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What Happens When I Send Out Your Book
What does it mean to be on sub?
I’m back from an amazing vacation. Did you enjoy my pre-written newsletters? Didn’t even notice? Good, that was the goal. I went to Puerto Rico. It was amazing. I read 4 books. I did some writing. And now it’s back to real life.
So I was at brunch this weekend (i.e. bagels at my house with friends while our toddlers ran around), and my friend was like so, what does it actually mean when you sell a book? How does that happen? This is a good question! I don’t see this friend often, and I love being asked about my job, so I was happy to answer. (Please always ask me about my job.)
I spend a good bit of time (and have a pre-written email all set to send) taking to clients about what happens on submission. At this point, I have already written a pitch letter (very similar to a query letter!) and spent a long time researching the editors I want to send the book to. And here is what I tell clients, along with sending the submission list:
Regarding the submission, here's the plan. I'm going to share the proposal/novel with the following houses. The first rule of submission club is that we don't talk about the submission on the internet. :) The other editors cannot know who is reading the proposal, so mum's the word. It's ok to say your book in ON submission, but not who's reading.
I will call or email editors at the following houses and ask they be back in touch with me in about X weeks from when we send it out, i.e. the closing date. 90% will do so (there's always a straggler or two) and by then we'll either A: have an offer yay! B: have feedback that points to some possible revision or C: may have struck out. There may be room for a second round submission. We can discuss when we get there. All fingers and toes crossed!
I'll let you know the second we have good news, but I won't pass on rejections until the very end, because that's just depressing to see (trust me). We will have rejections, but that's ok. As soon as there's good news, I'll let you know and we'll discuss. If we get in the position where there is more than one interested editor, we can set up a call or Skype so you can get to know the editor (and we can do that even if there's only one offer, too).
That’s basically what happens for MY clients. Your agent or another agent may do things differently. Not many agents set closing dates, but we do at Morhaim. They range from 4-8 weeks from submission, and take into consideration the publishing event schedule and other things like that—for example, this week is BookExpo and setting a closing this week is would be a dumb idea. We think closing dates help herd the cats, so to speak, and keep track of submissions. But if a closing date passes and an editor hasn’t read it yet, I don’t yank it away from them. I just reach out and check in and see what’s up. Sometimes books sell in a week; sometimes it takes months. Each book is different. This isn’t a secret—editors know I do this.
This email is also pretty cautious, on purpose. I feel like it’s my job to manage expectations with my clients and while inside I might be OMG THIS BOOK IS THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD EVERYONE IS GOING TO LOVE IT, I do try to temper my initial responses in case I’m wrong. There’s nothing worse than not selling a clients’ book that you were certain was a sure thing. Sometimes I’m wrong. It sucks.
From the client’s end, after I make my calls and the book goes out, it’s just waiting. This is probably the worst part for authors, but it sucks for agents, too. We’re watching our email and voicemail. We’re fielding rejections, deflated with each one. We’re weighing when to send follow up emails, nudges, just checking in!!! notes knowing full well that if an offer is coming, the editor will let us know. And we’re doing it for each project we have out, too. This is not to be all poor agents have it hard, but yeah, we’re waiting right along side our clients for good news.
On the editors’ side, they’re reading, asking their colleagues to read, researching the sales of comparable titles, talking to their editorial boards or in acquisitions meetings. If things look good, they do a ton of paperwork—sales tip sheets and profit and loss statements—and get everything approved by bosses to be able to make an offer. It’s different at every house and imprint, but it’s rarely that an editor alone reads a book, likes it, and calls an agent with cash in hand.
The book submission process isn’t all that different from the query process, so be glad you’re not an agent who has to send out several query letters a MONTH. :)
When an submission runs its course, I send all the responses from editors to my client. Some editors write lengthy, detailed, wonderfully helpful rejections and some write short sorry this wasn’t for me notes. This is fine. Editors! They’re just like agents! I encourage my clients not to read toooooo deeply into these comments (unless they’re glowing). A short not for me is not shorthand for this was horrible fuck off. It’s hard though. I know. I’ve been through this on the author side, too.
Once an editor rejects a book, we can’t send it to someone else at the same imprint and sometimes not to anyone at the whole house. That’s why it’s very important to have a coordinated submission process and an agent knowledgable in your genre (and why it’s hard to leave one agent and have another submit the same book again). We can’t send a revised manuscript unless explicitly invited to do so. (Again! Just like with agents and queries!) When I get a rejection, I send the editor a quick thank you and update my submission database. I know I say don’t do this to agents—and you still shouldn’t—but I’m definitely going to be working with this editor again, so I think a thank you is warranted there.
And when we get an offer, well that’s a whole ‘nother newsletter.
Thanks for reading, friends. If there’s anything you’re interested in reading about, regarding agents and books, just let me know. You can reply right to this email. If you’re a subscriber, you can send me specific questions for Q&A Thursday! To become a subscriber, click here: