If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you may have seen this last Thursday:
Jim McCarthy @JimMcCarthy528 Okay authors: we’re entering the quietest weeks in the publishing year and I’m caught up on slush. Thinking of querying me? Try now!
And it’s true—the last two weeks of the summer leading up to Labor Day are pretty much dead. It seems like everyone is either on vacation or pretending they are, so submissions aren’t going out, contracts are taking longer, and maybe there are SOME new deals, but less than any other time of year barring the stretch from Christmas to New Year’s.
It’s that magical time of year when I feel like I’m almost up to date on everything. So since I haven’t signed on many new authors in the past year, it seemed like a nice time to remind people I was still (and always am) looking. Said tweet had some interesting results. Let’s discuss.
First, a lot of people replied to let me know they were sad that I don’t represent any middle grade fiction. That took me by surprise, because while I certainly haven’t done much of it, I don’t believe I’ve ever said no to the category across the board. I also don’t do much memoir, but the last new project I signed on is just that. It was an interesting reminder to me that as we encourage authors to focus more and more on researching agents before they contact us, we ourselves have to be extra certain that we’re putting good information out there.
Let’s take a quick moment to clarify what it is I’m looking for: just about anything. I know, I know. That’s not helpful. So let’s say this: it seems I’m known for YA fiction and paranormal adult fiction. And I certainly am always looking in those categories. I’d also love to find some wonderful middle grade, more literary adult fiction, and any breathtaking narrative nonfiction. Just because I don’t do something all the time doesn’t mean I’m not game to try it out (note: this is not a rule that applies for ALL agents).
Beyond that, I learned that sometimes it’s possible to be too encouraging. I’ve actually requested a ton of manuscripts in the past four days and got some great, great queries seemingly in direct response to my call for submissions. On the flip side, there were a fair number of queries that clearly weren’t ready to go yet. People saw an opportunity and jumped on it. I get that; I really do. But here’s a safe rule going forward: if it isn’t ready, don’t send it out. No matter how appealing the circumstance is, whether it’s an editor you met who asked to see it or just little old me saying to send a query, it will never pay off to rush material out if you don’t believe it’s in the best possible shape.
All in all, though, I’m thrilled with the response. There’s something so wonderful about digging through and seeking out the books that I’ll fall in love with. Even if that excitement is ever so slightly tempered by the fact that more queries equal more rejections. I know a lot of you think we agents love a power trip and really enjoy saying no. I promise that isn’t true. I’m a whole lot happier to extend an offer of representation than to send a rejection. Let’s hope that I have the opportunity to do so in the near future!