Pub Rants

A Two-Day Process

 19 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: TGIF! Sara and I did a bunch of holiday cards today. Tis the season!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHITE CHRISTMAS by Bing Crosby

I don’t why it never ceases to amaze me how long it takes to put a project out on submission. It’s easily a two-day process.

1. First I always create the submission list. Yes, I have a database. Yes, I know lots of editors but I’m always super careful to tailor a submission list for each client/project. Sometimes I have to decide between one editor or another. In the children’s world (where they don’t like if you send to multiple imprints under the same publisher umbrella), I really have to choose who is the best fit.

That can take a bit of research or even my just ringing the editor to find out if this would be up his or her alley.

2. Then I format the manuscript. Basically this doesn’t take too long but I have a standard format and I include my agency info in the header on every page.

3. Up next is the submission letter that will go to the editors. I spend a lot of time on mine (as I hope you can tell). I write them mostly on my own. Sometimes I’ll grab the original paragraph from the writer’s query letter and use that as a place to start. Sometimes I ask the authors to create their own version of the pitch just to see what they focus on. For the most part though, I tinker, play, and rework the letter many times before it’s ready. I sometimes pop it over to agent friends for feedback if I want to get it just right. We’ll often read each other’s pitches.

4. Then it’s time to talk with all the editors. If I know them really well, then I’ll just pop out an email. If the editor is new to me or I haven’t spoken to him or her in a while, then it’s phone call time.

5. Submission goes by email. Every once in a great while an editor will request a hard copy. If that’s so, then I email the manuscript to my printer and he gets it to me by the next day. I send out via UPS ground. Thank goodness this doesn’t happen too often. Invariably I find that the editor needs to read more quickly and I send it by email anyway so I don’t want to spend a lot snail mailing it. I don’t charge my clients for this cost either. I just eat it.

6. Sometimes there is follow up in the next day or so. An editor was out when I called or took a couple days to get back to me. That happens.

So any one submission is easily a 2-day process without my being able to do much of anything else (except a very large fire). I should stop being surprised by that!

19 Responses

  1. wplasvegas said:

    I would be interested in an elaboration of the difference between an agent’s submission to an editor and an author’s submission to an agent. You speak of asking an author to create a their own version of the pitch but haven’t they already done that when they pitched you?

  2. wplasvegas said:

    Ooops! I missed yesterday’s post of your editor letter for House of Mists. Scuzi!

    In reference to that, and as an elaboration on my plea for elaboration, I notice that your first paragraph (five sentences) is your take on how the novel struck you, then the next two paragraphs (ten sentences) sound much like the mini synopsis you used to speak of before your recent breakthrough on teaching pitches. Finally the last paragraph, your author’s bio (three sentences) while impressive, seems more valuable as a chatty assurance of competence than a list of accomplishments.

    I must admit I don’t know why I want to ask this, the question just popped into my head. Just a writer’s natural inquisitiveness, I guess.

    Is this a typical editor letter for you? Do you think it’s a typical editor letter in general?

    I think your take on the novel is really the pitch in this case and that the mini synopsis is what a salesman might call “the close”. The bio is somewhere between a guarantee and a list of ingredients.

    What is it an editor needs to know from you, that an author’s query does not provide, and how do they expect you to supply it?

    Hope I’m not being intrusive. Ah well, just asking.

  3. Anonymous said:

    Hi. I noticed Kristin said:

    “5. Submission goes by email.”

    I’m curious to hear more about this. I was at a conference where a faculty member told me to email my manuscript to her when it’s ready. I wish I’d asked her more questions. How does one email an entire manuscript? Mine is about 85,000 words. Attachments seem to be frowned upon in the industry. Are they “allowed” in cases like this? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

  4. Adrienne said:

    Anonymous 8:19

    I am no expert, but I just cannot think of any other way other than mailing the MS as an attachment. I mean she talked of formatting and headers etc, and there is no way to keep that straight by posting all the text into the message.

    From my understanding, attachments are frowned upon when you are simply querying. Some authors think it is no big deal to send along an attachment just in case the agent wants to read the full MS. The problem, as I understand, is that then the email looks like spam or a virus, and an agent may not be willing to even open the email. Also they may be a bit annoyed that the author didn’t follow the rules.

