Dear Miss Snark:
20 queries went out, and 7 rejections came back within a few days. Then, I received a request for a partial. And now, it's been 6 weeks, and the rejections continue to dribble in, but there are 7 queries out there.
Do you (as representitive for all agents, snarky and otherwise) know immediately if a query interests you to ask for more? If you don't handle its genre, I realize that it's easy to send out a quick "later, dude." But if something IS something you represent, is a delay anything more than "I'm hip-deep in queries and I'll get to ya when I get to ya", or sometimes do you need to mull things over for a few weeks?
If you've sent some pages, and it takes me awhile to respond, it's either cause I'm too surly to read with anything other than rejection on my mind; I'm really busy; or yes, I'm trying to figure out if I want to read more.
It's the third one you're interested in probably. I can fall in love with BAD work just as easily as Danielle Steele fans can. I've learned to recognize this failing so sometimes I'll set a query aside for a second read just to make sure it holds up. (Usually it doesn't.) That can delay things.
If I'm reading a non fiction idea, I am looking around to see if the project has some oomph. That can take a while too.
If I'm reading a partial, all bets are off. Sometimes I can read those in 30 minutess and sometimes it takes a month. The 30 minute ones are NOT EVER the ones I'm most excited about. They tend to be the ones that arrive while I'm waiting around for something else to happen and I read it cause it's right there in front of my long, quivering, cooking -niffing snout (oh wait, that's KY's snout, mine is the nose with the pince-nez).
I also tend to read partials in batches. I read 15 last weekend. Some had been here since (gulp) early May.
Plus, remember that reading the slush pile or the incoming submissions is important but it's not urgent. It always takes second or third place behind doing deals, swilling gin, reading the new James Lee Burke or other things I love.