Summer might be winding down, but some of you might be wondering if this is a good time of year to publish their work in progress. The answer might vary depending on if you’re an indie versus a trad author.
I’m excited to share this amazing guest post all about publishing during the summer, by an author who has done exactly that. Zara Hoffman is a published indie writer and has experience working with traditional literary agents, so obviously she has a wealth of knowledge on both types of publishing.
Publishing in the Summer
By Zara Hoffman
Summer means more time for reading and a lot more books coming out to meet that need. But does that mean this is the time for you to be putting your work out into the world? The short answer is yes and no.
If you’re self-publishing, go for it!
As mentioned earlier, people do a lot of reading over the summer because school is out, and even working people take personal vacations. Of course, this will cut into your summer vacation, so you should seriously consider that before you decide to take the plunge with a summer release. As a self-publisher (technically “independent” or “indie,” if we’re being honest since I don’t know anyone who is personally physically printing the books being sold), you’re going to have to make sure all the files are correct, that they publish on time, market your book (for free), schedule ads (paid), and whatever else you decide to do to promote your new book.
I’ve released two books while on “summer break” now: Taming the Alpha (The Belgrave Legacy, 3) which came out on May 7, 2020, and Sacred Souls (Stellar Blood, 3), which came out on July 6, 2021. Both are available at most eBook retailers, paperback via Amazon, and signed paperbacks (for readers in the US or Canada) via my Ko-fi shop.
What if I’m pursuing traditional publishing?
If you’re going for the traditional track and are using this break from the normal grind to query, I urge you to wait. Why? Because while the publishing industry is still hard at work during this time… agents aren’t looking for new projects or authors during this time. If they’re not on vacation (agents are people, too—regardless of what writers on Twitter will have you believe), they’re working their butts off to make their clients’ summer books successful which can mean traveling for meetings, a lot of social media marketing, and being available to answer their authors’ numerous questions.
During my summer internship at a literary agency, I was responsible for reading the slush pile for three different agents in addition to reading the most up-to-date draft on current projects with fresh eyes. There was a unique circumstance where one of my bosses had opened himself to queries through Thriller Fest.
The number of slush pile manuscripts I dismissed out of hands for them was about 70% because they didn’t follow the submission guidelines in some way: included an attachment when it’s asked none be sent, genres that the agent doesn’t recognize, addressed to the wrong person (clearly a copy and paste job gone wrong), etc. The remaining ones I ended up rejecting on their behalf was due to the limited (almost non-existent) space on their slate and only the most interesting stories got through me. Even then, it was up to my bosses on whether they pursued anything further. As far as I know, that wasn’t the case based on the number of phone calls my bosses were always making.
If you’ve read the popular book Beach Read by Emily Henry, you will know that the main character’s agent is after her to get her next story in, and that’s pretty accurate: agents are pouring all their energy into their existing clients.
As illustrated through my internship, though, there are always exceptions to this general rule. Any author looking to get an agent in today’s publishing landscape should be following them on Twitter and regularly checking the agent’s profile on the agency page to be aware of if and when they are open to new projects.
What should I do now?
Instead of going after the all-important agent (in traditional publishing), I recommend authors instead take their summer free-time to put another polish on their manuscript or start working on a second one. It might even surprise you by being better than the previous one (likely since we all get better at writing as we go on—or, at the very least, not worse—there are definitely some authors who I can’t say improve over their career).
And yet another reason to work on another project is that when you eventually do get an agent (it’s all about persistence, patience, and timing so I believe every author will get their day—though it will likely take a while), being able to show the agent you have multiple projects finished is a great way to assure them you aren’t a one-trick pony. They are, after all, signing on for your whole career (barring some reason that you or they want to get out of that arrangement down the line).
So, if you’re not on the beach reading Beach Read or some other summer-themed book (or thriller since those seem to be popular during the hot season), then sit down at your computer or notebook and stay away from email. Work on your book, or the next one, and wait until September to start querying.
One last tip!
Another time to avoid is mid-December through early January (Winter holidays and New Year’s are not the time to be vying for an agent’s attention for much of the reasons elaborated here).
More About Zara
Zara Hoffman is a graduate student at the NYU Center for Publishing. She has been writing since she was eight. She spends most of her free time writing new stories because if she didn’t her head would likely explode. Her books are for young adults or the young at heart. After all, growing up is overrated. When she isn’t wrapped up in projects, Zara listens to music, plays with her dog, or hangs out with friends (remotely during the pandemic, of course).
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