As it turns out, accepting queries from prospective clients for only one or two months during the year allowed me to respond to writers more quickly and provide feedback and, I hope, encouragement. What it didn’t do is benefit my business. Not one bit.
I’ve mentioned to friends in publishing that I’m seeing far fewer good, viable manuscripts, which might be due to two factors: the increasing number of literary agents, at least in the U.S., and the trend toward self-publishing.
In 2014, I’ll take queries continuously for the entire year. I’ll need to be considerably more selective about which manuscripts I offer to read, though, so I don’t end up with an unmanageable reading queue. Furthermore, I won’t be able to think of working with writers who aren’t already adept at self-promotion. It won’t be easy to reject prospective clients on that basis, because I’m empathetic. And I’m enamored of the underdog. And I’m an introvert myself, so my heart goes out to others who are introspective. Nevertheless, I must select the manuscripts and authors who have the potential to succeed at reaching readers. Any writer who hasn’t accepted the professional responsibility of connecting with an audience isn’t likely to be a good investment for me or for a publisher.
I adore my job and my clients. There’s never a moment when I’m not thinking of them and how to improve their odds. The biggest perk of being a literary agent is that I’m never bored. Book people are fascinating. They’re inquisitive. They like to argue. They have strong opinions. They make use of their intellects. (Well, they fantasize, at least.) I wouldn’t trade them for any other colleagues. Astronauts, actors, academics, actuaries, pearl diverssorry, but people in the book business are having a lot more fun.