Monday, May 18, 2015

Query question: should I not query during Book Fairs?

I’ve been told by one agent that writers should know to hold back any queries immediately before and during International Book Fairs. She particularly mentioned three: Budapest (April 23-26, 2015), London (April 14-16, 2015) and Frankfurt (Oct 14.18, 2015). Is this common practice, and, if so, how does a writer figure what other book fairs and conferences we need to avoid?

In this case, I avoided the month of April for sending out queries and sent them out in May but not have to remember to do the same in October and maybe other months.

I see this kind of advice on discussion boards all the time and it's utter bunk.

For starters, agents receive queries electronically these days and if they're busy at the London Book Fair, or Malice Domestic, or hosing out the caves on Carkoon, they just let the queries stack up till they have some free time.

You absolutely can not wait for "the right time" to query, because the right time to query me, and every other agent in this universe, was yesterday.

Trying to time your queries means only one thing: you're not sending your query when it's ready.

That's the ONLY standard by which to time a query: is it ready to go? If so, hit send.

If not, don't.

The ONLY exception to this is if an agent is closed to queries. Most agents who are closed to queries simply discard any that arrive and start with an empty inbox when they re-open. You'll notice most of these closures are triggered by workload, query volume, impending maternity leave. Nothing to do with LBF, BEA or any other industry event.

Not even Christmas.


french sojourn said...

According to my celebrity astrologer, I have another 6 months, 2 weeks and three days until the stars are aligned.

Or maybe it's my Celibate Astrologer and the stars will be maligned...

Julie said...

Really about the Christmas thing? I had one Agent tell me my query was not seen because it was sent in Decembee and should therefore be resent.

I had meanwhile decided the MS needed work anyway, so it hasn't been re-sent, but still I wonder.

Julie said...

(December. Not Decembee, some kind of Christmas insect thought up by my iPhone.)

Anonymous said...

We had this discussion on Books and Writers forum in November. Many thought no one should query until after January. I queried anyway, having the theory queries aren't cookies and they wouldn't be stale even if they sat somewhere unopened for a month or two.

Two agents cosmic agents requested fulls within 48 hours. (Those wearing the cosmic blue shirts. This is some kind of divine sign, I am sure.)

If you wait for all the traffic lights to turn green before you leave the house, you'll never leave home.

Anonymous said...


Most agents will give some kind of notification if they are shutting down for the holidays, and many of them do. However, a lot don't. I get tickled at some who are bored during said times and beg for queries because they are all caught up and things are quiet.

That's where being a literary ferret pays off.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Okay, so don’t query just prior to, during or just after international Book Fairs. Forget hitting the send key during Christmas and Hanukkah (or Chanukah), I never know how to spell it and either does my spell check. When kids are out of school, during winter vacations, I’m told that agents with children, (do they really have time to conceive, give birth and raise kids), is a no-no because they’re all at Disney World. I’ve heard that August is a bad month to query because everyone flees their offices (and Carkoon) for the wide open spaces of sun, sand, mountaintops or tilling crops. (Do agents garden?)

When I was a kid I thought teachers were special human beings, sort of a hybrid of sorts, without families and the need to use the bathroom. (I never saw a teacher enter the girl’s room). They had their own, who knew. And I’m thinking agents are like that too.

How about a bumpa-sticka, ‘Agents are people too” Oh yeah, who said?

Actually this explains everything. My queries were rejected because of lousy timing not content.

Donnaeve said...

Julia, does it buzz or jingle, you reckon?

Julie, or a literary shark.

In general as to when to query, well, that really simplifies things, doesn't it? I mean honestly, if someone had put up a maze showing the "rules" for querying before QOTKU set things straight (pun!), we'd be trying to find our a**es whilst going around our elbows.


(mmm, pizza for breakfast!)

Donnaeve said...

2Ns - drink some coffee and read the post again. :/

Or...maybe you were just being fascetious?

LynnRodz said...

There's only one exception to that rule. Do not send out queries when Mercury is retrograde. Mercury rules communications and when it's retrograde, it messes things up big time. (Communication gets slow, or breaks down completely, things get lost, etc.) Thanks for the reminder, Hank. Lol.

LynnRodz said...

Opps! I mean the only other exception to what the QOTKU said. All of you knew that, right?

Anonymous said...

You know sometimes things are difficult and you can't see the horses for the trees, but there's no sense making life more complicated than we have to. No?

french sojourn said...

Lynn, I of all people forgot about retrograde....he said passing a mirror.


