I just realized my last-straw-moment of submitting to agents. And since it's 3am, I thought it might be a humorous time to write about it.
My last writers' conferences was this past February. At a conference like this, you generally have several hundred writers and a handful of agents. The agents range in experience from those who've just begun their careers to those with twenty or thirty years of experience - some of whom used to be editors at Big Publishing Houses and decided they wanted in on the ground floor of publication for whatever reason.
Agents have, for some time, seen themselves as Gatekeepers to Publication. In most cases, they still do. For years, I had nothing against this idea, as daunting as it was to be a writer who wanted nothing more than to be an author (if a writer is someone who writes and an author is someone who gets paid to write). If that was how the game was played, I was determined to play by the rules.
Assume there are 300 writers-who-want-to-be-authors at a conference. Most of them have written a manuscript that they believe to be worthy of publication. At this conference, there are 10-12 agents. Agents are the most sought-after item in attendance, with a ratio of around 30:1 in their favor. The main attraction at a conference is the 10 minute appointment to "pitch" to one of these agents - which is pretty much what it sounds like: the would-be author talks about his/her manuscript with the agent, and hopes that something said during this 10 minutes causes that agent to want to read a few pages of the manuscript.
At a conference, there are also sessions presided over by all sorts of publication people/experts - agents, other writers, e-pub specialists, etc. As you might imagine, the agent sessions are packed.
The conference I attended in February had a YA Agent Panel session - three agents sitting behind a table facing a room full of hopeful writers. There was a lot of information given; I even wrote some of it down. But somewhere during this talk, there was something said by one of the agents (actual agent experience ranging from a few months to six years) that I couldn't quite get past.
They gave us their lists of "pet peeves when dealing with writers." Yes, much of it was condescending: Don't address the email to someone else (duh?). Don't write us back a week after you query, furious because we haven't responded yet and demanding to know what we thought of your brilliant idea (duh?). I watched other writers scribbling down every word they were saying, ah la Moses and the burning bush handing out commandments, and that bothered me a bit.
But here's the one that got me: "Don't send us an email at 3am, because that's just a weird time for anyone to be emailing, and it makes us wonder about you."
Okay, wait. We're not talking about calling someone at 3am... we're talking about emailing. The glory of emailing has always been that you can send it whenever... and your recipient can reply to it whenever. For those of us who hate talking on the phone, email is like a gift from heaven.
They were speaking to writers. Writers are artists. We sometimes have bills that need to be paid, which means we have jobs outside of working on our manuscripts. I had a job at a radiology call center not long ago, and my hours were 6pm-2am. I was always a little wired when I got off, especially if it had been a particularly traumatic or stressful night. So a 3am email from me wouldn't be nuts.
Point: Jobs can happen any time. Free time to write and email can happen at any time.
Unless, apparently, you're emailing an agent in NYC who has a vast year of agenting experience.
We were told not only not to send emails at 3am... we were told to send them "between 10am and 3pm, Tuesday through Thursday." I kept waiting for one of them to say, "J/K! Gotcha!" or something, but no.
When I pitched Between the Lines, it was to one of those panelists. She seemed interested and asked me to send pages of the manuscript (at conferences, you're much more likely to be asked to send pages than you are when querying agents, btw). After sending, I waited six weeks or so and then followed up with a polite, non-furious email (within her above time/day parameters) to see if she'd had a chance to read over the pages I'd sent.
She sent a very nice "this project is not for me" rejection within two days. Here's something I think she would be shocked to know: I was relieved when I got her answer. Against all common sense, by that point, I wanted her to say no.
That night, I told my husband, "Okay baby, let's do this thing," and he began programming BTL for Kindle that weekend.
(In case you're curious, I send emails and write posts and update my Facebook and work on my book whenever the hell I want to. Yes. Even at 3am, if I am so inclined.)