and 10 weeks. If you haven’t received a response after 10 weeks, it’s not considered inappropriate to send the agent an email to check on the status of your manuscript.

Sometimes, you’ll wonder if an agent even received your materials. Some agents send a confirmation email to let you know that they received your manuscript—but many just won’t reply until they’re telling you Yes or No. If you don’t receive a confirmation email, please refrain from bugging them about it—wait until the appropriate 8-10 weeks have passed before inquiring.

It’s maddening, but try to find ways to occupy yourself while waiting for agents to get back to you: start a new novel, bake hundreds of cookies, go for long walks. You can’t let the waiting overrun your life, and often you’ll hear back at the most unexpected times. I actually missed The Call from my agent because I was sleeping!

I heard my phone ring early in the morning and was SO ANNOYED that someone was calling me at the crack of dawn (even though it was more like 10 AM) that I didn’t even bother to pick up! When I finally got up and listened to my voicemail, BOY was that the most heart-stopping message of all time!

In short, you can’t make agents read your material any faster (and please DO NOT attempt to do so), and you can’t predict when they’ll respond to you—so don’t drive yourself crazy by trying to guess! Stalking agents on Twitter definitely doesn’t make you feel any better, either—in fact, it can make you even more insane.

But if you’re curious about agent response times, go to Agent Turn Around, a livejournal community that tracks how long it takes for agents to reply.

Best of luck with everything!


Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella. Her agent currently has her novel on submissions to editors. Sarah resides with her fiancé in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.


14 Responses to “Query Week 2: After the Query”

  1. svonnah February 16, 2010 at 12:10 AM #

    Another fabulous article!

    • Sarah J. Maas February 16, 2010 at 12:40 AM #

      Thank you, thank you! 🙂

  2. Vanessa February 16, 2010 at 12:17 AM #

    Haha, lying on a couch eating cheetos while watching The Fresh Prince of Bel Air sounds like the BEST TIME EVER! :p

    But yeah, stuff is ALWAYS happening, and manuscripts in the slush pile are always the last priority. It’s insane when you see the amount of queries/partials/full manuscripts that an agent has at his/her desk at any given time! It really is all about patience!

    • Sarah J. Maas February 16, 2010 at 12:42 AM #

      Hahaha, it’s quite an enjoyable experience!

      And yeah–whenever my writer-friends tell me how freaked out they are by an agent’s slow response time, I always tell them that agents are SO busy on a daily basis! Slush pile queries/submissions are always lowest on the totem pole!

  3. pamela wilson February 16, 2010 at 1:16 AM #

    This was a practical and informative post. Considering I am about four weeks into the ‘waiting’ period, your post gave me the patience to hold on for another six weeks before I send that polite follow-up email to find out if the publisher has gotten to my manuscript.

    • Sarah J. Maas February 16, 2010 at 10:55 AM #

      Thank you! 🙂

      Good luck with the waiting!!

  4. Angela February 16, 2010 at 5:58 AM #

    Six to eight weeks is longer than I imagined. I heard that the best thing to do is to just start on a new novel during that time.

    • Sarah J. Maas February 16, 2010 at 10:56 AM #

      Definitely. Writing became a way to blow off steam while waiting to hear back from agents. Also, on a more practical side, by writing another novel, you can have something else to query, should your first book fail you, you know?

  5. Rachel S February 16, 2010 at 8:22 AM #

    My girlfriends and I were just walking around Boston, trying to remember/sing the lyrics of the theme song to Fresh Prince. LOL. Also, cheetos are lovely.

    Also IT IS SNOWING RIGHT NOW. But I still have class.

    I wanted to say thanks for telling us how to format a document for agents/publishing people because I never knew (and to be honest I felt weird/silly asking it for some reason).

    • Sarah J. Maas February 16, 2010 at 10:58 AM #

      Yeah, I had no idea, and had to scrounge around on the internet to find a definitive answer for how I should format things, or frantically email Mandy to make sure I wasn’t screwing things up!

      And yeah–I can totally rap the entire Fresh Prince theme song.

  6. michelle February 28, 2010 at 3:00 AM #

    I love this post. I just sent out my first full MS to an agent and had no idea what to expect. Now I have something to go off of.

  7. phill syron-jones October 11, 2013 at 5:09 PM #

    Hi, I sent off my first 30 pages to one agency and after 2 days they asked for the full manuscript. I must admit as this is my first novel I am a bit nervous.

  8. phill syron-jones October 11, 2013 at 5:17 PM #

    You posted to make the time go quicker write another book, is 4 at the same time normal or am I just odd, or too much time on my hands?

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