Saturday, October 10, 2015

Query Timing

If you have a novel that is as perfect as it can be (in your eyes) and you're all set to go with a killer query letter and synopsis, is there a specific time of year that is best or worst to send out query letters? 


No. want more details?

A lot of well-meaning advice sites tell you to avoid querying in August. So you wait till September.Then you hear that September is very busy for agents because they're pitching client manuscripts after the summer break.

So you wait till October
And that's the Frankfurt Book Fair, and everyone knows all the agents are busy with Frankfurt in October.

So you wait till November.
Well, that's Thanksgiving, so you can't query then.

And everyone KNOWS you should not query in December cause of the parties and the holidays and Christmas.

So, January.
But January is busy cause of all the client manuscripts they're pitching for the new year, plus they're doing
the tax stuff for clients, so really better wait till February.

And February is so dreary and cold in New York that no agent can read queries, they can barely slog to work, so better wait till March.

Only March is spring vacation, and it's also Left Coast Crime, so clearly not a good time to query.

April! April is the ideal time to query. Except that it might be Easter that year. Or maybe the agent will be doing her taxes. She's certainly focused on the Edgars at the end of month.

So May. May will be great. Oh wait, that's BEA and all agents have to prep for BEA so May is out.

June! June is the perfect month to query. Except it turns out the agent is closing to queries in June for the rest of the year because she's got so many she's backlogged and wants to catch up.

And there you are....waiting.


You get the point I'm sure.

This questions is based on the notion that agents READ the query close to the time you send it. That is not often, let alone always, the case.

If you send in April, it's entirely possible the agent will read it in May. Or June. Or, in the case of several of my slacker colleagues, August.

You have ZERO control over when an agent reads your query.

Thus, you work on the only thing you do have control over: the quality of the query.

Send it when it's ready.
Yes, you're going to hit some agents when they're doing their taxes, or prepping for Frankfurt, or planning an Edgars party. You won't know about it, and it WON'T MATTER. Good queries don't go bad if they sit awhile. Trust me.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

When's the best time to query? When you're ready. The world doesn't wait, why should you? But then again, once you query, you wait. Funny how that works.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Yes! I do want more details.

Holyschmoly!! Laughing here.

Yup, what QOTKU and 2Ns says.

Kitty said...

Good queries don't go bad if they sit awhile.

That's a subheader for this blog if I ever read one!

CynthiaMc said...

Just like Mom always said "Do it now."

E.M. Goldsmith said...

What our queen said because after you are going to wait. Maybe get some partial or full requests. Get exiled to Carkoon. Then more waiting. Do all the agents go to Frankfurt in October? Really? More waiting I suppose.

Craig F said...

Dern near every agent actively soliciting new authors can get their queries on a mobile device. That way they can separate the wheat from the chaff almost immediately.

Nurture you query until it is ripe and cast it onto the ether. If you don't hear almost immediately it might mean it has made the first cut. It might even mature and age as a decision is mulled. With luck it will be a source of fine wine soon.

Unknown said...

I like to read queries between 2 and 215 am. I can only read 20 a day and I don't read them oldest to newest. And I delete the whole box each day after my 15 minute read. i recommend sending your query at the exact perfect time.

But then again, there's a lot of bad advice on the Internet.

Keisha Martin Romance Writer said...

YES! I needed this.

Anonymous said...

Captain, you are making me weep. Don't do that. I'm fragile.

Dena Pawling said...

>>And February is so dreary and cold in New York that no agent can read queries, they can barely slog to work, so better wait till March.

I started querying in February, figuring (1) I was ready to do so [after a bit of arm-twisting from CPs, commenters on this blog, and a few other folks], (2) not all the agents I was querying live in NYC, and (3) even if they did live in NYC and were freezing instead of basking at the beach with a drink-with-an-umbrella in the warm sunshine of SoCal, they'd probably either stay home and read queries on their phones, or read on their phones on the subway.

BJ Muntain said...

I've heard so many people say things like this, in the years I've been writing seriously and learning the business.

Another one? Don't query in December because that's when all the NaNoWriMo novels are queried.

But any NaNoWriMo novels queried in December are going to be crap. Because you can't write a 50K word draft and immediately send it off and be taken seriously.

So your novel, that is well-written, well-edited, with the killer query and synopsis, is going to shine amongst all the dreary NaNo first drafts.

In the day of electronic submissions, it really doesn't matter when you send it. Back in the pre-email days, I heard it would be a problem sending in December because it would get mixed up or lost among the holiday correspondence. I don't know if that was true then, but it's definitely not true now. You don't have millions of pieces of mail going through the postal system to contend with. You do have millions of pieces of email going through the system, but you have that every day of the year. Things do get lost at times - often through spam filters - but it's not because of the amount, timing, or type of e-mail.

