Hey there, Marshmallows! Are you counting down the days to the Veronica Mars movie like I am? Of course you are. We’ve been waiting for this day since long before we even knew it was a possibility. It’s not long now, but you know what would make the wait a whole lot more bearable? If
If you've split with an agent on amicable terms, should that be mentioned when you begin to query again? Does this information make a writer more desirable (this writer is serious, and not completely green) or less (this writer may be difficult).
It is important to mention. It doesn’t make you necessarily more desirable or less but it’s important for an agent to know if this is a new project that’s never been shopped and if there are editors who’ve seen previous work and are excited about seeing future work.
Recently I got a question on tumblr about submissions and what the process is like. It’s a rather lengthy answer so I figured I’d talk about it here.
Once a writer signs with an agent—and after they go through any revisions, be it a polish or a more lengthy edit—the next step is going on submission.
In short, this means their agent will submit the manuscript (fiction) or proposal (non-fiction) to editors.
What this means…
I can only speak for myself, but the process actually starts when I first sign a new client. During my first read, before I’ve even decided whether I should represent a project, I’ll be thinking about submission. Obviously, if I’m thinking ahead, I’m thinking how much I love the story, but I’m also thinking about which editors will love the manuscript as well.
After I sign an author, I make up a spreadsheet with the Publisher, Imprint, and Editor.
(This sheet is blank because it’s fake, and I’m using these editors because I work with them on recently released books—Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin, A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, and A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier).
I think about what imprints are the right fit for the book and what editors at those imprints would fall in love the manuscript like I have. (One of the things I have to keep in mind is the different rules of submitting to each house—like you can’t submit to two editors at the same imprint and some house you can submit to multiple imprints and some you can’t.)
Then when the manuscript is all ready and polished, I pitch the manuscript to each of the editors on the list. Pitching could mean calling or talking to them in person if we have drinks or lunch or if I know them really well and we’ve worked together before, I might send an email.
After I pitch the project, ideally an editor will be as excited as I am and ask to see it. In that case I’d send them the manuscript with a written pitch (sort of like a query). If the editor isn’t interested (maybe they just signed something similar), I would call and pitch to someone else instead.
Once the manuscript is with everyone on my list, it’s officially on submission.
But that isn’t the end of the process.
I’d love to say that I always hear back within a few weeks but that isn’t true. Just like writers wait for agents to respond at the querying stage, we agents have to wait for editors to read and respond. Sometimes it happens quickly (there are times when I’ve gotten responses in a week or less!) but other times it takes weeks even months.
This is where following up comes in.
I follow up with editors (how soon after submission is based on the project or if there’s any news and also based on what’s happening in life or in publishing). This reminds them how much I love the project and makes sure the ms doesn’t slip through the cracks.
When responses come in, I usually ask the author how they want me to handle it. Do they want to see the responses or do they want me to just tell them about it or do they only want to hear from me when I have good news, etc.
Once the book is on submission, there are a variety of different possible outcomes:
An Auction: This is where multiple editors are making offers.
(It’s not like an auction at an auction house or anything. It’s largely done over email). I’ll set a date and a time, and ask every editors to get me their first bid—or offer—by then. Once all the bids are in, I’ll go back to all the under bidders and ask for more and that will keep going until we have the best bid from each house. I’ve had auctions with two houses that last one round and I had an auction once that was seven houses and a different auction that lasted a week long.
Auctions can be stressful for everyone involved, but they also leave room for a lot of choice on the author’s part. It’s about more than just advance. Royalties, pub schedule, rights granted, the editor’s vision for the book, etc—all of these are factors that I’ll discuss with an author before the author makes his/her decision about what offer to accept. (I’ll give my opinion/advise, but it’s always the author’s decision).
A Pre-Empt: This is where an editor makes a “offer you can’t refuse.”
Sometimes the editor might be the only editor to see the project. Other times they’re just so excited about it that they come in with an offer before anyone else. Pre-empt offers are often higher or better than a first bid for an auction, but that doesn’t mean that all pre-empts are huge. A quiet literary middle grade for instance isn’t going to get the same advance as a huge commercial YA novel. But the reasons to accept a pre-empt are usually that it’s the best offer including advance and terms and the editor’s and publisher’s enthusiasm.
This is the most common positive outcome—it only takes one!
In all three of these cases, as an agent, I’m doing a lot of negotiation. And again, the advance is one of those negotiating points but royalties, publication schedule, subrights splits, rights granted, etc are things that I’m asking about. Sometimes I’m even asking for specific language to be in the contract a later date.
