Day 1: the Day Timer Confessions

Oh Miss Snark does not like this at ALL.
This is like having Mother Superior walk behind your desk to make sure you aren't reading comic books (Miss Snark was not...she read Nancy Drew).

Herewith what Miss Snark did today.

8:30am arrive in office with first of the cafe bustello jolts needed to be fully human and semi-kind.
Read my incoming email from Writers Almanac, Word A Day, Today in Literature
AND most important DailyCandy.com online.
Read Arts Journal.com (80% of the publishing news is some hairy kid in the UK).

Read email that has piled up over the weekend. Drop a quick post onto the blog.

10:00am Begin daily look see through client files. This means I check every client to make sure everything that is supposed to be happening is, or send them a reminder. This leads to calls to editors to do things like follow up on title changes (which lead to URL changes etc). I call a few people I know for some blurb action.

This takes about three hours on Monday, and about 20 minutes by the end of the week.

1:00 pm A quick look at my data base of editors to see if there are any I haven't spoken to in a while. These kinds of touch base call sometimes gets a good lead for book slots the editors need to fill unexpectedly.

I'm just finalizing a deal that came about when I called an editor who had a book suddenly not ready for the Winter 2006 list. I had something ready, she bought it and we're all happy.

The downside is this is tedious work. Less than 10% of the calls will bear fruit. Heck, less than 50% of the calls are even actual conversation! I can't figure out a way to get around it though, so I do it on Monday so I don't have to fret the rest of the week.

3:00pm I'm sick of the world, sick of books..oh wait..I haven't eaten. Call to the corner pizzeria and get some mood elevators delivered. Yum.

3:30pm calls to west coast editors and my sub rights agent in LA. Im prodding them about books coming out soon so that they will be talking about them when the reviews hit. Subrights are great little sources of money. Film and tv are great BIG sources of money. Agenting for that stuff is like brain surgery. Get the best, pay the freight and don't do it yourself.

4:00pm Mail call. Oh good, lighter than usual. Oh what's this? "I read your website carefully".
Ya sure. That's why you sent something we don't handle. Form rejection letter #3. Three more query letters get form rejection #1. One query with no attached sample pages gets form letter #2. One manuscript I'd requested last week. Oh good the cover letter avoids telling me to get back to her in 30 days or less. Smart girl. Five more that aren't awful, but just don't sound ...interesting. Form rejection letter #1.

5:00pm uh oh. Hysterical client. "They're ruining my book. I want it to look like this and not that". I look at the proofs. He's right. The cover sux. Ok, slipping into the nearest phone booth to don my SuperAgent unitard. Back to the phone. Clutching thesaurus for nicer ways to say "this sux".
Call the designer. Lots of talk about branding. Previous two were good, we want to continue with this motif. No artsy shmartsy crap. Stick with the stuff that worked. If you want trendy, go work on a zine.

Much ballyhoo, new proofs by end of week. I don't even WANT to know what that poor man is saying about me about now.

6:00pm Longer conversations with two writers who may work on an upcoming project. Lot's of explaining the concept, explaining the parameters. This is like being a translator at the UN with the nominal author on one side, the prospective publisher on the other, and the writers as the third parties. Each will get the proposal I sold to the publisher. We'll see who wants to do it, can do it in a reasonable amount of time and won't charge an arm and a leg.

7:00pm Last cover letter printed, pitch package and novel enveloped and scheduled with the messenger service.

7:30 Now to the must-read section of the daily webcrawl: Media Bistro, PubLunch, PW, more on AJ , Sarah's blog, Beatrice and others I get to when I have time.

This is a nice slow day. Summer means people are taking four days off, or at their country houses or just hiding in their offices. No one is going to lunch and no one is rushing around to parties. It's kinda nice.

Daily tally:
Calls: outgoing 36, incoming 17.
Mail: letters10, packages 1
Vulgarities: required by law 6, optional extras for particular fuckwits 19

Miss Snark 1, World 0.


Anonymous said...

There is something comforting in the idea of a SuperAgent unitard.

Thanks for the peek at your Daytimer.

Ellen said...

Thanks for posting this... it's very informative. I am stunned to learn that writers actually send you manuscripts and tell you to get back to them in thirty days or less, though!

Anonymous said...

Okay, what I wanna know is how much of this daily correspondence comes weeks later than you initially stated it'd be.

