Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Agents Hit By Cars, and Other Minutia

I am clueless about how this writing business works. I got my agent at a conference. She submitted my m/s in last year. In mid-December it went to second reads at two publishing houses. Now it's the end of January. I've heard nothing. I've emailed my agent three times and she hasnt responded. What if she's been hit by a car and is in a coma fighting for her life?!!! Or WORSE...what if my book has been rejected
and she just hasn't gotten around to telling me yet!!

So here are my questions:
1. Why wouldn't an agent return emails to a client who's book was in second reads?
2. Is it wrong to email agent THREE times with no response? I kind of feel like i'm harassing her.
3. What exactly is a second read and how long does it take? In otherwords, when should I give up hope?
4. This is anonymous, right? If you work for my agent, you won't tell her that I would rather see her in a coma than get a rejection letter (ahem. i'm just kidding about that, mostly, by the way).

1. Because she's busy trying to sell your book.
2. Yes, you're bothering her and looking like a pestering client. You don't get to do that without a book that clears $100,000 on an advance. Quarter million and you can bug her about the temperature of the champagne in the hotel where you're staying for your book signing in London.
2. First of all, it takes a good month for an editor to get back to agent sometimes, or even longer. (Two is really the limit) But submitting in mid-December doesn't start the timer. The editor is on vacation or doing all her last-minute things so she can go on vacation. She doesn't get back until January, and then she has to catch up on the things she missed. (Oh, and a second read is what it sounds like. She's reading it a second time)
4. I have no idea who you are. For people who think that I remember names, let me tell you: I do not. I don't remember the names of prospective clients. I don't remember the names of clients. I don't remember the name of that professor I had last semester. I don't remember the names of people I went to high school with, even if they were good friends. I am so terrible at remembering names that you will always be anonymous to me unless we meet and you're wearing a name tag. So don't worry about it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Mail Pile

I remember when I was applying to colleges and the advisor told me that a certain amount of my application was left to chance. If the admissions officer was reviewing it at 2 am after a long day they might just end up looking at it differently then if it was sometime when they were fresh. I liked to think better of the people in charge of my college-related destiny, and of course, I never found out if that was the case.

Yes, there are agents who admit that they might have rejected you because they were in a bad mood that day, or just too busy to deal with anything but some crisis with the author having a breakdown over attendence at his reading. However, you have no real reason to worry about this. If you have a great query and you send it to 20 agents (and 20 agents would be an absolute minimal - I would shoot for 50 at least), then chances are it's going to get more than a couple hits. Not everyone is having a bad day.

As for me, I'm the mail person, so I don't have bad days. Sure, I have days where I go to work sick, or anxious about an upcoming endoscopy, or nervously waiting for a call from a doctor, or worried about a paper that's due, but that has nothing to do with my pile. I have a responsibility to look at every query independently of the results of that biopsy.

As for where you are on the pile, it actually helps no matter where you are. If you have a great query you'll always end up in the "maybe" pile, but if you have a so-so query that I'm on the edge about, it's actually better to be on the bottom (and why I'm shooting my mouth off about something you have no control of, I have no idea). Every once in a while I have a day with a big stack where just nothing is making it into the maybes. It happened today, but it was nowhere as bad as last week. Last week, for some reason, I was getting auto-reject after auto-reject. I couldn't put them into the maybe pile if I wanted to. Novels that were 20,000 words long. Novels that were 400,000 words long. Religious-themed novels. (We don't handle those) People who forgot to mention their novel in their long letter about how great a writer they were and how many writing credits they had (People do this). Stupid, stupid diet books.

After a while I get sort of desperate. Something's gotta be on that pile. I don't want to give my boss crap, but I also don't want to look too harsh. So I take whatever sounds remotely reasonable and maybe just has a bunch of strong previous creds (published articles in major literary journals, awards won, etc). It'll ultimately get rejected, but at least it's physically sitting there in the pile.

Anyway, that's my slice-of-life useless wisdom for today. As for why I don't post more, sometimes I'm having a slow week and there's not much to say and the questions are coming in slow. Or I've gotten enough personal death threats that I feel bummed. How Miss Snark manages to do multiple postings a day, I have no idea.