Monday, December 21, 2015

This is a poor time to query a literary agent; wait for the new year

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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 right now 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

Rachel Letofsky
Brian Henry will lead How to Get Published workshops on Saturday, Feb 20, in Kitchener, with literary agent Olga Filina of The Rights Factory (see here) and on Saturday, Feb 27, in Brampton with Martha Webb of the McDermid Agency (see here).

Also, Brian will lead Writing for Children & for Young Adults workshops on Saturday, March 5, in Burlington with Monica Pacheco, literary agent with The McDermid Agency and author Jennifer Mook-Sang (see here), Saturday, Apr 9, in Barrie with Rachel Letofsky, literary agent with the Cooke Agency (see here), and on Saturday, April 30, in Guelph with Yasemin Uçar, senior editor, Kids Can Press and authors Jennifer Mook-Sang and Kira Vermond (see here).

Other upcoming workshops include How to Build Your Story, Saturday, Jan 16, in Georgetown (see here), and Saturday, Jan 30 in Toronto (see here), and Writing With Style, Saturday, March 12, in Oakville (see here).

And in June, Brian will lead a weekend writing retreat at the fabulous Arowhon Pines Resort in Algonquin Park (see here).

For more information or to register, email

But the best way to grow as a writer or to get your manuscript ready for publication may be with a weekly class. Starting in the new year, Brian will be offering a full range of courses for beginning to experienced writers (details of all five classes here):
Literary agent Martha Webb
Welcome to Creative Writing, Thursday afternoons, Jan 28 – March 31, (no class March 17), in Burlington. (See details of this class here.)
Writing Personal Stories, Tuesday afternoons, Feb 2 – March 29, (no class March 15) in Burlington (see here.)
The Next Step in Creative Writing, Wednesday evenings, Jan 20 – March 30 (no class March 16), in Burlington (see here)
Intermediate Creative Writing, Thurs evenings, Jan 21 – March 31, (no class March 17), in Georgetown (see here)
Intensive Creative Writing, Wednesday afternoons, Jan 20 – March 9  (For details, email 
See details of all five classes here.
Read reviews of Brian’s courses and workshops here.
To register or for more information, email:

See Brian's full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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