58. Publishing 101 REDUX: Being on Submission
This week JJ and Kelly continue with their Publishing 101 REDUX series with Submissions. As per usual, JJ Keeps Things Probably a Little Too Real. Also: JJ finally gets Kelly to admit that puns are great, and they discuss their love of Lemony Snicket.
Our last episode about Submissions & Acquisitions!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that all writers in possession of a manuscript on submission are in the absolute worst stage of the publication process.
Remember: all the insecurity you feel is NORMAL. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Reasons why being on submission is the worst:
The entire process is opaque.
There is social awkwardness surrounding discussion about submission, partially because it seems gauche to talk about it, and partially because not every writer gets to go on submission and it may breed resentment.
Also...money. It's considered rude to discuss money (at least in the United States).
Although you may try not to, you can't help but play the comparison game. If you didn't get the six-figure deal, if your book didn't go to a multi-house auction, if your book didn't sell within three days, etc.
Length of submission time can vary. However, this is where JJ gets uncomfortably real: the longer you're on submission, the less likely your book will be bought or acquired with much buzz or fanfare.
THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. THIS IS NOT YOUR BOOK'S FAULT.
Remember, publishing is not a meritocracy.
However, the quicker a book gets acquired, the more likely the book has commercial potential and buzz can be generated. BUT: Buzz is a double-edged sword. Buzz can start too soon and fizzle out by publication.
Interest moves quickly. Editors try to be as fair as possible when it comes to their submission pile, but a book that interests them more will often take priority over books that came in before.
When is it time to shelve a project?
Is the rejection feedback consistent? If so, then maybe you need to revise.
EXCEPTION: if the rejection feedback is consistently "meh." Nothing dooms a book faster than indifference. This doesn't mean that the book is qualitatively "bad" or that it is somehow unworthy.
If the rejections are "I don't know how to publish or market this," it may just be a matter of time before a space opens in the market for you.
With regards to "tiers" in publishing.
The "Big 5" (Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan) have the most money to spend on books as they take up the largest slice of the publishing business. Generally, imprints at the Big 5 are in the first tier because they are likely able to offer the most money/deepest market penetration.
Mid-sized populars are no slouches either (Sourcebooks, Scholastic, Abrams, etc.). If they don't offer as much money, their market reach is comparable to the Big 5, and they may offer more specialization (e.g. Scholastic and children's publishing and their reach into book fairs and schools).
Small presses can be hit or miss. What you do not want: to send to a small press when you have exhausted all other publishing houses. However, small presses are often very niche and if you have a book they can do very well, then maybe you might consider going to them first. Unlike the Big 5 or mid-sized publisher, the market reach of a small press might be narrow, but it is deep.
What We're Working On
Kelly is working on building her client list!
JJ is working on...you guessed it...book 2. She's also working on other assorted bits of contracted writing, as well as promotion for Wintersong.
If any of y'all around Pasadena on Tuesday, February 7, JJ will be launching Wintersong at Vroman's Bookstore with PubCrawl alumna Marie Lu and podcast guest Roshani Chokshi! She'd love to see you there!
Books Discussed/What We're Reading
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Windwitch by Susan Dennard**
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Roseblood by A. G. Howard
Off Menu Recommendations
Nothing new this week! (Although JJ is thinking rereading A Series of Unfortunate Events and watching the Netflix series.)
What You're Asking
Any advice on writing synopses that'll draw agents (and the like) in without sounding cheesy or overdone? Thanks. —neri
Nothing we can say will ever top Sooz's post on How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis! However, of note: there is a difference between a query and a synopsis. A query is just a couple of paragraphs to hook an agent's interest. A synopsis gives a little more detail on the manuscript, and it's not common for an agent to request a synopsis (unless you're querying nonfiction).
** PubCrawl alumna
That's all for this week! Next week we'll be doing a slightly different Publishing 101 discussion, called SALES & SUCCESS. As always, if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments, or reach out to us on Twitter with the hashtag #askpubcrawl.