It's Not You

It's the pandemic

Hi friends,

Sorry this didn’t go out yesterday. I did over 8 straight hours of data entry yesterday trying to get our new client database up and running with my clients’ information. This is a lot of data! It had to be done. I am not finished, but I must do other things. If you are waiting for an email from me, this is why you haven’t heard back. And no, I don’t have an assistant to do this.

Also, yesterday, I got an email from a reader for Q&A Thursday, and in the spirit of doing everything on whatever day works instead of what you planned, I’m going to talk about it here. It’s very possible I touched on this topic earlier in the pandemic (sob), but let’s do it again!

Your agent or editor is not ignoring you.

The question of pretty long, so I’ll summarize it here. C was worried about their agent’s response time. Sometimes the agent would go a week or more without responding to an email or confirming receipt. They also weren’t giving them the feedback they were looking for on some book idea stuff. Was C’s agent ignoring them? Were they trying to get them to leave so they wouldn’t have to fire them? What was going on in the mind of this agent????????

Honestly, nothing. The agent is probably just busy and C’s questions were not time sensitive or pressing, to the agent. It’s always time sensitive to the client!!!!

None of this is fun to experience. It’s easy to say a week is too long not to answer an email!!! Do you answer all your emails within a week, all the time, no matter what? I thought so. I might be a little tetchy here, because I too have lots of unanswered emails, but not at C, because all of C’s anxieties and questions are 100% understandable and normal and common. But they are anxieties, not facts, and the facts are we are all at the absolute ends of our ropes. Everyone, the whole world over. That means your agent and editor, too.

This is not a bid for sympathy. I’m ok, enough. Your agent or editor might largely be ok, too, depending. But we’re not firing on all cylinders and that’s ok. There are no emergencies in publishing.

Say it again. There are no emergencies in publishing!

To put it in perspective, here are the things I am doing today that are not answering client emails or reading manuscripts/proposals, or editing.

  • sending invoices

  • updating financial spreadsheets

  • putting together materials for foreign co-agents for upcoming rights fairs

  • vetting 4 contracts

  • following up on submissions

  • sending books to people for marketing purposes

  • reviewing and sending royalty statements

  • oh wait, another contract

  • following up on contracts

This is easily 2-ish full days of work. Why don’t I have an assistant? Well, the way my agency is set up is that I would pay for that assistant 100% out of pocket. It’s more than $50k including salary, taxes, and benefits (publishing salaries, sob). I can’t afford that. It’s not my agency’s fault. Howard’s amazing, kind, awesome, wonderful assistant helps me out ALL the time. This is just how small businesses work. So, here we are.

Your agent or editor might have an assistant! Or not! But they also might have 15 manuscripts or 100 emails before yours. That doesn’t mean your work is at the bottom of the pile. It just means that there is a large pile and it never gets smaller.

Please try very hard, C and everyone, not to take someone’s delay as an indicator of their personal or professional opinion of you. They are not actively looking at your work or note and being like this person is a pain and I am actively choosing not to answer them today. They are looking at their pile and saying which of these things is the MOST on fire? Their delay is not a subliminal message about your worth.

Agents, too, often prioritize by money—not the total amount or just the money THEY get, but the AUTHOR’S MONEY. Yes, the agent most often gets paid when the author gets paid, but we know authors need this money!!! For rent and food and childcare and cars and clothes! Contracts, checks, financials, all of that are often the most on fire. It can take me a whole day just doing contract and money stuff.

My advice to C is to talk to their agent. Not to say why are you ignoring me do you hate me or what? but to say hey, can we set up a time to chat? I want to talk more about X project and why you said Z about Q. I’m free tomorrow afternoon if you are. Tell your agent what you need! This will show you are a little bit on fire, and they didn’t know! They will likely be very apologetic about not giving you what you need! If they cannot give you what you need (besides, yanno, a billion dollar advance or whatever), you may then know it’s time to move on. That’s ok! You are not damaged goods. People move agents all the time. It’s ok!

You can say this to your editor, too. You can say just wondering what your editorial schedule looks like for X. Can you give me an update so I can plan Y? Totally ok to say that!!!!!!! You can say hard things, I promise.

You’re not always going to get the answer you want. You will have to weigh what you want with what’s possible and decide from there. Just remember, we are all trying our best. We WANT to answer every email from every client as fast as possible and read everything overnight and edit like the wind. But we….just can’t right now. Sometimes, we, too, need to stare at the wall and rest our brains. One day, hopefully soon, it will get better. Bit by bit.

(If everyone who can gets effing vaccinated!!!!!!)

Ahem. Be gentle with yourself and gentle with everyone you work with.