I've been reading your blog ever since I discovered it about two weeks ago, and I'm really impressed. I check your blog every day, several times a day in fact, hoping for a new update, because it's not only informative, it's entertaining as well. (Thank you!)
I have a few questions. You say that sometimes a book is rejected because the publisher has already filled their schedule. Does that mean that it's better to submit a manuscript in the first six months of the year, or at the end of a year so that they're accepted by January? Do the schedules vary by publisher, or does this matter at all?
Publishing schedules vary by publisher. Some publishers work 2 to 3 years ahead, accepting in 2006 for a 2008 release. Some publishers only work a few months ahead, accepting in January and releasing in June. Some may schedule their whole year at once. Others may work on a quarterly or 6 month schedule. Still others have no schedule at all and will accept a good manuscript whenever it arrives. As a writer, you may not be able to determine how the publisher you're submitting to works because they may not tell you. Or they may tell you their "plan," but their reality is something else entirely. (see below)
This is how my company works. In January, we look at sales and profits for the previous year and estimate how many titles we think we can publish for the coming year. Then we make a wish list broken into genres with a loose release schedule. For example, we may decide we want to do 2 romances, 2 suspense, 2 young adult and 6 non-fiction in a calendar year. (Genres and numbers adjusted to maintain my anonymity.)
This is "the plan." In reality, the plan never works out. We may not get any good solid romance manuscripts during the entire year. Or we may get 6. Or even 12. Or maybe we're flooded with suspense. Or maybe we get some exceptional non-fiction manuscripts. So then we look at what we've got and change the plan as we go.
By December of 2005, we pretty much had our release schedule committed up through LDS Booksellers in August of 2006. After the convention, we wil look at what sold, what bookstore buyers were looking for and unable to find, and then in September, we look at our submissions and decide what, if anything, we want to try to rush out before Christmas. Everything else goes on the 2007 schedule. Then in January, we'll evaluate the schedule and see what we have room for.
So, the short answer is just this: don't worry about hitting a schedule because no matter how well you and/or the publisher try to time it, everything is subject to the "mice and men" phenomenon. Submit your work when it's ready and hope for the best.
And don't tell anyone I said this, but I have been known to jiggle the schedule myself to make room for a really spectacular manuscript. If it's May and I've already committed every penny for this year, I'll go ahead and put it on next year's schedule. And if that won't work, and there's absolutely no way I think I can publish it in the next three years, but I love the book and I think it really needs to be published soon, I'll forward it to a colleague with a letter of recommendation (with the author's permission, of course).