January, submitting your book, Agent Yes Mode, surviving air travel, and truffles

Hello, readers and writers! I am back in the office (survived air travel! Foiled gravity yet again!) and have seen one question going around the internet quite a bit.

This doesn't strike me as a safe mode of transportation.

Now. As always, everyone will feel differently. I've seen the opposite advice given.

Once again, you'll see that agents are, in fact, people. We disagree often. And not just about which cookies are best. (I, for one, am partial to chocolate almond, formed into package-shaped cubes with icing ribbons.)

Here's the question:

Should I hold off on sending my query/manuscript--even if it's ready to go in January? I don't want it to get lost in the shuffle of New Year's resolutions.

First of all, I think most of us are resolving to do things like eat less sugar and exercise more--and, even if we decided that getting published is our goal for 2012, that requires a bit more time and prep work (one would hope) than the four weeks of January.

Even NaNo takes a full month, which would place the hopefuls squarely into February--even with a "type the last word, hit Forward to agents" approach.


That said, I have two periods of the year that yield more than the average number of excellent queries and manuscripts:

One is September.
The other is January.

What the two have in common is that they follow a period when it is traditionally a bad idea to send work.

Therefore, the less savvy writers have all sent their work last week and will send some this week. (Or they send their work in August, when most of publishing is very quiet and/or on vacation.) It's a self-selecting group.

So, in late December (and August), I get a lot of:

Dear Sirs, 
My book will sell a gazillion copies and you are a fool if you don't publish it and what's an agent? I think I'll self-publish, but if I have to have an agent, I guess you'll do, I suppose, but really, my book about my cat that kills agents is a bestseller even if...

And, starting the second week of January, I get a lot of:

Dear GK,
I am writing to you because [something that proves research here] with [excellent story idea here, usually described with varied sentence rhythm, a lively voice, and advanced punctuation used correctly]. 

As I've said before, the people who do research are almost always the better writers. Savvy is as savvy does.


Let's say I get more excellent work in a short period of time than usual.

Let's say that, of the 50 daily queries and the seven or so I normally request, I decided to request an additional seven--14 total. And the seven extras are things that I find myself chattering about to my interns, my boss, my friends, the super, the guy at the corner store, random people on the subway...

This puts me in Yes mode.

I'm more likely to say yes to a work if I've just said yes to another.

Then, in my mind, they start to build. I start to get bouncy with the prospect of all of the wonderful work I'll be reading. It starts to feel like, very possibly, I'll be falling in love with a work soon. The odds seem better, so I'm more hopeful (and probably eat more chocolate, never mind my New Year's resolutions). Because the odds for each work coming in seem higher, it's as if each one comes with a recommendation.

Therefore, January and September are, in my mind, excellent times to send work.

The opposite may be true of other agents--theoretically, more queries could mean less time spent on each, which could mean an "I just want to clear my desk" approach. It could also mean that, with all of the great queries floating around, an agent could have a mental quota--if s/he gets 50 queries a day, s/he will usually request about the same amount--so only the top (perhaps most agents request five or so) will get a Yes, and the top spots will have more competition.

Now, is there a handy pie chart for how many agents (and which ones) fall into each camp?

No. But, as a consolation prize here's a great truffle recipe, perfect for belated holiday parties and for those of you who need a delicious, easy, impressive treat for under $8. Note that they'll take a few hours, start to finish. You can also freeze the ganache to hurry the process along.


Note that you can substitute the liquor or liqueur of your choice for the vanilla. I've tried Peppermint Schnapps and Bailey's. Pretty much anything you have on hand will do.

And I prefer to, after step three, coat the spheres in tempered melted chocolate (nuke chips 30 seconds, stir, 30 seconds, stir--until melted) before rolling them in cocoa. Helps it stick, and makes a nice shell.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.


The REALLY Real Curious Crow said...

Thank you, GK, for the positivity of this oh-so-timely post. I'm about to take my second dive into the query realm, this time with a male p.o.v. contemporary YA. This felt like a warm hug before donning my big-girl panties and brave face, come January (I write that like I have trepidation, but I'm SO excited this time around, I can't wait for January to roll in--especially now!)

Angela M. said...

I have actually heard those months mentioned once before. The logic may apply across the board in general. ;) I try to avoid major holiday periods just in case people are on vacation. Other than that, I'm not particular. All the agents I know get to every query eventually.

(OMG, I'm soooo craving chocolate today! How could you tease me like this?)

Shari Green said...

Oh yum. How is it that chocolate still appeals to me after a couple weeks of indulging? I don't know, but it does, lol. Might have to make some of these!

Aaaand... very fitting that my word verification is a slightly misspelled version of "excess", lol.