Friday, July 16, 2010

Peering over the fence

I'm always interested in query tallies from other agents, so I read Jessica Faust's post here with interest.

I've noticed several respected colleagues are closing their queries in August: Jessica, Rachelle Gardner, Holly Root.

I've resisted doing that but these three are very serious, very successful agents, and I pay attention to what they do.

I'm interested to hear what you think. I guess the default reaction is no you don't like it, but if you could give me the next ten words or so about WHY, I'd be interested in hearing from you.


Corinne said...

(I think her name is RAchelle!)

Honestly, I'm all right with it. It's only for a month or two/three, so it's hardly like they're denying you the opportunity to query at all.

More importantly, I respect an agent who knows where to draw the line. If they have too many queries and submissions to read that they can't keep up, closing submissions for a while seems perfectly reasonable. I'd much prefer an agent who's closed to submissions three months out of the year and manages to stay on top of things than one who's open year-round and falls behind constantly.

Anonymous said...

You don't get shops saying "no new customers in August", or doctors saying "no new patients this month." How is being an agent accepting queries any different from another job in this respect?

cottonchipper said...

Your job is to provide a perpetual opportunity for rejection. :-)

Stephen Parrish said...

I have a European attitude toward this. Here small restaurants routinely shut down for 1-4 weeks in the summer to give employees, usually family members, a chance to have a real vacation. A boutique agency is not unlike a family-owned restaurant in this respect. Asking that queries wait until the agency reopens just helps keep the pile down for when the agents return. Nobody wants to return from vacation to discover they have to work overtime to compensate for their absence. If they have to, it's not a real vacation.

Snarky Writer said...

(This will be more than ten words; I hope that's okay. ;))

Generally, agents/magazines/whatever being closed to submissions annoys me. I have a hard enough time keeping track of who I've queried/submitted to as it is (and I have a spreadsheet!) without having to check and see if they're open every so often.

However, if they're closed because they're just so overwhelmed that they need the extra time to catch up, I get it. I'm a PhD student AND trying to write a novel; I TOTALLY get it. I might grumble, but I'm not as annoyed as if they just went, "welp, it's August, let's shut 'er down." I'd actually rather they shut down than stopped reading carefully and started skimming just to get through the queries faster.

Being closed to queries isn't a dealbreaker for me when it comes to looking for somewhere to submit. If I'm interested enough in the market/agent, I'll keep coming back until they're ready to look at my stuff. :)

Poppy said...

If I post something, will there be anyone around to read it? ;)

Craven said...

All of August off sounds very French. Agents are people too and everyone needs a vacation once in a while. My query isn't going to burst into flame just because it wasn't reviewed prior to September (it only feels that way).

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I think the initial reaction is disappointment over a missed opportunity. Maybe we haven't queried them yet because we're waiting for something to be perfect (finished MS, beta readers through, revisions done), and when they close their doors, it feels suddenly TOO LATE. We writers are a panicky breed. :-)

But I am not too upset by this trend. I understand that agents are people, too, and cannot be expected to deal with 400+ queries in addition to their clients' (and sometimes their own) writing loads. I also retain the hope that it is temporary. If they close permanently, I cry a little. Not everyone has the industry connections to get author referrals, so when agents go referral-only it keeps out people who may be great writers but not great networkers. *shrugs* I'm sure these agents have considered this, but obviously they must do what is healthiest for their business.

Interesting topic. Thanks for opening up a forum for it!

Lumpy Dog said...

Close up. I'd rather you turn off the "open" light and get caught up than have you (or any agent) get so overwhelmed that you start hitting the reject button just to make the smallest bit of progress. Wanna-be authors (myself included) outnumber you guys by about a bazillion to one. We can chill for a month.

On a side note, when I first glanced at the headline of this post I thought it read, "Peeing over the fence." Talk about an attention-grabber.

Rondi Olson said...

I actually don't mind. I think everyone needs a break. I'd rather know an agent isn't accepting queries than send one and wait months for a reply. I think most writers understand an agents first job is to take care of their clients, not read queries.

DeadlyAccurate said...

Actually, I do like it. Well, maybe like is too strong a word, but it's something I've always thought agents should do when they get overwhelmed with queries and everything else. It gives you a chance to focus on your clients, and if we have to wait an extra month to query a specific agent, it's only one month.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I don't like it, but I accept it. I understand how agents can get buried under queries and must use a block of time to catch up, deal with other agently matters and take care of existing clients.

Because not every writer is on Twitter or reads every agent blog, I hope websites are kept up to date, and possibly an auto-reply stating that the author's email is being deleted and to try again later.

Sometimes we get auto-replies that state the agent is away on such-and-such date, but we don't know if our query is being held, or if it's been automatically deleted.

lora96 said...

Not to go all Oprah on you, but do what works for you. We'll be here reading the blog and looking forward to posts from the Shark. If you have backlog or would, oh, like a little time to do your other work without the onslaught of wayward hopefuls, go for it.

I read Jessica's post and it makes sense for her. If I had 500 query emails to consider, the top would blow off my head.

Sangu said...

To be honest, I completely understand why agents have closed for queries over the next month or so. Having read Holly's blog post about it, I think her reasoning is perfectly sensible. If you're swamped, why not take a short break from queries and use the time to catch up on requested materials and pay your existing clients the attention they deserve?

While it might be a blow to me, as a writer looking to query agent, I can also understand the need to just take a break from some aspects of your job sometimes. And I don't think it's such a big deal - most of these agents are open to queries again in September, so I (and most writers, I suspect) can be patient!

