Thursday, July 13, 2006

Author Beware: Agent Response Times

Over the years, as an editor and agent, I have built a pretty good-sized author beware file. This file is made up of the letters and e-mails I've received from authors that I know I want to avoid. From time to time I'm going to dig out one of those letters and post some of what was said. And, of course, I’m going to comment.

This e-mail came fairly recently and really amused me (most of them do at this point). In my mind it seems the author is new to the submission experience and will probably learn the hard way what this is all about.

I couldn't believe it when I saw that your response time is 10 week! That means that I can onl show my work five times a year. Do you really think that's fair to a writer? It would take us years to sell a book.
10 weeks. Honestly, if only I were that fast (as many of you can attest to). There are certainly some submissions I get to within 10 minutes, and others . . . well, they pile up faster than I can get to them.

This touches a little on previous posts (many of them will), but since BookEnds never, ever asks for exclusives, our shamefully slow turnaround time should in no way impact how many agents you can show your work to, and therefore, if your work is going to make you some money, then we shouldn't be the ones to slow you down. And this goes for most agents as well as BookEnds.

To answer your question more specifically . . . you could send your work to 500 agents in a year and still not sell the book. As many authors can attest to (many of our own as well as bestsellers like John Grisham), finding an agent and then selling a book are two completely different things, and both can take years. If you start to figure out what you should be making monetarily based on the hours you spend writing and submitting your work, you're in for a very unpleasant surprise—minimum wage is probably going to look good.

Patience is a virtue in the game of publishing, and if you know anything about how publishers pay, finding an agent and even a publisher doesn't necessarily pay off as much as one would like.



K J Gillenwater said...

So, if someone at your agency has had my partial since sometime in April, you may not have gotten to it yet?

It would ease my mind to know this.

Since I was one of the not-so-smart writers that didn't send a postcard with her submission....

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Yes, it's very possible we haven't gotten to it yet, but feel free to send an email to check the status.