Friday, November 13, 2009

A Query Hiatus

Since the beginning of October I have officially been on a query hiatus. In my ten years as an agent it’s something I’ve never done and was very reluctant to do. Yes, part of the reason for my reluctance is fear that I’ll miss out on something great, but another part is the fear that the queries won’t come back once I return. Probably a totally insane thought, but one I’ve had nonetheless.

I have to tell you, this hiatus is nothing like I ever expected. I’ve done query statistics reports for you where I tracked how much time it takes me to read and respond to queries—roughly two hours for 60 letters—but even with that I don’t think I knew how much time queries took out of my day. It’s enlightening and it’s unbelievably lightening. Without queries flooding my inbox I have an amazing amount of extra time in every day. I had no idea how much time I was spending just opening, sorting and responding to queries. No clue. I would guarantee you that on my hiatus there’s at least an extra hour in every day to work with my clients, get my office organized or even, on those rare evenings, put my feet up and read something I don’t have to. More then that though, it's been a really nice mental break for me. Queries are something that, no matter how much we love the possibility of a new client, always hang over our heads. They never stop coming and we will never get caught up. Taking this break is like a mini-vacation. I'm getting time to renew and refresh.

In January (not until the end, folks) I’ll be opening again to queries and I’m sure I’ll be looking forward to the discovery again. For now, though, I’m enjoying the time to get so much more done and accomplished in a day and I think that this query hiatus might become a regular thing for me. Why not take a month off here or there just to unwind from query stress and focus on what I really need to be focusing on, which is my clients?

Kim Lionetti will also be closed to submissions from 11/15 to 1/17. Therefore, BookEnds will not be accepting any queries for the next two months.

Jessica

32 comments:

Aimee said...

I don't blame you. As important as queries are, I think they're still a serious pain in the bum for all.

GaRY said...

Just think how much free time you'd have if you never had any queries. Why, then you'd have plenty of time to work on. . . never mind.

This is one form of the "too many customers" problem. Demand overwhelms supply. In your business, it is too easy to submit queries while it takes real time to review each query. Stopping queries for a period of time is one way to control the input so you can concentrate on the output --taking great writing to the publishers.

Anonymous said...

If I were an agent, I wouldn't take queries at all. Just recommendations from existing clients. Make those lazy writers pick up the slack!

(And as an agented writer, I like the idea making other writers kowtow to me. It's win-win!)

Scott said...

I think taking a break was a good idea, Jess. Honestly, I don't how agents keep the hours you do without going insane. It's like you're working all the time. I don't care what profession you're in, that isn't good.

I wouldn't worry about missing out or people not querying you when you start accepting again. I think you'll be flooded by the end of the first day.

magolla said...

Enjoy your 'free' time during the holidays!
Ditto what Scott said. Once you open up the query doors be prepared for a flood!

Donna Gambale said...

Definitely a good decision! Sometimes you just need a break. And then when you get back to accepting queries, you'll be looking at them with a fresh perspective ... which any querying author would want! I'd say it's win-win.

I highly recommend the hot chocolate from Williams-Sonoma for one of those put-your-feet-up nights.

Laurel said...

Good for you. I'm glad it's working out well. Being terrorized by your inbox is the worst.

Therapist/Writer said...

ENJOY!

Marsha Sigman said...

I think taking a break is a great idea. You could be experiencing burnout and just imagine that my query is crap. I do not want that to happen. Happy Holidays!

Kate Douglas said...

LOL...sort of like deadlines for writers, though I haven't figured out how to actually relax between projects. You deserve the break and I imagine you'll come back refreshed and anxious to see what's waiting for you. In the meantime, just think how clean that office will be!

Abbi said...

Enjoy the free time. I can't imagine how stressful constant queries would be. Enjoy the relaxation and getting caught up!

Dara said...

Understandable :) I'm surprised you've been going ten years without taking one--it's long overdue for you!

But I'm glad that you still keep your blog updated--I read it everyday :)

Sherry Dale Rogers said...

I well deserved break, enjoy.

Steph Damore said...

I'd definitely take a break every now and then - two months on, one month off wouldn't be bad either.

Like Ferris Bueller said, "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Enjoy your break.

DebraLSchubert said...

Good for you and Kim. Life is short. you need to stop and smell the roses or at least clean out your waste basket. Just know you'll be bombarded in January!

Word ver: crypt - pretty fitting for Friday the 13th!

Amber said...

If I were an agent flooded with letters, I'd take a short hiatus, then move everything to snail mail temporarily. I think Barry Boldblatt's doing that.

Catherine Bybee said...

Ahh... this explains a lot. Enjoy your time off.

JDuncan said...

I don't think you have anything to worry about regarding queries coming back once you reopen, Jessica. I recall Colleen Lindsay tweeting about this a month or two back when she opened up for a month and was promptly buried with hundreds. I don't know why all agents don't do this a couple times a year, shutting down to queries for a month or two. It's not going to hurt you any far as I can tell. I'd go far as to say it probably makes agents better agents because it gives them time to take a breather, catch up on all other aspects, and like you said, just to relax a bit and not feel the constant pressure of not having enough time to get everything done. Unfortunate for those writers who were about to query you, but I'm sure they'll manage.

Tara McClendon said...

Enjoy the break. I'm sure your clients appreciate the extra time. :]

Krista G. said...

I'm sure this break feels a lot like when we writers take a break from writing. I do this one day every week - every Sunday I forbid myself from doing anything associated with writing - and on Mondays I come back refreshed and rejuvenated. It's good for the soul:)

SphinxnihpS of Aker-Ruti said...

Well, not only on top of all your agent duties, you're also maintain a very active blog. I'm not sure how you do it.

Did you ever consider just having a reading period, the only time you accept queries being during certain months of the year?

Jodi

Anonymous said...

Shall we start a pool as to how many queries you get on 1/18? I say 362. Closest gets their first five pages critiqued.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a good thing. Everyone needs a break from things from time to time, and when you DO need one, you aren't devoting the psychic energy to it that you should. Good for you!(both of you)

Yunaleska said...

It's a good way of clearing the desk before 2010. Sometimes it has to be done. Your future (and current) clients will thank you for it.

Buffy Andrews said...

Enjoy your break. When you resume accepting queries I'm sure you will be refreshed and ready to attack them with new vigor.

Margot Galaway said...

I want to join the pool mentioned by Anonymous 12:19.

My guess for the number of queries when you re-open is 2,300. Of which, 2,200 will have vampires or zombies or angels. All with hot bodies.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

Good for you! So you busy agents finally listened to us frustrated writers who encouraged you to take a breather. If there are so many bad queries flooding your inbox every day, chances are you won't miss one or two good ones at all.
I always wondered why agents stayed open to submissions if all they could do was complain about the terrible queries they got...Remember Queryfail and Agentfail?)

Writers should take a breather too and get out from under the submission merry-go-round!

AstonWest said...

Some magazines will have open submission periods followed by breaks. It might be something to look into as an agent as well. Take queries for two months, then a month off, and repeat.

(I notice someone else suggested that same time period...)

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Kristen said...

Enjoy your break! I know how much an extra hour each day can mean when you've got a super-busy schedule.

Faye Hughes said...

Jessica and Kim,

Enjoy your break. Here's to hoping you have lots of fascinating, marketable projects awaiting you both.

Faye

lunardancer said...

With the kind of work pressure you're constantly subjected to, you definitely deserve that break. However, like what the others have said, brace yourself for the flood of queries once you decide to open your doors to them again.