Q: I am looking to pitch agents with my query and book proposal for my first book. However, with holidays approaching, should I wait till January 2011 to send them out? Does the industry, like all others, also go through a lull from November to January? — P.J., Seattle
A: It’s true that the publishing industry goes through a bit of a lull during the holidays. (At the publishing house where I used to work, it began on Halloween — the kegs rolled in around noon, and that was it for the rest of the day.) Every publisher is different, but from November to the end of December, things are definitely a little slower — and the summers are slower as well (on “summer Fridays” most of us were out the door by noon). That’s not to say that deals aren’t being made during these times — just not quite as many. If you subscribe to a trade publication like PublishersMarketplace or Publishers Weekly, you’ll start to get a feel for the busy and slow times of year in the industry.
Agents, however, are always looking for good material, and in my experience there’s no bad time of year to query an agent. In fact, because the end of the year is slower for editors and publishers, this may be a good time to get an agent’s attention; an agent may be focused on finding new clients rather than selling projects. Of course, it’s a busy time of year for most people in general — but keep in mind that for agents who read queries in the order received, you’ll still have yours read first if you send it in November versus in January.
Another thing to consider is that the agent who represents you will likely have revisions for you — and it’s great to have time to work on these during a slower time for publishers. And even if your manuscript/proposal needed no revisions at all, your agent would likely wait to submit the project in the new year anyway.
That said, there are no rules here, only preferences. Be sure to read an agency’s guidelines carefully; each agency is different. Some agencies or agents may stop reading over the holidays, or during big industry events, or for any number of reasons — so always check before you query (if the agent has a blog, this is a great way to find out his or her preferences).
Finally, and most important: Take the time you need to make sure your query is the best it can possibly be — this is what will get an agent’s attention, far more than what time of year you send it.
Best of luck!
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