Colin Smith said...

Wait--agents hose out the caves on Carkoon?? Really? I'm thinking these must be Junior Agents and this is part of their training. I can't imagine any Senior Literary Agent voluntarily spending any time on Carkoon, let alone doing something like hosing caves. Eeek!

What was the question?

Oh yes. The best time to query: when you're novel is polished till it shines. The worst time to query: when you've just finished the first draft.

Keep it simple. Life's less stressful that way. :)

Kitty said...

Mercury retrogrades May 18th - June 11th ... Just so's y'know.

I get teased about Mercury going retrograde, but it's the one thing about astrology that has proven right, for me at least. This is what Susan Miller ( says:

Mercury, the planet ruling communication, negotiation and commerce, will go retrograde from May 18 to June 11. That would not be a time to shop for expensive things, and certainly not appliances or electronics. If you need a new computer, smart phone, or the Apple watch, get it now, not on or after May 18. The more space you leave from the date you buy the item and the onset of Mercury's turn backward (May 18) the better. Never try to outrun Mercury retrograde by rushing out to a store the day before the retrograde, for example this month, on May 17 - we always feel Mercury's characteristic slowdowns ten days prior to the actual turnaround date. Don't by new furniture or mattress, or any other expensive item that is difficult to return during the retrograde. It's safest to get what you need in the first week of May, or wait until after June 11.

Susan Bonifant said...

Comments that suggest what "writers should know" just leave us wondering what else we're supposed to know but don't.

They also fail to distinguish what writers know because it is common knowledge versus what writers have learned from a LOT of experience.

And, to avoid being part of a query deluge at any particular time just means you'll be part of the deluge when that particular time is over.

It's dicey to proceed wisely in the absence of clear instructions. But I say "do" if it doesn't say "don't".

Elissa M said...

When I'm ready to query, I intend to send it to appropriate* agents regardless of the date, season, planetary alignment, or time of day. I've got enough to stress over as it is; I don't need further worries. In my mind, this is definitely a nervous woodland creature concern.

*Appropriate agents are those who are legitimate, represent my genre, and are open to queries.

S.D.King said...

I have heard about the Christmas thing from an agent interview, but I also hear that most are six months behind on their query responses, so if I query right now, the agent won't see it till Christmas time. . . maybe trying to time it just doesn't work.

Colin Smith said...

SD: But when agents say they'll be out for Christmas or New Year or July 4th or the Annual Buttonweezer Family Pig Pickin' and Swamp Diving celebration, it's usually to say they won't be responding to queries at that time. They don't say anything about deleting queries sent during that period. So they will read those queries, just not during that period of absence. Again, that shouldn't be a big deal. It means you may be waiting 6.5 months for a response, as opposed to 6. :)

Anonymous said...

Holy cats - and here I thought all that water hitting my face was from the rain... didn't realize it was a hose!

I mean, the rules are different on Carkoon... I figured rain inside caves was just a byproduct of those rules.

To the Holiday comments, so far my most successful queries (statistically which ones have garnered partial/full requests) have been between November 1st and December 31st. So I think Janet is on to something here.

I do often wonder if timing matters -- but then I laugh because I don't care and send my query anyways.

Colin Smith said...

brian: There is a theory that Christmas is the BEST time to send a query. It's a well-documented agent dilemma whether they should send form rejections on or near Christmas Day. It's possible some will avoid the issue by at least requesting a partial. Of course, some just wait a few weeks for the Christmas spirit to wear off... ;)

Jenz said...

Whether you enjoy astrology or not, back up your files now (and if you have automated backups, check that they're still there and working). Do it because you should anyway.

Oh wait, I can't be a robot because I don't always obey orders. Whew, that's a relief.

LynnRodz said...

Kitty, I wasn't kidding about Mercury Retrograde. It goes retrograde several times a year for a short period. I won't go into details about the stationary periods, etc., but there's more to it than people think.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

On a break as my sister signs off papers to sell her house and then turns around to purchase another.

Was too butt-weary after packing up her house into a uhaul last night to read yesterday's WIR. So read it this morning.

Yeah for being mentioned. Congrats Brian for your week of wearing the blog subtitle crown. And also loved bjmuntain's encouraging reply of a reader retaining longer term memories of books. And I'm glad, Colin, that your wife is healing.

Today's topic: although querying is a ways down the road for me yet, when my manuscript is ready I'm a gonna go querying. Regardless of timing.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Although, after LynnRodz's comments, maybe I better pay attention to that wandering Mercury.