(On a side note, I have to admit it is a little annoying when agents close to queries 'indefinitely'. Again, I understand their reasons. But when you've done your research and carefully picked these agents because they seemed right for your book, it's a bit of an unintentional smack in the face to discover, when you're ready to query, that they're no longer open to queries and might not be for a long, long time to come. It does close a lot of doors that writers have been hoping for.)

Hope that sheds some light on the writers' perspective! :)

Belinda Frisch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marynoel said...

If I was ready to submit and those closed agents were on my list of hopefuls, my initial reaction would be shock & disappointment. Maybe some drinking and whining to my roommate about how the world was out to get me.

But really, if I was that hooked on those agents in particular, they'd be worth the wait, however long. It'd buy me time to make sure the project was extra special and ready and keep me from jumping the gun on submissions. The waiting wouldn't be very fun, though.

If I was their client? I think I'd be happy for them and me if they closed for a spell. Less stress for them/more attention on my projects kind of thing. ;)

Crystal said...

I have to agree with Corinne. Agents aren't shops, and doctors do say that they aren't accepting new patients sometimes. An agent provides a service, not a product. When a service provider's schedule is full, they honestly cannot "fit you in". That's why we call ahead for appointments, or in the agent's case, know when they are available to query.

Sarah N Fisk said...

I don't mind when agents close for submissions, but when so many close at one time it's (slightly) annoying. What if the three that are closed are my top three? Then I have to wait a month or two before I start querying because I don't want to query others before my top choices. (This is hypothetical)

Also - and this is a very specific situation - some of my friends are school teachers, so many of them have the most time during the summer. If they want to query when they have the most free time, many agents would be closed to them. Fortunately, many of them take the time to write instead.

I don't really have strong feelings about it, but these are the first thoughts that popped into my head. If I had an agent, I'd rather her close to submissions if she was swamped than spend less time submitting my work.

Ali said...

I understand the reasoning behind it, even though I don't entirely like it. It's similar to reading periods for magazine submissions. Everyone needs to catch up, and I can understand an agent becoming overwhelmed by the blob-like mass of queries growing daily.

On the other hand, for a writer, it can be a bit frustrating. The query process can be rather involved (and let's face it--no one waits well); if someone has to wait a whole month to submit to an agent, it might be little off-putting. It reminds me a bit of agents who don't accept simultaneous submissions, but I can't articulate why (a sign I need more coffee).

I keep a spreadsheet of my agent queries (or I will, once I start again, with the new book). If an agent isn't accept submissions at a particular time, but I'd still like to submit to he/she, I will add the contact information and note that. To me, that covers all my bases. I don't miss out on submitting to that agent, and I still give myself the best chance to follow the agent's guidelines.

Irene Ziegler said...

Me, I'd try to respect an August respite, as I wouldn't want to hack you off, but really, is there any such thing as a good time to send a query? I was told that November and December are bad times, but January is good; but my January queries were met with "Still catching up from the holidays." Around BEA, I'm told "Getting ready for BEA!" After BEA, it's "Recovering from BEA!" Of course, you could always take your vacation at the same time writers do, which is like, never.

SuzRocks said...

Doctors and grocery stores don't close for a month because food and medical care are somewhat necessary for life. Last time I checked, querying an agent was not.

While it would be a bummer to have to wait for an agent you really wanted, I'd say most people could use the extra month to perfect their queries- based on sample rejection ones I've read.

You've spent how many months, years, decades, writing the "bestest" book in the universe- what's one freaking month?

ClothDragon said...

My doctor has been closed to new patients for a few years now. I would guess that she opens occasionally to make up those patients that move away, but I think she gets enough pulled in by current patients it doesn't happen often. Actually the one who delivered my babies has the same deal. Someone asked the other day who I'd used and told me he'd been her first choice too, but he wasn't accepting new patients. That one makes the problems easy to see, because the only doctor around who isn't ever closed to new patients has a warning on his door that even appointments will often be asked to wait up to 4 hours past their appointment time or rescheduled last minute should a baby decide to be born when they'd originally been scheduled.

Anyway, that's in response to the doctors not closing comment. Yes, they do, and I'm so glad I ended up with the doctors that know when they've reached the upper limit of what they can handle and stop enrolling -- so agents closing down queries for a while doesn't phase me at all.

Project Savior said...

At first I hated it, then I thought it might be a good time to follow the trend.
If I can plan on not querying for the month of August I can force myself to use that month as rewrite month.
No new queries, no new work (unless an idea hits I can't ignore) and just polish my finished novels.

Michelle Kollar said...

I've stalled this long, what's another month. Now if you quit blogging then we'll have a problem.

Rowenna said...

I'd prefer that an agent be closed to queries if s/he isn't able to/intending to keep up with them in his/her "normal" capability for a set amount of time. This makes sense--if I'm out of the office for two weeks (or even a long weekend) on vacation, I put up an out-of-office reply on email and you're going to get voice mail if you call me. Duly warned; call someone else in my office or wait to hear from me. Same for agents--I think it gives writers a fairer shot if we're submitting when it's (more) convenient for you, and not when your overarching goal is to clean out a vacation-full inbox. Plus it weeds out those who can't follow directions, at least for a month :)

What I don't like are the ever-explanding "not accepting queries" that I see on some agency websites...first it's for a month, then until X date...then until further notice. I find that depressing--one more door that I'm not even welcome to knock on. I would also expect that the agency website is kept up to date--nothing more annoying than querying someone and getting a 'we're closed to queries' when their website says the opposite. As long as it's a query break and not a query shut-off, I'm fine with it and understand.

