Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's a bad time to query a literary agent by Brian Henry


Note: Don't ever miss a post on Quick Brown Fox. Fill in your email in the box to the right under my bio, and get each post delivered to your In Box. 

So it’s Christmas break and you’ve had time to finish your novel, polish your query letter, and with New Year’s upon us, you’re full of resolution to land yourself an agent this year. Wonderful. But hold up. Right now is the worst time of the year to query an agent.

You want to avoid querying an agent when:
      -         She’s not in the office
      -         She is in the office but not working
      -         She’s trying to get work out of the way before going on holiday
      -         She’s crazy busy

So forget sending queries from about mid-December to mid-January. Starting about two weeks before Christmas, the publishing world begins shutting down. Yes, agents are still in the office, but they’re trying to clear their desks before the holidays start. The last thing they want is to look at queries.  

As Christmas gets closer, less and less work gets done, and agents are disinclined to pitch your manuscript anyway, because they know that editors at publishing houses are doing just as little work; they’re more likely to be sipping eggnog than looking at new manuscripts.

Then from Christmas to New Year’s, odds are no one’s even in the office, but come January 2 (or the first Monday after New Year’s), agents are back in the office and discovering that the work hasn’t gone away. They have 567 emails cluttering their In Boxes, a pile of manuscripts they should really have read a couple weeks ago, and in general so much work that they (almost) regret taking time off.

Do they want to read queries now? Hardly. Give them a week or two to get things under control again.

But this is a great time of year to plan your campaign, to comb through the postings about agents on Quick Brown Fox (here), to make your lists of possible agents and preferred agents, and to write targeted queries. Also, if you haven’t done it yet, trash your generic query and make a New Year’s resolution to write only personalized queries from now on. Because once the holidays are out of the way, this is a pretty good time of year to query agents. Certainly better than the fall, which tends to be crazy busy in the publishing world.

But what if you already have sent out a flurry of queries this holiday season?

Well, Don’t worry, be happy, as Saint Bob used to say. A few agents will have used the dead time in the publishing world to catch up on things   like reading queries. Some agents are extra dutiful and will get to your query eventually even if you sent it in December 22. As for the rest, give it a reasonable amount of time and re-query all agents who haven’t sent you a reject. At least, that’s what I’d do.  – Brian

Olga Filina
Note: I’ll be leading a "How to Get Published" workshop in Niagara on the Lake on Saturday, March 7, with literary agent Olga Filina of The Rights Factory (see here) – and Olga is actively looking for new authors. 

Also, I’ll lead a “Writing for Children & for Young Adults" workshop with Anne Shone, Senior Editor at Scholastic Canada, on Saturday, May 2, in Oakville (see here). 

For more information or to register for any workshop or course, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Other upcoming workshops, include: Secrets of Writing a Page-turner,” Saturday, Jan 17, in Toronto (see here), "How to Write Great Dialogue," Saturday, Jan 24, in Georgetown (here), and “Revising and Editing,” Saturday, Jan 31 in Oakville (here).

Weekly courses: Whether you're looking for an introduction to creative writing or you're getting your manuscript ready to submit to an agent, your best bet is a weekly course. Starting in the new year, I’ll be offering classes for beginners through advanced writers. See details for all six courses here.

For details of “Welcome to Creative Writing” on Tuesday afternoons in Burlington see here, for “Writing Your Life & Other Personal Stories” on Tuesday mornings in Oakville see here, for “The Next Step in Creative Writing” on Wednesday evenings in Burlington see here, on Thursday afternoons in Mississauga see here, and on Thursday evenings in Georgetown see here, and for “Intensive Creative Writing” on Wednesday afternoons in Burlington here.

See my full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Stouffville, Sudbury, Toronto, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful advice Brian, I look forward to reading your blog it has helped me as I continue to strive toward my goal of getting an agent/published.

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