Recently, I've noticed quite a few writers talking about the long wait times they encounter with agents they've signed with. I am including myself in this bunch as I am with my second agent (the first one left the industry and we parted on very amicable terms). I like my current agent, but just like the first, she'd say something like, "I'll have notes on your latest MS by the end of the week!" and then a few more weeks will pass by before I actually see the notes. I see a lot of this being reported on AW and on other writing sites.
I get that agents are busy as hell. I myself have a really hectic job, but when we promise our clients a project by "the end of the week", we damn well better have it in the client's inbox by the end of the week, not the end of three weeks. And if we encounter an unforeseen delay, we send the client an e-mail with apologies and a heads-up to let them know we need a new deadline.
Is it ever acceptable to talk to your agent about it and be honest about how you feel with regards to their timing? Is there an okay way of saying, "You don't have to promise to get it to me within the week. You can take all the time you need, but please have it ready when you say it will be ready"? Or should I and my fellow writers just gnaw on our fingers in silence, wondering if this would actually be the week that we get our notes?
Yes, it's entirely acceptable to be straightforward with your agent about what working style suits you. You say it just like you said it to me: "It will help me tremendously if you only tell me something is coming when you know it is. I appreciate that priorities can shift in a day and a week, particularly with things that are important not urgent, but expecting something on Friday then not getting it, or an email saying it's delayed, is very difficult."
You and your agent are on the same team. One of the best ways to have effective communication is to tell the other person what works best for you.
I have had to learn this several times. It's particularly useful for my minions to know how to act when I am in a towering rage. Telling them what to do saves a LOT of misunderstanding. Telling your agent what works for you will do that too.
I think one of the reasons that agents often say nothing rather than check in with "yea, I'm not getting this done" is first they feel guilty for NOT getting it done or they don't like to explain (baldly) that something was more important than your project (my skin crawls just writing that.)
One way you can help build trust is by never saying "well when WILL you get this done; I feel neglected." That can shut down communication really quickly. I know it shouldn't but lets all realize how things actually work, not how you want them to work.
I know a lot about this problem because it afflicts me even as I write this. I wish I had a better solution, but I don't...yet.