In November 2016, our agency decided to close to submissions for two months, as all of us at the agency had a large number of partial and full manuscripts to read. This was due to the many queries received (where we requested each book), as well as the conferences we had attended in the second half of 2016.
Thankfully our agency is not alone. This is a normal practice in publishing, which will be done by some publishing houses, as well as literary agencies. The reality is that more people than ever are writing (who doesn’t love that?), but there are only so many hours in a day one is able to read submissions. The other responsibilities we have in our respective publishing houses and agencies generally will take precedence over the submissions pile.
As a writer, how does this impact your individual goal of getting published?
During my first year of graduate school in Library and Information Sciences, it was hard to accept that even with the best effort, I’d never be able to read every single book that sparked my interest. Even the basic act of walking into any library or bookstore generally results in a pile of books that I can only hope will be read. Thankfully I’m not alone here.
Fast forward into a life of publishing, this realization not only becomes clearer, but it also pertains to the overflowing inbox of queries in my agent life. Ultimately there are many ideas in the world any agent will find interesting, but due to a shortage of time and our daily agent responsibilities, it’s necessary to read quickly and to know immediately when we’re not connecting with book ideas.
At the beginning of November, Colson Whitehead was the final guest of Talking Volumes for 2016. If you've ever read his books, you'll know that he was quite the colorful personality and kept Kerri Miller on her toes (in the best of ways).
Having limited time in any day, I’m not able to read all the books by any author nowadays. I've read some of Colson's works, but sadly not all of them. However, it became abundantly clear one of the reasons he has thrived as a writer is that he keeps it real. Real, as in he writes what he wants to write, bringing a natural curiosity to the writing table.
If you asked me 15 years ago if social media, let alone the internet, would be such an influence in how publishing operates, I would have thought it was a joke.
Back then, it was perfectly normal to pitch all book ideas by phone, sometimes written correspondence, to editors at the publishing houses. Despite the fully working publishing websites, email wasn’t necessarily the first go-to. In today’s publishing climate, it’s a different ball game. Instead, more time is spent communicating through email and social media, and the phone is generally a third option.
This leads to my topic today: Geography.
Tis the season for submissions! Labor Day has come and gone, and the hectic pace associated with every Fall has begun for editors and agents.
This can be an exciting time for any author who has representation, as all the preparation done in advance will hopefully lead to their book’s publication. Sometimes months, maybe even years (especially with fiction) of work have lapsed already—during which the manuscript, or perhaps a book proposal and sample chapters, has been lovingly put together for submission by the author and agent.
This process takes time, patience, and a willingness to ensure the idea is the best it can be before approaching traditional publishers. It’s not a job to be taken lightly.
During this period, when it’s time to take our authors’ books to publishers, the queries in our inboxes multiply significantly. This means we’re generally looking for new ideas, specifically books that haven’t reached readers yet. Self-publishing a book is definitely a viable option—we’ll never discount that decision. Unfortunately the ability to go in reverse and seek traditional publishing afterwards for a self-published book can sometimes be challenging.
Anyone who acquires books and works with authors will generally agree that it’s one of the most satisfying experiences when discovers a new book idea (in addition to its publication). While agents and editors have very specific categories they work with, once an offer to work together is on the table, please remember it’s 100% personal, as an emotional connection has been made. This isn’t a decision any of us take lightly, especially with the large quantity of queries received on a daily/weekly/annual basis.
Unfortunately the one thing authors never anticipate is the departure of an editor after the book contract is signed. This could happen at any point, including the last days leading up to the book’s release. I’d like to say this rarely happens, but then I would be lying.
Here are some ways to keep your head in the game.
Without going into full details, there’s a good chance anyone reading this post has experienced the same emotional roller coaster of the last week; of which it seems we’re all dealing with a figurative case of whiplash now. It’s hard to focus when the world is in such turmoil, as getting basic things done is a task of sorts. What can we do to find solace, to find the strength, to stand on our feet again?
Personally, my refuge is reading books. This habit has carried me through life, through the ups and downs. Through the good and bad times.
It’s time we talk about the importance of taking breaks while on the path to publication. You can call it vacation, a day off, or a mental health day. No matter the label, it’s a positive thing and can have many benefits for your writing, as well as the people you’re working with in publishing.
Control: we’ve all been in charge of something. Some more than others, of which our personal viewpoints on it will always influence the paths chosen during the publishing process.
There is a natural desire (or need) for control when authors choose a path in publishing – for one or perhaps all their books. That no matter what route is chosen, they need a sharp eye for details, as well as the time and commitment to see any book to publication.
Recently the Minnesota Publishers Round Table hosted a luncheon discussing the ins and outs of publishing contracts. It became evident that many people had questions, as signing a book contract should never be taken lightly.
As an agent, this is very important to me. It’s an important part of my role in this process. My personal goal is to always advocate on behalf of my authors, so that they are able to thrive versus finding their hands figuratively tied (due to a bad contract).