Timing Myths Dispelled

Sometimes I receive submissions with the note, “I want to get this to the editor before fill in the name of the big conference, or before the holiday, or whatever!

Does this make sense?

I can answer this question right now. The perfect time to submit a manuscript is…

Thursday, 4:45 AM local time, in Guam.

Seriously, I understand the desire to enhance a submission’s chances by timing it when the editor is most likely to review. But let me dispel some myths:

I need to submit before Christmas.

The publishing company may be closed the week after Christmas, so the submission may sit in the editor’s IN box for a week. Why not use that time to hone the manuscript, if needed.

After Christmas is the best time to submit.

Maybe, if you want your manuscript to get lumped in with all the “New Year’s Resolution” manuscripts from everyone else.

Don’t submit anything in December because of the holidays.

Historically, December has proven to be one of my busiest months. Everyone’s at work!

The editor needs my work before the big conference so it doesn’t get lumped with after-conference submissions.

As an agent, I can tell you that I’m working to prepare for the big conference so sending your submission before the conference doesn’t increase chances of acceptance. My guess is that my editor friends would tell the same story.

I’m sure there are other myths that seem logical, but don’t give you a leg up in practice. In all seriousness, the best time to submit is when you, and the manuscript, are ready.

Your turn:

Have you tried to time the submission of your proposal? How?

In your opinion, is there a bad time to submit a proposal?

When do you think is the best time to submit your work?

 

42 Responses to Timing Myths Dispelled

  1. Malinda Martin February 1, 2018 at 3:26 am #

    Thanks for the article. Very helpful information.

  2. Janine Rosche February 1, 2018 at 4:16 am #

    I panicked about sending a proposal before the big conference because I imagine the agents would be handing out golden tickets there and I’d miss out. I’ve since learned that it isn’t like that. Yes, an agent might request a manuscript, they won’t be sliding a contract across the table.

    And I worried about all the post-conference submissions, too. But here’s the thing: you learn so much at conference about writing, that suddenly you see all the areas you can improve your manuscript. I still have a full manuscript request sitting from November. I learned how to strengthen my work so I’m still revising it!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 1, 2018 at 7:54 am #

      That’s not long at all. Keep at it!

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler February 1, 2018 at 10:36 am #

      Well, I’ll be. I had no idea anyone (other than the recipients, of course) knew about those golden tickets.

      Now I have to find out who leaked.

      • Bob Hostetler
        Bob Hostetler February 1, 2018 at 10:37 am #

        Tamela, I truly hope it wasn’t you.

      • Janine Rosche February 1, 2018 at 11:16 am #

        There was a whole song and dance number. Charlie Bucket just wanted to rub my nose in it. I hope his book goes the way of Augustus Gloop.

  3. Vanessa Burton February 1, 2018 at 6:42 am #

    Thank you for this! I’ve read many articles encouraging writers when to submit or not to! It’s refreshing to hear that you should submit when you’re ready!

  4. Sami A. Abrams February 1, 2018 at 7:17 am #

    Thank you for the insight!

    At this point, my timing seems to be my own personal deadlines. Even future manuscript and proposal submissions have been mentally noted. However, I look at it more like a road map, and I’m ready and willing to take detours if needed.

    I feel that if I don’t at least have a self-imposed deadline, I’ll never be finished.

    (Btw, my hubby calls my calendar “The Decade at a Glance.”) Giggle.

  5. Julie Christian February 1, 2018 at 7:17 am #

    I have fallen prey to a timing myth.

    A seasoned author suggested that I send a proposal in advance of a conference because I had mentioned that I desperately wanted to meet an agent that was scheduled to attend.

    It made sense, and I was going to send a proposal anyway, so I sent it.

    However, I assume that agents are deluged with proposals every day of the year, including Thursdays in Guam. I like to imagine that an agent is my first customer. I visualize her standing in a bookstore in front of thousands of books, and she can only choose one. How will mine stand out from the rest? If my proposal can’t stand out in her inbox, it will not stand out on the shelves of a real bookstore, no matter the day.

