May 6th, 2008

books

is reading queries part of my job? well, sort of.

Yesterday, Agent Jonathan had a followup post to a rant from the previous week. The rant had to do with the fact that he gets "quite a few queries that are utter and complete crap" and his suspicion that "some people think that anyone can write a good book."

His post yesterday added that he thinks his "duty as a literary agent is to represent [his] clients to the best of [his] ability, and by and large this entails selling the rights to their works. [He does] not believe that reading queries and providing feedback is part of [his] job description..." He reads "queries for a single purpose- to get clients in order to sell the rights to their works."

Go read his posts in their entirety before you respond to anything in comments. I've tried not to take anything out of context, but there is certainly context to be considered.

As I see it, there is only a slight flaw in his logic. If part of his job is to get more clients, then part of his job is to read queries.

However.

Getting new clients must necessarily come after providing services for current clients. That's just plain old triage. If there are no sales for the current clients, and therefore, no commissions, the agent has to get another job and then there are no clients at all. So, after all the clients outlines, chapters, and manuscripts are read. After their submissions are out to editors. After followup on their outstanding submissions is done. After their contracts are vetted and signed. After their payments are received and disbursed. After their subsidiary rights are seen to. And so on and so forth....

Then.... Then, queries and non-client submissions can get read. Essentially, R&D comes after paying products (to put it in a very mercenary sort of way). Feedback is a whole 'nother kettle o' fishy things. That's extra. It might turn out to be an investment, but there is no immediate return, except in extremely rare cases, so it's not an efficient investment to engage in on a regular basis.

In reality, if it worked this way, I think queries might never be read. This is why I end up reading them in the evening after dinner. Or on weekends. This is why it takes so long to respond to queries, in addition to the issue of sheer volume. And, yes, it would certainly be helpful if all the queries received were from people who had a mastery of basic grammar (too many don't) and from those who had taken a few minutes to visit the agent's webpage and do a modicum of research before submitting. That's the agent side of the query fantasy, though.
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