Why Agents & Editors Take So Long on Submissions

Authors complain about agents taking too long to read submissions. Agents (and authors) complain about editors taking too long on submissions. And I imagine editors complain about other editors when they’re trying to get feedback on a submission they love. It’s the endless cycle of publishing.

But why is that? Why do agents and editors take so long to read submissions?

Books are Long

When we’re thinking about having someone read our book, we forget how long books really take to read. If an agent is receiving (requesting) 30 books a month that’s a lot of reading. Even if you aren’t reading the full book. I’m a fast reader. I read, on average, one book page a minute. That means it still takes me about 7 hours to read an average book. With 30 or more submissions in my inbox that’s 8 days of reading, straight, 24-hours a day, every month. I’m not sure what your work schedule is like? But mine does not allow for 8-days of doing nothing else.

Clients Come First

No matter how excited I am about a submission, my clients come first. Their books, revisions and contracts all take priority over any of my submissions. Not only are they the ones who are earning my keep, they are the ones I promised to make first when I offered representation. Trust me, you want an agent who puts clients first. The same holds true for an editor, their authors come first. For all the same reasons.

Schedules are Jam-Packed

I’m saving a ton of time since the pandemic because I no longer do 2-hour lunches plus travel. Instead, I average about 3-5 zoom calls a day. That could be 3-5 hours a day I’m locked into my computer. When I’m off, I’m doing everything else for my clients. My queries and submissions aren’t being read while I’m in the office. They are reserved for weekends or nights or times when I’m, well, not supposed to be working.

Personally I don’t mind this at all. It’s the nature of the business, but there are weekends when I put down work to focus on other things–family, friends, already published books or my mental well-being.

Ya’ll Are Writing a LOT

In the past 12 months my submission rate has doubled. I’m averaging over 600 queries every month. That’s a lot to read. It’s fantastic. I’m excited by every ding in my inbox, but the reality is that the more I have to read, the more it slows me down.

One of the many side effects of the pandemic is that we’re all working too much–and I’m not just talking about publishing professionals here. Working from home can be a blessing, it can also mean we aren’t taking the mental and emotional breaks that keep us healthy. The fact is, most of us are doing the best we can. We’re excited that you want to work with us and appreciate the patience you have. We promise, at BookEnds, that you will get an answer. And we promise, we are reading, even if slowly.

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2 comments

  1. Thanks for giving us a peek into your real world rather than the one we imagine where you run ten miles before sunrise, cook a healthy breakfast, read two or three manuscripts on your back deck while tanning and planning a healthy dinner you cook from scratch, take Olive out for long fun walks in between the cooking and running and tanning and reading, all while looking like a cross between a movie star and an Olympic champion. 😉

  2. I’ve wondered if a side effect of Covid is increased writing output for other authors besides me. Your sub rate has doubled! That answers the question. Good for them. Hard for you. Bad for me.

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