To Send or Not to Send—Timing Your Query Letter Right

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snowflakeSeason’s greetings, everyone!

The month of December always gets away much faster than I’d like, and this year is no exception—especially since it means my stint in India is drawing to a close. I’ve been here in Dharamsala for the past three months working for a cause that’s close to my heart (teaching at a school for refugees). If you’d like to see some pictures, you can check out my India album on Facebook, or visit the school’s website. It has been an incredible experience, but I’m also looking forward to getting home to Colorado. With that in mind, I hope you’ll forgive me for going off the grid for the next couple of weeks: first to do a little exploring in other parts of India and then to spend the holidays with friends and family. I’ll be back with fresh content and lots of energy after that!

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some advice about timing. Writers often ask, “Should I shoot my query letter off to agents before the holidays or wait till the New Year?”

My advice: definitely hold your horses. Like almost every company, literary agencies are very hectic during late November and December, as agents and staff try to tie up all their loose ends before going on break. In fact, most of the publishing industry shuts down (or slows to a crawl) for a couple of weeks over the holidays. So while you might be tempted to clear your plate and check a huge item off your to-do list, sending your query this time of year means you’ll likely (a) end up in slush pile limbo indefinitely, or (b) get an auto-response saying please try again after the holidays. Save yourself the disappointment!

My other piece of advice is not to send your query first thing after New Year’s. While a few agents might applaud your gumption, most will simply be too swamped with post-holiday catch up to give your query the attention it deserves. When I was reading for Nelson Literary we always got a huge spike in the number of queries during the month of January. A flood of New Year’s resolutions! It’s best to wait till at least the middle of the month—by that time agents will have settled in and be thinking about landing their next big project.

So give yourself one less thing to worry about during this busy time of year, and come January, you’ll have some fresh perspective for putting the finishing touches on your query letter.

Happy holidays and best wishes to all!

2 responses »

  1. Anita, bless you for your work in India. A writer could draw from your brave experience and have a start for an interesting character for a novel… But to your article – thank you for the timely advice not to submit right now, but hold off until later. Freaked me out that you practically read my mind. I worked with an editor most of this year, and was shocked when she ultimately rejected the series after all the work we’d put into it. And the reason wasn’t the writing or work experience we’d shared (but that’s a whole ‘nother story). My reaction was to send it off immediately to someone else, but now I will pull back, regroup and enjoy the holidays: )

    • To jnuckolls2013 : Thank you for your kind feedback! I’m sorry to hear about your negative experience with an editor, but may 2014 bring you new opportunities and much success. Happy 2014!

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