Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Query question: querying over the holidays

I found the pointed advice that querying anywhere between Thanksgiving and mid-January is pointless, and everyone should stop. 
 Certainly, you’ve mentioned it’s not worthwhile making perishable offerings to agents during the holidays, but the advice seems to me counter to progress; even if I have to wait longer for a response (goes my way of thinking), surely it’s not actually *wrong* to query on right now, particularly if it’s possible and there’s motivation!
I’m an A-number-one slacker given the option, but it seems to me no aspirant should flat-out quit trying for six or eight weeks out of the year.
Is this agent just tired of the post-NaNo naïve query glut – if there is such a thing – or do some honestly just give winter a full on pass, so to speak, and queries during this period really will fall on deaf eyes? Subsidiary, selfish question: why wouldn’t they just go closed for queries, if this is the case?


Well, it's a real pain to close for queries let me tell you. I've done it a couple times, and getting the info to all the sites, and then getting it taken down again..well, it's a pain.

That blog post you mentioned is by Jessica Faust and I must tell you she's a terrific agent, and I watch what she does like a hawk.  If I could spy on her in her office wearing some sort of invisible suit like Patrick Lee has in The Breach, I'd be there right now. 

So, far be it from me to tell you not to pay attention to what she says.


There really is no industry standard for this. It's not WRONG to query any time you want (unless the agent is closed of course.)  The question is whether it's effective.  And I don't think there's a way to measure that other than to try. And by trying, you're querying, so that's that.

For every agent who doesn't want queries during the holiday, there are at least a couple who will be reading their email on Christmas Day and wondering if they should reply, or wait till 12/26.

Here's the one thing you know after reading Jessica's blog post: Don't query her right now. Query me.


Susan Bonifant said...

I've wondered about this too, but to me, it seems querying right now will only add to the "no response" statuses that are hanging already. I decided to shut down until 1/2/15. There.

Colin Smith said...

Unless an agent is actually closing to queries, why wouldn't s/he keep the inbox open? As Janet indicates, one agent's decision not to accept queries over Christmas is another agent's opportunity to snag a new client that might otherwise have gone to someone else. I think we (writers) assume responses to queries might be delayed due to the season, so we don't expect as quick of a response. But I see no reason for an agent to delete queries that hit the inbox between Thanksgiving and New Year. Unless the agent really doesn't want new clients at the end of the year...?

As to whether an agent should respond to a query on Christmas Day, if it's a request for pages or to arrange a time to talk, YES. Maybe I'm just speaking for myself, but I think most writers would be glad to take half an hour out from Christmas festivities to talk about their work to an agent. If it's a rejection, then perhaps make Christmas Day a Chum Bucket day and personalize every response. I think most writers (self included) would take even a personalized rejection with a goodly helping of Christmas cheer and appreciation. Keep the form rejections for Boxing Day (that's December 26 for you non-Brits). :)

There's my 2c on the topic. OK. Let's talk kale and lima beans and why it is so many conversations seem to come back to food?! ;)

Unknown said...

Colin, did you realize there are Kale clubs? I'm not a member,though I prefer mine sizzled with olive oil and garlic. However, I think a rejection on Christmas day might be best cheered with a glass of Barolo. :)

Anonymous said...

My brain tends to want to try and crawl into an agent's head regarding this topic on holiday querying.

Let's suppose this. Let's suppose some writers do go on and query. Let's suppose that the query inbox already has some number of queries the agent has yet to read. (depends on the agent b/c we all know "somebody" 'round these waters never lets a query grow as cold as the glint in her sharkly eyeballs) Let's suppose these "other agents" hear the lovely ding of incoming mail, see it's a query, and maybe, just maybe they throw their hands up and think "Please, people! It's a holiday for Pete's sake! Can't you give it a rest???"

