38. Publishing 201: Submissions
This week JJ and Kelly revisit an old topic: SUBMISSIONS. They also reiterate the old publishing motto: NO DECISION IS MADE IN A VACUUM. Plus, feminist and porno podcast recommendations! Also, will JJ ever get over her Hamilton hangover?
For our last episode about submissions and acquisitions, have a listen here![1. Hilarious note, this is apparently the first episode we recommend Hamilton.]
Let us reiterate: ALL PUBLISHING DECISIONS ARE MADE BY COMMITTEE.
Being on submission is a bit different from querying; while all writers must query, not everyone makes it to the submission stage. On top of that, everyone's submission story is so incredibly different, it's hard to talk about the process openly. (For one writer's story, read this really honest and great post by Natalie Whipple.)
The questions nearly all writers want answered are: WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN? Why haven't I heard back? Is there something wrong with my manuscript? What can I fix? In all honesty, no news is no news. No news most likely means that the acquiring editor hasn't gotten around to reading your manuscript yet. Or it could mean that they've sent it around for second reads and they're waiting on everyone else to read. It could mean they're waiting on the publisher to read and approve it. It could mean any number of things.
However, there is a hierarchy of submissions. Manuscripts with an offer get priority in the reading pile.
Unfortunately, this also means that "hot" properties (those that come pre-loaded with other offers, movie deals, etc.) get pushed to the top of the pile as well.
Editors also can prioritize manuscripts based on personal interest. They may or may not just feel like reading one submission over another.
If you are a younger editor, there is also an issue of seniority: those who are more senior than you get priority in terms of money, marketing, time, attention, etc.
Established agents also get priority in the reading pile because, again, they have seniority and "name recognition." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The acquiring editor doesn't have sole buying power; they don't even have the financial power to acquire. The person who authorizes monies spent is the publisher.
A publisher is someone who makes business decisions, with are related to, but not necessarily the same as editorial/creative decisions
A publisher has to look at the money their imprint is making vs. what they are spending and make buying decisions accordingly.
The people needed to sign off on buying a book are: the editor-in-chief (the creative director of an imprint), the publisher, and CFO (Chief Financial Officer).
When an editor wants to buy a book, the steps required to acquire are:
Send around to colleagues and/or marketing and sales for second reads. If feedback is positive, proceed to the next step. If not, reject.
Send out to editor-in-chief and publisher for discussion at editorial board. If feedback is positive, proceed to next step. If not, reject.
Draw up a P&L (Profit & Loss sheet) and have everyone sign off.
Make an offer.
Because every step of the acquisitions process is stacked against the acquiring editor (remember: ALL PUBLISHING DECISIONS ARE MADE BY COMMITTEE), if the editor doesn't LOVE something enough to die for it (or at least develop a few stomach ulcers and a lot more gray hairs), then it's not worth fighting for. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
If at the end of this process, you are fortunate to get an offer (or several!), then there are a couple of factors to consider (aside from the obvious things like money):
Whether or not you and your editor share a vision for the book (the same creative vision, the same idea about audience, where your book would sit on the shelf, etc.).
If the offering editor and you differ on how to publish (see where you should agree above), then consider that this may be a mismatch. It is better to be unpublished than badly published.
What We're Reading/Books Discussed
Kelly is still in her reading slump, but is still listlessly paging through Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
My Lady Jane by Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand, and Brodi Ashton
Roses & Rot by Kat Howard
Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon
Belinda Blinked by Rocky Flintstone
What We're Working On
Kelly bought Scrivener and is working on her YA novel in earnest!
Y'all know what JJ is working on...
JJ also got galleys of Wintersong! She's also working on annotations for the book. (And readying the "unadulterated" sex scenes for those who want them.)
Off Menu Recommendations
We are opening up submissions for another query critique! If you have a query you would like us to critique, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line PUBCRAWL PODCAST QUERY CRITIQUE. As we did the last time, we will be critiquing 5 queries with all identifying information removed. All genres and categories welcome! If you've submitted to us before but your query didn't get selected, feel free to revise and resubmit!
That's all for this week! Next month they will be focusing on some more craft/writing-oriented episodes, starting with KILL YOUR DARLINGS. As always, sound off in the comments!