Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is There a "Best Time" to Query?

Along with my other holiday traditions, which include copious amounts of Christmas lights and drinking eggnog like the world supply may be in peril, it's not really December unless aspiring authors are asking if they should send out their query over the holidays. Is there a best time to query? Is there a time not to query?

Let's put this one to bed (as visions of sugar-plums dance in its head).

There is no good or bad time to query. You might hear that the publishing closes down during the summer and around the holidays. This is less true now than in years past, but even still, that doesn't necessarily mean there's a "good" or "bad" time of the year to query. Just send it when you're ready.

Two exceptions: If you know the agent is out of the office, don't query. And please don't query during the weeks around major holidays, i.e. Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, people tend to have time off around the holidays and hey, what better excuse for avoiding your relatives than sending out queries! This means that not only am I racing to get everything done before and after the holidays, I receive a whooole lot of queries over Thanksgiving and Christmas, i.e., at a time when I am also extremely busy.

So sure -- I could put them off and let the pile build up, and this is what many agents do. But take it from me -- you don't want to be part of a massive query pile when an agent is feeling a time crunch.

Ideally, sure, we'd give all queries equal time, consider every one similarly, whether we're reading a pile of 10 or a pile of 500. Ideally.

Reality: human nature is human nature. When faced with a mountain that feels like it won't move, you start moving a little quicker, take fewer chances, etc. etc. I really aspire to keep a constant pace regardless of my workload, but it's hard not to adjust how many partials you're requesting based on how much work awaits.

Just don't do it. Avoid the weeks around major holidays. It's better to be part of a trickle than a flood. Unless you are eggnog, in which case bring on the deluge.






54 comments:

Scott said...

Fascinating, Nathan...I was just about to look through your links to see when might be a good time to query. And you were on my list!

Point taken, sir. Don't sprain your egg-nogger, and I'll catch you next year.

Josephine Damian said...

Nathan, I've heard querying an agent right after they've returned from a conference is also a mistake.

Even if the writer was at the con and talked up their book with the agent, best to wait a couple of weeks.

Agree? Disagree?

Kathleen Peacock said...

It's worth checking the agent's blog (if they have one). Some are very good about posting when they'll be away.

Dara said...

Thanks for the advice! When my book is ready and I can start sending out the queries, I'll remember to try and avoid the holiday season.

Lady Glamis said...

I will keep this in mind before I send my work to you, Nathan. Thank you for the information!

clindsay said...

Yeah, what Nathan said.

(verification word: DISTFU! Like Kung Fu, only more distant?)

Dan said...

Or, you could just wait outside the agent's office with your full manuscript and wait for agent to return from the holidays and demand they read the whole manuscript right then.

It's ok. I have time. I can wait.

BWAHAHAHAHA

Ink said...

clindsay -

Distfu is like kungfu, only you talk a lot of smack while you're laying the drunken monkey whup down on some poor bleeder.

That's what one old monk told this here young grasshopper, anyway...

wordvrification: croof... I think that's the sound my roof made when the leftovers of Ike caved it in.

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

Nathan, I myself would prefer to begin querying AFTER the New Year, a'la a new fresh start, if that makes any sense.

I'd hate to have my query be in the slush pile that gets thrown in the trash when the agent comes back to work the day after New Year.

CapitolClio said...

What if we send eggnog and Maker's Mark with the query?

ebm said...

That being said, my u-haul box packed with 927 individual queries for my multi-volume shadowy tale about a lion coming to grips with his inability to devour his own young, should be arriving soon. The UPS tracking number shows delivery scheduled for Christmas Eve. Let me know when they get there, although you may need some help lifting the box. I took the liberty of wrapping the box in festive paper so you can move straight from opening gift to reading queries. Have a great Holiday Nathan! LOL

Sarah said...

Hmm-I sent out an email query two weeks ago and just got a request for the first 50 pages from a well-known NY publisher. So maybe early December doesn't count as the "weeks around the holidays" (?). I'd probably draw a border around Thanksgiving week and the last two weeks of December (and Hannukkah).

Yat-Yee said...

Don't try to catch the deluge with a paper cup, Nathan.

(Those of you who listened to NZ Rock in the 80s won't be scratching your head, probably.)

Anonymous said...