Emily White said...

To tell you the truth, I rather like the fact that some agents take the summer off. It keeps me from jumping the gun on the querying process. I know I have at least until September to do all my editing and get my book perfectly polished.

I guess I might have been a little more disappointed if I had finished everything in July and had to wait, but what's an extra month to make sure everything is just right?

I think writers tend to get a little too hyped up and forget they should take a break to take a fresh look at their WIPs from time to time.

BookEnds, LLC said...

Thanks for posting this Janet. I'm going to peer (not pee) over your fence to see what people are saying.

In case anyone is wondering, I will have an automatic reply set-up to anyone who does query me during that time letting them know their query is being deleted and asking them to resubmit in September.

Let me also explain that one of the reasons I am closing is not just to spend time with family (which I'm looking forward to), but also to reboot. I want to come to queries fresh and excited not tired and overwhelmed.

And I really like the idea that it's very French of me. Oh if only I were going to be in Paris for the month.

--jessica faust

Fawn Neun said...

Personally, if YOU feel you need a break, you should take one. Not because it's August, but because you have to reset your 'give a sh*t' meter sometimes.

I'd rather have my own work read by a well-rested, caught-up, destressed agent. And as someone who reads slush for a short fiction publication, I think it's in the authors' best interest to approach the pile in a positive frame of mind.

JES said...

As long as you're thinking ahead, I think it's fine.

By "looking ahead" I mean: when the door gets unlocked again at the end of the month (or whatever), will you have to contend with one of those farcical Filene's-Basement-sale scenes, with a thousand queries -- even more impatient (desperate, urgent) than usual after a forced wait -- surging through the mail slot?

Point being, this makes a lot of sense in helping to improve your sanity and peace of mind. Unless, over the long term, it does no such thing.

Do it (or not) for yourself, I say. It's a guideline like any other: inconvenient/annoying for some writers, okay for others.

(If I were an agent, I'd probably think twice about someone who objected to this condition just as much as about someone who didn't like using email, really preferred to send an entire MS at the outset than a query, etc.)

B.E. Sanderson said...

I'd rather have an agent take a few weeks off to catch up with everything than have her read my query in a hurry because she's buried under 500 others.

Joseph L. Selby said...

I've been following a lot of agent blogs for years now, and a pattern has emerged. You get worn down and you need a vacation. That happens to everyone that works hard. When should you take it? Well, you deal with two parties most frequently, authors and editors. Authors are unrelenting*, but editors take their vacations during the summer, especially during August. The best time for you to take a vacation is the time when they're taking a vacation. So agents take a much-needed vacation and they come back reinvigorated.

For that reason, I love the August vacation.

Here's what sucks about it, the two weeks before the August vacation, all the agent talks about is wanting to be on vacation. One of my queries got stuck in that time-frame once and when I got rejected, I wondered if it was even considered or just shoved out the door to get the slate clean before closing.

When someone is high, the crash is all the more steep and the two-four weeks after vacation, the slush pile reminds agents about the things they dislike about their job. They're far harsher on queries during this time frame than any other, it seems. I've gotten caught in that trap before as well. The agents almost seemed angry when they were rejecting stuff. It was both frustrating and disheartening.

*August sees more vacations than any other month, so it's possible authors are less relenting in this month than others.

Laurel said...

I would way rather know that you are catching up so you can pay attention to my query when it gets there instead of reading it in a state of panic because there are seventeen partials, contract negotiations, and another 276 queries in your inbox.

I look at it like this: The agent is letting writers know that if you query me right now I cannot possibly give you a fair shake.

I do think for those of you who are friendly you might look at staggering your query breaks, if that is possible. September is going to suck hard.

tawdra said...

I don't mind it, especially if closing down for submissions for one month helps agents to control the glut. I wonder if those agents see a surge in queries in September?

Lt. Cccyxx said...

If they are not going to read them (for whatever reason - I don't care) it is better for them to close to queries for the month. What's the point of remaining open and just deepening the backlog?

Shakespeare said...

I don't have a problem with the down time. Like so many other commenters have said, everybody needs to take a break, and a refreshed agent would make it better for my chances.

I have summers more or less off, despite small kids, and that means I have the summer to develop my query, hone my novel, and submit something worth reading in the fall, when offices open back up. Now, if the agency were to close for a couple of years because of the backlog, that would be a problem.

Anonymous said...

It sucks.

Kathleen MacIver said...

I look at it this way. If there are so many prospective authors flooding the inboxes with queries that the agent can't keep up, then there are only two options:
1) Start hitting delete/reject a lot faster just to get through, or
2) Close down temporarily and let an automated thing hit delete.

Either way, they're getting rejected during that time frame. But with option #2, we KNOW WHY and are given the option of avoiding at least that type of rejection.

Buffy Andrews said...

I work in a business that publishes 365 days a year. That’s life. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it. I do, however, get vacations. But when I’m gone, the press doesn’t stop running. Someone has to do the work I do. So I would say people most definitely deserve vacations but if they’re going to be away, it would seem they would have someone covering for them. On the other hand, if you work for yourself you get to make the rules. I’m cool with either way. The most difficult part about this is keeping track of it all. Who’s open, who’s closed, etc. But, that’s life.I think you need to do what's best for you (and your current clients, who should come first).

Dawn said...

I'd rather you took a break and came back recharged. At least then if I'm rejected, I know it's less about you being burned out or overwhelmed :-)

wry wryter said...

