I'm finally ready to start shopping around my YA manuscript, but in the last few weeks I've noticed the publishers and a couple of agents I think are a good fit for me have all put notices on their websites saying they won't be considering unsolicited manuscripts at all, until a few months into 2009.
Is this just due to Christmas breaks and towering slush piles, or is it a sign of things to come -- will the economic downturn see publishers reducing the amount they're publishing? (Thus reducing the already slim chance for a young enthusiastic writer to wedge her foot in the door?)
Both presumptions are correct. And there's something else to consider: it's Christmas time. Everything slows down.
I regularly shut down submissions because I have a large amount to read and I don't think it's fair to keep taking submissions when I know I won't be able to read them. I reopen submissions not when I have nothing left to read - because that has never happened - but when I think I can be reasonably efficient at processing submissions.
It's also true that publishers are wary - for the time being, at least. No one knows whether books will do well this Christmas or not. A lot of us are also very concerned about the looming enquiry into parallel importation of books - if parallel importation is allowed, you can forever kiss goodbye your hopes of being published in this country because there will be very little Australian publishing - we will go back to being an outpost of empire, although this time it will be both the US and the UK who are our imperial masters. Everyone in the industry - except certain booksellers - are worried. On top of the 'global financial crisis' it's created a world of caution and constraint. So things are definitely slower and, in some places, on hold and the first victims are going to be fiction lists. For you, though, the news is a bit brighter: children's books usually do well in a recession, so children's lists aren't under as much threat as other lists. There will be some circumspection, but not as much as you might fear.
The best thing any of us can do is to support the industry and buy Australian books. If you're a writer wanting to get published, I certainly hope you're buying Australian writers. If not, how can you hope for other Australians to buy your book? And if you'd like to understand more about parallel importation, you can read about it here.