Thursday, July 08, 2010

From the Vault: A day in the life

Happy summer, everybody!  For the next while, there are going to be some absences from the blog as we take vacations, but we'd hate to leave you guys hanging.  It's no secret that we blog much more now than when we started this baby, and there are far more of you reading than there were way back when.  So we thought we'd bring back some blog entries of days gone by that you may have missed if you just joined us in the last year.  We've cued up enough, but if you have any favorites you think your fellow readers might enjoy, give us a shout below!

by Michael

People always ask me what my day is like. I often respond by saying that it’s nothing but e-mail and phone, which is only somewhat true. It’s a long, tiring, very rewarding day, and I hope this provides some insight.

6:30 AM: Wake up. Feed cat. Shower, shave, dress. (Pray to get the order right at early hour.)

7:22 AM: Leave house to catch 7:30 C train (no, subways don’t technically run on schedules, but the C train only comes once every 10 minutes during rush hour, and it happens to come on the 30-minute mark).

8:00 AM: Arrive at Starbucks. Purchase “Grande” mild coffee (iced during the summer).

8:10 AM: Arrive at work. Log into computer, remove reading from previous evening and sort into “reject,” “request more,” “offer representation,” “get another read,” or “do editorial letter” piles. Check news.

8:10 – 8:30 AM: Read the news. Look for stories that would make great book ideas, either fiction or nonfiction.

8:30 – 9:00 AM: Morning meeting. The whole staff gets together each morning to go over business. We discuss where we are on projects (Do you need a writer? Is money due? Did the editor get back to you about bound galleys?), ask Jane and each other for advice, generate book ideas, and discuss news items.

9:00 – 10:00 AM: Respond to all the e-mails I received the previous night. There are often many from the West Coast, as they’re still going when we leave for the day. Also, since writing isn’t the primary employment for most authors, it’s the only time they have to correspond. And, many writers don’t seem to sleep. Really guys, sleep is good!

10:00 – 10:30 AM: Take care of any other author correspondence: contracts, amendments, agency agreements, editorial letters, royalty statements and more.

10:30 – 11:30 AM: Return phone calls and make follow-up calls on proposals and manuscripts on submission. This is when we find out that someone is very interested in a project. Hopefully.

11:30 AM – 12:30 PM: Put together and submit new material. Make any calls associated with the new submission that I didn’t make earlier.

12:30 – 2:00 PM – Lunch with an editor. This is our chance to meet new editors and catch up with old friends. The agent lunch seems to mystify those who aren’t in publishing, but I find it a necessary, important and enjoyable part of the job. The book business, for all the analyzing of numbers that we do, is still very subjective, and it’s often at these lunches that I get a real sense of someone’s taste. It’s when I learn that the editor who typically does political nonfiction also loves anything to do with cats and can acquire whatever he wants. Books are often sold to unlikely editors based on such information.

(When I don’t have a lunch, I take this time to read through blogs looking for book ideas or gossip, or a recap of the America’s Next Top Model episode that I missed.)

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM: Return the calls and e-mails from lunch time. Check Gawker and Galleycat to make sure no one was fired while I was out, which could change where I send that proposal I packaged in the morning.

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM: Open mail and review e-queries. There is a lot of mail coming in, and even more e-mail these days. It takes this long to review all the material and request what looks interesting.

4:00 – 5:00 PM: Go back to checking client e-mail and answering calls. This is the busiest time of day for phone calls, as everyone’s looking for information before the close of business.

5:00 – 6:30ish PM – Wrap up the day. Print out any reading for the evening, get together any material to review contracts, make last minute and West Coast phone calls. Some nights, have a drink with an editor or author who’s in town.

6:30 – 7:15: Train ride home. This is when I get to read for pleasure! Right now I’m reading Pop! by Aury Wallington, which a client gave me. I also read magazines and newspapers during this time.

7:15 PM – 9 PM: Feed cat. Eat. Watch DVR’ed TV.

9 PM – Whenever is necessary: Read and edit proposals and manuscripts. Vet contracts. Write and revise submission letters and create submission lists. Sometimes there’s also e-mail and phone calls.

Honestly, an agent’s work is never done. It’s difficult, frustrating and can make for a very boring social life. It’s a good thing that I love my job (and didn’t have a social life,to begin with).

Originally posted in March 2007.


  1. Very enlightening. Actually, it sounds kind of fun to be an agent. I'm an organization freak and the idea of being able to sort my e-mails into piles kinda makes me happy. Is that weird?

  2. Wow--very busy. Thanks for the inside look. In my old marketing job I had days where every minute was filled, and it didn't seem like there were enough hours in the day during event season. Thank goodness for holidays and vacation.

  3. I know this was posted a few years ago, but I do hope your social life has improved! "All work and no play...." blah, blah, blah sort of thing!

    Thanks for the insight!

  4. I was glad to see the cat got feed twice a day ;-j


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