FAQ #6: Why does it take editors so long to respond to manuscripts?

So you are a polite, mild-mannered children's book editor sitting at home on a Saturday evening, waiting to meet your boyfriend for a night out with some friends. You have 45 minutes to kill, and quite a bit of work you've brought home with you; so do you

A) Review the copyedit for the dauntingly long (but excellent) Fall 2007 novel, which will be due back to the production department within two weeks
B) Respond to the author under contract, who has written asking a few questions about your latest editorial letter, and who needs an answer to progress with her revision
C) Respond to an author who isn't under contract (but whom you like a great deal), who has written asking a few questions about a recent editorial letter and request for revision, and who likely won't move forward with full confidence until you write back
D) Read an agented manuscript, as the agent will need a response within a month if not sooner
E) Read an unagented requested revision
F) Read an unagented new manuscript
G) Work on your talk for April, which requires planning long in advance, and which has been retitled "Words, Wisdom, Heart, and Art: Making a Picture-Book Cookie"? (This title will make much more sense in practice than it does on the screen.)

Of course, if you were in the office, you would have even more choices/responsibilities, including:

H) Follow up on foreign projects
I) Respond to questions from the Legal department about contracts
J) Prepare materials for Acquisitions meeting
K) Line-edit a manuscript under contract (not right now, but a couple are coming in soon)
L) Write rejection letters
M) Write offer letters
N) Write editorial letters
O) Attend meetings
P) Basic office work: phones, mail, filing

And so forth. But because you're at home instead, the options include

Q) Read something for pleasure
R) Surf the Web
S) Talk to your sister
T) Procrastinate fifteen other enjoyable ways
U) Scrub the bathtub so you feel at least mildly productive, and
V) Write a blog post about your dilemma in deciding

So -- what would you do on a Saturday night?

I chose (U) and (V), because it is a Saturday night, so I didn't feel like getting deeply involved in work, and the bathtub was really water-stained. But I wanted to write this up precisely to illustrate the amount of work there is to do as an editor, and the number of choices and competing priorities I'm faced with when it comes to how to spend my time. So if you ever wonder why an editor isn't responding to your manuscript as quickly as you'd hope, it's not personal -- it's A-P, and the desire to preserve enough of a life for ourselves that we can have Q-V as well.

ETA: For more thoughts on this, from both me and many writers, please see the comments.