Inspired by my status update this morning on Facebook and Twitter, I thought I’d give you another snapshot into the life of agents and editors, this one about why your work is rarely read as quickly as you like it to be. I’ll start with some specifics from my own personal experience.
I represent forty authors. Even if each only wrote one book a year, I’d have forty books to read and critique over the course of 52 weeks. Many of my authors write more than one book a year, sometimes in multiple series and for more than one publisher. So let’s say I read sixty books a year for my clients. I also read and offer notes on their proposals and partials, sometimes several times, to get them into shape for submission. My clients come first. And no, I can’t always read everything in order, because if books are turned in late but are already in schedule, the editor and I may have to drop everything we’re doing in order to read instantaneously so that the author can receive notes in time to revise for their production deadlines. So submissions will generally get pushed back to make room for these rush reads.
We fit submissions in when we can, but I have to admit that there’s a certain order here as well. If an agent (or editor, because their process is much the same, although they generally don’t take unsolicited submissions and are reading manuscripts sent by agents instead) has a file folder of submissions, but something seems particularly hot or from a favorite author over whom other agents are likely to compete, it moves to the top of the list.
All of the above also explains why we don’t offer critiques of everything we read that we don’t represent. To do that we’d have to take time away from authors to whom we’re committed, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Already, agents and editors don’t actually have weekends off…or evenings…or holidays. My Saturdays and Sundays are distinguishable from my work week only by the amount of time I spend reading versus doing office work like looking over contracts, chasing checks, liaising with my subagents over film and translation rights, actually typing up all the notes I’ve racked up on the client manuscripts read in my off hours.
So, if your work isn’t read as quickly as you’d like it to be, it’s not because we’re living it up in our ivory towers, although that would be lovely, it’s because despite the numerous absolutely brilliant people I know, none has yet managed to find a way to create more hours in the day. If anyone manages it, please have your people call my people! We’ll do lunch…at which I will worship at your feet.