Thursday, February 04, 2010

About Last Year

2009 was a singular year for me. When I say singular I mean it in the Sherlock Holmes way, not the opposite-of-plural way. I've always had the habit of adopting certain words or speech patterns from the books I read, and I'm currently on a Sherlock Holmes bender. It could be worse. It has been worse. Like the time I tried to read The Canterbury Tales in Middle English.

If you don't count all the baby books and manuscripts I read last year, I didn't read a whole lot. Which partially explains the on-line silence. In truth, I was so busy figuring out how to balance my career and my new son and the death twitches of my social life that I didn't make time for pleasure reading, or blogging. That was 2009. This is 2010. I've recovered from the shock of parenthood, am moderately well-rested, and have resumed my old habits and ticks. I have goals. One of them is to update this blog at least every other week. I know, it's a big jump from twice annually. But here goes.

Another thing that got overlooked in 2009? Queries. Because when agents are crunched for time, that's one of the first things that gets pushed to the side. Queries don't seem as urgent or important as a pending translation deal, or a film contract, or submitting an author's manuscript, and for the most part, they aren't. However, for someone like me, who has found so many clients in the so called slush, I can't afford to let them go unread. I've recommitted myself to my query pile. I've vowed to do what it takes to read them within four weeks (as our website promises). Even if "what it takes" means late nights and overcaffeination and... (I'm loath to admit to this)... interns.

I've come to think of interns as publishing's dirty little secret. Sometimes I wonder if the industry would run without them. I've had interns in the past, but always to assist with the more mechanical and administrative aspects of my job. I've never trusted anyone to read my queries because, well, they're my queries and I feel absurdly protective of them. No one has quite my taste, so how will they be able to weed out what I'll like? What if they miss something? And don't I owe it to every author to personally read their query, since they personally chose to write to me? All valid concerns. But the reality was that I couldn't create enough time to read them. Interns have their drawbacks, but without one there was no way I'd be able to manage my queries efficiently give every author the response they deserve in something resembling a timely fashion.

With the help of two brilliant interns I've now read everything that was sent to me in January, and most of what came in December and November. However, with so much new material coming in daily I've decided to focus my attention on the most recent queries. From here on out, I will not continue to read old e-mail queries: so much of the material is no longer available, or is being revised, and as you can imagine, authors aren't all that pleased to hear from me after such a delay, and are not shy about expressing their displeasure. So, if you sent me a query before November and have not heard back, please feel free to resubmit. I will do my best to respond within four weeks.

On most days there is a lot to do that is more immediately lucrative reading my queries. But something keeps bringing me back to them, day after day. It's that little thing called hope. Hope that the next query you read will transport you and give you that thrill of discovery. It's not dissimilar to the hope I imagine that writers feel when they send their query off into the ether. Most days I won't find anything. But one day I will. And it will make all the other days worth it.


sbjames said...

Cool! I'm so glad I kept checking back. Congrats on the motherhood adjustment. I know how that is. I wish I could say that kids will take less of your time and energy as time goes by, but I'm nost sure that would be true. At least they do sleep through the night! And that is something.

5 Kids With Disabilities said...

Congratulations on moving forward in motherhood and work!
This is a back-door query suggesting that I have a book proposal that will knock your motherly socks off. It starts with my blog at but it is much much more. As a new mother, I am sure you will appreciate the humor in it. Please e-mail me if you are interested.
thank you!

Jason Myers said...

Awesome! The Book Cannibal is BACK!

Thanks for the good feedback on my query and I hope you find the balance you seek.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I'm glad you're back :)