I was talking with one of my beta readers the other day and I mentioned that I’d started sending out my queries to agents. “You’re doomed,” was his reply. Well, gee, that’s constructive, I thought. Way to believe in my project.
So I asked. “Why am I doomed. You liked the book, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, but everyone knows you don’t send out queries in the summer,” he said.
Um. Sure. I’ve heard this bit of “wisdom” before, of course. Most writers have. The theory is that everyone in publishing goes on vacation in the summer, meaning your query is either going to sit unread for months, or it’s going to be quickly rejected without any consideration just to move it off the pile. Supposedly, no one wants to deal with queries in the summer because it’s just more junk that takes them away from their vacations.
I refuse to believe this. It may have been true forty years ago in the days of three martini lunches, but the world we’re living in now doesn’t allow anyone to go on vacation for three months, much less people in a business like publishing which needs to make money (and lots of it) in order to survive. Everything is too global, too connected, and too fast-paced for agents and editors to just drop out of work for an entire summer. They may go on vacation, yes, but not for the entire summer. They may be busy attending conferences, but they’re still working. No one just lets work pile up for a whole summer, unless they’re planning to quit in a rage on the day after Labor Day.
And as for summarily rejecting everything because it’s summer? Have you noticed how fierce the competition is in publishing these days? No one wants to miss out on the next bestseller. Rejecting work simply because it’s summer is likely a quick way to get fired. How bad would it stink if you just rejected a bunch of stuff so you could get back to your lounge chair and one of the things you rejected was the next Harry Potter? Reject it because it’s not something you represent, or it’s not your taste, or you just don’t believe in the project and maybe you keep your job. But reject it just because it was submitted during the summer? As Trump would say, “You’re fired!”
Maybe I’m naive in this. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) Maybe I am really dooming my project by submitting over the summer. However, I choose to think positively. I believe that a good project is a good project, whether it’s summer, winter, the solstice, or the day of a total solar eclipse. (Whether mine is good or great, I don’t know, yet. The publishing gods have yet to rule.) I believe that it’s not when you query, it’s how. Did you follow the submission guidelines? Do you have a great hook? Are you being professional? Does your project match what the agency handles? Those are the things that matter most. Not the date on the calendar.
A viable project isn’t going to be turned down just because it’s summer. Not in this publishing climate, anyway. Publishing is a business that needs to make money all year round. It would be foolish and self-defeating to turn anything away because, “It’s the wrong time of year.” The stockholders would have a collective cow if they suddenly learned that no work was being done for three months. That’s not how businesses make money and how editors and agents stay employed.
Might I have to wait a bit longer for an answer during the summer? Sure. If the person I’m querying is on vacation that week or at a conference, I might have to wait a bit longer. What’s an extra week or two, though? I believe that my work will be evaluated fairly and not dumped in the trash just because it’s June. That bit of writer’s wisdom needs to go the way of the DoDo bird. (And if you’re an agent or editor who trashed my work just because it’s summer, please don’t tell me. Let me retain my childlike sense of a fair and just world, please.)