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Jane Dystel on when to submit to publishers

So many of my clients ask me when the right time is to submit their proposals to publishers. Are there times of year when things quiet down? Is there a perfect time to submit a first novel, a self help book, or a proposal for a wonderful memoir? Here are a few thoughts.

There used to be a time some years ago when things really did quiet down in the summer, and I would advise that very few (at least multiple) submissions go out then because it was so difficult to get a group of publishers who were not out on vacation. I don’t believe that any more. Certainly it is more difficult to get a group of twenty editors that are all in their offices at the same time during June, July and August, but the business is so competitive that I now consider the summer almost as busy as other times of year. Because summer is a time for beach reading, I do tend to submit material that I feel is “lighter” – romance, commercial fiction, thrillers, mysteries – books of that sort.

Right after Labor Day is “back to school” in so many ways. Everyone has returned from vacation, and it is a very active and competitive time for multiple submissions. This is one of the best times of year to get an editor’s attention – and we do try to take advantage of this. This selling period, though, is relatively short. In mid November, things really slow down in anticipation of Thanksgiving, most company’s sales meetings and the Christmas and New Years holidays. At this time of year, I tend to submit option titles, but many fewer multiple submissions.

I have always found the first four months of the year to be the busiest and most productive in terms of sales. I work towards getting my clients’ proposals ready for submission at that time – self help at the very beginning of the year, important fiction and non fiction afterwards. This period slows right around Memorial Day and BEA (that’s the big national book expo for the uninitiated) and then picks up again with the summer reading submissions.

Of course all that I have said here can be altered for the sure fire bestseller which can be sent out anytime. I have sold books for 7 figures during the dog days of summer, and I remember one Christmas period when I sold over 10 books.

Having guidelines, though, does help my clients to know the ebb and flow of the submission process; these also help us in advising them on what to do when.

6 Responses to Jane Dystel on when to submit to publishers

  1. Ryan Field says:

    Thanks for mentioning that summer isn’t the “slow” time anymore. I’m busier than ever, and so is my agent.

    Then after Labor day the e-mails are stacked. It happenes again the first Monday after New Years. I find that there are times when things slow down, but not like they used to slow down.

  2. Joelle says:

    Thanks! As someone who’s out on submission right now, it’s very reassuring to hear this. Of course, I knew Michael knew what he was doing, so I wasn’t worried at all! I know some writers who will really want to read this, so I think even though I’m on “holiday” from my blog, I will post a link.

  3. Marian says:

    Thanks for this post! Now I’m relieved I completed the revisions for my manuscript well in advance of Labor Day.

  4. mahesh says:

    Jane

    I really liked your article on when to submit to publishers. I would like your thoughts on a project of mine. This is a book on pain. How pain affects people, how we can analyze it and what strategies we can use in its management. It is written in a warm, conversational style. Pain affects over 100 million people just in the US and over 2 billion people worldwide. Pain is a complex subject but there is an underlying beautiful simplicity to it. I love the field and believe I have a unique perspective on it that I wish to share that with people in pain. This knowledge will help them to hopefully better their lives. Could you suggest an agent/publisher who would be a good fit for this book. my e-mail is mkuthuru@yahoo.com

  5. mahesh says:

    Jane

    I really liked your article on when to submit to publishers. I would like your thoughts on a project of mine. This is a book on pain. How pain affects people, how we can analyze it and what strategies we can use in its management. It is written in a warm, conversational style. Pain affects over 100 million people just in the US and over 2 billion people worldwide. Pain is a complex subject but there is an underlying beautiful simplicity to it. I love the field and believe I have a unique perspective on it that I wish to share that with people in pain. This knowledge will help them to hopefully better their lives. Could you suggest an agent/publisher who would be a good fit for this book. my e-mail is mkuthuru@yahoo.com

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