First off, I’m still feeling like I need a vacation from my vacation. I’m working like crazy playing “catchup” and hope to be back to normal in the next couple of days. Phew!
As for my micro-contest yesterday (yeah, the one with no prize), I asked you to guess how many unsolicited submissions (queries) were waiting for me when I returned to work. To those of you who guessed something like 150 or more… seriously, do you have a death wish for me??? We are talking about one week here. Keep in mind I was asking about queries only, not any other kind of emails. I had 362 emails during the week I was on vacation, and that’s with everyone knowing I was gone, and my clients ever-so-kindly leaving me alone (for which I thank you from the bottom of my suntanned heart.)
So, about those queries. The magic number was…
104 submissions. (That’s roughly 8½ hours worth of reading for me, if anybody’s counting.) Congratulations to Africakid who came closest in guessing 101 queries. Of course, the number keeps growing as I got nearly 20 more today. And no, I haven’t even started reading them yet, sorry!
That brings me to a topic I’ve been meaning to address here: agent priorities. Even though many of you have heard me talk about how agents spend their days, you may still wonder how I allocate my time. And why does it take so long to get a response on a query, and even longer for a response to a partial manuscript?
Unfortunately, the part of the process that’s most visible to you isn’t the highest priority for agents. When you send queries and partials and wait for responses, that’s all you see. But those queries and partials are only a fraction of what I see— they’re generally the work that gets squeezed into the margins of an agent’s week. (That’s why many of you have received correspondence from me on a Saturday afternoon or 11pm on a Tuesday night.) When you’re seeking representation, you’re not top priority.
However, that’s actually great news. It means that once you actually become a client, you are now the agent’s top priority.
Here’s how I prioritize my tasks:
1. Contracts. (Negotiating them, explaining them to clients, smoothing their way through the publisher process.)
2. Projects ready for submission. (Preparing proposals & manuscripts, getting them out to publishers, following up as necessary.)
3. All other client-related work. (Dealing with their publishers, or helping them to get their manuscript finished, or talking them off ledges.)
4. Finding new clients. (This includes careful consideration of all incoming queries & partials, as well as proactively pursuing authors I’d like to represent.)
As you might imagine, I need to keep up with #4 because I never want to miss a potentially great writer sitting in my slush pile. And yet, if I’m swamped with current clients, I’m less able (and less motivated) to pay attention to all those wonderful queries. So sometimes it takes longer than other times.
I know, the waiting game is frustrating. But I have two things to say about that: (1) it prepares you to be a published author, at which time you will take “waiting” to a whole new level. And (2) your long wait can’t be any more vexing than my overflowing inbox.
So… we’re even!
Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.