I think the best way to think about the timing of your request is this: It's like being in a lineup at a store checkout, with your spectacular find in your pile. It's the perfect find - right size, right colour, all the right features - and it's ON SALE today.

But the line is humongously long. You don't want to wait in line that long, so you go do some more shopping. You come back, and the lines are still long. You go do some more shopping. The store is closing now, so you have to get in line... and the lines are even longer now. But you have to stay in line, because your item won't be on sale tomorrow, or it might get bought buy someone else before you can get back to the store. So now you're waiting until half past closing time, when the cashiers are tired and cranky...

If you'd just got in line when you found your item, you would have been out of the store an hour and a half ago, even if you had to wait in line for half an hour.

So you may as well start querying now. Get your query in the lineup and let it sit there. The nice thing about querying is you don't have to stand there, query in hand, while the agent reads through hundreds of queries a week. You can send your query out there, and while it's out there, you can go looking for the next great find (or writing the next great novel).

Janice Grinyer said...

well gosh... reading that was like a procrastinator's fantastical wet dream...

Did I just say that? :o!

Christina Seine said...

The best time to query:

1. As soon as you get home from the liquor store.
2. When Cadbury eggs hit the shelves.
3. When your phone battery is at 100% so you can check your email every 3 minutes (yes I know the industry standard is 5 minutes, but we're no slackers).
4. When you are otherwise VERY busy (I'd recommend just as you're leaving for Cancun - plenty to keep you occupied, but still cell phone reception).
5. As soon as you are really into writing that next book.

Good luck, opie!

Unknown said...

NOO Julie!!! Don't cry!!! There's no crying in baseball, or in writing... :)

Anonymous said...

"Another one? Don't query in December because that's when all the NaNoWriMo novels are queried."

And yet most agents say they really don't get that many December queries from NaNo. What one agent did mention recently was some agents have a thing about trying to clear their inboxes out and start the new year with a clean slate, so they may not give as much time to queries in December. In looking at my spreadsheet, I see no difference in average reply times.

Query when you're ready, as the lady said.

Donnaeve said...

Good thing all I have to do is type words today. I talked enough yesterday to make my throat sore last night. I can NOT put into words how great it was to me QOTKU, Colin, Patrick Lee, Loretta Sue Ross, and Barbara Poelle last night. And to see some best selling authors on those panels, etc.

*fans self* I could hardly sleep last night I was so giddy.

Today's post. Ms. Janet has mentioned this before, but all info on writing, publishing, getting an agent, whatever, NEVER gets old. It's like eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts. You just can't get enough.

I suppose 2N's and I are kind of on the same wavelength - which we have been of late.

My two cents, might as well query and wait instead of waiting to query.

You got to get in the game at some point.

One thing I didn't see in the list (only b/c QOTKU knew we got it) was the fact that I've "HEARD" it's good to query over the holidays - some agents feel less of the crush due to folks being out, so they have less in their inboxes.

Now. Isn't this helpful?

Donnaeve said...

sigh. My letter droppage doth continue.


John Frain said...

So, July. There is nothing stopping us from querying in July. I love when things are laid out with such a straightforward answer. Thank you, Sharky! I just wish Opie had asked this in June instead of October.

(Or maybe they did ask in June and it just came up in October.)

So when is the best time to inquire with a question about querying?

Anonymous said...

At this point, the only reason I am waiting to query is because I am going to Surrey where I will take a master class on queries and pitching. Hopefully, my query will be in better shape after Surrey. Plus, my batteries will be sufficiently recharged to bard my courser and mount a new assault.

Way ho!

Panda in Chief said...

Good thoughts from all. As if we didn't have enough things to worry about. Glad to know I should cross this one off my list, because, of course, I worried.

Unknown said...

In an ideal world, my query is only ever read roughly an hour and a half after a particularly good meal, while seated in a comfortable chair, with a freshly poured glass of scotch at hand (but as yet barely touched), after a very, very good day.

In an ideal world.

Unfortunately, laws of probability suggest that my query is regularly read in a hot, crowded subway next to a person whose personal hygiene revolves around bathing in melted Limburger cheese. I feel exceedingly fortunate (and pat myself on the back for all the hours I spent agonizing over my letter) every time I get a request.

And then I settle in for the waiting.

Susan said...

Kind of love this post--sometimes the snark just makes you smile. :)

BJ: your store line analogy is spot on!

I wish I had more to add, but this week has been a strange one where I'm curiously devoid of any anecdotes, opinions, or thoughts--at all. I think my brain has been emptied of any coherence and filled with woodland worrying--I received two full requests and one partial based on the revised query this week--one of which was hidden in my email's spam folder (lesson learned: always check the spam folder!). Now I'm imagining what my manuscript is like through an agent's eyes and wondering if it's good enough. Writers be crazy.

Good luck, OP! Even when you're ready, you're not ready, so take the chance and stock up on your drink of choice and plenty of cake.

