Your Snarkiness, in passing you say, "I pass on really good stuff all the time, with a form letter even, if my list is full. "
Is it not true that no matter who you represent, how full your list may be or how high you are on the agent status pecking order, if you think you can sell it and you like it enough, there is always room for one more author?
My experience and thinking have been that even the biggest big-shots have room when they really like what is in front of them...they don't think, "I can sell this but oy! my list is oh so full so I better pass on it." But, if it doesn't sell well enough (either to an editor or after publication), big-shots are quicker to dump the author than an agent of lesser status, who may be more interested in nurturing the author along. Could you comment on all this?
First, I've learned the hard way that every time I fall in love with something, I better step back and have a slightly more objective eye. Things I think are the cat's pajamas may not be marketable. Let me be the first to say: I have weird personal taste. BUT there's a distinction between my personal (ie weird) taste and my professional taste.
And sadly, no, I won't take something if my list if full. The WORST calls in the world are from clients who have every right to expect you're working hard for them, and you haven't been cause you are overworked with something else. This happens. I hate it a LOT and have vowed to avoid that situation whenever possible.
It takes a LOT of work to get a project ready to pitch. It's not just sign the manuscript and send it out to three people you know are going to make offers. Usually all three of them pass for no logical reason whatsoever and you've got to find another dozen to send the thing out to.
People at larger agencies with minions at their beck and call may have more flexibility on this than I do but I'm the one answering the phone and slush pile,( not to mention keeping KY away from that bitch next door).
I have an aversion to clients calling me wondering how their work is going. I much prefer they are hearing from me with offers. Having too many projects means all of them get slighted and authors get unhappy. Let me mention again: I HATE THAT.
I don't know how fast anyone drops things that don't sell. I'm loathe to do it. Mostly it's clients who pull the plug first, not me. I'm always convinced the next day will bring good news. That's why I'm an agent, not a weather forecaster.