When to query

Are you wondering whether or not you should send out query letters in December? After all, if this is a busy holiday time for the average person, it is just as busy for agents.
This means that they are feeling as stressed, frazzled, and exhausted as the rest of us–and that may not be the best frame of mind for a potential agent who is deciding your future. Then again, maybe your would-be agent is not feeling harried at all because the agency is closed for the holidays. What does this mean for you and your manuscript?


Does the holiday spirit extend to writers and agents?

The truth:

The truth is that many agents advise writers not to query during the holiday season. In fact, about 70% of the agents I researched suggested that writers not query during this time. Agents often take some time off in December, which means that, when they return, they will be greeted with a huge pile of queries–and that pile will only increase as the daily pile of submissions is added. As Nathan Bransford points out, as much as one would hope to treat all query letters equally, agents are human; when confronted with a larger-than-usual amount of work, they are going to sift more quickly than usual. So if you were hesitating to send that query letter this month, pat yourself on the back!

The exception:

There is hope for those of you who simply can’t wait to send your query. Some agents insist that there is never a wrong time to send a query letter. In fact, Janet Reid gave an account of a query that she read unexpectedly, because the subject line caught her eye. She pointed out the fact that, even if an agency is closed, the work will still be there, waiting to be read upon the agent’s return. I must provide a slight warning, however, because I came across several agencies that not only closed for the holidays, but stated that any submissions during that time would be deleted.

The advice:

Logically, it would appear that waiting is the safer option. But that is easier said than done when you’ve poured your heart and soul into your craft, you’ve perfected it to a radiant shine, and you are finally ready to share your art with the world. Therefore, for those of you who just can’t bear to wait a single moment longer, I offer the following advice:

  • Make sure that your query is absolutely ready. In other words, be certain that your impatience did not cause you to cut corners in the writing or querying process. Your success is always most dependent upon your writing.
  • Your query cannot simply be satisfactory at this time of year. Given that huge pile of accumulated queries, you have to provide the sparkle that will make your query stand out from the rest.
  • Send your query to those agents who are actively receiving submissions, even in December. You may as well focus on the people who will be reading your work as soon as possible.
  • Do your research. If an agency is closed during the holidays, make sure that your submission will not be deleted.
  • Always keep a record of the dates of your submission and the agency’s reply. If you do not receive the reply you hoped for, there is nothing to stop you from resubmitting after a suitable amount of time has passed.

For additional information about favorable and unfavorable times to query agents, read this post by Wendy Lawton.

The conclusion:

In the end, there isn’t a right answer or wrong answer; there is just the cautious answer. Query writing and submissions are much too time-consuming to be wasted.

Whether you decide to submit this month or not, do not give up! It is easy to be distracted by the busy season–don’t let it pull you away from your writing. It is easy to be frustrated by rejection–don’t let it stop you from pursuing your dreams. Success may be right around the corner!

Do you have a holiday success story to share?