Tuesday, December 5, 2017

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 three  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 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; 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 a bit more about navigating posts 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.


Also make plans to come to a How to Get Published workshop in the new year  to network with an agent and learn how to write a query that will get a yes. If you're writing Kid Lit, plan to come to a Writing for Children and for Young Adults workshop, too, and network with an editor from a children's publisher. 

I'm offering How to Get Published on Saturday, Feb 24, 2018, at the Oakville Central Library  with literary Agen Martha Webb of CookeMcDermid Agency (see here) and Saturday, March 3 with HarperCollins editor Michelle Meade Details haven't been posted yet, but you can still email me to reserve a spot. And I'll be offering Writing for Children and for Young Adults, in April or May in Kitchener with Simon & Schuster editor Patricia Ocampo. Again, details aren't posted yet, but just send me an email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca 

And you're not going to want to miss How to Write a Bestseller with New York Times #1 bestselling author Kelley Armstrong on Saturday, March 24, in Caledon at the Bolton Library (see 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 and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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