Monday, May 19, 2008

Well Laid Plans Laid Up

I started out on Friday with very noble intentions.

I wanted to answer all my pent up email. I had about 193 waiting. Several of them are from clients waiting to hear feedback on books in revision. They're being more patient than they should and this makes me itchy with shame.

I wanted to get my Monday submissions ready to go. I've got a couple books going out on Monday, and several that are moving toward closing dates, and I wanted to get all my ducks in a row to hit the ground quacking bright and early on Monday--like noon. That's morning, right?

I wanted to finish reading a historical thriller from one of my authors. I've read about 40 pages, I'm dying to finish it and I just can't seem to get that four hour block of time.

So, Friday afternoon at 5pm it was raining like crazy so instead of going to Aleksander Hemon's reading at Borders I went home to work.

Here's what happened instead:

1. Got an email from a prospective client from Muse in the Marketplace that needed immediate attention. Dropped everything to start reading his full. Read the full, made editing suggestions, sent to author, and then read through again to make sure all the changes worked. Total time: 12 hours

2. Got several emails from editors (who are cleaning up their email for the week just like I'd planned to!) asking for a project that has taken on additional heat because of some stuff in the news-sent those. Called the author to alert him to watch for spikes on his blog traffic. Total time: 2 hours

3. Talked with two authors about plans for BEA. Total time: 2 hours

4. Went to an author's surprise party in New Jersey (bonus-train time is reading time!) Total time: 10 hours

5. Got another email from another prospective client saying two agents were interested in his work. Ended up stepping aside on that one, but only after reading the first 50 pages. Total time: 1 hour

Finally I'm getting to the those email and the submissions list plans and it's 5:30pm on Sunday evening.

Time between Friday 5pm and Sunday 5:30pm: 48.5 hours
Total time on unexpected things: 27 hours

I'm not complaining. I chose this job, in this industry. I love it. I don't want to be doing anything else. I am not ever saying my time is more valuable than my authors or the people who query me. It's not. I am saying though that even with the best of intentions, sometimes, stuff just pops up and "I'll get back to you by Friday" rolls right into Monday morning with no reply. In fact, it happens a lot.

But this is the reason that it gripes me when people compare my job to any job with a salary (like a teacher who has to grade papers after hours.) NONE of what I did today earned any money. NONE of it. It may lead to money in the future, but there's no paycheck at the end of the week. You'll pardon me please if I try to minimize the stuff that I know won't earn me any money (rejection letters) and at least try to focus on the things that might turn into money-editing and reading.

I guess that venting over at Bookends struck a nerve considering I've now spent 30 minutes of that oh-so-valuable time ranting about it.

Ok, back to work.


Aimless Writer said...

The more I read agent blogs the more I know I would never want that job. Do you people ever stop to sleep or eat? Where do you find the time?
I think successful agents are like super heros. Or engergizer bunnies, lol.
You're one of the blogs I check out every morning and I think you've taught us all a few things about how to be better writers.
Please know you are more appreciated then you will ever know.

Julie Weathers said...
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Just_Me said...
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jovic said...

My agent has had my revision for about four weeks. I'm generally a very patient person, so I've just been plugging along on other things, waiting, but not worrying about it too much. While this is my first novel (aside from all the "practice" ones), my agent is highly successful and very busy. I see her sales in PM all the time. Your post showed me in detail why she hasn't gotten to my manuscript, even though I know she wants to, and I really appreciate the time you took to write it.

Janet said...

It is absolutely essential to take time out to do something "else". If blogging helps you feel like you've escaped a bit, let off a bit of steam, whatever, it refreshes you for the things that need to be done. People who criticize agents for blogging obviously have never been overloaded and don't understand how important it is to get away from obligatory stuff sometimes. (I know you weren't ranting about that directly.) And besides, it helps us understand how the industry works so we are more realistic in our expectations. It's a win-win situation.

Janet, I really don't get the impression that you are the kind of agent those people at Jessica's blog are ranting about. It's an entirely different thing to come in a couple of days late occasionally than to ignore client emails for weeks at a time, to request a full and not say a word for a year or more, that kind of thing.