Ardenwolfe said...

A damn good query letter trumps any book fair or holiday. Always remember, agents want to find the next 'it' book and author.

Despite the belief, their job isn't to say no. They want to say, "Yes."

It's our job to show them why.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Donna, actually I'm not sure what I was trying to be, facetious or just a butt-head. Not even sure where I was going with it.

Today is my day with my 16 month old granddaughter and I was writing and commenting as she came through the door.
What a morning, fun but eww la la, I'm too old for this.

reCAPT soup, appropriate because that's what I had for lunch.

Yes, agents are people too.

I'm just a butt head writer with always something to say even if I don't know how to say it.

The baby is napping and so will I, in about five minutes.

Christina Seine said...

NEVER query during a zombie apocalypse. Although I can see how it would be tempting - with any luck all the competition would be dead. However, if an agent is hiding under their desk and zombies are out in the hall, your email would cause the computer to go DING and then the zombies would hear it and get all excited (zombies love spam) and they would enter and eat your favorite agent, and that would screw up your Excel spreadsheet completely. Also, if you got a personal rejection that said, "Gwraarrrrgh!" you would never know if the zombies prevailed or that agent just doesn't like dino porn spec fic historical romance, or whatever.

REJourneys said...

I don't think I can follow up after Christina's comment...

So, I second it, querying during a Zombie Apocalypse would be hazardous to your health, and that of the "would-have-been" agent. (You just had to hit send, didn't you?)

Colin Smith said...

If you're interested in querying a zombie agent, might I recommend:

Mr. N. Dedd
243b Savory Brain Drive
Nr. The Great Pit

Send your query, along with a 100 word synopsis that includes the words underpants, brain, matter, soup, and kale. Be sure to provide your address along with MapQuest directions, and your hours of sleep. All queries will receive a personal response. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ha, Mercury Smurkury and Zombie Apocalypse?
With my luck I'll write the perfect query for the awesomenest novel and my future success will be usurped by The Rapture, End of days and Second Coming.
I guess that would be a good thing?
Capt BS, you were supposed to be wearing a wet suit.

Enough with the soup already. I had chicken noodle.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that you shouldn't query around Christmas, because agents aren't working a lot then.

And then other writers spoke up saying that, because other writers weren't querying around Christmas, they received much quicker responses to the queries they sent during the holidays.

I can see why waiting might have been the game pre-electronic mail - as Janet said - because no one wants to come back to work to a desk full of queries.

However, with e-mail, not only is this not a problem, but agents will sometimes read queries during quiet times during the holidays.

I'm imagining an agent in the 80s itching to get back to work because they know the queries are stacking up and they want to get at them. Then that same agent, in the 2000's, getting their query fix between meals and naps.

Carolynn: Or on Fridays during the summer, according to the WiR.

Kitty: Re retrograde:

Is that why last night my internet decided to flake out completely? And then, after spending half an hour on the phone with tech support this morning and being told to get a new router, it started again?

I don't care. I'm still going to go down to the shop and get a new router. I don't want to wind up unconnected at a time when I really do need to be connected. As for buying electronics: I won't be buying it. I'm just trading the old one in for it.

Christina: Wow. I never thought of that. Great advice! (Marks calendar so as to not send queries during zombie apocalypse.)

Karen McCoy said...

This is a relief, as I've heard people say things like, "Don't query right after NaNo, because that's when every Buttonweezer is submitting their first-draft manuscript." But like any assumption, it's probably theoretical.

Colin: Regarding Mr. Dedd: "A corpse is a corpse, of course of course...and no one can talk to a corpse, of course, that is, of course, unless the corpse is the famous Mr. Dedd..."

And speaking of Book Faires, I'm going to renew my shout-out to anyone who might be going to BEA--perhaps we could have a Carkoon-themed get-together? Anyone...anyone? Buehler...Buehler?

Anonymous said...

Karen: Wonderful Mr Dedd theme!

I think the big no-no about querying after NaNo is for the writers who just finished their novel during NaNo.

I'm sure that's not how you heard it, but it seems to me that's the way it should be.

"Did you finish your novel during NaNo? DON'T QUERY IT IN DECEMBER."

As for people who understand the publishing process and have polished their manuscripts to a gleam, I'd think December would be a great time to query. After all, the agents will be rejecting post-NaNo queries left, right, and centre, and they'll be so grateful to get a professional query that they'll instantly request a partial or a full.