A few years back I took a summer off, I had to quit my job to do it.
Lost medical plan, lost wages, found my mind again.
It was wonderful and I did not regret one moment.
When I went back to work I felt a kind of energy I had not felt in years.
Go for it if you can. Sit by the pool, on the beach, or in a hammock under a tree.
Anyone who poo poo's you is jealous.
Well, I'm off to work now, drats.

BW said...

Mainly, the first rule of business is to make money.

With that being said, your respected collegues are giving you the opportunity to make money before they do since you will still be taking queries.

Margaret Yang said...

If an author can't wait out a month for their favorite agent to be open to queries again, how is this author going to deal with the OMG MUCH LONGER waits that are in her future? I'm talking the wait for the agent to read her partial/full. I'm talking the wait for editors to read the partial/full. I'm talking the endless wait for the book to finally move through the publication process when the author has absolutely no idea what is going on and has bitten her nails to nubs.

A month is nothing! If someone whines about a one month wait to query an agent who doesn't even represent her yet, how much more whining will the agent have to endure later on?

The sense of entitlement here baffles me.

Wendy Qualls said...

I can totally understand being closed to *reading* queries, but there's no reason agents can't continue to *accept* them - as long as they post a clear message on their website. If I saw a note that an agent would have an extra-long response time to queries during August, I might think twice about querying - or, if I really liked that agent, I might decide it was worth the wait.

Obviously the agent would still get the spam queries (not the right genres, never looked at their website, "Dear Agent," etc.), but they'd have to dig through those and delete them anyway. And authors who are trying to be organized in their querying won't have to make a whole extra category for "agents I really want to query but can't yet but I have to remember to get back to them on Sept 1st" (or whatever the date would be).

christwriter said...

I was about to say, "Because August is my projected ready-to-query time" (Not that I'm like in your genre or anything. It's just the standard knee jerk reaction)

Then I thought about what I'd do if my place of employment (may it be atom-bombed to small granules of disconnected radiation) decided to shut down and let me take several weeks off, and I realized my first reaction would involve lighting my uniform shirts on fire, followed by lots of public dancing without first acquiring a new form of shirt.

Because I've worked here so long I don't even own normal shirts anymore.

Sarah said...

I'm a teacher. I get taking the summer off. So the query hiatus doesn't bother me. (Besides, it isn't like they're taking the month off from work. They're taking a break from queries.)

I'd moan a bit if I wanted to submit something during August, but I wouldn't think they were lazy. When I think of how slowly everything seems to move in this industry, one month doesn't seem like too much.

LTM said...

I think it's a good thing. Everybody needs a break and I'd rather my fave agent look at my sub fresh and not frazzled.
A few thoughtful measures I also like are:
1-When they give you a heads up that the break's coming at like the end of the week or whatever (in case you *were* waiting/polising/whatever) and
2-When they have that auto-reply thingie like Jessica's. That's very considerate. (Even better is when it's up on the website & Query Tracker~)

I say take a break if you need it~

magolla said...

I totally get it and respect the decision to be closed to queries for a particular time. One needs a break from the dreck and to catch up on the real work, but I also like the fact that Jessica and others have put a time limit to their break. Yes, they will be inundated when they hang their open sign, but that's what happens when a well-respected agent has a blog, numerous followers, and an excellent track record.

On an aside: I e-queried a particular agency last year and it wasn't until I hit SEND did I realize that they were closed to queries (BIG BOLD BLUE NOTE, too). . . I figured it was an auto-delete, instead I got a request for a partial. Nothing came of it, but I think the agency forgot to change their webpage or I just caught someone on a good day.

Meredith said...

Even agents, superhuman though they are, need some time off. Did you see the number of queries Jessica said she had sitting in her email inbox? Janet Reid may be superhuman (is that subhuman if you are a shark?), but I suspect even Janet Reid needs some time off. Give 'em a break, children.

Richard Gibson said...

It's only a month. It takes me that long to get over the rejections :)

Wanda said...

It is easy to get overwhelmed with work to the point that you are moving papers from one side of the desk to another.

When that happens it is time to take a break, get some rest, plant some flowers, stick your toes in the sand, cook great food while sipping cool fruity wine, read books that have nothing to do with work and lastly, take lots of bubble baths.

Then come back to work refreshed and ready to give a glowing response to my query.

BnB Paulson said...

Dang, chikas! take a friggin' break. If you have the option and your inbox is full, totally do it. Unless of course you get one from me, then by all means, pull yourself away from that mimosa and hot man and read my query. If that's too much to ask, I will see you when you are open again.

Marjorie said...

Here's what I think. I think it is a mistake to ask the "peanut gallery" their opinion, because in the end you will do what you want to do.

However, it's all in the math. If you close your queries for August, you will have more work when you open queries in September.

If you keep the queries open during August, you might be overwhelmed and angry that you didn't take a break and you may make decisions in anger.

So, here's what to do. Determine a number of queries you will accept during August. Start from August 1st and keep a tally, and when you reach that amount close queries on that day in August.

It's called a mental compromise.

The Zuccini said...

Point A:
Doctors and Grocery stores may not close but that doesn't mean that doctors and cashiers don't take vacations.

Point B:
Research has shown time and time again that time off increases productivity. I'd rather you be refreshed (well I'm not submitting to you, but that's not the point.) and happy in your work when you read my query than exhausted and overwhelmed.

Jennifer said...

I understand and don't have a problem with it in theory. It's just the fact that I'm hoping to have my manuscript ready to send off in August. ;) I'll just have to wait a few more weeks, though. Really, everything moves so slowly in publishing that waiting around for a month doesn't seem quite so bad. I just apparently have bad timing.

