I've just been told by my agent that nothing will be submitted to publishers until after the New Year. Anything sent them before then would just sit and gather dust. It's not the first time, she's told me this, and in fact my contracts usually appeared in the spring. I'm also told that not much happens in the summer months because that is vacation time for employees.

So, I'm trying to get my head around the fact that for only about 3 or 4 months out of the year editors take a look at submissions. If that is the case, it's little wonder that they are so quick to turn down books and that they make such wrong decisions with others. They must be swamped.

It's bad news for me and will cause a longer break in the sequence of the series than I expected.

Does anyone here have more insight into the workings of the publishing world?

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Frankly, I have some serious concerns about your agent. It doesn't sound like your books are very high on her priority lists.
So what do they do the rest of the year?
Well, the actual getting out of the books is going on, I guess.
I have heard from several sources that the periods between Thanksgiving and New Year's, and between Memorial Day and Labor Day, is slow for submissions. I've also heard various reasons for this: summer vacations make it difficult to get all the necessary people in the room at the same time for decisions, needing time to catch up on reading that had lingered as more pressing duties intervened, family holiday commitments that limit the amount of outside of work time people are willing to spend on reading manuscripts are the primaries.

How much of this is true, I really don't know; I'll admit I didn't hear any of it from an editor. (If I knew one, I'd ask.)
This sounds about right. I think there are periods of intense focus on other aspects of the job, for editors: getting acquired books written, edited and out the door. Managing publicity, handling the bean-counters and the boss, keeping the big-name writers happy and jollying the no-names along for another book or two. Acquisitions are only part of the deal. It's roughly the same calendar for literary journals, oddly.
IJ I think (hoping!) we're in an unusual time right now--this isn't the norm, but I think it's accurate. My agent has told me that right now nobody is buying--too much fear about ebooks, the economy, the drop in booksales, etc. The hope is that this changes after the new year, that things start getting more optimistic and they start buying. Other agent he's been talking to are sharing the same sentiment, and I heard the same also from two writer friends who heard this from their agents. Check PublishersMarketplace for sale announcements since May, and it's an eye opener.

Now, I think if things don't turn more optimistic in the Winter/Spring, we're going to see a bunch agents quitting this business. But yeah, this is all related to the fear of ebooks, the health of bookstores, etc., as publishers are afraid to buy anything that isn't safe and/or celebrity related.
We acquire all year round. The week between Xmas and New Year's -- sure, that's not a good idea -- and late August can be tricky for getting people together. But I've been getting submissions hand over fist this month, and I can promise you nothing's gathering dust.
Neil, are you seeing your house playing it much safer with what you're buying? Do you see houses taking risks right now? How worried do you think publishing is about ebooks and books sales dropping?

Thanks,
Dave
Dave, we have to continue to take risks, and we do (I just bought a first novel the other week that I'm particularly excited about, as a matter of fact). But we're taking second and third looks at manuscripts to make sure we know what we're doing first. Of course, if you had asked me the same question five years ago, I'd have told you the same thing!

As for ebooks, they're still a very tiny part of our income, but they'll grow. The people who design and produce e-readers now have enough incentive to keep putting money into R&D, and eventually they're going to become good enough and cheap enough so that ebooks will become much more widespread -- and at that point they'll become one more good way for people to read a book. They won't replace the paper books; they'll exist alongside them, the way audio books do now. Anything that helps get people reading -- I'm all for it.
Thanks, Neil. Perhaps you're not on our list, because my books may not be what you're looking for. But: Good for you!
I didn't mention it to put a gold star on my forehead, I.J. -- I think most of my colleagues in the business are looking at as many things as I am. My point is: Just because it's November doesn't mean we aren't looking at submissions.
Okay, so now I worry again. :)

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