Pure speculation. But after a year's onslaught of work, I have to imagine agents (SOME agents) "hope" it'll slow down. Just a bit. And let's suppose the New Year arrives, all pink, chubby and new. And these same agents who've now had a nice break come back to work re-energized. Excited about finding new talent, and feeling more optimistic about potential sales.

And on the other hand, there's holiday spirit. All of the above could be completely irrelevant b/c maybe, just maybe, most agents would love to give the gift of a contract.

Jared X said...

The thought of an invisible shark conducting surveillance of Ms. Faust's office is TERRIFYING.

Perhaps instead you can enter into some sort of agreement -- or a bargain -- with her in which Ms. Faust transfers all her knowledge to you. The question is: how much would you be willing to sacrifice for this deal or bargain? Hmm.

Janet Reid said...

Jared X, Jessica's pretty smart. I'd probably pay a lot. Maybe even an alot

Anonymous said...

I remember the ALOT. It's actually the brother of ALRIGHT. Which I believe we've discussed before.

Hyperbole and a half is a hoot.

Ellipsis Flood said...

An alot in an invisible suit, spying on an unsuspecting literary agent? Now that's something.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: The thought did occur to me that maybe agents fear inbox overload from unattended queries over the holiday season. But while a good portion of those queries will be rejected, some will be worth further investigation. Also, these are queries that would be coming at some point anyway. If there's an understanding from the agent that writers don't take querying holidays, and from writers that agents may take a break from work for a few days at Christmas so expect delays, I don't see a problem.

But maybe I'm wrong, in which case, Sam the Cat is glad to offer his services to watch over Janet's inbox over Christmas. :)

PS: You have my assurance that the above link will NOT cause an increase in anyone's bank balance or naughty parts. At least it shouldn't... :\

LynnRodz said...

I've seen some agents say just the opposite. They like getting queries during the holidays because of the slow down.

Colin: If Gossimer thinks Sam is trying to edge in on his territory, well cat fights can get pretty ugly! Then again, Gossimer may enjoy taking a little time off. (Your daughter took a great photo, btw.)

Craig F said...

I'm just glad someone was brave enough to ask. I had heard so many stories and some were enough to scare even I. Like everything else it takes research, research and more research to get to the truth of the matter.

Colin Smith said...

Lynn: And Sam's not one to back down. He's still a young kitty and can be aggressive. I imagine he and Gossimer would have quite a tussle. For a bowl of food, though, Gossimer can have whatever he wants. :)

My daughter thanks you.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Waitaminute, waitaminute, waitaminute.
Ask yourself, do WE stop writing because the fat guy in the red suit is coming down our flue? Do we stop ever? No. I mean hell no.
Whether you know it or not most agents are just as driven as we are. Do you really think they want us to sit on the next big hit simply because Christians and Jews have holidays?
Think about it, they post at ungodly hours. I’ve had replies from agents at 5am and email conversations not much later. If you’re seriously in this business one of the greatest perks is that everybody knows that nobody gets pissed if you email them, whenever. I mean really, if they don’t want writers to query them then they are closed to queries and even then, if they know you, respect you and you are professional, they sure as shit will read your query. Years ago Jessica Faust did just that for me and she was closed for queries at the time. (Duh, she rejected my NYT bestseller, (at least in my head it was), but she was really nice about it).
I’m not saying disregard their directives but I sure wouldn’t let something like the holiday season slow me down.
Having said that, I’m trying to figure out a way to continue my 1000 words a day while decorating, cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping and working a full time job. I’m just going to give up showering. Isn’t that what deodorant is for? Maybe I’ll get some in my stocking.

Anonymous said...

Colin: My comment was aimed more at the fact agents feel that holiday pressure just as we do at this time of year. You know, being overwhelmed, the inlaws are coming, there's still shopping to do, and ALL THIS WORK. I was sort of trying to paint a picture of stressed agent versus rested agent. To me I'd rather have a rested agent read a query.

Carolynn, you sort of burned up your argument at the end there. LOL!

Mainly, does a holiday mean I'd stop at sending a query in if I had worked my fingers and asterisk off all year and I knew, just knew it was ready? No. But I WOULD sort of cringe and hope they weren't drunk on office egg nog as they made their decision. :)

Colin Smith said...

donna: Good point. I would certainly prefer to have a happy agent looking at my query. Though some queries might sound better when read under the influence of eggnog... :)

Janet Reid said...

"Oh Colin, happy agent you do crack me up!" she snarled.

DLM said...

LynnRodz and Colin, Gossamer just DIED of how cute that kitten is. He said, "That's BEYOND CUTE, all the way to PRECIOUS" and keeled straight over. I think he may be faking so I'll send him on a holiday visit to our host.

The question, by the way, was mine, and I do like the BookEnds blog, but I had to request a second opinion because - man, when I'm actually motivated to query (such as I have been in December), reasons to stop seem outright dangerous. As to the Jet's final pre-adorable-kitten suggestion: Oh, would 'twere that I could query Milady Hostess, but I can't hope for so much and must keep researching!

Sadly, it's going to be a bit of a trick researching who *doesn't* want my festive and cheering queries during this season. Which brings me to ask LynnRodz: Who said that!??? :)

DLM said...

Oh! And, and, and. The very next post on BookEnds' blog was glee-making to the Nth degree - about how agents need to brand themselves. I'll be blogging that link later, because I fell quite winsomely in love with the entire post.

Today, there's a YouTube of a TV interview I must watch.

So, I mean, it's a good blog. Shark free, but good.

Colin Smith said...

DLM: I used to frequent the BookEnds blog, but I thought they had shut down blogging operations. So they've started up again? I just checked and it seems they've been blogging since October! I'm so on-the-ball. :) I'll have to add them back to the rotation.

Janet: If you're snarling and I still have my arms, then I'll call that "happy". :)

AJ Blythe said...

A writer's paranoia:
- don't query after Thanksgiving
- google the date for Thanksgiving
- hold off until after Christmas (beware the eggnog effect)
- google the difference between affect and effect... again!
- remember that Sharks never rest for Christmas ( and query anyway
- start querying again while biting nails down wondering what date the holiday euphoria wears off thanks to the full post-Christmas inbox

(and apologies for not being super clever and being able to work out how to hyperlink a word like Janet and Colin)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I feel (it's important to use your "I statements") that if an agent doesn't want to look at queries over a holiday, s/he shouldn't open them at that time, and return to them afterwards. But to autoreject or brush off a writer who subs during that time? I think that is disappointing.

I won't have a pony in this race 'til after the new year anyway; waiting on my readers to, well, READ.

(and that kitten is totally adorbs)

(oh, and thanks for linking to Bookends literary agents; I have a new agent on my list now!)

DLM said...

Colin - yep. Also - hee!

Jennifer R. Donohue, there wasn't any indication she auto-rejects, but perhaps getting buried in a massive holiday pile ends with the same result as a brushoff, the procedural wasn't clarified. The perverse part of me is tempted to think, if I don't KNOW an agent doesn't want to see queries through the holidays, and others are not querying thanks to this advice, well then I'm first in line if I do query, when agents "come back" after the nog-overs. And at least BookEnds is blogging! So we've got that.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Donna, burning my argument at the end...well I'm glad somebody got my drift :)

Dena Pawling said...

Being an eternal optimist, I think I'd be worried that I'd actually get a bite [not a sharkly one, unfortunately, I don't write her genre][is that an actual worry worthy of worrying about? That more than one agent would bite?] and I'd wonder if I should have waited until X agent was off holiday-closure so I could give X agent a chance to throw his/her hat in my ever-expanding [dreamland] list of bites. "Sorry, can you give me until January 10 to get back to you? I really want agent X to have a chance to offer me rep too." So why am I querying if an agent on my A list is closed?

Wishful thinking, but still. I guess it depends on whether any holiday-closure agents are on my A list. And of course, this assumes I'm ready, which I'm not. I'm shooting for February. Hmmmmm, maybe my A list will be in the mood to "love" my manuscript then :)

Apparently I'll have to include a photo of a cat in my query email for maximum feel-good vibes.

My optimistic two cents.

LynnRodz said...

DLM: I read Writer's Digest (Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents) daily like I do Janet's blog. I'm sorry I can't tell you exactly which agent(s) said it, but I do remember reading it and thinking it would be a great time for me to query them. Unfortunately, with all my traveling, I'll have to wait until the new year. It very well could have been from the New Literary Agent Alert which seems logical. Sorry, I can't be more specific.

For a second you scared me and I thought Gossamer had died! I'm glad to see that he's alive and well and planning on doing a little traveling of his own.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Santa Klaus could deliver queries to stockings, or kale instead of coal.

Anonymous said...

Miss Sharkiness,

I am so glad you posted this. We've been having this debate on the Compuserve Lit Forum. It's a great tool for writers with mostly really good advice from talented, and often, published writers. since I have forgotten how to do links right, I won't link it.

Now I know where Beth, one of the mods, came up with the idea not to query after Thanksgiving. I missed this post by Jessica Faust.

While stalking twitter a few days ago, reading agent feeds, two agents sent out a call for submissions. They were all caught up and here's what they're looking for. So, not only were they not shut down, they were bored and needed to be fed.

I envisioned the plant in Little Shop of Horrors saying, "Query me, Seymour!"

I sent off a query last week and got a request for a partial two days later.

I have noticed on query tracker a lot of agents flipping to closed to queries. One did it while I was reading comments from queriers about her. I had decided to query after reading the comments, and lo and behold, she's closed now. I laughed. If only I weren't so anal about checking out agents I might have been the last horse out of the gates.

For me, I'm just checking websites very carefully to make sure they are still open before I query. I figure even if they aren't answering queries or doing it more slowly, mine will be sitting at the bottom of the pile waiting to be read when the agent is ready.

Natasha Alexis was one and I think Sara Megibow may have been the other. Sara has opened a new agency and is looking for submissions at any rate.

Anyway, Miss Shark is right. Just check the agent's site and make sure they are open, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

And remember, friends, it's always story time.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Oh. The Shark challenges me does she? Hmmmph.

Loved all of your comments. What's interesting is this is the same exact debate we have around the office about querying editors during this time period. If we're super excited to get something out should we still submit or are editors busy cleaning off desks and we'll shoot ourselves in the foot and then, when everyone is back in January, will we end up at the bottom of the pile. Debate. Debate.

Anonymous said...


Yes, Beth thought it was much better to wait and be at the top of the list. She waited to query her agent until January 2, got a very prompt reply and request for full. An offer to rep came within two weeks.

Of course, this is someone who I think queried two agents and got offers from both. Her writing is breathtaking. So, I'm not sure if she's a good example, but she definitely believes in the after January theory.

Regardless, it's nice to know agents angst over the same things.

Same story, different chapter.


Laura Moe said...

I've made a career of making an ass of myself, so I guess I will faux pas and continue to query agents during the holidays as long as they are open to submissions. After years of writing and rejection, one's skin becomes elephant hide.
Happy holidays, all.

DLM said...

LynnR, I suppose I'll just keep following my silly, wayward heart and instincts! :)

And Gossamer is VERY much alive and well, and only two, and I plan on his living forever and ever and ever and then some, because even without his literary celebrity, he is Best Kidden Evarrr, and I love his bones and fur and various parts. Him's OSUM. And now I need to snuggle him, because even the idea. I'm sorry I scared you!

Julie M. W., what an inspiring mental image!

Also - eep, I brought forth the lady herself; here's hoping my question wasn't out of line. I comment on the BookEnds blog, too - one wants to maintain neutral invisibility, even if not slushpile desirability. It IS heartening to know y'all have to second-guess submissions too, though.