    Author goals. 🙂

  6. Anne Carol February 1, 2018 at 7:33 am #

    I’ve never submitted a proposal, but I plan to in the future. I suppose I should learn all I can about the proper way to submit! As for timing, I’ll be in deep prayer over that. I’ve made too many mistakes regarding following my own path and not listening to God; I’m not about to ignore His direction again!

  7. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 1, 2018 at 7:48 am #

    I wanted to hoard the hourglass’ flow
    to serve my best-laid plans
    and force the clock-spring, fast and slow
    into serving my heart’s demands;
    the half-life of atoms, their dying glow
    now subjects of mine own remands
    that would allow me to surely know
    that my work land in well-timed hands.
    But time yields not nor is control a shield
    but to deflect the grace that God revealed
    spontaneously, to the lilies of the field.

  8. Heather Morse Alexander February 1, 2018 at 8:09 am #

    Thanks for this!
    I’ve wondered about timing. Good info!

  9. Christine L Henderson February 1, 2018 at 9:23 am #

    I wouldn’t normally submit in December or January because of the holidays. Here is my reasoning…Editors like other business people are finishing up their year-end business plans, setting up plans for the next year, and are easily distracted by all the things they need to do for the holidays. Then starting in January, as you stated they’re overwhelmed with New Year resolution manuscripts.

    February is when I’d hope I could get a little extra love and consideration from editors and publishers.

    Here’s a question I’d like answered. If I was submitting a manuscript that had a Christmas theme to it, would there be a better time of the year to submit?
    When I worked in magazine advertising, we worked on the Christmas issues in July.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 1, 2018 at 11:32 am #

      Christine, most Christian books are perennial rather than seasonal, so submit when you are ready. But even a Christmas or Easter book can be submitted all year long. Good question!

  10. Joey Rudder February 1, 2018 at 9:27 am #

    Thank you for this post, Tamela! I did try to time submitting my proposal. I gave myself the deadline to submit before my birthday in November. (Silly, I know.)

    My birthday rolled around and I ran out of the house in a ball cap and winter boots, not taking the time to put in my contacts or brush my teeth. I hurried because of my deadline AND it was Saturday and I wasn’t sure what time the post office closed.

    I prayed in the garage as I tripped over my freakishly long coat for God to stop me from mailing the proposal if He didn’t want it going out on “my” deadline. A great and mighty monsoon had been visiting all morning, but I cranked my wipers and drove on. My gas gauge glared red, so I, of course, drove right past the gas station (got to make that deadline!) to the post office. Completely frazzled, I jumped over a monstrous mud puddle lurking at the curb (monsoons will do that) and landed in another on the sidewalk. Lucky for me I was able to discover which one of my boots had a hole. I pulled open the main door, entered the foyer, and tugged on the second door. It didn’t budge. I was too late. I heard someone in the back and considered banging on the door but decided against it. Instead, I stood there like a big baby with my hand on the door and cried. Seriously. But when I finally calmed down, got gas in the car, and dried off at home, I realized God just answered my prayer.

    I thanked Him, took that valuable “extra” time to tighten the proposal, and calmly mailed it like a sane person who’s not dodging downpours and using a car powered by fumes not nearly as strong as my coffee breath had been that morning.

    Through it all, I learned to listen to God when He’s shouting through the rain and closed doors. And maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with Steve preferring proposals to be free of crusty mud splatters or dried-up water marks! 🙂

  11. Katie Powner February 1, 2018 at 9:50 am #

    I’ve definitely given thought to the timing of my submissions and I would probably never submit in December or January, but for the most part I have to time everything writing-related to what works for me and my family’s schedule. I could spend a lot of time overanalyzing my dream agent’s schedule and trying to find the perfect time, but if I pay attention to *my* perfect time instead, there’s a lot less stress.

