letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 152
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: historical fantasy

Today I was thinking about time, and how there never seems to be enough of it to do everything you “should” do.

This led to thinking about timing. I’ve had people ask in the past whether there is an optimal time to send a query to have a better chance of getting a request rather than a rejection. I think this question is based on the myth that there are times of the year when the publishing cycle slows, therefore allowing agents more time to dig into reading rather than paperwork, subsidiary sales, and so on. If this mythical time once existed, I don’t believe it does any longer. So, in that respect, I have to say that trying to time out a query will likely yield the same results the author would have gotten anyway.

However, I have noticed one thing over the years that seems to be a relevant timing issue and that has to do with when agents are attending conferences. I’ve got one coming up, and I’m already receiving queries that mention the author hopes to meet me at the conference. Since meeting writers is one of the reasons agents go to conferences, that’s all well and good. But what I have noticed in the past, and what I expect may occur this month in my own query inbox are those queries that are sent too late for the conference to be a relevant point. There’s a lead time for getting through queries/submissions and any number of things can increase or decrease the response time, so a query received too close to the time of the conference will not allow for the agent to request material if they were interested and get it read. Sometimes the agent doesn’t even have the opportunity to see the query beforehand. Just something to keep in mind…..

4 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. I have a question if you have time to answer, Ms. Jackson. How has the economy affected the publishing industry from an agent’s perspective. I’ve read recently about layoffs from some of the major players in NYC on the publishing and production side — my understanding is that during a time of recession book sales initially slump, then tend to pick up as consumers are more willing to spend on a mass market and stay at home than to go out and burn up gas, see a movie etc .. basically, opting for a cheaper form of entertainment. I’m being told that my assumption is normally true—but that we’re not dealing with ‘normally true’ times.

    • Hello, I second this question — I’d like to hear your take on how the uncertain economy right now affects how publishers and agents take on new projects. I wonder if the publishing industry reacts the way other industries do (cut backs, reductions, etc), seeing as projects acquired now will only hit the shelves in 2010 or later, and who knows the economy might be on the upswing then. If people cut back on spending because of the economy now, the books coming out in 2009 will be affected, not the acquisitions to be added to their future lists.
      Thanks very much!

  2. Never underestimate the desperation of an author for someone, anyone to tell him/her, “Y’know, you don’t just ‘write’; you really ARE an author!”
    That tremulous sense — afraid of contact, wanting contact, wanting to be “discovered” without having to actually do anything besides writing (sitting, like Lana Turner, on a stool in the corner of some drugstore on the Web, hoping the sweater is showing us off yet also hoping it’s not showing too much), asserting, backing off — gad, that’s a familiar sense. It’s a wonder we can muster the psychological wherewithal just to affix a stamp, or to click the Send button.

  3. self publishing
    Dear Ms. Jackson,
    I self published my first book. I am concerned, one thing. After doing such would a company publish the same book when more material is offered. I have been doing quite well, but feel I would have better out come if I could find an agent and publisher. I have so much material and a break through idea that would open a new market in chidrens books. I am a horrible queery writer and worse at boosting myself in letters. I just write. Is there hope for a self publish writer and what would be the best action to take in such a matter. Dvora Swickle.com

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