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When IS a good time to submit?


“Nobody reads anything in December. They’re busy planning holiday parties.”

“It’s summer. Don’t even bother to submit anything now. Editors are all away on vacation, and nobody is reading anything until the fall.”

This is the sort of talk I’ve heard over the years about the futility of submitting manuscripts over the holidays or in the summer... or a half-dozen other times of the year. It’s frustrating advice because there seem to be so many other times of the year when submissions are discouraged.

“All the publishers are in Bologna right now. No sense in submitting anything.”

One publisher even specifies a single month of the year when they will accept submissions. (And I'm not sure they even do that anymore.) For goodness sakes. When ISN’T it a bad time to submit?

Well, here’s good news – about December and summer, anyway. Some big sales have happened during those months, so don’t be daunted by nay sayers.
Sue Corbett, author of the recently released THE LAST NEWSPAPER BOY IN AMERICA, has told me that her first novel, TWELVE AGAIN, was first read and noticed during the holidays.

Jennifer Mattson, an associate agent with the highly-regarded Andrea Brown Literary Agency, believes there is really no bad time to submit. “June and July submissions can be quite nice because editors have a little more leisure to empty their in-boxes, (many officially have half-day Fridays for summer hours, but stick around into the quiet afternoons to get caught up) and some even bring manuscripts on their vacations.”

She does agree that late summer can be a little slower. “August isn't such a great time because many bigwigs go away on long trips, so it's hard to get deals formalized. But in general, I would say, don't write off summertime submissions!”

Besides, since manuscripts often sit in slush piles for months, there is almost no correlation between when a manuscript is mailed and when it is read.

Authors I talked with have similar summertime stories to tell. Jennifer Ward, (jenniferwardbooks.com), is happy to report: “Most of my published books were summer sales. Keeping with the trend, I just sold a picture book to Marshall Cavendish; signed the contract just a few weeks ago.”

There is also activity in subsidiary sales during the summer. Alex Flinn, (alexflinn.com), whose novel BEASTLY is now in production with a hot young cast from CBS Films, tells me she sold audio book rights in June to three books: BEASTLY, KISS IN TIME and her upcoming book.

When Jennifer Mattson consulted her colleagues at the Andrea Brown agency, she heard opinions similar to her own. “Several of us have made major sales in the summertime. The consensus is that there are no off seasons in publishing anymore – so let that be motivation to authors to overcome those doldrums!”

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Kim Norman's first picture book, JACK OF ALL TAILS, was released by Dutton, a Penguin imprint, in 2007.  CROCODADDY, (Sterling, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble), debuted as the May 2009 feature for the Children's Book of the Month Club. She is looking forward to the release of two Sterling titles in 2010: TEN ON THE SLED, (illustrated by Liza Woodruff), and ALL KINDS OF KITTENS, a "Storytime Sticker" title. I KNOW A WEE PIGGY WHO WALLOWED IN BROWN, illustrated by Henry Cole, will be published by Dutton in 2012. She is represented by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Website: kimnorman.com

This article first appeared in Kim Norman's "Outside the Lines" column in the summer 2009 issue of the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI's newsletter, "The Highlighter."