  12. Carol Ashby February 1, 2018 at 10:32 am #

    Best time to submit anything? When you’ve spent however much time it takes to polish it to the best of your ability. That’s true for proposals and for self-publishing. Like the old adage says: you never get more than one chance to make a first impression, and if that first is too bad, you may not get to make a second.

    Proposals have some do-over opportunities, but self-publishing a book just to meet a self-imposed deadline when it doesn’t yet meet high enough standards is a recipe for failure. I slipped my first by 4 months to get the quality that gets my readers to come back for the sequels. And if you’re in too big a hurry to do your best before submitting a proposal on what could become a fantastic book, will that book never get to give pleasure and inspiration to others?

  13. Ramona Richards February 1, 2018 at 12:15 pm #

    I read manuscripts in the order they were submitted. Sometimes. Maybe. If the topic looks like a no right away, I return it more quickly than if I want to think about a possible one. The good ones hang around for awhile because several people get to read them. Then I think about them some more. Fiction takes longer because…fiction. Oh, crap, that one’s been here six months! I need to do something about…oh, wait, there’s that one from Tamela I need to circulate again…

    “Timing” is definitely a myth.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 1, 2018 at 2:23 pm #

      Thanks for the chuckle, Ramona! Yes, those proposals that linger in my mind are the ones I return to every time, too.

  14. Loretta Eidson February 1, 2018 at 1:45 pm #

    I think the only time I tried to “time” my submissions was right after a conference and at the request of the agent or editor. I wanted to be as prompt as possible. Otherwise, I avoided holidays, especially Christmas.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 1, 2018 at 2:23 pm #

      Being prompt after a request is definitely a plus, Loretta. As long as the proposal is ready! 🙂

  15. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D February 1, 2018 at 2:19 pm #

    HI Tamela:
    I try to time my submissions for Tuesday through Thursday afternoons. The way I look at it, mornings are probably pretty busy, especially Monday mornings. Fridays might be a “big push for the weekend” or “I’m getting off early on Friday, so let me hurry through my work” for the agent, so I don’t send things in on Fridays. The weekend emails probably pile up (see the busyness of mornings comment), so I would think that mid-week afternoons are probably best.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 1, 2018 at 2:25 pm #

      Sheri, I can see the common sense behind that, though I always look at my mail regardless as to when it arrives.

  16. Tisha Martin February 1, 2018 at 4:39 pm #

    Tamela,

    In my short time through the conference circuit and submission circuit, I’ve learned that the Lord does know the right timing when submitting a proposal. You said it best: when you and your manuscript are ready is the best time to submit. And even when you think you’re ready, something happens to push the submission back. Thank you for sharing, for keeping the writer hearts still.

    –Tisha

  17. Shannon Redmon February 2, 2018 at 8:20 am #

    I used to think timing was so important but finally I realized that God wants me to put a great story together and trust Him to work out the timing.

  18. Ashley Schaller February 2, 2018 at 8:25 am #

    Thanks for sharing!

  19. Claire O'Sullivan February 5, 2018 at 2:45 am #

    LOLOL (I had more but . . . kinda redundant)

    Last week made a promise I would never send a manuscript during specific times.

    It’s . . . almost a little OCD-ish of us, isn’t it? Now I feel like ‘Monk.’ Oh, just kidding but it did remind me of that..

    ‘never send proposal during — . Never submit requested manuscript — . Only resubmit manuscript at these times if — .’ <– now those are . . . real(ly mine).

    Ahem. Think I’ll just spend that time in prayer. He listens. MS boxes require a SASE and I’m just not feelin’ very SASE today. . .

    ~Claire

  20. Grace Kent February 5, 2018 at 11:28 am #

    Even though I’ve been tempted in the past to submit a proposal because I felt it was a “good time”, I held off because I knew I wanted to present my best work. My parents raised me to always work hard, and now as an adult, I realize that I want to do my best because I try to work for the Lord, not men (Colossians 3:23-24). Your comments confirmed what I’ve come to practice: submit when the proposal and manuscript are the best you can make them. Thank you for the blog post!

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