Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Day in the Life

I’m often asked what an agent’s day is like, and I thought of a million different ways to write this blog post up, but in the end I couldn’t do it, because no two days are the same. There are days that are so busy with phone calls that my ear starts to hurt, and there are others when the phone hardly rings but I’m spending all my time answering emails. There are days and weeks when I can’t even think about my query in-box and others when I have an hour here or there to read through a few.

While I like a certain amount of routine in my life, I love the unpredictability of this job. I like that each day isn’t exactly like the next.

That being said, I did track my doings on one day and here’s what happened . . .

I tend to wake up really early in the morning. My goal is usually to get to the gym, but that doesn’t always happen. Whether I get to the gym or not though, I always check my email first thing. So after flipping on the news and pouring a hot cup of coffee, I settle into the couch to see what my email looks like. After about 30 to 45 minutes I’ve weeded out the spam, deleted things like news alerts, and scanned emails from clients and editors. I’ll answer those that are easy to answer and leave the more complicated emails for later in the day. Any queries or submissions are automatically relegated to a query folder. I’ll look through those later.

From my email I hop over to HootSuite, the program I use to manage my social networking. Here I can see what publishing news I missed while I (gasp) slept. I can also check the status of my clients. I can find out who has finally finished the proposal to send my way, who is struggling with the next book and who is baking cookies I hope are sent my way. Some Tweets will be retweeted, some will require an email (to check in on the struggling client), and others can be ignored (most really). This Twitter check takes about 15 minutes, more if there are a number of news articles (publishing or otherwise) that I feel I want to read.

Morning is often the time, when it’s quiet, that I’m inspired to write a blog post. If I’m inspired I’ll spend 15 to 30 minutes writing one up. Only if I’m inspired, though.

Once my emails are sorted I enter the real world and do the things I need to do to get ready for the day. You know, things like brush my hair, feed the dog, wrestle kids and drink lots and lots of coffee. To give you perspective, this is usually around 6 a.m.

The family is organized, my hair is brushed, and I’m on my fourth cup of coffee. That usually means it’s time to get into the office. This could mean it’s 8 a.m., it could be 9 a.m., and it could be 10 a.m. It really depends. The “luxury” of being an agent is that my hours are flexible. Of course, that means the job is also round-the-clock.

Once I get to the office I start fresh. First I check emails, and inevitably I’ve received a number since early in the morning, and yes, many are from editors. I then move to focus on those I hadn’t yet answered to get them answered. This can take 15 minutes, it can take a couple of hours. It really depends on how many there were and how complicated the answers are.

I’ll sort through the piles left on my desk from the day before. These could include snail mail from organizations, trade magazines like Publishers Weekly, contracts, etc. Again, I answer those that are easy and will deal with the rest later.

On this particular day I spent two hours updating banking records and checking to see which payments needed to be followed up on. Typically this is something I do two to three times a week. Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes three or four. Emails go out to editors at this point to find out why we haven’t yet been paid or when we can expect a check. How firm the email is depends on how long we’ve been waiting for the check. This can actually take some time since I have to remember which author is with which editor, who the emails need to go to, and what books I’m requesting payment for.

Royalty statements are a constant in our office, which of course we love. On this day I had two that I needed to review. That took about 30 minutes.

My intern had reviewed all the links on our website and blog and put together a list of those that no longer seemed active. I reviewed that list, approved changes and deletions, and sent that back to my intern. That took about 20 minutes.

Other aspects of my day included:

25 minutes: put finishing touches on a pitch letter for a client’s newest proposal
20 minutes: review submission list for said proposal and submit my pitch
30 minutes: respond to a smattering of equeries
30 minutes: grab a quick lunch of fresh mozzarella and tomato. Brown Butter Raspberry tart for dessert
15 minutes: respond to emails requesting the partial for previously submitted proposal. Submit proposal
45 minutes: phone call with client to discuss career concerns
15 minutes: respond to client emails
35 minutes: phone call with new client to discuss contract concerns
10 minutes: prepare contract for new client and send out
45 minutes: put finishing touches on publicity guidelines we’ve been working on for our clients. This has been a work in progress for the past month, so I’m pleased to see it completed
30 minutes: work on tax issues for a client

I’m sure there were many other things I did. More answering emails, quick phone calls, a chat with Kim or Katelynn about pretty much anything, a quick check to make sure the blog hasn’t gotten out of hand, another quick check on Twitter to make sure the world hasn’t imploded, etc.



