Thursday, November 20, 2014

Selfishly, Rudely Running Late....Or Not?

I've always been the type of person who obsesses over being on time. I think in 15 minute increments which means even if I know it will only take me 20 minutes to get somewhere I leave 30 minutes before. I'd always rather, in fact prefer, to be 10 minutes early. If I arrive and the other person is waiting I always feel like I'm late, even if we're both early.

Now I'm not perfect and I think its gotten harder for me to be regularly on time as my life has gotten busier, but I'm still pretty determined to do my best. It's why this article, You're Not Running Late, You're Rude and Selfish  really rang true for me.

The one thing I've always thought about people who are perpetually late is that it's just rude and inconsiderate. Like you, I could have used an extra 20 minutes in the office, or 10 minutes getting ready, but I was on a schedule, a schedule to meet you and I had to get out of there.

Which is why the issue of agent response times has always been a stickler to me. As we say on our website, we work really hard to respond in a timely manner, but our clients have to be our first priority and that sometimes (often) means that submissions and queries get placed on the back burner. Our clients are the people we promise arrival times to and those are the times we need to make (and let's face it, even that doesn't always happen).

Being on time, with submissions, reading for clients, phone calls, and appointments is something I'm always working harder on and beating myself up over. But I'm curious, what do you think about submission response times? Our website reads this:

BookEnds agents do reply to all submissions and queries and hope to do so in a timely manner. Our response time goals are 6 weeks for queries and 12 weeks on requested partials and fulls. Unfortunately, at times circumstances mean we fall behind in our responses. We do try to post status updates through Twitter and Facebook. For updates on where we are with queries and submissions, as well as what we're most actively looking for, please check out our Facebook page:

As you can see we used a lot of disclaimers, but if we're far later than 6 or 12 weeks do you see this as an agent missing an appointment? or do you hope it means that the agent is making all other appointments, especially those you hope to have at some point?



Artemis Grey said...

For me, where agents are concerned, no news, is 'good' news in the querying process because it's not an outright rejection. At least one agent that I dealt with (and love, even though it ended with a pass) took a LONG time, like a year, cumulatively, to respond. Yet when she did, it was with immense amounts of feedback, both from her, and one of her readers. Something for which I'm immeasurably grateful. I will always forgive an agent getting back to me when I'm someone who is querying them, and they already have established clients.

Now, if we were in discussions about me becoming a new client, and they said 'I'll have this done and get back to you in a week or two' and three or four weeks went by, then I'd expect the agent to have had a family emergency, or other large issue. I mean, maybe it was a client illness issue or something like that, which is also okay. But if we're in serious discussions, and they end up responding weeks after their own self-imposed deadline, and their only reasoning was that they 'got busy' then I'd have to wonder if they've even got the time, or the time management skills to take on a new (green) client who will need extra attention because it's all a new experience to them.

JO said...

People who are always late assume that their time is more valuable than anyone else's. I used to have to chair meetings and one of the consultants was always late, came in expecting us to start again now he was there, but I never did. Everyone's time is important!!

1000th.monkey said...

You are a person after my own heart :) I'm perpetually 10 minutes early :)

1000th.monkey said...

...hit 'enter' too quickly. As for my impressions, it's the same for agents as for anyone else. If I've been given a clear set of expectations, as outlined on your website, and if you do post updates, then that's great.

Also, if I nudge, and am given a (relatively) prompt response (like, within a week), that's also great, because I feel the agent is still showing respect. I get that stuff happens, their own clients are their priority, etc. Even if it's just a simple, 'sorry, haven't gotten to it yet', that's enough. response at all, that's like meeting someone and they're 20 minutes late without texting/calling. I feel they are not showing respect, and I won't go out of my way in the future to accommodate them.

As for agents, that would definitely be a concern moving forward, and something I would ask about when talking about, and I would be more likely to ask to chat with some of the authors they represent.

I'm not sure I could, or would, be happy working with someone who was always 20 minutes late...

KrisM said...

In my opinion, an agency's stated submission turnaround doesn't establish a deadline per se, but is more a window of time after which a querier may politely nudge the agent. My level of concercern would only be raised if the agent did not reply to the nudge with an update as I value good communication.

Alexia Chantel said...

I am on the same page as KrisM. If the time frame passes then I would feel comfortable to nudge and only become concerned or frustrated if no response came. Life happens, to all of us, so taking longer than anticipated isn't bad as long as there is communication.

Anonymous said...


I loved this post. I married a man who's perpetually late to everything, and he has no clue why it irks me to no end.

Recently, you passed on my full within just a few days, and I remember being so happy that you took the time to get back to me so quickly. I know that's probably not the norm, but it meant the world to me. I don't envy what you and every other literary agent must tackle on a daily basis. The fact that you and your team at BookEnds manages to respond to every query (and put your clients first) makes you a class act in my book.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, running a little late is far preferable to no reply means no interest. I'm a list maker. Send out x number of queries, if a rejection comes back, send out a fresh one. What happens when you just don't hear? Are they just taking a long time? Are they not interested? Should you query elsewhere?

In reading comments on one agent the response times on queries were up in the several months category.

I think 6-8 weeks is fairly standard and people understand if it sometimes runs longer than that.

Then there's the story of the agent who says eight weeks for queries and requests a full off the query within 24 hours.

Stuff happens.