    Once, I assume, the agent/editor trusts the source of the email, and they have asked for a full or a partial, then I am sure they have no problem receiving email attachements.

    Little story.

    In the UK they are much more fond of printing up the MS for submissions (from author to agents and even agent to editor). So when I was submitting my full MS I printed it up. Then my agent wanted changes, so I did that and printed it up and hand delivered it (they were in my neighbourhood) in the pouring rain. Finally when I had signed with her, but still needed to deliver a final edit, it occurred to me. . . “Can I just email it to you?” And she said, “Yes of course!”

    It hadn’t even occurred to me until then! Sigh. I can be clueless sometimes . . .

  5. Anonymous said:

    I’m curious about your phone call to the editor. What are you trying to accomplish with the phone call? Just telling them that a great ms is on the way? Asking them if they’re interested in the sort of ms that you’re intending to pitch?

  6. Anonymous said:

    Many thanks, Adrienne! And I enjoyed your UK story. I hope to visit there someday.

    From Anonymous 8:19

  7. Anonymous said:

    I’m curious about your comment, “An editor . . . took a couple days to get back to me.” Are they responding to your query this quickly or are they responding to the manuscripts you send them this quickly?
    What is your typical turn-around time from when you send a manuscript to an editor and they reply they want it?
    Thanks so much for all your helpful commentary!

  8. Anonymous said:

    I have a question about emailing the entire ms, if anyone can answer.

    While working on mine, I keep each chapter in separate word files – It’s an easy way to organize for the many many revisions… Also, I like to revise on the printed copy, saves my eyes from reading everything on the screen and I can take one or two chapters with me while working on revisions…

    I’m assuming it would be a pain in the @$$ for the agent to need to open each individual file to read a new chapter. What’s the best way to save and forward the entire ms as one document? One very large word file?

  9. Charlotte said:

    I swear, Kristin, you could get rich just teaching this business to people. Please write a book someday that answers all of these nagging questions we authors have. I’ll buy it, I promise!

    My questions regard emailing large files. When a file is large it often gets bounced by the sender or the recipient’s email server. I’m wary of this and tend to follow up with a separate email to make sure that the document was received. 1) Is this second email frowned upon, and 2) what is the general consensus on sending zipped (compressed) files?

    Thank you for your blog. I visit it every day!


  10. chris johnson said:

    I write nonfiction. Maybe that’s a little different because nonfiction is sold on the basis of a proposal and a chapter or two, or maybe I have a more old-fashioned agent, but for whatever reason she wants my proposal in hard copy. She then sends hard copy to editors. When the proposals sold, both publishing houses I’ve dealt with so far wanted the complete manuscipt sent to them both as a hard copy and on a CD. For the CD version they wanted separate files for each chapter, introduction, and figures.

  11. Berni said:

    I’m glad you take such time to send out the work as we take putting it together! I must say I love what I learn on your blog. I don’t feel like I’ll be so lost when the time comes! Thank you so much!

  12. Maggie Stiefvater said:

    First anon. — when I was submitting my manuscript, before I got my offer, I sent my entire novel as an .rtf attachment and all parties were happy.

    Kristin, for some I was really surprised to hear that some editors would still ask for hard copy!

  13. Megan said:

    I know you don’t normally answer blog questions, but I was wondering what the current news is with Simon & Schuster’s big right grab in its contracts a while back. Did they get rid of it, or do agents negotiate out of it?

  14. Carradee said:

    Ooo! Thanks for this look into what you do, Kristin! 🙂

    Now you know why I don’t comment every day, else I’d be repeating myself again and again and again… >_

  15. Ryan Field said:

    I’m not surprised at the time frame of any submission. As a freelancer, I submit to editors on my own and whenever I have to do this I go into “submission mode”, which is like tunnel vision for me. I want it to be perfect.

  16. karen wester newton said:

    I’m amazed that editors accept e-mail submissions, even from well known agents. They all seem locked into the paper world when they talk on panels at conferences. But then they’re usually talking about slush pile m.s.s. so I guess that’s the difference.

    As someone who works in publishing support, I’m wondering what format you send the electronic submissions in. I’m guessing RTF, but MS Word is so ubiquitous it could be that, too.