One of the most confusing things about the publishing industry is its ebb and flow. When you’re new to the cycle of querying agents and going on submission to editors, the entire thing can seem mystifying. Undoubtedly, you’ll be told that some times of year are “better” or “worse” than others for sending out your work; that your chances of signing with an agent or being acquired by an editor can sometimes depend on where in the calendar your submission falls.
Today, I’m here to try and help you out with a publishing calendar that explains which months are busy, which less so–and why.
Disclaimer: this calendar is based on my personal experiences as an author and literary assistant. I do not claim to be a publishing expert. Also, I know MANY people whose experiences have defied this calendar, myself among them. I’m simply trying to pinpoint general trends in the industry.
Generally, agents, editors, and other publishing folks are just returning to work after the holidays at the beginning of the month, so sending out a submission or a query right now runs the risk of it falling behind the backlog of books they received while they were on vacation.
From the middle of the month onwards, however, agents and editors are generally caught up and ready for submissions, so send away!
February and March
I have lumped these months together because they are a good time to query or submit, since these months are uncommon for editors or agents to go on break, and publishing as a whole is busy and excited.
Notably, however, there are several conferences during this time period, including ALA Midwinter (which was held from February 9-12 this year), and the Bologna Childrens’ Book Fair — a big industry event for international publishing that many agents attend — is held at the end of March or the beginning of April every year. So some publishing people may be intermittently busy, which leads us into…
Conference season is starting to begin! One of the biggest events of the month is the London Book Fair, which is another massive international publishing bonanza that will be held from April 10-12 in 2018.
Although this is still generally a good time to query and submit, be aware that agents and editors may also be consumed with their own projects, trying to finish things up before summer truly hits the industry.
I call this one a “bubble month.” Both querying and submission response times generally begin to grow slower, and more conferences begin to happen, including Yallwest at the beginning of May and Book Expo America/BookCon at the end of the month, rolling over into…
June and July
Summer is here, and with it, the slowest season of publishing has begun. Response times dwindle; the industry is busy traveling and networking. This is also a popular time to take a vacation–understandable, due to the weather and the fact that many people may have children who are out of school.
I like to call August the Dead Zone, because…well, it is. There are some conferences here– SCBWI’s summer conference is from August 3-6 this year–and this month is the most popular, by far, for vacation time amongst agents and editors.
I’m just going to give it to you straight: don’t query in August. Often, this is when summer interns leave their posts and are transitioning, and clients are sending in revisions back to their agents in order to try to get them ready for…
Arguably the busiest month of the year in publishing. Deals are being made right and left! Clients are being signed! Everything is exciting and fast! If you can query now, definitely do it.
October and November
Also great times to query or go out on submission. But as the clock ticks closer to Thanksgiving, beware.
Because as soon as the holiday season rolls around, publishing begins to slow down again.
This is publishing’s other Dead Zone. Many agencies close to queries during this time, and editors are often going through their backlog of submissions. People also tend to leave during the last two weeks of the month for vacations and holidays.
If you have a manuscript that you feel is ready to query in mid-November, I would recommend you wait until January. You’ll be giving yourself a better chance of being seen more quickly.
Okay, that’s all for now! I hope this was interesting to you guys — I did my best to break this down in a way that would make sense.
Again, as I stated above, this calendar is not always going to hold true. My debut novel actually sold in early August, which I never would’ve expected. I have friends who’ve gotten agent offers on major holidays; who’ve closed book deals on New Year’s Eve. But generally, publishing is an industry that changes in fairly similar ways every year, and if you follow this pattern when querying and submitting, you give your book its best possible shot of being published.
If you have any more questions, feel free to leave them down below!