Hopefully this isn’t the outcome, but it does happen—more than you’d think. We all announce the manuscripts that do sell, but we don’t announce the ones that don’t. If there isn’t an offer, I usually work with the author to revise and do another round of submission or I work with the author on their next project.
Whitney Ross at Tor preempted North American rights, in a six-figure, four-book deal, to an epic YA fantasy series by Susan Dennard. The first book is called Truthwitch. Joanna Volpe at New Leaf Literary & Media represented Dennard, and Tor said the agent pitched the series as “Garth Nix meets Avatar: The Last Airbender.” The series is set in a world where three empires rule and every member of the population is born with a magical skill set, known as a “witchery.” Tor elaborated: “Now, as the Twenty Year Truce in a centuries-long war is about to end, the balance of power will fall on the shoulders of two young women, who must accept their fate, and themselves, to survive.” The first book is set for fall 2015, with Tor U.K.—which acquired U.K. and Commonwealth rights—coordinating on an international launch.
Dear Suzie. Can I ask for some advice on how to get an agent. I'm constantly editing my work before I send it, I get others to read it to make sure it works, I research agents like yourself, I try to find as many interviews, matching the topics, like I did with yourself, and I keep being rejected. No one has the time to tell me what I'm doing wrong. It's soul destroying and it makes me feel like giving up.
If you aren’t getting requests, it’s your query. If you are getting requests but then nothing more, then it’s your storytelling or your writing.
Know that most of my clients wrote many books before writing the book that I signed them for.
Keep reading, keep writing, keep revising, keep querying. It doesn’t happen for anyone overnight—no matter how it looks on the outside.
A newbie question: How do you like the ms submitted? Besides double spaced, 12 pt Times, you won't (well, maybe you will), believe how many "standard formats" are out there: page # on bottom/no, on top. full info on every page/no, on 1st page. ETC.
Double spaced and a readable 12 pt font like Times are a MUST. I also like having page numbers though I don’t care where and I always ask when I request a ms that the author pastes their query into the first page of the document so that when I pull it up on my ereader it’s there.
If I posted a short story on my blog, would I still be able to submit it to lit mags for publication in the future?
Most literary magazines and short story anthology contracts are for the exclusive first right to publish. Once you put it on your blog you’re publishing it in a way. You should submit the story first or just put little excerpts up.
Hi, a few months ago an agent requested a full after I entered my query and first page into a contest. I sent it but haven't heard anything from the agent. It's been at least 8 weeks, give or take some for the holidays. I was wondering if sending a follow up email is appropriate. I know the policy for queries is generally no response means no thank you, but does the same go for full requests? The ms has been revised since I sent it out, should I send the updated manuscript? Thanks!
Is it okay to pitch a book to an agent that is considered to be part of a series, but is definitely a stand-alone? If so, would you recommend pitching the entire series or simply the stand-alone? Or at all?
How many submission rounds would you take a given manuscript on before calling it quits (with a debut author)? Is it true that if an editor doesn't invite future work when they pass on a project that you can no longer submit that author's work to said editor?
The most that I’ve done is four different rounds with an author on a debut novel before we moved onto a new manuscript.
It really depends on on the project and the author though—if an author has a new manuscript ready, it might be better to submit that than go on a third round with ms 1 for instance.
In terms of re-submitting work to an editor. I wouldn’t submit that ms to an editor unless the editor has specifically expressed interest in seeing a revision. But future work could certainly be submitted to an editor. Of course an editor who passed on a horror novel because they don’t like horror wouldn’t be the right person to send a second horror novel to, so within reason :)
You recently mentioned that it's been harder to sell anything in the YA genre, but what about others? I know that NA is fairly new, so are publishers looking for more books in that category instead of just YA? (Also, what about other genres like fantasy or sci-fi?)
NA is fairly new which means it’s also unproven. Plus since it started and has sold so well in the digital realm, it’s also over-saturated.
Unfortunately, the hard truth is that everything right now is a hard sell.
Write the best book that you can. Write the story that you’re dying to tell. Then query it and see what happens. If it doesn’t sell, write another book. And another book. Keep writing what you love and don’t give up.
"I drew inspiration from all the various visions of the future in my favorite science fiction works." - Rachel Searles lists her favorite TV shows and movies that inspired and influenced THE LOST PLANET!