Monday, October 02, 2006

Growing Pains

Observing the past few posts about busy agents and the responses we’ve received, I felt the need to address this same topic of an agent’s workload. Jessica detailed all of the responsibilities that come first in our job: the obligations to our clients. Something I don’t think we’ve addressed quite enough is the enormous volume of submissions and queries we receive every day.

Honestly, I just think it's hard to conceptualize without sitting in our offices and experiencing it for yourselves. (I know . . . you’re all playing your tiny, invisible violins for us right now.) There’s really no other business that’s comparable. Real estate agents don’t receive hundreds of requests from home owners to sell their homes on a weekly basis. The sheer volume of potential clients pales in comparison to most other industries. And think about how long it takes you to read a book. Even if you can read a book a day, how do you keep up with a mailbox full of manuscripts, proposals, letters and the hundreds of e-mails that come in every 24 hours. Not only do you have to read the books and letters, but you have to make a decision about them, perhaps research the competition, and then compose the proper correspondence. Pretty soon you find that you have to read every night and every weekend, even if you'd rather be finding out if Pam’s going to choose Jim over that lunkhead fiance of hers on The Office that night. Still, with all that extra homework you’ve been doing, it soon becomes clear that you can’t keep up.

Does this mean you've grown tired of reading fresh new voices or have become jaded by the whole process? Absolutely not! Even the almost-but-not-quite-there manuscripts energize me. But does the constant backlog stress me out? ABSOLUTELY. Just as I'm sure the author's frustrated and anxious about what my answer is going to be, I'm frustrated and anxious about the fact that I haven't given them an answer yet.

So what’s the alternative? One comment suggested that we stop taking submissions for a while. Well, to be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of growing, reputable agencies out there who ARE taking on new authors. It seems a shame to make this group even smaller. As I’ve pointed out, we ARE still reading. We are constantly taking on new clients. In fact, I just sold a mystery series from an author that I signed just a few weeks ago.

As current clients sell and work on their contracted works, we find more time to take on new projects, and BookEnds continues to grow. If we ever get to the point where there’s no more room to grow, we’ll certainly let you know. But for now, we just thank you for your patience.



Anonymous said...

"One comment suggested that we stop taking submissions for a while. Well, to be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of growing, reputable agencies out there who ARE taking on new authors. It seems a shame to make this group even smaller."

THANK YOU!! I agree wholeheartedly. Despite the whining of some bloggers, some of us unrepresented writers are grateful that you find time to consider "unsolicited queries."

Please don't stop.

At the rate things have been going in publishing lately, the only writers who will ever get published are those who can afford to attend tons of expensive conferences in the hopes of getting lucky, celebrities, and friends of people in the industry.

Anonymous said...

Jim and Pam just have to get together. They just have to.

OFFICE would always trump queries if I was an agent!

Maria said...

For me it's about expectations. It doesn't matter if the response is 1 week or 3 months -- so long as the writer knows what to expect upfront. That way a writer can make a determination whether it's worth querying or not.

It's the ones that don't reply at all or really aren't interested in queries so although the web pages say they are reading...the response is waaaay out of line with the stated times.

Blogs help because that gives the agencies a way to let people know what is happening. Y'all have spent a lot of time explaining your work and reaching out to writers. That can easily make it worth the wait.

Bernita said...

Thank you.
We truly appreciate your candour - and your commitment!

Anonymous said...

Ahh! I hate reading blogs like this. It drives me nuts because I want to just reach through the computer and help you. I get this image in my head of and office, plants dying and leftovers pushed into the corners while some poor person sits behind a regenerating pile of white paper and mailers. If I ever get to visit an agent I'll be sure to bring a whip. LOL

Anonymous said...

"If I ever get to visit an agent I'll be sure to bring a whip"

Yikes, Michelle! No, not a whip! Bring chocolate. And a hug.

Bella Andre said...

something important to note, here, is that one of the reasons agents are so darn busy is because of the workload that their clients dump upon them. take me for instance. in the past month i have sent jessica two 3 chapter partials for new projects. that's 100 pages that she has to read, make editorial comments on, and hopefully send out to current/future editors. plus she's got to go over the synopsis with a fine tooth comb and make her own pitch letters, calls, etc. Just for little old me for two new ideas that are burning up my brain. Plus, given that I'm about to email her the blurb and synopsis for yet another new idea, it's pretty obvious that just one client alone can keep her agent very very busy. Multiply this workload times all of her other current clients and frankly I'm amazed that she has time to brush her hair.
;-) Bella

Unknown said...

I think the best thing for waiting is a new book/project--something to take your mind off the mailbox.

Anonymous said...

>Yikes, Michelle! No, not a whip! Bring chocolate. And a hug.

LOL the whip is to tame the papers of course!

Anonymous said...

Sorry. It still bothers me.

Makes me think of a dentist who says he is far far too busy prepping to look into the mouths of new patients.

Makes me think of a teacher who says he/she is far far too busy grading papers of her reuglar students to make time for the new girl's work that has been turned in.

I know you don't want to stop taking new clients, but perhaps you could hire readers to at least help. With all the frustration with being too busy being an agent to read submissions it just seems unfair to the writers to me.

I have an agent. I just love your blog and know that hopeful writers must be terribly frustrated with the endless waiting.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your support and suggestions.

S.K. -- We've discussed using readers, and perhaps we will someday. It certainly would be effective, but this solution doesn't come without controversy either. A lot of writers resent not having their material read by the specific person they send it to.

It's actually an interesting discussion to start here or in a later post. Do authors value the assurance that their material will be read by a BookEnds agent? (Even if it means a longer response time?) Or would a more timely response from a hired reader be appreciated?

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a reader myself. Perhaps have the readers read it and make general comments in a one page comment page with their suggestion to consider or pass on the material. If I coun't trust the agency to hire highly competant readers/agents in training then why am I submitting to them?

After all a writer should want not just the lone agent to like what they have written but the reader too, not to mention the hundreds and hundreds of other readers that will buy the book.

If a writer fears getting through the gatekeeper then maybe they need to revise.

Another thought is maybe just have windows/months where new writers can submit. My hairdresser (not that there is a link just making a point) only allows consultations for new clients during his slower months of September, February and April every year. After the initial consultation he decides whether or not to put the new client on the books.


Anonymous said...

If the "reader" basically just filtered for an agent I think that would be okay but I would not want to hear from a reader, rather an agent. It would be another step in the long hurdle but at least it would help the agents not be so swamped and maybe the writer not have to wait so long. I can see the good and bad though. What if the reader hates it but the agent could have loved it. Then again good writing is good writing.

Anonymous said...

A different POV - - I admire the fact your agents read their own submissions. I appreciate you going that extra mile. I hope as you continue to grow you can still do that.

Prior to being published I submitted to an editor who was known for using interns for readers... the comments in my rejection letter referred to my work as category and to my vampires... It wasn't category and there were zero vampires in the submission. Did the editor read my submission?

As for the slush pile -- What about a Crunch Day once a month? Where you set aside one day, may need to be done on a weekend, to just CULL the submissions.

Thank you for the open discussions on your blog. I think it really reflects your sincerity as an agency.

Anonymous said...

I'm not published and don't have an agent yet, but I do believe that when the writing is very good, the wheels turn a lot faster.