Oohh. Cake.

Joseph S. said...

Janet Reid is correct. Agents have rejected my queries all times of the year.

Elissa M said...

Querying is fun because I can pretend I'm actually working on my career. Hitting "send" is much easier than composing a sentence (or 50). At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

It's good to know there are no particularly optimal (or sub-optimal) times to send a query. Makes it easier to keep my procrastinating self focused.

BJ Muntain said...

Best time to query an agent: While they're still an agent.

Worst time to query an agent: After they die.

The longer you wait, the worse the time to query.

Query now. Before it's too late.

DLM said...

Jessica Faust, though, has said pointblank that it's pointless to query in December. This is another of those times it's wise to see what particular agents have to say. Or Captains.

But I do love what Donna has to say: "My two cents, might as well query and wait instead of waiting to query."

AJ Blythe said...

It's the knowing when the query letter is good enough that's the problem, not the time and date to send!

Although it is good to know it's highly likely a rejection has nothing to do with the quality of my query letter, it's because the agent was slogging back eggnog while doing tax on a flight to Frankfurt - except for July. In July it's all on me. Note to self - NEVER query in July.

Anonymous said...


And yet, several agents were calling for queries last December because their inboxes were empty and they were bored.

I remember retweeting them and posting them on B&W since so many people were having the "should I query in December" shakes.

Colin Smith said...

I'm home from Bouchercon. Second Donna's comment. Wow! And it's so cool when people who are nice online are just as nice, if not nicer, in person (e.g., Donna, QOTKU, Barbara Poelle). Another observation from Bouchercon: that thing about writers all being shy and introverted is a lie. That bar was NOISY! :)

Anyway, yes, query whenever. I actually had a 15 min chat with Jessica Faust today (add her to the list of "even nicer in person than online"), and she reiterated the "don't worry about genre, just query" line that we've heard from Janet. And I don't think it's unreasonable to extrapolate that thought to WHEN you query. Unless the agent is closed to queries, that query will either land in her inbox, or in her minion's inbox. It'll be seen and evaluated at some point. What else do you want? :)

I had a great time away, but it's nice to be home. Now I need to write all this up on the blog...

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Send it when it's ready. Make sure you have the agent's name spelled correctly.

Lucky you Donna and Colin, to meet QOTKU and Patrick Lee and Jessica Faust and Barbara Poelle. I can't wait to read all about it on your blogs.

off topic: Today Angela James' three week editing course finishes. I've learned so much, it's overwhelming. It was someone on the comments here who mentioned it on a discussion about editing services. But this isn't a service it's a course on editing. I can't tell you anything about it because she may publish a book and I don't want to plug someone else's jig here on QOTKU's blog.

Now I just have to finish my manuscript so I can find the perfect time to query.

Adib Khorram said...

Book proposal: a book explaining how one can use astrology to determine the optimum time to query, based on writer's sign, agent's sign, book genre and category, and the shapes of the coffee stains on the manuscript's pages.

BJ Muntain said...

Adib: It would probably be a best seller.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Pertaining to the comments about NaNoWriMo queries: Angry Robot Books is going to have another unagented submission period in December (their last one was a few years back), and in their Open Door Announcement, they even say "The Open Door period will last from 1 December 15 to 31 January 2016. Yes, that does coincidentally mean that you could take advantage of this year’s NaNoWriMo to finish that manuscript in time to get it in to us. You clever thing." and I just cringed, because I'm a NaNoWriMo veteran at this point, and I don't do any of the silly cheats people discuss on the forums (though I do read that thread to feel better about myself if I'm in a slump) and what I've produced at the end of the month is not fit to be seen by eyes other than my own without a good edit and overhaul. It's not meant to be. First drafts are first drafts.

(and for those interested, I think I'll be writing about Space this NaNoWriMo. I've been reading and ruminating for awhile, and the water-on-Mars news [and the water ice on Pluto news] has been invigorating)

Panda in Chief said...

Did someone say "cake"????

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

BJ Muntain said...
"Best time to query an agent: While they're still an agent.
Worst time to query an agent: After they die."

Ahahahahah!!! This is so true.

I've queried agents while they're still agents and I (usually) get a response. This is why I consider this the best advice.

I once queried an agent juuuust before she stopped being an agent. I got a blanket reject notifying me she was closing up shop. Alas. She repped much of what I write.

A loooong time ago I queried a screenplay agent only to get a letter back informing me of the agent's passing six months previous. This was pre-internet, when Writer's Marketplace was only put out once a year. News did not travel fast.

Now, I am a few weeks away over querying my next project and am sharing Opie's anxiety. This will be the true test of my book's brilliance. I am convinced; can I convince others?

DLM said...

Julie, my point was not "don't query in December" - nor to posit that all agents feel this way - but that with each agent, mileage may vary.