What's the best time for agents to query editors?

My agent seems to get caught up in the I-can't-send-this-out-now-it's-gasp- August. Thanksgiving. Hanukkah. Christmas. New Years. Book Expo. Summer vacation. Flag day.

What difference could it possibly make? I've got subs out from JULY that editor's haven't come back with a yea or nay. It seems editors get back to you whenever they feel like it or sometimes not at all. Maybe this is just my agent? Will others offer their insight, please? (Anonymously, of course.)

Chris Redding said...

What if you were asked for full manuscripts. Should I wait to send them until after the holidays?

Elyssa Papa said...

Sarah, congrats on the request!

Insightful advice . . . I keep expecting queries and submissions that I sent out back in September to be churned out this week in the sense that people want to dump the old and start the new in the new year. I'd rather have a rejection then to not know at all. So incredibly frustrating.

clindsay said...

I generally don't feel that there is a bad time for agents to submit. There are slower times, to be sure, like the month of August when you are almost guaranteed that the whole of NYC publishing will go on vacation at one time.

However, in light of the massive organization changes at some houses the past few weeks, I've discussed with a few clients my preference for waiting to submit to a couple places until these publishers have their new structure in place in early January. It's more of a general wanting to step back to get as show of hands as to which editors are still employed. But this is an unusual situation; I suspect things will sort themselves out rather quickly in January.

LiteraryMouse said...

Nathan,

Not sure if this is the right place for this, but I didn't want to put it in an old thread where it wouldn't get read.

I finally got through reading all 1,364 entries in the First Paragraph Challenge and have posted my own top ten on my blog (just click on my name for the link). Thought your readers might be interested.

Hopefully you don't mind me playing along! It was quite the learning experience!

Nathan Bransford said...

Josephine-

I expect that I'm going to receive a lot of queries after a conference, and that doesn't bother me so much.

anon-

There are times that are better than others for publishers, especially, as Colleen says, when there are extra considerations because of reorgs and the like. Some agents are more traditional on this than others and won't submit during the summer or between Halloween and Christmas, but I think that is eroding as summers and holidays aren't as slow as they used to be.

Chris-

Send it immediately.

Jennifer said...

I feel like you've just moved your flood to January...

I assume the holiday thing would apply to lit fiction journals as well?

ChristaCarol said...

Good to know on both the query aspect, and full requests. Have a happy holiday!

Jude Hardin said...

As a follow-up, Nathan, is there a best/worst time of year for agents to submit to editors? Or is it pretty much the same deal?

Jude Hardin said...

Whoops! I see you already answered that. Thanks!

Hehe. Word verification=miscuz

lotusloq said...

Thanks, as always, for the advice! I'm planning to hit you with mine in the new year. Actually, it will probably be more like Feb.

Saturnalia started yesterday so the time has passed for sending the queries in this year. Haha!

Anonymous said...

(Anon 1:12 here.)

Thank you Nathan and Colleen!

Now if I could only say to said agent... Nathan and Colleen SAID to send this damn thing out!

Sarah Jensen said...

or maybe you can point said agent to Nathan's blog.

Thanks for all the info Nathan and Colleen.

Adaora A. said...

It really does make sense when you think about it. For me, I'm too busy baking all of my treats (fudge, gingerbread cookies/houses, truffles, lists goes on) to have to worry and twiddle my thumbs about queries over the Christmas period. I'd be too stressed as it is to worry about that too!

Nathan Bransford said...

Whoa there, not exactly what I said. There are some very good reasons for holding off on certain projects right now. Trust your agent! Everyone has different approaches.

And I can assure you the last thing your agent wants to hear is, "well nathan said such and such."

MzMannerz said...

Great info as usual. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is Anon 1:12 again...

Well, heck, Nathan, I wouldn't REALLY bring you into it -- it was just a nice passing thought was all! Trust me, you're completely safe.

:) thanks again.

Creative A said...

Festivus! Lol!

Zoe Winters said...

Festivus is always busy.

Ann Victor said...

As always, great advice. Thanks to Nathan (and Colleen)!

BarbS. said...

Were nogged eggs part of Festivus?

HAD to ask... :O

Oooooo...the wordver is "ingnonic." If it's not a real word, it should be!

ORION said...

