Writers sometimes are baffled by the literary agent universe. The publishing industry does seem to keep strange hours, and writers can be upset and confounded by response times. Especially during the summer.
Writing Tip for Today: What can you expect from editors and agents during the summer?
- Connect at Conference. Summer is one of the best times to make a face-to-face connection with an agent or editor. If you attend a conference, chances are that you’ll be drawn by the keynoter or the roster of eds and agents who’ll be attending too. Spending a little extra for a 15 minute “pitch” (a bit less for a group pitch) may be worth your while even if you aren’t ready. If you pay your fee, I should think an agent would be sympathetic toward a writer who just wants to see what a pitch session is like. Ask questions, talk about your project, whatev–just be sure to say up front that your mss. isn’t ready and you are only practicing.
- Cold Queries Grow Old. If you aren’t going to a conference, be aware that this time of year is really busy for agents. They’re all going to conferences! And if they don’t combine a conference with their vacation (such as The Maui Writer’s Conference or a cruise conference), it’s likely that agents will take some time off when they can. And with email/online queries overtaking snail mail, you need to know about these agent seasons, because most agents don’t reply to queries they have no interest in pursuing.
- Agent Seasons. As technology has made it easier to contact agents, the response time has shrunk. With email or online forms, writers aren’t waiting on SASEs to wing their way back to them. BUT: An important thing to remember is the disclaimer many agents put on their sites: “If we haven’t contacted you in 3 weeks, assume your work is not right for us.” Or something like that. There are times in the year when I feel it’s more opportune to cold query or follow up after a conference. 1) Just after Labor Day until the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. 2) Just after New Year’s when all the agents are back to the grindstone after holidays. 3) Just after BEA in April, before the summer conference circuit begins. There are also the April London Book Fair, the Christian ICRS in July and others such as Romance Writers of America or the Sci-fi/Fantasy Cons. It is a good idea to recognize this pattern so you will know when agents are most receptive to new authors.