By Wendy Lawton
Ever since I became an agent, I’ve been trying to figure out the rhythm of this industry— the perfect time to submit proposals. Every industry has “seasons” and because we agents are always trying to second-guess things, we are ever vigilant in gathering observations.
Two weeks ago, I sent out a proposal to four editors and immediately received four out-of-office replies. It made me think again about the perfect time to send proposals.
One of the first things I noticed in this business was that editors seem to have two New Year’s days—the first day back to work after the New Year and the first day back to work after Labor Day. Both of these days seem to be filled with hope and promise. If I’m shopping a project, my perfect time to have it land on an editor’s desk is one of those two times. But recently, as many schools no longer wait for September to start, our Autumn perfect time occurs earlier and earlier, more like mid-August.
We used to say the month of December was dead and we avoided sending new projects, fearing they’d be lost in the jumble of parties and family responsibilities. (Especially since we know that most editors read proposals and manuscripts in the off-time, not in their office time.) Recently we’ve been surprised at how much last minute buying goes on. How many requests we get for projects. In the last couple of years, December has been vigorous. Who knew?
Mid-July through the first couple weeks of August is dead. Too many in publishing plan their vacations for after BEA or the used-to-be ICRS. Very few publishers are even able to gather the team together to hold regular pub committee meetings (where book decisions are made).
We’ve also observed a drop-off in June, around graduations and the beginning of kids’ school vacations.
Fall is a vigorous time even though many editors travel to conferences.
But as with any observations, we are ever learning. The good thing is that the editors with whom we work are always attentive to our submissions even if we hit them at a tough time. We eventually get a response. It’s just that we are always trying to get to the yes. We are always trying to figure out the perfect time —the happiest moment— to have a project land on their desk.
It’s an inexact science at best. 🙂
So what have you observed about the rhythm of this industry? Have you noticed a time when emails and Facebook posts slow down? When it takes longer than ever to hear back? Do you try to psych us out when you send queries? I’d love to collect your observations.
There is a rhythm to this life,
and a cadence to this death.
Butcher-block whack of carving-knife
and the slow but steady breath.
I see the visits rise and fall
according to God’s beating heart;
quiet when vacation calls;
life returning when school starts.
I stay consistent through the days
for my season-time is past,
and I hear it in so many ways,
each post could be my last.
Even though you take a digital rest
I’ll still be here, with my best.
You’ve always given your best, my friend. Praying for rest and ease today and tomorrow. Grace and peace, strength and assurance.
Wendy, it was interesting to read about the changes in the rhythms of publishing. I’d read in the past about December being a “dead” time, so I was surprised to learn this hasn’t been the case over the past couple of years.
Though I’m not yet published, I’ve noticed a drop off of blog readership in December. I have begun taking a break that month because my life, like my readers’ lives, is BUSY.
It’s good to know that June/graduation/beginning of summer is not the best time to submit proposals. Is this the same for agents as it is for editors/publishing houses? Thanks so much for sharing your insights!
Morgan Tarpley Smith
Great question, Jeanne! That’s what I was going to ask too. If there is a best time to query or not to query. (I feel very Shakespearean all of the sudden – hehe)
Marie Wells Coutu
Interesting thoughts, Wendy. Seems like there is no good time to pitch, but anytime will be the perfect time for the right project. Does that about sum it up?
Not submission cycles, but sales cycles are what I’ve seen with 3 years of data. I have a surge in sales in June and July when time pressures related to schooling children relax for many mothers and a dip in September with the lowest month in October, ramping up again in November. I’m guessing that dip relates to getting back in the harness as kids restart school with things flowing smoother by the beginning of November.
Is that a pattern you’ve seen as well, or do the traditional publishers not provide that level of detail to you?
My Roman history site (source of most of my international and many domestic sales through Amazon and Kobo) is on a different cycle, with school-year visits about 2x that of summer visits. So it appears to me that US parents who use the resource with their kids shop for my books when the school year ends. The international visits and sales seem less affected by the school year, even with some European education sites linking to it.
I echo this. June is almost always my highest month for sales, and June-July highest two consecutive months. Everyone talks about a December sales surge of Christmas buying, but I’ve never seen that.
Great info, Wendy.
I’m thinking the perfect time to send a submission or a proposal might be when it’s really ready, as nearly perfect as it can be on this earth. With your insight on the rhythms, it would probably be good to have it really ready just after Labor Day. That’s not a possible for me this year, but perhaps early January might be better. Oops! Gotta get back to writing.
Thank you Wendy – I have seen all things in cycles, including social media trends. For instance, there are not as many RT’s or Likes on Twitter, Instagram or FB posts preceding a holiday or events such as communions, confirmations, graduations etc. Once the holiday has concluded the activity comes back. It’s important to be aware of those cycles when posting or marketing or having your book on sale. Almost all things are cancelled in August due to vacations .
Kristen Joy Wilks
I’ve looked up an agent’s schedule on their website and tried not to submit too close to when they were at a conference or too close to a Holiday.
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I completely agree about the fall being an ideal time to submit. I noticed a lot of back-to-school type energy when I worked in publishing, as everyone returned from vacations and felt ready to start acquiring some books! I always recommend my editing clients submit in the fall if possible.