If Part 1 is true, here’s the scenario: I send my query letters out, they arrive at agents’ offices and sit in the slushpile. One of the following things happens next:
1) It arrives when the agent is on vacation and accumulates with all the other queries until the agent returns and has to sift through an unusually large number of queries; it is perhaps reasonable to assume that my query will not receive the usual amount of attention because of the daunting number of other queries.
2) It is equally reasonable to assume that the agent is a professional and will still treat queries with the same level of attention as she always does because, really, it’s her job.
3) My query may also arrive before the agent goes on vacation and receive the same amount of attention as on any other day.
The other option is to wait until September. Then, the following are the possibilities:
4) The agent is depressed because summer is over and she has to wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas for another vacation, which will likely not be a ‘real’ vacation but will involve a family visit in the bitter cold of the Midwest. She is tired of the extra time she has put in knocking down the bloated slushpile, and my query is just one more thing she has to deal with on a hot Indian summer morning.
5) September and the imminence of autumn bring that old feeling of a new start that has been with us all since our school days. Our prospective agent is full of optimism and is eager to find the next great work.
The point is, so much of this process depends on the whimsy of a particular agent’s mental state. It’s sort of like a Catch-22. I could put my book out there now, when a lot of other writers may hold back for the same reasons stated above, and maybe I’ll catch a break. Or I could wait, along with everyone else who’s read the same crap I’ve read, and maybe I’ll just be one more annoyance in the regular workaday life of the prospective agent.
I think my course is clear. I’ll keep you posted.
So, word on the street is that it’s not the best time of year to query lit agents. There’s a lot of stuff out there about the relatively relaxed atmosphere of the publishing community. In the summer (so it’s said) editors at the big houses work four and a half days during the week and take turns going on two week vacations.
So, is it the same with agents? Is it even true that editors have such a lax attitude in the summer? I know a lot of people save their vacation time for the summer, but I have a hard time believing that nothing gets done all summer. Is that wishful thinking?
OK, so this is kind of lame, but also kind of fun, if you’re a nerd:
On Beauty by Zadie Smith is an astoundingly good book. It’s more controlled than the excellent White Teeth and just as funny. It’s modelled after Howard’s End, so you have to give her the benefit of the doubt for a couple pages as she begins ‘with Jerome’s e-mails to his father,’ but once the story gets going it’s trully amazing to watch as two very different families come crashing together. As I wrote to my wife after finishing it at two a.m. this morning, it’s so good it makes me jealous.
Thanks to The Elegant Variation for the Lisa Williams link.
Will it ever stop?
I keep coming across parts of the story that need more development. My wordcount has swelled by 3000 words over the last two weeks. By the time I’m ‘done’ it will probably be close to 75,000. I’ve imposed a deadline for myself of June 29 so I can bring a copy to my parents when I fly north for my sister’s wedding on June 30.
I was at Starbucks for 5 1/2 hours today. I don’t know if my heart can tolerate this barrage of caffeine much longer! Just this past March I went ‘caffeine free’ for six weeks, and now I find my coffee intake slowly creeping back up to where it was before (a half gallon daily!).
In an interview over at 3:AM Magazine Lisa Williams offers this:
It’s getting harder and harder to publish serious literature and when it is published,the problem is to get it noticed. As a result we see fewer writers out there tackling…themes of memory and the importance of the past.
Is it really getting harder to publish serious literature? (I can ask this as a novice, as an unpublished author who hasn’t even begun submitting.) Is there any credence to this notion that serious fiction is unmarketable and therefore unpublishable? How much of this is trumped up by disgruntled authors?
I have a sense that there are a lot more people writing novels today due to easier access to higher ed. I also have a sense that a lot of it is crap (just ask Miss Snark). Most people don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. It’s true with any form of art.
Why do dormitories all smell the same? Why do they all have such crappy furniture? Why, when I briefly attended seminary, were the mattresses sheathed in plastic? Were they worried about bedwetters? I mean, sure, some of the guys were a little awkward, but bedwetting?
OK, maybe I’m thinking about it too much.
Anyway, the bed I slept in last night, though not plasticized, had noisy springs. So noisy, in fact, that every time I rolled over the squeaking and creaking woke me up.
I should’ve sprung for a hotel room.
I’ll be out of town for the weekend so I might not be able to post until Monday. It all hinges on whether or not the place I’m staying at has WiFi or not.
In the meantime, read a book. Something literary, please.
That’s the median annual income for an American writer according to a 1981 study commissioned by the Authors Guild Foundation. A 2000 follow-up study on the midlist (i.e. books that are not blockbusters; they tend to be ‘serious’ literary fiction or nonfiction books with comparatively modest sales) indicates that this has probably not changed significantly in the last 25 years. Is it safe to hope it has at least kept up with inflation? That would mean an average median income of about $11,000. Woo hoo!