Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's nearly that time - by Terry Burns

Yes, it's nearly the time when publishing slows to a crawl for the holiday season. There are no hard and fast rules in publishing, but as a general observation it can be very difficult to get a publishing decision in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year.That's "family time" for publishing professionals and with that family time being scheduled over this holiday and that holiday, it can be almost impossible at times to get committees together to approve acquisitions.

But that doesn't mean things aren't going on.

A lot of people use the period to clean out their inboxes. Many have more time during this period to do reading than at other times of the year. This is a good thing if that reading gets our project selected to present to the powers that be when things start moving again.

A "yes" for any house other than a small press is going to involve other people. But there are lots of people authorized to say "no." That means we can look for a higher number of rejections during this time than other times and they try to weed out that inbox.

There are often fewer distractions during this period if they are working, or maybe more distractions if they are working at home, as they try to evaluate submissions. How much are they going to read to make their decision?

All editors and agents know that they are going to have to pass on most submissions. It isn't that they want to, the numbers tell them that. They know how many they are going to have to look at and what few slots they have to fill. So they tend to read to the point where they are sure that it isn't going to work for them. It may be well down into the proposal, even reading some of the actual writing. Or it may be as quick as the subject line of the email. As an example our submission guidelines say we do not work in the adult sci fi and fantasy markets. So if a subject line said, "please find enclosed by 250,000 word sci fi epic," how much am I likely to read. I just did, that's it.

Of course a quick perusal of the submission guidelines before sending would have prevented that.

So is it a good time or a bad time to submit? I don't think that matters. Worse case it may sit in an inbox until after the holidays. Best case it may be set aside for action when people are back up to speed. But most important, actual responses that we tend to receive during this period may not help our holiday spirits any. But there are always those exceptions that prove the rules.

It's a little early but I hope everyone has a terrific Thanksgiving. I guess since it falls on a Thursday that it would normally be up to me to post that day, but I think it'd be more appropriate for that message to come from Joyce. Frankly I hope you are all so happily involved with family that you don't have time to read it that day.

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