All About Timing

Today I want to share a couple of tidbits about timing in the publishing business. First, we’re now about ten days away from the ICRS convention, which is where many people involved in Christian publishing will be from around July 11 to 17. This may seem irrelevant if you’re not going to be there, but it’s not. The important thing to realize is that from now until about two weeks after the convention, you’ll find it difficult or impossible to get a response on anything from anyone in CBA. That’s an entire month. If you’ve got queries out, or if you’re expecting a response on a proposal, it’s unlikely you’ll hear back in the next month. If you have a project out on submission in publishing houses, again, don’t hold your breath for any word soon.

Making things even tougher, by the time everyone digs out from their ICRS follow-up, many will go on vacation, making August another tough month to get anything done.

Now, DON’T go around saying, “Rachelle said nothing gets done in publishing in July or August.” I’m not saying that. I’m saying, if you’re a prospective author waiting to hear back from agents and/or editors, these are not the best months to expect quick responses. However, behind the scenes LOTS is getting done. Right now, agents are preparing all the projects they’re going to pitch to all the editors, publishers, and others they’ll meet with. After the convention, we’ll be busy following up. So, things may pile up in my query box for awhile, and if you’ve sent me a partial or full manuscript, it will be some time before I can get to it. Fair warning!

To address a different aspect of timing… I just want to remind you that sometimes it can take a long time to sell a book to a publisher. I have quite a few clients whose books are currently out on submission to publishing houses and haven’t sold yet. Authors are understandably anxious to know what’s going on, and if a few days or weeks go by and we haven’t heard anything, they can start to panic or get dejected. My advice (unrealistic though it may be) is to try not to get too upset about the length of time that passes. Here are some examples to help ease your mind.

This morning I got to my desk and the first thing I read was an email from a publisher that they’re going to make an offer on one of my client’s books. Yay! Exactly the way I like to start the week. Do you know when I first submitted that project to publishers? January 29. That means five months passed from submission to offer. Another project I recently sold was submitted on January 30 and the offer came through on April 24… so, three months. You may have already heard the story of when Mary DeMuth sold her first novel. It was about a year from the time the editor first read her sample chapters until they finally read the whole book and decided to make an offer. (I was the acquiring editor, Beth Jusino was the agent, and we all lived happily ever after.)

All that to say, timing in publishing is an interesting and slippery thing. It’s always moving either incredibly, blindingly fast; or so slow it seems to be standing still.

I hope this helps you understand that your experience of the publishing industry’s slowness to respond to you probably has nothing to do with you. There are forces at work here that defy explanation. At least by me.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Marla Taviano on July 1, 2008 at 9:08 PM

    >My agent just told me that exact same thing last week. (ICRS, vacation, nothing happening until August)

    I think all the waiting is good for us.

  2. Anonymous on July 1, 2008 at 5:13 PM

    >Does that mean we should stop rushing home after work to check our e-mail in-box, to see if a response to our proposal just came in?
    Who am I kidding, I’ll do it anyway. And after I delete all my incoming junk e-mail, I’ll just have to tell myself that good things come to those that wait.
    Thanks for the inside tip, it’ll help me chill for a while.

  3. Lea Ann on July 1, 2008 at 10:38 AM

    >Thanks for the reminder! Now we should all go out and enjoy our summer and just forget about those pesky little projects hovering out there somewhere!

    Sure. Right.

  4. Catherine West on July 1, 2008 at 10:02 AM

    >Sigh. Okay. Wake me up when it’s all over…either way.
    Oh, wait, you probably want me to keep writing, don’t you?

  5. christa on July 1, 2008 at 8:49 AM

    >If books were elephants, gestation would be 22 months.

    Goes to show, sometimes the bigger the prize, the longer the wait. . .

  6. Stephanie Reed on July 1, 2008 at 8:43 AM

    >Bon voyage! My books will be at the Kregel booth at ICRS, but not I.

    Maybe you should call your blog Rants, Ramblings, and Reassurances. You always know just what to say.

  7. Rachelle on July 1, 2008 at 7:39 AM

    >Kat, depending on the publishing house, I’d guess anywhere from 5 to 20.

  8. Kat Harris on July 1, 2008 at 7:36 AM

    >Maybe you’ve answered this question before, but many people have to look at a project and like it before a decision on publishing something is made?

  9. Anonymous on July 1, 2008 at 6:59 AM

    You must have been reading my mail…literally. Here’s an email I received from an editor who agreed to look at my latest novel:

    “I’ll be leaving for ICRS two weeks from today, will be leaving on another business trip something over a week after I return from ICRS, I have a vacation scheduled for early August, and so on. A busy summer ahead! By September, though, things slow down quite a bit for me (no September trips as far as I know), so that would be a good time for me to take a look at your novel, if you’re ready to send it to me then.”

    Thanks for helping minimize the understandable anxiety that accompanies a lack of action by publishers.

  10. Rachel H. Evans on July 1, 2008 at 6:57 AM

    >This is the sort of “inside information” that makes your blog so helpful! It’s good to know what’s going on behind the scenes…and to be reminded that editors and publishers have crazy works schedules, off seasons, vacations, etc…just like the rest of us.