Lots of writers ask when the best time to query an agent is, so here’s a breakdown of my tips about querying through the winter holidays.
Just because you have time off from your day job, doesn’t mean agents have time to read your query. We’re inundated!
- The volume of queries goes up from December to January. We are just as busy as we alway are–even though you’re off from work–therefore we will not be getting back to you as quickly. A 4-6 week reply turns into 6-8 weeks.
- Starting this week, American Thanksgiving, through to the first week of January publishing slows its pace. People in publishing start taking holidays, using their weekends for (GASP!) fun and holiday parties, not reading like we usually do. Therefore, we’re going to be slower with our partial and full requests.
- We are still looking for new projects, as always, but just know you’re competing with a big batch. There are exceptions to every rule, but just be aware of these trends.
A: The pace of publishing changes between seasons. Agents have to be sensitive to the time of year when submitting to projects to editors. Book Fair months are far too busy–April (London Book Fair) and October (Frankfurt Book Fair) for adult publishing and March (Bologna) for children’s publishing. The summer is another time of year that raises questions. Agents are usually catching up on their reading, but not submitting to editors because publishers rarely have acquisition meetings in August. We’re all gearing up for the fall literary season. And it’s safe to assume that publishing shuts down for December holidays.
So when should writers be submitting to agents?
Realistically, you can be querying us at any time of the year. (However, some agents close to queries at various points so check their websites for details.) We look at our slush pile all year long. Some times of year when we’ll be slower at getting back to you are book fair months, when we’re at conferences, and the December holiday season. The summer can actually be a good time to submit to agents because we’re catching up on our reading anyway. I signed two authors last summer.
There are no odds at play and no games to ‘win.’ It’s about writing a great manuscript and querying the agents that are most likely to represent you (i.e. agents who represent what you write and are actively looking for new authors.) A well-written, targeted query will always stand out.
No matter what time of year, the important thing is that your manuscript is READY.
Don’t assume we’ll read your manuscript right away
“It’s not right for us at this time.”
“I didn’t connect with the voice the way I’d hoped.”
“We’re not looking for books in that genre.”
The publishing industry has many rules and guidelines, lots of contradicting advice, and often polarizing opinions. I empathize with you writers. I can see how all this information buzzing about the internet is making things simultaneously more accessible yet more confusing.
- Whose advice do you take?
- How can you be sure X website has the most up to date information?
- What does that rejection really mean?
- Does the transparency on social media sites really help you query agents?
With more knowledge comes more questions. It was easier five years ago when you could pick up a copy of the Guide to Literary Agents, circle your agent selections, and send out your queries in the mail. Granted, every agent had different guidelines then as we do now, but it was a bit more straightforward. You would get a call if an agent was interested or you’d get your material mailed back to you with a form rejection letter 1-6 months later.
Continue reading Querying In the Digital Age: With Information Comes Power