It’s impossible to give an exact time of year for when you should query. This really depends on the agent’s schedule and need at that particular time. However, there are certainly times when it’s probably not ideal to query agents.
NOTE: This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t query agents during these times, but you should do so knowing the risk of getting rejected is higher.
Agent Kristin Nelson talked about this in her newsletter this week. She suggests you don’t query during the first few weeks of January. Why not? She says on their first DAY back, they’ll receive 600+ queries. Yikes. Hard to stand out when there’s such a flood of query letters. Kristin suggests waiting until the last week of January or even February before you query.
Summer months can be tough too. Between conferences, especially for agents who attend pitch sessions and request a lot, and summer holidays, I would imagine some agents get behind on their reading, which means they’ll be more eager to reject to reduce their to-be-read pile.
Another time to watch for is November/December. If you aren’t in Pitch Wars, but you submit to agents who participate in that contest, be warned. Some of them request a ton of Pitch Wars manuscripts. This year, not only did that happen, but as many as twenty offers of representation came in, so agents had to read fast if they wanted in on the offering. And reading fast isn’t always a good thing. It can prevent the agent from really getting into the story and might cause her to reject for that reason alone. Had she had more time with the manuscript, she might have thought about what wasn’t working and whether or not she could (or would want to) help the writer fix the manuscript.
During November, when these agents are reading Pitch Wars material, it could be harder for other writers to compete because Pitch Wars manuscripts have been polished with the help of a mentor (an agented and/or published author or freelance editor). This means your writing has to stand out even more than ever. Of course, it should always be the best it can be, but if you’re following the next Nora Roberts or Stephen King—ugh—you’ll need a heck of a lot of luck as well as talent.
The other thing to consider about November/December is that this is the beginning of the holiday season, first with Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Some agents close to queries around Thanksgiving, some wait until December 1, and others only close when it’s closer to Christmas, if at all. However, many agents like to start the new year off fresh, which means cleaning out their inbox. One agent recently tweeted she would read a full manuscript a day to empty hers, but after a few days of this, she was already feeling burned out. Yeah, I’d really want her to be reading my manuscript knowing she’s fatigued and trying to empty her box. How about you?
So, like I said, this shouldn’t deter you from querying when ready, but be warned there’s more of a risk if you do so during the times mentioned above.