Pub Rants

Don’t Worry, Agent Unhappy

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STATUS: I’m making headway in my client reading. It really is strange how clients all seem to submit stuff within days of each other. How do they do it?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BLACK COFFEE IN BED by Squeeze

All agents will tell you that our time is valuable but here’s what is interesting. It’s not valuable in the way that most writers probably think.

It has nothing to do with ego—as in “I’m such a big shot agent you’d better not waste my time.” (Although I imagine some agents might feel that way!)

When I say my time is valuable, I mean it in the sense that there is never enough time to accomplish all that needs to be done to be a good literary agent. There are only so many hours in the day to give clients good service, to respond to queries and sample pages promptly, to address contract or royalty statement issues, or to simply negotiate a new deal with an editor, or to ______ And then fill in the blank with a hundred different possibilities.

Nope. There’s never enough—even when I find myself working 12 or 13-hour days (not unusual by the way).

So when I say my time is valuable, that’s what I mean. And I’ll tell you what agents appreciate. If I have your full manuscript and you’ve decided (or are about to decide) to sign with somebody else, please tell me right away.

I can either read immediately or if the decision has already been made, I can wish you Godspeed and a quick sale.

But if I read quickly, and let’s say I took the weekend to do so, because I don’t know that your decision has already been made and I find out on Monday that I took 6 hours to read your full but you’ve already signed with someone else…

Hum…I don’t have happy feelings because of the problem with time; there is never enough. All I can think about is what I could have gotten accomplished in those 6 hours (or whatever) that I spent reading a-no-longer-available manuscript.

Let’s just say it doesn’t have me whistling “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

14 Responses

  1. David said:

    It’s elementary courtesy that one would think any grownup would be aware of.

    I guess you could console yourself with the knowledge that, if you’d signed up that client, much worse could well have happened later, when you would have even more invested.

  2. Anonymous said:

    For those who just landed an agent, please extend a courtesy not only to the agent but to your fellow writers who’d like to be where you just arrived. Not doing so means someone else’s manuscript in the pipeline wasn’t read last weekend.

  3. April said:

    I need an agent, and I was referred to you! At least to check out your blog. I just finished my very first novel, and agent research is the next move. Any suggestions? You seem inundated, and that makes me hesitate to ask for any of your background information or too much help. But any advice at all would help because I have no idea how to do this!

  4. Anonymous said:


    Congrats on finishing your first novel! That is a huge accomplishment. I sense your excitement and so many of us have been there! Good for you!

    The agent research you need to do you have to do yourself, unfortunately. Agents don’t have a lot of free time to answer questions from people that are not already their clients. Reading this blog and other industry blogs is a great idea to aquaint yourself with the whole process of searching for an agent that represents what you write. is an excellent resource, too.

    You don’t “ask an agent” about their background. You go on sites like Preditor & Editors, which is listed on the right hand side of this blog. Click on that and make sure the “agent” you are contacting is not a scam artist. Next, click on some of the other agent/editor blogs aslo listed on the right side of the Nelson Agency blog and sink yourself into this industry.

    For starters, when pitching your book, you’ll need to learn how to write a great query letter, no matter which agent you decide to query. Query letters take a lot of practice and its something you need to spend some time on.

    (Someone correct me if I’m wrong about the title, the the Writer’s Guide to Publishers and Agent’s is a good starting point as well. They explain query letters and the whole process.)

    But look on first. I think they have a whole section on query letters. And a bunch more information.

    You’ll get the hang of it all pretty quickly. I wish you the best of luck. There is a lot of rejection in this business. Fortify yourself, be willing to learn, and don’t take anything too personally.

  5. Linnea said:

    Sorry about your wasted weekend Kristin. It’s good for writers to see the frustrations on the other side of the fence. Sometimes we have tunnel vision.

  6. Anonymous said:

    April –

    Excellent advice from Anon above. I just wanted to add that if you haven’t done so already, you’ll need to edit your novel and/or run it by a critique group (online or otherwise) before sending it out. It’s important to have a polished novel before you start querying. However, don’t pay anyone for edits or critiques–you can do the former yourself, and there are plenty of people willing to do the latter for free (especially if you critique their novels in return).

    Best of luck!

  7. Ryan Field said:

    I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. If everyone in publishing read Kristin Nelson’s blog, and then followed a few of her excellent tips, there would be a great deal less wasted time.

  8. Allison Brennan said:

    Kristin said: “It really is strange how clients all seem to submit stuff within days of each other. How do they do it?”

    Well, I don’t know about your clients, but for my agent I talk to all her other clients and then we coordinate to make sure we all send her our new work on the same Friday. Just to make her crazy 🙂

  9. KingM said:

    I can see how that must be frustrating. On the upside, if you liked it enough to offer representation, at least you had the pleasure of reading a good book. And that’s always a good thing.