Say you told a client you'd get back to them the following week about a project: do you do everything in your power to be true to your word, or do you take it for granted that all unpublished writers (even those who know how to properly approach an agent, and who understand somewhat how the industry works) assume that when you say a week, you mean three? (Or, do you secretly forget what you told your client, and only remember it when you're cleaning out your inbox or straightening up your desk?)

This subject comes up a lot in online forums for un/agented writers, and there's never a consensus between those who think agents are unusually busy people who can't be bothered with mere differences between weeks, and those who think agents should be held to what they say, even if it's just a little note apologizing for "still" not getting around to a client's project.

All the more discouraging is the sentence that begins, "Summer means people are taking four days off..." I wish that note of truth didn't sit so heavily in my stomach!

In one of your previous posts, you said, "If you don't know about publishing by the time you get to me, you need to get to work and learn the basics. There's no shortage of people to tell you about it, websites to look at and books to buy." But how many agents and editors are going to be honest enough with writers (or at least make it public information for writers obsessively researching the industry just so they can write a passably informed query letter) to let them know that during the summer, they just don't get much done? And, for God's sake, why?! Does it have to do with printing schedules? Fiscal years? Sheer laziness passed off as tradition? It's too much to expect that people outside the industry should be born with this information.

Writers who work their asses off year-round (yet manage to keep in mind their place at the absolute bottom of the foodchain, of course) would probably rejoice in knowing they get a bit of a summer vacation, themselves. I mean, shoot, if they don't have even half the ear of a higher-up for three or four months, why should they be left in the dark about it?

As an anonymous insider seemingly willing to take a good, objective look at her career, I really hope you don't mind delving a bit deeper into this fascinating topic, "What Agents Really Mean When They Say..."

Thanks. You rock, Miss Snark.

Margaret M. Fisk said...

Thank you. This was very interesting and I can imagine a real pain to put together.

I did have one question though and I hope it's not an ignorant one because I pride myself on learning what I can about the industry.

You said: Oh good the cover letter avoids telling me to get back to her in 30 days or less.

While I agree that 30 days is incredibly short, my question is what should the author put in the query letter? I've heard from numerous sources that when an exclusive look at a manuscript is requested to make sure a timeline is set for the exclusivity. This makes sense because otherwise the manuscript could be in limbo (unable to be shown to anyone else) potentially forever. However, what would you consider a reasonable timeline, or is setting any timeline obnoxious? And just to clarify, I mean a timeline for the exclusivity, not the manuscript.


Anonymous said...

I'm not an agent, but I can take a stab at why summer gets quiet. I'm guessing two reasons:

First, in an industry that relies as heavily on networking/schmoozing(pick one) as publishing does, the fact that editors and agents have kids like the rest of us (they do, don't they?) means that a lot of them are going to be taking vacations at this time of year. And if 10% or so of the population is gone at any given time, I can see how that would slow things down.

The other reason is one you mentioned: publishing schedules. As I understand it, the major pushes come twice a year. It stands to reason that there would be two corresponding lulls--December being the other, I'm thinking.

And if I'm wrong, I'm sure someone with more knowledge will be along shortly to correct me.

Anonymous said...

August is hot. Everyone goes on vacation to get out of the City. It's really that simple.

Anonymous said...

August is hot. Everyone goes on vacation to get out of the City. It's really that simple.

Anonymous said...

Haha. It's 92 degrees in my city, and the humidity is almost as high, but my coworkers and I still managed our 6-2 shift this morning... outdoors, too!

Anonymous said...

To "anonymous": Then whatever industry you're in wasn't smart enough to all agree to take summer hours (Fridays are half-days), frequently skip Fridays altogther, and take the month of August off. Publishing did just that.

Anonymous said...

To "anonymous": The point being that there aren't four Fridays in one week, of course. So what is the publishing industry doing on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the month of July?

Miss Snark said...

Publishing lends itself to "off premise" work.
Back in the old days when "everyone" went to Maine for the summer, the industry got in the habit of closing early on Friday and slacking off the rest of the time. The idea was you take the manuscripts WITH you and read while you sit on your verandah in Maine.

Part of it is the fact that publishers do work seasonally. An editor has a list for spring or fall.
S/he has to have all those books ready for the sales conference and ready for shipment on certain days.

Summer used to be much more difficult for publicity too.

Crystal* said...

I'm also loving the SuperAgent unitard. I'm sure it comes with matching pumps.
Thanks for a look into your day. And I can see that there really ARE some idiotic people lurking in your slush pile.

Miss Snark said...

Not to mention on my rolodex.