Kitty said...

Lynn, I agree! Here's Susan Millers guide: Mercury Retrograde and What it Means for You

Jed Cullan said...

Remember not to query if the date you're sending adds up to an odd number. Also, if the day itself is an odd number.

But, whatever you do, don't query if the day and date, plus your birthday, minus your shoe size, divided by the number of hairs on the agent's chin, is a number greater than the number of cats in their neighbourhood.

Craig F said...


January: All of those superstitious enough to believe the interweb stories of agents tossing queries in December have flooded the email servers of agents into submission.

February: It is too cold and the nuance you built in will be missed.

March: Agents are on the internet looking at the temperatures in Florida all of the time.

April: The mud is too deep to get to the office and then a late ice storm knocks out the internet.

May: Too much other shit is happening.

June: The first half is vacation on the shore. The second half is for recovery.

July: Vacation and family reunion in the mountains. Nearest WiFi is twenty five miles away.

August: The agent you query will swelter because their A/C unit took a dump. Early ice storms make a mess of traffic.

September: Boucheron.

October: Halloween and the zombie apocalypse.

November: The agent you queried realizes that they have 120 fulls to read.

December: You agent doesn't even look for new queries because the last few years no one queried in December.

Anonymous said...

2N's - A what suit? A wetsuit? Didn't have that on my packing list. Just this line about a "birthday suit" but I think that's a given...

And I'm not sure wearing my birthday suit would have helped the waterboarding that was happening in that cave...


angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Ah Craig you beat me to it...

Woodland writer’s advice for query timing :

1. Never send a query during Mercury in retrograde except for Astrology and nonfiction.
2. Never send a query in the summer unless your book is set in your holiday home, and the MC is a sailor likes BBQs and new cocktail recipes and the Awesome Agent you sent it to builds sandcastles with their two year old.
3. Never send a query during book conventions. Take it there in person, even if you have to sell a kidney.
4. Never query a manuscript containing vampires and werewolves around Halloween.
5. Never send a query after NaNo. Especially if it has anything to do with cranberry sauce, roast Turkey and dysfunctional family gatherings.
6. Never query during Christmas holiday unless you are bored out of your skull.
7. Never query a Romance on Valentine’s day.
8. Never send a memoir about your mother-daughter relationship on Mother’s day.
9. Never send a query on Mayday if your manuscript is about revolution or Armageddon.
10. Never query after a natural disaster if your manuscript is about hurricane Buttonwhaler and how Felix saved Manhattan.

@Colin, love 'dicey'. Gonna use it, but I promise I won't quote you.

Ardenwolfe said...

(laugh) You guys are crazy.

Karen McCoy said...

Excellent point, BJ! No, I heard third-hand (that should have been my first clue) that an aspiring writer was advised not to query in December due to the glutton of NaNos.

But I like your advice better!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I'm taking up knitting.
Buy my house.

Who gets soup three times in a row anyway? Enough with the liquid meals. Jeez.

LynnRodz said...

You guys crack me up, too. (See what you started Hank?)

Kitty, thanks for your link, but between you and I, I use to be a professional astrologer for years. I stopped because I had a number of famous people as clients and then it got to the point I had people calling me from other parts of Europe and little by little I had no time for myself. I was paid very well, but it wasn't worth it. This was years ago. I don't even look at my own chart much anymore, but I will do a natal or progressive chart for close family members.

We tried to tell them, Kitty. Anyway, you and I know better than to send a query during that time. LOL!

Today was some day. I woke up and looked at Facebook and what did I see? My 14 year old niece has published her first novel. A few hours later I found myself in the ER having a heart attack which turned out to be a panic attack. Damn, she shouldn't do that to me! LOL.

While I was having a transfusion a handsome doctor walked by. He came back a few seconds later and walked into the room.

"I've seen you before." dreamy doctor said.
"Yes, I was here last year around this time. I had bronchitis.
"Oh yeah, I remember. What are you here for this time?"
"I came in because I thought I was having a heart attack."
"Things are progressing well, I see." he said and patted my hand.

Omg, I thought he was trying to kill me. I started laughing which didn't help my aching heart.

Diagnosis: It wasn't a heart attack or a panic attack, I have a heart of an athlete. Who knew.

(Oh yeah, I was kidding about my niece being the blame, I didn't see that FB notice until I was already at the ER waiting for the results of my tests.)

Beth H. said...

