I am delighted to contribute my answers to some of your questions and hope these will be of help:
Question: “Is it a death knell if your agent takes longer and longer (weeks or no response at all) to answer questions or e-mail? At what point do you bring it up and say , Hey, have you lost your passion for my book, or are you just a poor communicator?
This is a difficult question for me to answer because I try to be responsive to all the queries from my clients in a timely manner. If I am having trouble selling a project of theirs then we talk about it, and together we try to find a way to fix the project we are trying to sell or go on to the next project. And sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, we might decide that the client would be better served with other representation, and we tell them that. Not returning calls or e-mails only makes people frustrated and angry. In my opinion, this is also incredibly unprofessional and I have had numerous conversations with editors about the fact that no matter what they have to say about one of my projects, I need my calls and/or e-mail returned responsibly. One piece of advice I would give any client of any agent is to make sure, before hiring the agent, that communication is open and prompt. There is nothing wrong with telling a prospective agent that this is important to you.
Question: “What’s the best way for an unpublished writer to express that they have honed their craft and are serious about it? Or do you care only about the manuscript in front of you, not whether the writer is working on something else/developing ideas?
I very much care about the work and the writing. I also care about an author’s background, education and qualifications. I am also interested in knowing if the writer is developing other work. But, I really only want to consider one project at a time, and if the writing isn’t there, then no amount of qualifications or an interesting background or even future projects is going to matter.
Finally, one of our very own clients, Heather Brewer is curious as to what a day in the life of our agency is like.
Well, Heather, one of the reasons why I love our business is that there are many days when pure serendipity occurs, and that’s what we wait for. Here though is what many of our days look like (from my point of view)
I arrive at my office between 7:30 and 7:45 AM. Every day that I am in the office and don’t have an outside early morning meeting, I meet at 8:00 with
At 8:30 we have a staff meeting where I ask each member of the staff questions about projects and where they ask me questions they have about things they are working on. Sometimes these meetings are quite short; they can go on at other times as long as half an hour to 45 minutes.
The first thing I do after the morning meetings are over is follow up on various proposals I have out on submission. This can last most of the morning, although almost every morning I have a meeting with somebody from outside – a client who is in town or someone we are interested in representing; sometimes, it’s a publisher from abroad or a movie producer or co-agent from LA.
Lunch is usually with a client or an editor. If the latter, I learn more about what he or she is doing, is interested in seeing, and I tell them about projects I am excited about.
In the afternoon I spend time closing deals, hopefully, answering e-mails and phone messages. I am in the office until 6:30 or 7:00 every day.
After I have had dinner with my family, I either read and edit a non-fiction proposal, write submission letters and put together submission lists or review contracts. On Fridays, when I do not go into the office, I read fiction manuscripts.
Of course, the others in our office might do things differently, but I would guess not much. This is the routine of a literary agent. Heather, I do hope this helps. Thank you for asking.