I think it’s pretty safe for me to say many if not all of us working in publishing struggle to have a healthy work-life balance. Our jobs can be time demanding so much so that it can feel like there’s never enough time to get everything done. As an editor I had to balance how many projects I accepted at one time. As an agent I keep a close eye on my client list and how many upcoming projects I have when I consider making an offer. My big goal for 2019 is to try to obtain a healthier work-life balance. Thankfully since I live in Pittsburgh instead of NYC, my cost of living is lower which means I can keep my client list smaller. So here’s some cold hard truth about my work-life balance as an agent.
Clients always come first, but because handling work for them takes up my regular work hours, reading to find new clients often gets pushed into personal time. Once you get behind on queries its difficult to catch back up without closing to new queries. I set aside a half hour a few times a week to go through queries. This keeps me on track, but as the number of queries in my inbox rises so does the time needed to get through them and read all the “maybes” I have marked. And really that’s why you really need to grab me with your query and first chapter because there are probably five or more other manuscripts being considered for a full request and I don’t have time to request and read them all.
A lot of authors still have day jobs and many always will. Because they have day jobs many of their emails get pushed to evening or weekend hours when I’m off. I’ve even done offer phone calls over my holiday breaks because it was the only time the author was available and they didn’t want to switch to email. As it turns out I’m not very good at doing holiday cooking and baking at the same time as an offer call. (RIP lemon roll)
After a lot of headaches when it came to trying to get offer calls scheduled in 2018, I’m considering switching over to the offer email as much as possible in 2019 to see how it works out. I had some authors who couldn’t do a call and I found I preferred handling everything over email. I feel like letting an author know I want to offer over email will also light a fire for them to get a call scheduled if they want one. And with authors with day jobs, often calls get pushed to evenings or weekends. (Just because I’m trying to stick to all business on a call and not chat doesn’t mean I’m not excited to offer. There just might be a birthday cake inside and everyone is waiting on me.)
I started tracking how much time I spend on weekends reading emails and didn’t like the number. I’m not really a New Year’s resolution person, but my current goal is the closest thing I have to one. I’ve decided I need to make my weekends my down “me” time so I don’t burn out. To help with that I’m keeping my client list under tight control. A big part of managing my rheumatoid arthritis means keeping my stress under control and as long as I do that I don’t get any flareups, but that makes managing my stress levels that much more important for my own health.
Basically any emails I get over the weekend that can wait until Monday will wait until Monday. Important emails like client emergencies or offers/requests from editors I will answer, but generally most of my communication with editors happens during regular work hours. I find that I feel pressured to reply to my emails right away and in the digital age people except an immediate response. I’ve noticed this when I’m on a weekend trip and find that someone emailed me multiple times over something that could definitely wait until Monday. And big hint here, if you are a non-client impatiently sending me multiple emails about querying me or my response, you aren’t starting yourself off on the right foot with me. I’ll always have to pull evening hours during the week to get back to clients and editors working late, but that makes me all the more determined to take time off on the weekends.
As for evening hours, I plan to set aside specific times to check and respond to emails so I’m not checking all night. I’m also putting aside specific time slots to read for new projects. And confession: I don’t have my email on my smart phone. Heck I only finally got a smart phone a year ago. I keep my data off most of the time because I don’t want to be glued to the phone. I want to be able to go out with worrying about incoming emails all the time so I can relax worry free. I’m very much a millennial in how much I value my free time and work-life balance.
So there’s the closest thing I have to a New Year’s Resolution, making sure I get a better work-life balance.