And you have a wonderful Holiday Season!!!
Drink LOTS of eggnog.
Mele Kalikimaka!

ORION aka
Patricia Wood

BarbS. said...

Don't mean to go off-topic, but I just realized I might not be "here" until the New Year.

Sooooo, to Nathan and Everybody--

Have a brilliant/pleasantly adventurous/angst-free/more-than-mildly-fun holiday season!

Best--
B

Scott said...

I think Yat-Yee's clever nod to Crowded House shouldn't go unnoticed.

That is all. :)

Anonymous said...

Wish I had known this before I sent out several queries last week. I did, however, end up with a request for a full ms from a major agency. But at least I know not to expect a reply until the next year.

Julian Meteor said...

Nathan,

I would like to become a literary agent (due to lack of OTHER options rofl)
Can you help me seeing as we're bezzies?
Let me know; either way by 1800GMT

Julian

Madison said...

My query goes out January 15. Why? It's after the holiday season and my BFF suggested that day. The agency I'm querying will be back in the office on January 5, so I'm good. :)

Anonymous said...

So now the agencies will be flooded by queries because of the holidays AND because of all the New Years resolutions to finally mail out queries :0)

Anonymous said...

And if anyone is submitting to editors about anthologies or short story collections in genre markets that have early 2009 deadlines, please DO feel free to submit your ms at any time...we'll probably even be working on Christmas Eve, especially if there's a Jan. or Feb. deadline.

And please DO NOT query first; just submit the ms with contact info and the name of the book in the subject line.

Don't mean to highjack the blog...I love it. I love Nathan. But writers seem to be so query conscious these days they assume everyone needs to be queried first. And that's all I've been getting these days. I don't respond to any queries, but I do respond to ALL ms submissions. The mss are all read and they are all taken seriously.

While queries are important to agents, editors working on anthologies and collections with deadlines would rather just read the ms.

Ulysses said...

I always figured the grooviest time to query was when the moon was in the seventh house. And Jupiter aligns with Mars...

Or perhaps Orson Welles said it best: "We will query no manuscript before its time."

Erik said...

You left out my holiday, the Winter Solstice! I'm being discriminated against for being a Celt!

(kidding ... well, it is my holiday, but if we Scotch-Irish were that thin-skinned we'd have a reputation for ... well ... nevermind)

The whole world does shut down this time of year, so I advise not trying to get any work done of any kind. I intend to catch up on novel editing between cups of Prince of Wales Tea by the fire. I find that everyone loses stuff send to them 'bout now.

Avily Jerome said...

Thanks for the advice, Nathan!

If I send you egg nog with my query will you be more likely to take a look? :)

Avily Jerome said...

Thanks for the advice, Nathan!

If I send you egg nog with my query, will you be more likely to look at it? :)

brian_ohio said...

What are the exact dates of Festivus? Not because I want to query... I just want to know when to take the pole down.

Nathan,

Did you get the card expressing the charitable donation I made for you?

To the Human Fund. 'Money for People'.

Anonymous said...

brian ohio you are a man after my own heart.

The human fund. The festivus pole.

Plus, who doesn't want to celebrate the holiday with the "airing of grievances?"

:)

Jean said...

It's like you read my mind! (And likely the minds of about 80 billion aspiring writers...)

Thanks for putting the subject 'to bed'. Have a wonderful holiday with lots of homemade eggnog.

Olivia said...

I had the same thought as some others on here, that January would produce a flood of queries. But I suppose it really doesn't matter. The query needs to stand out, whether it's among five others or five hundred.

Charles said...

True story: I emailed a query to a Manhattan-based children's fiction agent two days ago (the day before Thanksgiving). Her initials are A.O. if you care.

She replied ON Thanksgiving to email the story to her.

So go figure. If fewer people are querying around the holidays, that would seem like an ideal time to query, no?

Brandy said...

So Mr. Bransford when will you be back and open to queries? Should I wait till the middle of January?

Ron W said...

is it a bad idea to query again?

Lets say your original query is starting to sound too routine and a little flat so you decide to revamp the whole thing, would it be wrong to send out a new version of the same story to previous agents?

Hutch said...

Thanks for the advice, I will keep it in mind when I get that far. Have a great Holiday, which ever it is.

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