Sangu Mandanna said...

Oh my God, Jessica, how much sleep do you actually get a night?! From this, I gather you wake up anywhere between 4 and 5 am. I'm not a morning person, so I'm stupefied.

This was a great post, it was so nice to see what a day might be like for you!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

My friend Ms Trite says: ‘if you want to get something done give it to a busy person.’

She also said, actually it was my husband’s dead aunt who never drove but went everywhere and did everything, said, ‘better to wear it out than rust it out.’

I say: revel in the busy, bored can kill ya or make you really, really fat.

I can’t get those four cups of coffee out of my mind, when the hell did you find the time to pee?

kris said...

Okay, that was fascinating and illuminating and educational and entertaining and utterly exhausting. I think the agency should now be renamed POWERHOUSE.


BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

What does it say about me that I looked at that and felt like I must have been missing things, that post looked slight?



Carolynnwith2Ns said...

It says, lucky one, that you love what you do.

Kathye Quick said...

It's 9:15a.m. and you made me tired already!

Ok, inspiration to finish the last 7000 words in the book.

I'm on it!!

Jane Lebak said...

You wrote:
"and who is baking cookies I hope are sent my way."

This is probably the most important question of all, but I've never seen it addressed here: how often should a good client send her agent cookies? ;-)

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

It really does sound like organized chaos, but I think that's the best kind.

Writers have similar days, only the tasks are different. Except for the four cups of coffee before 9 am. ;D

Stephanie said...

Wow...makes my day sounds really really boring!

Thanks for sharing!! I love reading this kind of stuff...real life stuff!

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Okay, I'm exhausted. Going back to sleep now.

Kate Douglas said...

LOL...why is it that when I read this, the thing that sticks in my head is that fresh mozzarella and tomato lunch? Yum!

In a lot of ways, my "routine" is much like yours, though not as diverse. The order of checking mail, networking sites and then getting down to business is the same for an author as for an agent. My business, though, tends to be focused primarily on the WIP.

And yes, I do need another cup of coffee. Note to self--send agent chocolate.


Stephanie Damore said...

Wow, suddenly I'm feeling lazy.

Ameena said...

Thank you for sharing what sounds like a crazy but perfect day.

I am so inspired to leave the world of finance and do something that I would love to do - be an agent!

Vickie Motter said...

I've tried the 5am thing, but when I'm also working night shifts for my part time job, it gets tough. Glad to see I'm on the right track in busy-ville. Looks like you get so much done in a day though. I manage a few things that can take long periods of time to finish them. I recently wrote about my typical (or rather, perfect day, which rarely happens) day as an intern.

Eileen said...

I think new writers often underestimate how much time agents spend on their existing clients. We're sending our agents questions about ideas we have, checking on sales numbers, calling to celebrate or curse a new cover, wondering where checks are, sending in manuscripts to be read, wanting help with sorting out a question with an editor, going over contracts etc.

People often wonder why it takes so long to hear back on queries and your post is a great answer. A great agent is the best business partner you can ask for in this business, and as a writer you'll want one who is focused on her/his writers not the "next great thing."

Anonymous said...

Wow, good for you if you can get that all one in ONE day. I'm lucky if I can get a fraction of my things done. Makes me wonder how and why agents continue to look for new clients if they're so busy with current ones...sounds exhausting!

Anonymous said...

blah, blah, blah -Brown Butter Raspberry tart!- blah, blah blah.


(great post)

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Wow, thanks for sharing, Kris.

And Jessica....you sound just like my agent, Christine Witthohn. I am always exhausted even thinking about everything you agents take on. I always tell her, you ARE human, you know...no matter what the rest of the world might think.

Take a break...you've earned it.

Perri said...

Thanks so much for this post. It was really interesting to learn about the day-to-day stuff of agenting.

But, Man does it sound exhausting!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, Jessica. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, Jessica. Thank you!