A Day in the Life: Hungry & Hustling

I want to chronicle my typical days at various stages of my agenting career. Right now I've been open to queries a little over a month, so I've had a bit of time to work out a daily schedule that is productive and helps me balance things. But I know that day to day life as a seasoned agent with a full client list is different than the early hustling days of an agent just starting out. So here's what my days look like right now, and further on in my career I'll do a new post detailing how my days have changed. 

As a new agent, I'm hungry. Starving, in fact. 

All agents start at the bottom with zero clients, so the early months and sometimes years of agenting are all about hustling to build a client list and make sales. Remember, agents don't make money until the author makes money, so it's important to hit the ground running when just starting out. 

Good Morning

5:50am I've been hitting snooze for 20 minutes by this point, and now it's time for me to get up. 

6:00am My husband, David,  and I do the intricate dance of getting our 3 year old ready for daycare. He makes her breakfast; I do her hair, she gets dressed herself. Luckily we don't have to pack her a lunch because all meals are provided at the center she attends. 

6:50am David drives our daughter to school. I hop in the shower, and eat breakfast myself. 

7:30am David is back and makes a pot of coffee. He works from home, too, out of an office set up in a corner of the living room. I've set up my desk in our bedroom, so I spend a few minutes making the bed, opening the curtains, and making sure the space is neat and peaceful so I can concentrate on my work.

7:45am Coffee in hand I sit down at my desk and get to work. I start with queries. For this first year I am tracking every single query I receive in an excel spreadsheet. I realize this practice probably isn't sustainable (it's quickly becoming A LOT and I'm only a few weeks in) but I find it valuable for now. Each query gets logged with the following:

  • Date Received
  • Date Responded
  • Author's Email
  • Title
  • Genre (Adult, YA, MG)*
  • Sub-Genre (Fantasy, Historical, Mystery, etc)
  • Status (Reject, Request, Did Not Respond)
  • Notes (this is a catch all. I use it to track #ownvoices, #mswl, make a note if the query doesn't adhere to my guidelines or doesn't fall within a genre or category I rep, or any other notes I need to make for myself). 

Logging queries helps me compile my query stats at the end of each month, and lets me see what kind of books I'm requesting most often, what genres I'm seeing most, and how I might want to tweak my #MSWL to direct more of what I love toward my inbox. 

I sometimes read queries as they come in and tag them in my email, but they don't get logged on the spreadsheet until I actually send the response. If I want to request a manuscript I do it right away as soon as I've read it. When I know, I know. But sometimes I've been too swamped to read queries as they come in and so they sit in my inbox unread while I work through the backlog.  

Queries I plan to reject or those I'm on the fence about get sorted, and then I try to respond to them in chronological order. My goal is to respond to all queries within 4 weeks. Right now I'm answering queries received February 8th, and today is February 28th. So looks like I'm on target so far. I reject queries with a form template that I hope is professional and kind. I do make sure to address each rejection with the author's name, and on very rare occasions I'll add a personal note. When I respond to queries with requests I tell the author what excited me about the query and the sample chapter that I read, and how eager I am to read more. Those responses aren't from a form template--each request is unique. 

10:00am After reading and responding to queries for a few hours I switch gears. If I have a phone call scheduled I'll take some time to do prep. If this is a call with an author whose query I loved and I'm hoping to offer representation, I'll spend this time putting together a pitch: why I loved your manuscript, why I think I'm the right agent to represent you, the editorial vision I have for your manuscript, and where I think it fits in the market. If I have a call scheduled with a client at this stage it's probably to talk about edits, and those calls need prep, too. 

11:00am Phone call! If I'm very lucky, I often get to follow this up by drafting an agency agreement to send to a new client!

12:00pm Lunch break! I am committed to taking a lunch break every day, and without a formal commitment I'm bound to forget to eat and go full-on hangry monster mid-afternoon. David and I break for lunch together when schedules allow, and just whip something up in our kitchen and chat for a bit. It's a nice way to break up the day. I'm sure in the future I'll be reading through my lunch, but for now I'm trying to treat it like a true break and enjoy it while it lasts!

12:30pm Back at my desk and moving on to edits. I've signed two clients and am editing their manuscripts for a round of revisions before we go on sub. I am definitely an editorial agent and believe really strongly that it's a competitive market and we need to make sure the manuscript is a polished as possible before sending it to editors. I do a light line edit and insert comments in the margins of the Word document. As I go through the manuscript I make notes for myself about the big picture issues: structure, character development, etc and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript as a whole. Once I've gone through the whole thing these notes are the bones of the editorial letter I write to my client. I believe authors need a few days to absorb critical feedback so when I finally send along the marked up manuscript and the editorial letter I'll schedule a call for a few days later so we can discuss everything. Although I do believe that my suggestions will make a book stronger, ultimate it's the author's book and they have creative control, so if there's a suggestion the author disagrees with we'll use that phone call to work out a solution. 

If I'm in the editing groove I might just keep going for the rest of the afternoon, otherwise...

2:30pm I work on putting together editor profiles and submission lists. This requires a lot of time and research, because I'm just starting out. I need to introduce myself to editors, become familiar with their recent acquisitions and their tastes, and start match-making to pair manuscripts with the people I think will connect to it most.

4:00pm David does dropoff, but I'm in charge of picking our daughter up from daycare, so this is when I brave rush hour traffic to go get her. The next three hours are sacred family time. We cook dinner together, we play, we tantrum. Quality time!

7:00pm After we put our daughter to bed, the evening can go any number of ways. I deliberately don't work every night. Just...most nights. On Wednesdays I record the Pub Crawl Podcast with my dear friend and co-host, JJ. And a few nights a week are reserved for time with David. We do life administration stuff like budget, bills, and cleaning, but we also have Stay At Home Date Nights and watch an astonishing amount of Netflix. But on most nights, I do continue working. Hungry, hungry agent, after all. Sometimes I dive back into queries, sometimes I devote myself to my reading pile, sometimes I update this blog, or do some industry research. It's a toss up. I do usually move out to the couch for this evening work, so I can hang out with David. It's nice to get a change of scene.

9:00pm I get ready for bed. I'm trying really hard to make sure I save time for pleasure reading that isn't work-related, so this is where I fit that in. I try to only read for a little bit before turning out the lights, but sometimes I am so utterly captivated by a book that I stay up all night and read it straight through. This happened most recently with AMERICAN STREET by Ibi Zoboi. I cannot recommend that book enough. Even if you're going to have to hit the snooze button a few extra times in the morning because you stayed up too late finishing it, like I did. 

But eventually: sleep. And get up the next day to do it all again.

*I know that Adult, YA, and MG aren't genres so much as they are age-groups, some call them categories, but I just used Genre and Sub-genre because it's my spreadsheet and I can do what I want.