I know that because of your efforts (and those of other blogging agents), I will be a better client when the time comes. I will also have a much better idea of how to choose an agent so that we are a good fit. So thanks.

ChrisEldin said...

You work too hard.

Sean Ferrell said...

Guy: Hi, I, you know, noticed you from across the bar and thought I might buy you a drink. Maybe we could chat and get to know each other?

Girl: Oh, gee. Thanks, but no. I'm not interested. But thanks, it's very nice of you to ask.

Guy: …

Girl: Why are you looking at me like that?

Guy: I just think it's really off-putting for you to just say "no thanks" and leave it at that.

Girl: Excuse me?

Guy: "No thanks," and that's it? What do I do with that? How am I supposed to improve my approach with other women with just a "no thanks" and "goodbye." I took all the time to walk over here, get the courage to talk to you, offer you a drink and you give me some tired cliché brush-off? I'm a human being, not some drink dispenser. Don't you care that I took a Women's Studies elective in College and I read Ayn Rand so that I could relate to women and be really great to talk to? Did you bother to notice that my socks go really well with my shirt? Hello? Queer Eye for the Straight Guy much? Don't you see the time and effort I put into coming to a pick-up bar, a bar filled with women, and I picked you to talk to? You! And you give me "thanks but no thank?!" What do I do with that?

Girl: So what? What do you want?

Guy: Something constructive! Something personal! Something that tells me you've seen me, an individual, a person with hopes and dreams and fears! Something that says "I see you and validate everything you've ever wanted!"

Girl: Okay, how about this: I don't want the drink because you're ugly.

Guy: …

Girl: …

Guy: See? Was that so hard?

Susan Adrian said...


I love it! Perfect analogy.

And Janet, I love your "this is why I'm busy" posts. They give us angsty writers a much better look at how very much you do. They also make me glad I'm on MY end, and not yours.

Kristin Laughtin said...

It's healthy to vent, especially when something really strikes a nerve. Go ahead, let it all out.

If any writers give you a hard time, don't let them. Surely there has been some point in their lives where they've been busy with work and life and who knows what else and they haven't been able to get everything done they've wanted to do. There are times where I just really itch to get a certain chapter out but real-life fiascos have prevented it, and as much as I beat myself up over it, I have to remember that I'm only human, I can only do so much, and as I'm not published yet, I don't have a real deadline anyway. :-)

That being said, you have no reason to apologize for having a backlog of work. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You put in almost 50 hours on work-related things this weekend. That's more than most people work in a week.

freddie said...

Wow. I've never sent out a query, but when I do, I will keep this post in mind.

Loretta Ross said...

Take a deep breath!

I've spoken with a few of your other clients and we all think you are a wonderful agent (and not just because you have the same last name as the Lone Ranger, and how cool is that?!) As far as anyone who is whining about you, I didn't offer you a cat to waltz last week because my cats aren't dancers, but if you want them to slap the snot out of somebody, my girls are all over it.

Elissa M said...

I'm one of those who vented at Bookends and I'm sorry if you took it personally. But then, my rant wasn't about personalized rejections or comparing salaried jobs with commission work, it was about agents not responding at all. There's a huge difference between getting back with a client a day or two later than promised and blowing them off completely. You have a right to run your business and manage your time as you see fit. Don't let rantings from authors who are clueless about your job get to you.

Personally, I prefer a quick, no frills rejection so I can move on. Rejection hurts, but picking at the wound and not letting it heal is worse. Personalized rejections for fulls might be nice, but unless an agent actually wants me to revise and resubmit, what's the point? In my world, "no" means "she's not interested, query someone else". It's not an invitation to analyze every syllable for hidden meanings or send an abusive response.

Irate Teacher said...

As a teacher, I can honestly say I work hard, and you work a hell of a lot harder than I do. I have a wife and two dogs and they get time. After reading that post, I'm wondering how you would have time to take care of a tree, let alone yourself. WOW. I'll say it now, agents are vastly underpaid at 15%. Every writer out there griping about that percentage (and I've heard the griping a lot) needs to read your post, then apologize profusely to every agent out there working even half that hard. WOW. Get some rest, you sound like you could use it. wow.