It’s just business.

December 11, 2006 | Karin's Blog | 12 comments

Maybe because I am the daughter of a successful entrepreneur and the owner of my own business for the last 20 years my view of corporate America is different from most peoples’. I see business through the eyes of an employer: my focus is bottom line. What do I have to do to trim the fat in a lean economy? What key people do I plug in and where? How do I handle disgruntled clients, when do I cut losses and move on? And the hardest part? how and when do I make the decision to reduce personnel?
These questions apply to Fortune 500 companies as well as mom and pop enterprises.

The truth is, that while I’m not a bitch, and I’m not a scrooge, if my company revenue is beginning to slide then I have to make adjustments. I would not be in business much longer if I didn’t. Example. My overhead has hit critical mass. For the good of the whole: the company, I will have to sacrifice certain employees, certain benefits and certain perks to tighten up the budget. It is corporate suicide to spend more than you generate in revenues. If I’m not fiscally responsible the entire ship suffers. So, as hard as it was in the beginning, (it gets easier) I let someone/someones or somethings go. And while the cut may bleed for a short time, and that person/persons or something suffers, the whole, the remaining sum of the someones and somethings, survive. I would never sacrifice or jeopardize the whole, the compnay, for a single person.

The same theory applies in publishing. If a certain author is not hitting numbers they are for the most part history in a lean market. And today’s market is to quote an A + agent, ‘difficult at best.’

Recently the fact that certain agencies don’t respond to all query letters came up. As a business person I find this completely understandable. A one man or woman office does not have the luxury of time to respond to every query letter. If they are interested they let you know. If they responded to every query one of two things would have to happen. One: this small agency would have to hire someone to pick up the slack. That equals expenses this one person agency cannot afford. Or two: the agent sets aside valuable time they would otherwise be spending on their clients, the clients that are paying the bills, and piss off said clients for not selling their books. So it makes perfect sense to me to read the query, and respond only to those you are interested in.

Now I know many writers think less of an agency that doesn’t respond to every query, but look at it from their side. It’s a matter of time equals money. Their time is better spent courting clients who will make them money then sending even a form rejection letter to the scads that won’t. Not to mention the cost of postage, the paper and the ink.

It’s even worse with editors. It’s not a money issue with them, it’s a time issue. They have a stable of authors they must push and pull through production, some of those authors are divas and require daily phone calls by their editors to remind them how fabulous they are. Editors have agents throwing great material at them daily, they don’t have to dig through the slush pile and they don’t have regular time for it either. On top of their current author list they have to manage there are sales meeting, art department meetings, budget meetings, editing, reading agent submissions, and all kinds of other distractions to cram into their day.

If they don’t get back to you any time soon, can you blame them?

I guess what I’m getting to, is while so many writers take this business personally, my advice is, don’t. It’s a crazy overwhelming business for the parties on all three sides, something has to give, and it’s usually time. Time many in the industry do not have for the things that won’t generate revenue.

That said, to sell, write the best book you can, and get an agent. Less and less editors are taking unsolicited submissions. Of course pitching to an editor at a conference is a great way to get your foot in the door. I know many editors try to get back asap on the requested work.

This is why I started the First Line Contest. The finalists get their work under the nose of an editor. Hilary Sares agreed to be my final judge for the contest beginning next month. I plan to have an agent be the final judge for the June contest.
So start polishing those first lines!

Speaking of Ms Sares she will be by tomorrow as my guest. Be sure to stop by and say hello.

Also this week I’m giving away a signed copy of Jasmine Haynes OPEN INVITATION. To win, comment this week. The more times you comment the more chances you have to win!

So after all is said and done, my question is: What is the longest amount of time that has passed between a query and a response from either an agent or editor, and what was the response?



  1. Amie

    I still have stuff out at Berkley–one in the slush pile (over 2 1/2 years) and one a requested partial from a conference pitch (going on like 16 mo). I’ve heard that’s normal for this particular editor and it sure doesn’t endear her to me (at least on the requested material). Otherwise, I think I’ve always been pretty lucky with response times!

  2. Karin

    OMG! I think I know which editor you’re talking about. She still has requested stuff of mine! And another friend’s stuff who she really liked. Said friend inked a fab deal last year with Ballentine. We have a running joke. When we see each other we ask, “Have you heard from so and so yest?”

  3. Amie

    And sadly, or funny enough, she’s a very nice person! 😀

    Better to joke about it than steal her poodle

  4. Michelle Diener

    I’m still waiting to hear from the agent who requested the full of an ms of mine over two years ago. I guess I never will, LOL.

    I’m really fine with agents and editors not getting back, although, because it’s such a hassle for me to find the stamp for the SASE, it does irk me slightly when I don’t hear from them even though I sent one in. I could have used that stamp for some other query, dammit :).

  5. Kristi

    I’m right at the year mark for a full requested manuscript at HQ. Don’t know where it’s gone, but I’m guessing it’s in the slush, never to be heard from again. Makes me sad, I think it’s a really great book – and the editor who requested the full from a partial had very complimentary things to say. Dang it. 🙁 Other than that one, though, I’ve had good response times…and I try not to let lag time bother me. This one bothers me, simple because I love the book.

  6. Karin

    Michelle, I hear you on the sase expense! Especially to south africa!

    Um, Kristi, I hope you are rattling someone’s cage over there at HQ. A requested full is nothing to ignore. Is there somewhere else you can submit it, publisherwise?

  7. Amanda

    Wow, I think I waited once like 12 weeks. Sometimes I think they don’t read my stuff at all, just slap a rejection letter my way. LOL

  8. Karin

    12 weeks is resonable, Amanda. Is that the longest you’ve waited?

  9. Edie Ramer

    It’s true that I think so much better of agents and editors who reply. Kensington editors are known for their nice Rs. But like the others, it’s when I sent a requested ms. or partial that I’m irritated about a non-response.

  10. Karin

    Edie, Hilary sent me the best and most encouraging rejection letters. They took awhile but eventualy I got them, and they kept me going.

  11. Kristi

    Yep, I’ve sent the nice “hey could you update me on the status” postcards, etc… sigh. I think I’m too nice and I’m not rattling hard enough at all. 🙂

    And yes, it could find another home – it’s actually going out after the first of the year…I decided to let the holidays get by before sending, maybe avoid those end-of-the-year-clear-the-desk Rs.

  12. Karin

    rattle harder!!
    I’m glad to hear there is another home for your story. Good luck sending it out, Kristi. I think ’07 will see you sold!

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