The Agent Game

A viewpoint on publishing

Archive for September 2008

Agent time

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In the midst of a longer post, a wise writer said this:

Time works differently for agents and writers, much as it does for humans and dogs. If one human year translates to seven dog years, one normal-human week for a writer equals roughly one weekend for an agent.

This is because an agent is unlikely to get to the reading of your manuscript during actual work hours. They are busy. They are working, and their official duties do not yet include the reading of you. While they go about the course of an already-busy normal workday, manuscripts pile up on their desk and on their floor. That kind of reading gets squeezed in on their own time: their lunch hour, or after hours, or on the weekend. So when an agent has had your manuscript for six or eight weeks, that means he’s actually had it for whatever fragments of time he’s scraped together during the week…plus the weekends. So what the writer regards as forty nine days might translate, roughly, to fourteen days of the agent’s actual reading time, during which the agent is also dealing with whatever manuscripts got on that stack before yours.

While it’s obviously not the same for every agent, the part about agents needing to take time outside of regular business hours to do reading is dead on (and the same usually holds true for editors too). Every time a writer suggests that agents should provide personalized rejections to every query, or, even worse, that agents should read through every unsolicited writing sample that shows up in the mail and offer comments on it, they demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of just how much time an agent has to spend on things like that. The first priority for every agent is seeing to the needs of the writers who are already clients, and it isn’t their job to provide a free critique service to every writer who sends them a letter or an email.


Written by incognito

27 September 2008 at 11:46 pm

Posted in Agenting