Malia Sutton said...

I'm not querying anyone right now, so it doesn't matter to me one way or the other. But speaking as an author, I always find it difficult when I see agents stop taking queries...even for short periods of time. I work hard, and I want to see that same work ethic everywhere, without excuses or complaints :)

First, it takes away hope from authors, and they don't have much hope to begin with. The query is their lifeline to publication.

Second, I usually hold this against the agent even though I know I shouldn't. If I can work two jobs in publishing, write a novel in three weeks, and still have time to get my nails done, why can't everyone else? Personally, I don't want to hear burn-out. I know, rationally, it happens and we should be more forgiving. But I still don't want to hear it.

Third, I still believe in the old saying "you never know." In other words, that one great novel might just come along and the agent could miss it because he or she took a break from queries.

Sheri Strong said...

As a workaholic type who can get annoyed whenever something/someone isn't open/working when I need it/him or her, yes, my "default" reaction is to say, no way, agents shouldn't close querying in August.

Yet, at the same time, I realize it's only 1 month out of 12. The nature of publishing/writing is at least somewhat creative/freelance after all. So, in the end, I'd be okay with it.

sbjames said...

I don't mind. Most likely, they return in a good mood. (win/win)

Susan Adrian said...

I've always thought it makes sense to take a break from submissions if you're piled up, if you're stressing out trying to get the ones you have read and more keep piling in. It's totally human and I think writers who really want you for an agent would be willing to wait a month.

Also, let me throw in a client's perspective. As a client, if my agent is frazzled by too many queries I would FAR rather she take a month off, deal with what she already has on her plate, and focus on current client issues as needed. Frazzled agent doesn't make for happy clients.

NOTE: I am NOT NOT NOT saying you as an agent are either frazzled or overwhelmed, or that YOUR clients are unhappy. Quite the contrary. But in general, that would be one client's perspective to such a proposal.

Anonymous said...

I think it's good for the agents to have a break and get themselves caught up/organized and personally refreshed. I also look at it as an opportunity for me to work with my crit group on queries and submissions so that when the newly rejuvenated agents return I'm ready for them. :)


Anonymous said...

Shut down. Reboot. Include in the auto-delete-reply that the author can also pause the process and reboot. If they queried while you're closed, they can't follow directions.

Agents have clients they know and love. Queries are only potentials and a month is short for a relationship that will span a career.

Jane Steen said...

I think you're entitled to run your business the way you like it. If that involves taking some time off to catch up with work and rest a bit, then so be it.

ryan field said...

I'm with whoever said do what's best for YOU.

Spring said...

I think that as disappointing as it is for authors who are hungry to query agents, it might be a good idea to stop reading all *new* queries.

If agents who close in August can take that time to catch up on the queries already in their inbox - without an influx of fresh queries each day to add to the pile - they would be able to start from zero at the beginning of September.

And it's only 31 days. A writer should take that time to make sure her query and manuscript is as perfect as possible for September 1. :)

Katt said...

I think it is smart to know your limit. I don't think an agent shutting down to queries for a while means that they're tossing their cell phones and other clients in the pool.
But I really appreciate that Rachelle is classy enough to give everyone fair warning, so that if we are close to querying, we can get off our duffs and get it done!

Aimless Writer said...

I think its a great idea. Let her catch up on the old inbox and come back fresh and sassy in September when she'll read my query and fall in love with it.

BJ said...


People take holidays.It's their decision and their right. I take holidays and completely forget I have a job. That's what holidays are for.

People who don't take de-stressing breaks like this run the risk of ruining their health and doing a less-than-good job at anything.

Am I disappointed when someone goes on holidays? A bit. Even friends, if I won't be seeing them for some time. I also used to be disappointed when rerun season started in the summer. I was also very disappointed when going to Disney World the only time ever, and the brand new Space Mountain was closed for repairs. (yes, that's how long ago it was)

The thing is, I'd rather wait -- even 30+ years -- than die in a horrible Space Mountain accident. I'd rather wait over the summer for new shows if it kept them filming smoothly. And I'd rather wait for an agent on holiday than lose her to a nervous breakdown/heart attack/drunken murder attempt on an author or editor that lands her in jail.

We all need holidays. My doctor goes on holidays. Restaurants close down for holidays. In many businesses -- including the publishing industry, I'm sure -- things slow down over the summer because people are on holidays. It's a fact of life.

If you can't handle waiting a month for an agent to return from holidays, try applying for a government grant over the summer. You'll learn a LOT about waiting every step of the way.

Thomas Sinclair said...

I think a break is for the best. In my mundane life (not the exciting life of a super writer) I teach college, and after dealing with students for a semester, I need a break. I'm just sick of it all. Students could be turning in essays the likes of John Done or Samuel Johnson and I would still be sick of looking at them.

There comes a point in time when a person needs to recharge. So I'm fine with agents who put the "gone fishin' " sign up and recharge the batteries.

Sure, authors probably think it's lousy because we're a high strung and anxious lot (and a goodly number of us are arrogant enough to boast that the books we wrote are it), but I would much rather catch an agent when he or she is refreshed and really eager to look at new queries, not depressed at the number following the inbox.

Suzi McGowen said...

I don't mind. Doctors do say "not accepting new patients at this time", etc. When you're too busy to do what you need to do, it only makes sense to close the doors to new people for a while.

I'd rather have an agent that has time to devote to his/her clients, than one that's too busy to give us a fair deal :)

Kelley said...

You could.

