Reading submissions is an interesting process because it’s not always as simple as sitting down and reading. There’s usually a certain mindset an agent has anytime she tackles her submission pile.
A few weeks ago I was hungry for something new. I wanted a certain type of book and my submission inbox was overflowing. Luckily I was traveling and while I packed a book to read for pleasure, I found what I wanted was a new client to get excited about. So before leaving I loaded up my Kindle and attacked my piles.
While reading I had two thoughts. The first was that I really wanted to clean house and catch up on some older submissions so I wasn’t so horribly far behind. In other words, I was honestly looking to reject things. Yes, often agents read with the hopes of just cleaning up. That doesn’t mean we’re going to pass up a great book, it means we’re looking to the author to wow us and make us change our minds. Sometimes I’m actually disappointed (in a sick and twisted way) when I start on a submission that excites me. It means I’m going to be reading the entire book and fewer submissions are getting read that day. Of course I use the term disappointed loosely. The truth is that I’m always excited when that happens.
My second goal was to find a suspense or thriller I could add to my client list. That’s what I was in the mood for (I was heading to Bouchercon after all). This meant that half of my Kindle was from the oldest submissions in my pile and the other half were thrillers or suspense.
Let’s say it was an amazing trip. Not only did I have a number of wonderful meetings with clients, editors and fellow agents, but I was able to give feedback to at least eight writers and I offered representation to a thriller author. In fact, I would say it was the perfect weekend.
After all of that excitement though I fell into a submission slump. With a new author on my list I wasn’t as hungry as before for another, and I had other things to focus on–editing the new client’s work, negotiating a few deals, and following up on my meetings. It meant that after an extremely productive weekend, I was about to go a week or two without getting any reading done.
So next time you’re wondering why an agent doesn’t get to submissions faster, think of how lucky you might be that she waits until she’s hungry.