August always presents a quandary, at least to this agent. None of us is immune to the slowdown during the summer, and August is when we really feel it. You reach out to an editor only to receive an “out of office” message. The contract for a book doesn’t arrive because the contracts person is on vacation. The check for an author advance isn’t cut because the requisite people who need to sign off on the check request are away. It’s all completely understandable, but nonetheless, maddening. Mercury seems to be perpetually in retrograde!
Common wisdom has been that an agent should not send out major projects in August. It’s just too damn difficult to get the attention of the people at publishing houses, and even if you do find a few of them at their desks, the internal decision-making machine inevitably slows down, which makes it hard to create any momentum.
As an independent agent, I wish I could shut down for the month of August, but that’s not really possible. But there’s till a lot I can do. August is a great time to read, reflect and prepare. This is when I actually can concentrate on reviewing and editing proposals and manuscripts that I hope to submit in the Fall. I can plan and prepare upcoming submissions by drafting submission letters and come up with lists of editors I hope to approach on a given project, so that after Labor Day, I’ll be ready to go. It’s a good time to finish up submissions that have been in process, finalizing deals and at least getting the contract process started. Some new projects, such as a more specialized nonfiction project that would not be going out widely, or a terrific, fun, light summer novel, can actually find a home in late summer because there is less frenzy in terms of competition from other submissions.
In August, I love to think about what we’ve been doing well and what we could be doing better. Are we signing the right clients? Are we supporting them as well as we can? Are there specific kinds of books and authors we should be seeking out more purposefully, and others we should stay away from?
August is a time to reevaluate and recharge the batteries so we can hit the ground running as kids get back to school. No matter how old you are, that back-to-school mentality affects us all.
And in the last days of August, I throw in the towel and take that last summer vacation just like everyone else, armed with a long list of books I want to read for total pleasure. And that is truly something to look forward to!