(Am I the only one who immediately was like, ahahahahaha!!! But what if agents who close stay up at night imagining that other *cough*slithery*cough* agents will purposely stay open, only so they can snatch up all the good submissions before everyone opens back up again? heh. How does one relax then?)

Sure, you could.

DeadlyAccurate said...

Also, let me throw in a client's perspective. As a client, if my agent is frazzled by too many queries I would FAR rather she take a month off, deal with what she already has on her plate, and focus on current client issues as needed. Frazzled agent doesn't make for happy clients.

I'll add my agreement to this. I'd rather know my potential agent is willing to close temporarily to catch up than continue getting overwhelmed. Not only does this do a disservice to potential clients; it would be hard to keep the current clients from suffering for it, too.

Too Cute said...

I think that publishing is a slow business, and writers are an impatient lot. I know I am.

That said, if the agent who is closed to queries is the one you really want, the one you feel is perfect for you, as a writer, you'll wait.

And be pleased that the agent is doing what he/she needs to do to be a better agent for his/her clients. Which is what you hope, eventually, to be.

Amy said...

I don't know that I would be upset that the agency I want to submit to is closed for a month or so. That delay in sending a query forces me into reviewing what I'm offering, and perhaps making the query stronger.

I would whine that I can't do it now, but not to an agency, more to my cat. And then I would move on, and wait for the agent to announce they've come back.

Though most of the agents I plan on submitting to have blogs I read daily. I would know of the vacation at the time I was crafting my query, and plan accordingly.

But I can see why people who want to send out multiple queries the same day/week/month would be a little put out by it. It throws off the time table for those of us with spreadsheets to keep track of when/where queries go when we submit.

Jolene said...

An agent who closes for queries is busy, knows how to manage their time and will probably do an excellent job of representing your work.
Unless it happens every other month.
No, I am not an agent.

HWPetty said...

I tend toward the narcissistic approach:

* As a querying writer, I got bummed when one of my favorite agents was closed when I was ready to send my query to him/her. (I mean, I understood and didn't point accusatory fingers at them or anything, but I was still saddened for ME.)

* As a now-agented writer, if my agent takes off a month to catch up and that means she reads my latest ms more quickly or can otherwise spend more time telling me how awesome I am, then I think it was a FABULOUS IDEA and maybe she should do it ALL THE TIME.

Yeah... so, it's all about me. ;)

But really, I think that's the center of a debate like this. We all like what works out best for ourselves. We all see things from OUR perspective. But really, once you have an agent, you'll want them to spend less time on queries and more time on working for you... it's just the way of things.

(Not that queries have ever gotten in the way of my amazing agent helping me. Just speaking in hypothetical.)

Shawn Smucker said...

I guess I don't see what the big deal is. If I wake up in the morning and don't want to write, I don't have to.

I think writer's get upset because agents deciding not to accept queries for a time is just another reminder of how little control we have in the process of publishing. Oh well. I'm sure we'll get over it.

And I'm sure that if we have something to submit, and we feel you're the correct agent to submit to, we won't (just before hitting SEND) suddenly throw up our hands and shout, "Wait a minute! She's the one who wasn't accepting submissions last August! Forget her!"

Sue Repko said...

There's that thing called "the rest of one's life" that deserves its own time and space. And the reality is that many (most) of you in the biz, and many (most) of us, check out during August anyway. So I say we all just get French and go with it!

Shaples said...

I think, as a lot of people have said, that the practice of closing to queries is a perfectly understandable one - culling queries isn't nearly the only part of an agent's job description, and I think that's what a lot of people against it fail to take into consideration. Because agents who say "I'm not taking queries from x-y" aren't saying "I'm going to go party from x-y" so much as "please please I need a month to do ALL MY OTHER WORK and BREATHE"

That said, I find it frustrating when agents say "I'm closed to queries starting x" with no real indication of when they will be accepting them again, or if they will at all. At least with a re-opening date, you can query around the dream agent you're waiting for.

Roza M said...

I love the idea that agents take time off to refuel themselves. If we as humans worked ourselves day in and out until we retired, do you know what you end up like??? Look at the oldest grumpiest person you know, that's what you will be. Now, I don't know about you all but I'd like all agents to be happier than that old grumpy person, especially when they are reading over my Query letter. =)

Tawna Fenske said...

As someone who's already represented by an amazing agent (Michelle Wolfson) I have to admit I was a tiny bit pleased when she recently issued a temporary halt to queries. I trust her to know her own limits when it comes to balancing the needs of her existing clients with the acquisition of new ones. Her existing clients come first, and that's one reason we all adore her so much. I love her for her speedy responses, and I respect her for knowing when to say "whoa" so she can continue to keep everyone happy.

I know "closed" isn't what people like to hear when they're looking for an agent, but trust me -- it's IS something you occasionally like to hear when you already have one :)


Kelley Vitollo said...

I think agents, just like everyone else, have the right to, and should do whatever it takes to be the best at their job. Does it bum me out as a writer? Sure, but I can tell you, I'd rather know an agent closed their door to queries, so I can wait to submit, rather than query and be in the state of limbo where I'm checking my email a million times a day because the agent is behind and I didn't know when submitting.

Plus, we all take vacations. Stores change their hours depending on the season etc. I believe agents should have that right as well.

Kristin Laughtin said...

For all the people saying that doctors don't stop taking new patients: Yes, they do. When I had to get a new doctor, it took me calling three offices before I found a doctor that was accepting new patients. And doctors, like everyone else, go on vacation. Agents should be allowed to do the same--except in this case, it's not even a real vacation! It's just putting off new clients temporarily to catch up! And as a writer, wouldn't you want an agent who feels caught up to read your query rather than one who is stressed out by the deluge and starts skimming just to get through all the emails?

