Thursday, December 12, 2019

It's not a good time to query a literary agent (or submit to a publisher)

So it’s Christmas break and you plan 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 during the holiday season. Starting about a few 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 967 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 couple weeks to get things under control again.

But right now is a great time of year to plan your campaign, to comb through the postings about agents on Quick Brown Fox and make your lists of possible agents and preferred agents, and to write targeted queries. 

You'll find all sorts of agents who are actively looking for authors here {and scroll down}; agents who are looking for kid lit, picture books to young adult, plus usually all sorts of other things here; and Canadian agents looking for authors here. (And see much more about finding agents looking for particular kinds of books here.) 

Write targeted queries if you haven’t done so 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 good time of year to query agents. Better than the fall, I think, which tends to be crazy busy in the publishing world. The very best time of the year to query is probably the summer, when agents aren't working so much to deadline. But do you want to wait six months before you start querying? I hope not.

Also make plans to sharpen your writing skills. In the new year I'll be leading  Writing ConflictFight scenes, Dialogue scenes & Love scenes,  Saturday, Jan 18, in Oakville (see here), Raising the Stakes: How to Increase Your Story's tension, Saturday, Jan 25, in Toronto (see here) and Saturday, Feb 22, in Kitchener (see here), and Writing & Revising, Saturday, Feb 29, in Mississauga (see here).

And come Friday June 5, I'll be leading a three-night writing retreat at in Algonquin Park. Imagine, four days in the luxurious isolation of Arowhon Pines Resort to get down to some real creative growth. Sign up soon while there's still room! Details here.
The best thing you can do for yourself as a writer, though, is probably to sign up for a weekly course. Check out all the classes starting in January here.

But what if you've been so busy sending out a flurry of queries that you haven't gotten around to reading this posting till the new year?

Well, Don’t worry, be happy. 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 24. 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

See my full schedule here, including writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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