The dog days of August. Really?

14 August, 2012

There was a time when things slowed down in publishing.  It had a name. August. 

It was a blissful time, when editors and their bosses were away and agents retreated to their houses at the shore or upstate.  Unfortunately, by the time I became an agent, there was no little cabin in the woods to run away to.  But I looked forward, nonetheless, to catching up on reading manuscripts, and maybe reorganizing my filing system.  What joy!  And maybe even indulging in a few long weekends away.

No agent in her right mind would send out an important submission until after Labor Day, right?  Then, inevitably in September, that back-to-school fervor instilled in us at a young age would take hold, and we would get serious.  Editors would call to set up lunches, ready to buy.

A couple of years ago, I decided to test the hypothesis that it would be crazy to actually try to sell books in August. And guess what?  I found many editors at their desk, some even answering their own phones!  And so now you know this agent’s dirty little secret.  I love to sell books in August.  Just ten days ago, I shared an important new nonfiction project with some of my favorite editors, and within a week we had three offers.  How did this happen?  Truth be told, if you have a wonderful project, it can overcome the August doldrums.  True, one editor I would have liked to see bid was away, but most of the others were around and with fewer projects on their desk vying for attention, I was able to channel their energies toward my client’s book.  The same day, my colleague Jacquie Flynn sold a novel, and we were ready to break out the sangria (or in Jacquie’s case, a beer).

So this year, I am going to do the unthinkable–go away in early September when I’m supposed to be back at my desk.  The mischievous rebel within is telling me that this is smart business.  Especially since I’m heading for Rancho La Puerta, a gorgeous health retreat in northern Mexico where I help to lead “Rancho Reads and Writes.”  Four years ago, I met Ritu Sharma at Rancho at the pool.  Ritu is Founder of Women Thrive Worldwide, a nonprofit dedicated to helping to positively impact the lives of women in the developing world. Ritu came to our workshop and based on one page of her writing, I encouraged her to become an author. It is Ritu’s book, TEACH A WOMAN TO FISH, that I just sold.  So the cycle begins again as we travel full circle.

–Joelle Delbourgo