I remember hearing once that some agents refer to December as "NaNo Rejection Month." I don't think this is a reason not to query, however. If you've got a polished manuscript and query like you know what you're doing, then it's going to be clear that you didn't dash off a novel in November and query it on December 1.

Anonymous said...

*makes note re Zombie Apocalypse*
*makes note re ALL THE MONTHS*

I'm going a GREAT job following all this advice, as I've never queried anyone, ever. So I just need to keep doing that and I'll be fine. Right?

Although, I think Janet is the exception regarding zombies, as she reps Robin Becker and survived publication of BRAINS, A Zombie Memoir. At least, we *think* she survived. Perhaps this explains the lack of photos...

I actually came over here to tell you all that I've got a guy coming over tomorrow afternoon to evict Woodland Creatures from my attic. I haven't seen them, but the heavy thumping noises make me suspect they're not squirrels. I'm guessing raccoons. Or fellow commenters. So, fair warning. Get out while you still can. And next time, ring the doorbell. I won't answer, of course, but I won't have you forcibly removed either.


I swear, it's never nothing.

Colin Smith said...

kd: I can just imagine the guy going up to your attic and finding pieces of paper with lists of dates "When Not To Query" tacked to the walls... :)

Gingermollymarilyn said...

Great question, and greater answer.

@bjmuntain - yes, that's what i was thinking. Agents 'in' boxes are empty, and they're just pining for queries! They have proper time to read contently. Every word - as opposed to "skimming."

@Jed, @Angie, @Craig - cute!

@LynnRodz - Dreamy doctor, talk about a silver lining.

Anonymous said...

LynnR- good grief! I'm glad it wasn't something serious, but stop worrying us like that. (I went to the ER once for the same reason. Turned out I'd pulled a muscle raking leaves.) Congrats to your niece!

Colin- Not sure how I'll explain if he finds a detailed written "Plan to Escape From Carkoon"

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Kd, it's just me, knitting.

Unknown said...

Uh, Mercury does not ever go backwards. That would be astromy and physics. Much more reliable than astrology.

And the rain in the caves? That would be the bats. You don't want to think about it too much. Let's just say, they aren't teachers.

Anonymous said...

You all might get a kick out of this: last night I was re-reading a section of my novella, looking for something for continuity reasons (I'm currently working on second in the series), and one of my characters used the term "woodland creatures." I wrote it 18 months ago and didn't remember using the term. I laughed so hard I scared the cat. Then laughed even harder when I realized no one but this group over here would even "get" why it was funny.

This is firmly in the category of Things I Can Never Tell My Kids Or They'll Commit Me.

LynnRodz said...

KD, scary stuff the heart and the woodland creatures in your attic. I hope you get rid of them unless it really turns out to be 2Ns knitting you a sweater for Christmas. I agree, there are a number of phrases used here that would have to be explained to outsiders.

Ginger, dreamy doctor was definitely the silver lining to this long day.

Rob, of course it doesn't go backwards, it's an illusion just like when you're sitting in a stationary train and the train on the next track leaves. It gives you the impression that you're train is moving backwards. It's the same with the planets orbiting around the sun.

There were a number of famous astronomers who were also astrologers. I'm not talking about horoscope bs, I'm talking about using an ephemeris and mathematical calculations. Anyway, I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything, but I love astronomy, and branches of physics, especially astrophysics and quantum mechanics, so I'm with you there.

Lizzie said...

Ginger: What a wonderful backdrop for a writing and editing session. I'd love to do more of that sort of thing. The bear would scare me though.

Anonymous said...

All about BEA With Advice From QOTKU

I thought this conversation was interesting and it mentions Janet Reid's advice regarding BEA.

AJ Blythe said...

Wow! So many reasons to procrastinate, I mean, carefully determine when to submit a query.

JEN Garrett said...

When it's ready, hit send. Yes. I agree with that. And if they are closed to submissions, wait. I agree with that too. But that's not the Only exception.

Another exception is if you find out the agent isn't right for you as an author (even if you were ready to query her/him).

I'll never query Janet with my current manuscript (which is ready) because I found out Janet doesn't rep PBs. I still think she'd love one of my novels, but I need to find an agent that reps ALL my work.

(Does this ban me to Carkoon?)

So DO hit send, and DO query widely, no matter what time of year. but also DO your research and DON'T send it to every agent on the planet.

Gingermollymarilyn said...

@ Lizzy (from yesterday) - Bear spray in my backpack, just in case. I'd hate to use it, though.