I don't see what the big deal is. Chances are, most of us will have to submit queries for some time before getting a bite, let alone an author. The agent will come back, and if they're THE agent you want, you can wait a month. Until then, query other people and don't freak out about it. You are not the agent's client yet, and the agent does not owe you anything.

jdh said...

I am not bothered by it at all. I have a small house that I wanted to rent. I put an ad online and was overwhelmed by people who wanted it.

After doing an open house I had many, many people I had to disappoint and only one I could accept. I began to understand the plight of the literary agent much better.

That doesn't mean that I am not crushed by rejection, but...

Horserider said...

In response to those saying doctors don't stop taking new patients for a month I'd like to point out that doctors don't give away the first appointment for free. Agents are reading and responding to hundreds of queries a week for absolutely no pay. They only get paid for it if they take on a new client from those queries. When doctors meet a prospective new patient, they're not doing that for free.

As for agents taking a month off from accepting queries, I don't understand why it's such a big deal. Why shouldn't they take a month off to catch up, devote attention to their clients, and take a little time for themselves?

Amy said...

I'm okay with it. I'd rather an agent closed to queries periodically than got so overwhelmed that she couldn't keep up with them in a timely manner or, worse, was so eager to clean out her inbox that she barely bothered to read the queries before rejecting them.

If that agent is one I particularly want to query, I'll query her later when she reopens. The less serious or persistent queriers probably won't bother. And of course, if I'm lucky enough to get signed by some other agent while she's still closed to queries... her loss :).

Suzan Harden said...

What Margaret Yang said.

kd easley said...

I think for an agent to have one entire month, to read, sell and take care of all the other millions of things that go with your job without the stress of endless queries would be something you could look forward to for the entire year.

I think it would go a long way to postponing burnout. I really don't see a downside to the query break.

Bon said...

When it comes time for me to query I will be looking for an agent who is professional enough to manage their time and existing clients against cruising the slush pile for the new hidden gem.

So close for a month, a year, indefinitely. Take care of your existing clients and yourself. If we pass in the night this time around, that is sad but not the end of the world. Who knows? Maybe I will find my one true agent instead and if not, the timing may be more serendipitous on the next hunt.

Patti said...

I think this business is all about being patient . Writers should be able to wait a month to send a query.

igloo said...

I think it is a smart thing to do. It's good to know when you need a break and to take one.

As a writer who just submitted to Ms. Faust this week, (how weird is that) I hope she rests her beleaguered eyes and rejuvenates her soul before getting to my manuscript.

I'm not above sending a bevy of Cabana boys with trays of tropical drinks poolside. Ha ha!

Barbara Martin said...

Take your holiday to rest and recharge. The rest of us are allowed holidays. Have a nice time off.

jjdebenedictis said...

...if you could give me the next ten words or so about WHY, I'd be interested in hearing from you.

Why is simple: You are a name and a reputation to me.

It's not that I don't realize you're a live human being with a life outside of work; it's just I don't see that half of the equation from where I'm standing, so it's easy to default to a purely selfish point of view. (I shouldn't, but it's easy.)

Regarding whether agents should close to queries:

I remember hearing about a country that banned letting vehicles pass each other on the highway. Everyone bellowed about how it would slow traffic to a crawl, but in fact, the ban decreased the average trip time. Things ran more smoothly.

I've been reading about agents drowning in their swelling slush piles all year, and four of the six queries I've got out right now are well overdue a reply.

So maybe agents taking occasional breaks is good for writers too? It's not like an agent being open to submissions but overwhelmed speeds up the process.

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

but...human agents are probably best. Be human. Just for a little while. The rest of us will feel better.

Carradee said...

Doctors' offices stop taking new patients when they have a full load. Many magazines have reading periods for submissions. Why shouldn't an agent close to queries when they need a break?

As much as ya'll enjoy getting new clients, I'm sure you don't always need them.

Cole Howard said...

I think it all bodes well for you...the more agents who shut up shop for August the more opportunity you'll have at getting the first crack at something good.

IE: "Oh, Janet Reid's taking queries!? Yeah, finally someone to send my amazing/future-bestselling/life-changing/bed-bug-killing novel to! I'd have sent it to [Name Redacted]as well, but he/she isn't taking queries in August..."

Down side is that you'll also be the lonely pioneer to receive queries that could be described as "eye-ball-grating" and "dead-cat-sniffing." And dead cats stink.

Bonner said...

How about a December closing instead? That's the most worthless month of the year for getting anything accomplished. So limited losses all around.

The Writers Canvas said...

If the agents do this, it's great if they can announce it ahead of time--precisely like Jessica did. I had planned to query her the following week, but on her Twitter and blog, she announced a week ahead of time when she would be closing. So this was good; it gave me a choice to either go ahead and query (book was completed either way) or wait until Labor Day.

Agents need a break too, but it's always appreciated to have an announcement or a set timeframe of dates. Seeing "not open to queries right now" on a agent's web site, and seeing the same message 9 months later, tends to make me scratch them off my list.

Set timeframes, let folks know ahead of time. Good to go.


Whidget said...

I don't mind it--and the reason is that it's one more way to winnow out the uninformed. This is Machiavellian of me, but I say, let them close their doors sporadically on occasion. Then I will be ready to pounce when they are open again and all the other queries who went out during that timeframe are not sitting in the slushpile in front of mine--they were (in theory) thrown out.

