Are You Sure You Know What You're Doing?

Dear Miss Snark,

I am a first-time non-fiction writer with a fabulous agent, only possibly rivaled by you in her snarky goodness and graciousness. This agent used to be a well-respected editor, has a kick-ass list, and has lots of friends in the biz.

My agent's plan is to submit my proposal and sample chapter in the beginning of next month (November).

In the unpublished ghetto that I am clamoring to get out of, word is that I'm doomed 'cause by Nov, publishing houses are all mentally checked out of work and checked in to Turkey Day, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, etc....through January.

I'm terrified that my project will be pushed aside for office party tush-xeroxing and I won't get the chance I would like to think my efforts are due.

Is it true that there is a "better" time to submit proposals and sample chapters than some other times?

And is it true that publishers don't really give a flying fig (pudding) about acquiring new works around the holiday season?

Am I doomed? Should I request that we wait until the eggnog wears off in January? Or is my agent really the sleuthy one, playing off of the expectation that others might believe in this old wives' tale (like not swimming after you eat) and actually submitting at a fabulous time, laughing at the stupidity of others while savoring her SASE-paid for, gin-spiced Frappuccino?

First off let's look at what you told me. You have a kick ass agent with a great list who knows a lot of people. She told you the proposal is going out in November. Then in the "unpublished ghetto" people are telling you it's a bad time to submit work.

Which opinion carries more weight?

You're obsessing right now cause you're anxious. This project you've worked on, maybe for donkey's years, is out of your hands. You're not used to not thinking, worrying, fretting about it.

Time to move ahead and fret about something else. How about world peace?

I have a client who is doing much the same thing you are right now. His proposal is being shopped. He's crazed about, of all things, the subtitle. He emails me about three times a week with changes to it. I haven't broken the news to him yet that he's wasting his time. I'm not going to call an editor to change a subtitle in the first place, and titles are subject to change in the editorial process anyway. I doubt any editor looking at this could tell you the subtitle without looking it up. But, he's anxious and this is how he copes.

As to timing: I'm writing this on 10/27/05. Thanksgiving break starts 11/23/05. That's 3.5 weeks away. We come back from Thanksgiving on 11/28/05. We'll break for Christmas at the EARLIEST on 12/21/05. That's another 3.5 weeks

Publishing isn't exactly Wall Street with it's emphasis on working weekends and 16 hour days but we do manage to show up pretty regularly. And you missed the events that screw up the schedule more than anything: maternity leave.

Quit obsessing. Trust your "kick ass well respected agent". Turn a deaf ear to people telling you how the industry works when they aren't IN the industry. And get started on that World Peace thing. Christmas is coming.


Mary Akers said...

Such good advice: relax. Thank you. I needed to hear it, too.

Ira Rosofsky said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ira Rosofsky said...

My agent made the point (I hope he's not reading this and noticing that I'm not working on revisions) that publishers have schedules--e.g., when they publish their fall or spring lists, etc.-- but that agents and editors work all the time. After all, I recieved my offer of representation smack dab in the middle of the dog days of August. I was the one on vacation at the time, not my agent.

THRILL said...

E Dashwood said: "publishers have schedules--e.g., when they publish their fall or spring lists, etc.-- but that agents and editors work all the time"

What I've always wondered (in a philosophical kind of non-fret way) was what about the impact of publisher budgets? Doesn't that control what publishers can or can't buy, however much the editor may love the book.

brainlesionssuck said...

Great advice...leaving your baby in other hands is difficult, but if you don't trust your agent, why have her? Great posts as usual.

Anonymous said...

Very helpful. I've heard this wisdom, too. But then, I've heard that you shouldn't submit in January or February because agents/editors have just cleaned off their desks and are reluctant to clutter them up again, and you shouldn't submit in summer because everyone's on vacation, and you shouldn't submit around any big conferences because of the requests, and you shouldn't do this, and you shouldn't do that. With all the shouldn'ts out there, it seems authors have about three days in the middle of May when they can submit; otherwise, forget it! So your words were very reassuring, and backed up what I had been suspecting. Some people get so superstitious about the whole submissions process.