Why Your Work Never Gets Read as Quickly as You Want it to

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.

Published by luciennediver

Author of books on myth, murder and mayhem, fangs and fashion.

26 thoughts on “Why Your Work Never Gets Read as Quickly as You Want it to

  1. You find someone who can add hours to the day, I’ll pay for your lunch!

    This post says exactly what I think, only better.


  2. Thanks for this! As one of those anxious writers, it’s great to get some insight into the agent world. It’s very easy to get frustrated on this end but hearing how much you have to do makes it seem a lot more normal and a lot less anxiety-provoking. I feel your pain…sounds a lot like grad school.


  3. And I thought my schedule was hectic with trying to meet publishing deadlines. Thanks for the insight. I’ll pass it along to the beginning writers in my writers’ group–if that’s okay?


    1. Absolutely, please feel free to pass along. And publishing deadlines are hectic as well, especially when trying to finish up one book while revising or looking over proofs of the next and promoting the one just out!


  4. This is as well put a summary as I have ever seen. As an author, it is hard to remember that while you only have one agent (and want his/her feedback RIGHT NOW), that agent has many authors. And only 26 hours in a day. You do have 26, right?


  5. Thanks for the look into an agent’s week. I appreciate these inside looks because it makes me even more appreciative when an agent takes the time to give a little extra feedback or advice.


  6. Thank you for giving us a good insight into the life of a literary agent, especially yours. It is so hard for most of us writers to find the time to fit everything we would lilke to do in a day (especailly when we work full time), and we often fail to appreciate the volume of work undertaken by agents, especaiily when they, you, find time to write these posts.


  7. Very interesting read this morning and insightful to the thoughtful life of an agent. Its evident you take pride in your work, caring for your clients and delivering quality worth representation. Your article is also insightful as to why self publishing is booming. Just as there are too few hours in the day, likewise, there are too few qualified agents reading and publishing houses accepting manuscripts. Concerns me and gives more credence to the argument books are disappearing.


  8. I don’t think people realize that agents are human too. Whenever I send my MS out, I’ll give the agent all the time they need. They’re the ones who are going to be helping me out later on. May as well help them out early by not being a dick about why I didn’t get a response right away.


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