Hooray for anything that increases my odds in the gambit of publication. All of this is predicated on the premise that they reopen at some point.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is entitled to holidays so if you need down time in August, why not? On the other hand, if you'll still be working in August isn't the querying aspect part of the job? Most working people in other professions don't get to dictate a month when they will do only a portion of their tasks.

(Call it holiday time and we'll never know the difference!)

Lucy said...

As I commented on Jessica's blog, I'm perfectly comfortable/happy/what-have-you with seeing agents take time off. Better to get a timely response when the agency is open for queries than to be buried in the endless backlog of the slush pile.

So if you're feeling overwhelmed, go for it! :-)

Bethany said...

I don't have a problem with it. If it helps the person recharge, catch up and get excited about their job, then some time off makes sense. If they're only closing for a short period of time and an author really wants to query them, then the author can take the time to polish up the query letter and manuscript and really be ready when they come back. (Or even have other projects available just in case there's a multiple book offer in the future).

Malin said...

I don't mind an agent closing to queries - everyone needs a break. However, I think there should be a clear automatic reply that the agent is closed for queries, and it should state when they will reopen.

In fact, this might weed out the less sincere queriers for you, and keep the ones who are actually interested in YOU as an agent.

Kay Bigelow said...

Add me to the list of those thinking agents deserve a break from being constantly bombarded by queries.

If it means that when you reopen to queries, you are once again excited, recharged, and happy to be an agent, it's a good thing.

Fanfreakingtastic Flower said...

I think agents are crazy not to do this. The client comes before the potential client. Shutting down for a period of time is a great way to protect a writer's best asset - their agent.

Tessa Quin said...

I live in Iceland and here most take a month of work every summer. The prospect of working every workday your entire adult life (or until you turn 65+) without a long summer vacation is just scary. That said, I think it's a very good idea for agents, who are generally drowning in queries and such, to take a long break every year and breathe a little. It'll get them into better moods once they go back to work and maybe take on a few more clients ;)

Anonymous said...

Anyone who feels they have to query RIGHT NOW probably needs to let their manuscripts cool a bit and then come back for some polishing (or more revision) in a couple of weeks.

I'm absolutely fine with you or any agent taking time off and I don't understand the nay-sayers.

I also can relate to your worries about whether you should take the time off. When I was freelancing full time, I hated to say "no" when editors called with assignments. Finally, I had to say no for the sake of my sanity, the work and my family. I truly believe that if you take care of yourself and do your best work, you won't miss terrific opportunities. If you took a bit of time off now, I don't think it would hurt you at all.


Mystery Robin said...

If I've been working on my book for a year, and it's all ready to go I'm going to go ahead and send it to my top agents. If you're a top agent on my list, but closed to queries, then I have to bump you down a month. This can get frustrating if I'm getting responses and thinking "but would Janet like this?" and I can't find out till a bunch of others have the full.

Hmath said...

I'm fine with agents taking breaks - then again, as an accountant, I usually take a break in May, post tax-season, so it doesn't seem abnormal to me.

Plus, breaks may ultimately speed up response times in general, if they mean that the query que gets caught up once in a while :)

kayrogal said...

In building long-term, flexible relationships, one must respect one's guidelines.

Jill Elizabeth said...

1 or 2 months in publishing is a blink of the eye--I say why not?

Although I've recently adopted a new attitude of not rushing things. My answer half a year ago may have been different. :)

Julie Weathers said...

I know a month or two in publishing is like a sand through the hourglass, but I'm not excited about it personally.

It helps agents because for one month out of the year they can automatically delete queries without having to look at them. They don't have queries stacking up they have to bust butt later to try and catch up on.

I'd rather have that than the agents who just frequently cut off queries like turning off a faucet. They decided they're going to shut off queries tomorrow and announce it on their twitter, blog and post a notice on their site. It's easy to miss the blog and twitter announcement unless you follow them religiously. What it means is the author not only has to carefully research each agent, but they also have to go back the day they are submitting and see if anything has changed.

It would probably be easier for agents to shut down once or twice a year so they can regroup. It just adds another thing to the to do list for authors.

KO said...

I have heard around the web-osphere that many agents take a break in August.
I am not in the loop, so if I've heard this, it must be on many sites.

I assumed all agents took a mental health break then.

I need one, why shouldn't they?

Huntress said...

Good Gravy, why not close down for a while.

It gives the agent a chance to catch up, catch their breath, catch a fly...oh, no, no, strike that last.

Nope, I think it's a good idea. Besides, my wip won't be ready for submission until September :)

MitMoi said...

eons after this was posted, but seriously ...

I work hard, and I want to see that same work ethic everywhere, without excuses or complaints :)

First, it takes away hope from authors, and they don't have much hope to begin with. The query is their lifeline to publication.

Second, I usually hold this against the agent even though I know I shouldn't. If I can work two jobs in publishing, write a novel in three weeks, and still have time to get my nails done, why can't everyone else?

Just guessing it's the 3-week-perfect novels that help encourage the "closed to submissions" need.

Lipsmacked said...

I'm late to respond too, but I think it's just important to advertise that you're closed for queries clearly.

I was really excited to submit to an agent whose agency's website said she was open for queries. I just happened to stumble across her personal blog that said she wasn't. I would have been really bummed if I sent in my query and found out later it was auto-rejected.

I forget to reply to three or four emails all the time. I can't imagine replying to upwards of 500. If you need to catch up, close down shop and catch up, go on vacay, take a nap. I'd rather an agent be in their happy groove when I send my queries than exhausted and tired of sorting through emails.