Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Life Cycle of the North American Submission

I know that the submission process must seem very different from this side of the laptop, but it really isn't. I thought it might be interesting to talk about the submission process as an agent sending to editors.  I was thinking about this as I was having a marathon Life (the BBC TV series) watching day, hence the title.

Phase one:  I have worked with my author to polish and perfect every last bit of the manuscript and it is finally ready to send out into the world.  I compile a list of appropriate editors to send to, based on people I know through networking or by researching deal reports on Publishers Marketplace for editors who have recently bought similar titles.

Phase two: Submission!  I write a submission letter and send it to each editor.  They either: write back immediately requesting it and I joyfully send it to them; they don't write back for a few days and I gently nudge them, then once they respond, send it to them; or they say no and I cry.

This is the most euphoric phase, since once all these great editors start reading, it feels like anything can happen and that they will all make offers on the book for millions of dollars!!

Phase three: I (and my author) wait. Usually for about month.  And it sucks.  Especially towards the end if not many people have responded, or if they have responded with a pass.

Phase four: I finally hear back from everyone.  Hopefully there is at least one offer in there.  If there is, then I put on my contract hat and start negotiating the major points of the contract to make a mini-contract known as a deal memo.  Once that is squared away, I can post a notice on Publishers Marketplace and also roll my sleeves up (I guess I should be putting on a contract shirt instead of a contract hat) and get ready to start working on the actual contract.

If not, I take my lemons and start making lemonade. 


When passing on the manuscript, most editors will offer helpful feedback about what did/did not work for them.  If I see a common thread amongst their responses, i.e. they all say that they didn't like the inclusion of an omniscient narrator or they all felt that the plot dragged in the middle, then I know that I should take these valuable insights and work with the author on incorporating the desired changes into the story, so that for the next round of submissions, the manuscript will be even better!

Phase five: Lather, rinse, repeat.  I keep on submitting until I find the editor that believes as much in my author and his or her vision/work as I do!  It may take a while and I may get grumpy, but once I do, it is WELL worth it!

Even if I don't, the author and I can put aside the project and try something else.  With my one of my clients, Dan Newman, I actually did just that.  I submitted a project of his called THE JOURNALIST without getting a bite.  We put submitting THE JOURNALIST on hold in order to send out his next manuscript, THE CLEARING, which found a home with Emlyn Rees at Exhibit A! 
Sounds pretty similar to sending queries out to agents doesn't it?  It's funny because I know a lot of people don't see agents as being that similar to authors, but when it comes to submitting projects to editors, it's kind of like Querying 2.0.

Even though I hate the waiting part involved, I love everything else about it, even working on revising with editor comments in mind several times.

I have some exciting news involving the submission process (I'm sure you can guess what it is)!  I was hoping to be able to write about it this week, but things haven't been legally squared away just yet.

Also, don't forget to check out my +1 More Thing Post on Google+.


  1. Very interesting, Carrie, thanks for sharing. It must be tough having to have that "Let's try something else" conversation with one of your authors.

  2. Thankfully with Dan, it wasn't a difficult conversation at all and was one that ended up being very beneficial. It can be a tough discussion, though!