The short answer, is that agents close to queries when they’re not actively looking for more clients to add to their list… but I’m sure you were hoping for a little more information than that!
The long answer is, agents close when they feel like they don’t have the bandwidth to either add new clients (so, their list is “full”) or don’t have the bandwidth to read more queries and/or requested manuscripts. This could be because they already have a backlog of queries and requested manuscripts, and I know for me, it does weigh on me mentally when my backlog is too long/big.
The other thing I’ve found when my backlog gets too big, is that I find that when I’m able to go through things, I’ve sometimes missed out on something I was very excited about (I’m looking at you, non-fiction baseball YA!) because the offer notification didn’t come through, or perhaps the author assumed that six weeks is a no, which can be the policy at other agencies but not at BookEnds. We respond to every query sent through QueryManager.
As an agent, when you feel like you are at max capacity and your query pile is getting too large and it might be time to close temporarily, you have to weigh the time it takes to get through very old queries in the hope that something you love is still available vs. the potential to miss out on something that you would love by being closed to queries for that time.
It’s a hard decision, because there’s no right or wrong answer and there’s no way to gauge whether that time was well spent. Because you can’t know what you would have missed by being closed, and you can’t know in advance what you might find by staying open. (And then, of course, you have to weigh how much time and space you have in your current list – which can sometimes be hard to quantify as well.)
But that’s also why agents can’t always tell you when they’ll be open again – and why I haven’t been able to share a date for when I’ll reopen. I know it’ll be in 2020, but I have to see what the New Year brings first!