Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Query Question: submitting to small presses during "open window" whilst querying agents

You commented in one of your last posts that an agent would not want to take on a client that had already approached some publishers. Understandable.

In a previous post, I understood one of your comments to say that an agent would not be interested in working with a small press, as there's no real financial incentive.

I'm mid-querying process - a healthy number of rejections, a good deal of radio silence and
a gratifying handful of manuscript requests. While all this is going on - and I do understand (sort of) the leisurely pace of the process - some small presses open the window for direct author submissions for perhaps a month. After a month, they will close and not open til summer of next year. They respond at the end of a month.

So, there is a well regarded (for my genre and little universe) small press open for submissions now. Some colleagues encourage me to submit although I still have manuscripts out there in agent world - assuming that the whole process is so slow and there is no guarantee that any of these fine agents will pick me up, and that submitting to this small press or another could give me more more potential options.

May I have your thoughts? Also, what's the deal with agents and small presses?

There is no right or wrong answer on this because it's a question of strategy, and whether a strategy is right or wrong can only be measured when you've got results.

Things to consider: if you "win" the open submission process and you're offered a contract, do you have tools at hand to negotiate for yourself?  I've done a couple blog posts on this topic so I know there are some resources in the archives.

Next thing to consider: if you "lose" the open submission process, are you willing to close off a potential publisher once you have an agent (if you get one of course.)  If a publisher has seen, and passed, on your work, they're not willing to look at it again from an agent (most likely.)

This is the kind of one hand or the other that can paralyze you with indecision, I know. Me, I'm a risk taker (no surprise, given my profession.)  I'd rather go for something than not.

Thus, if this were my decision, I'd submit my work to the publisher, but then I'd make SURE I was prepped for that next step.  And I'd keep querying.

As for "what's the deal with agents and small presses?" I'll leave it at this: working with small presses can be great, but inevitably it's more work for less money. 


Sasha A. Palmer said...

Not long ago I read an article, written by a successful agent, on the rules of submitting; one of the big 'no' was querying her while simultaneously submitting to a small press. I assumed it was a general rule, but apparently it's subjective. I like your "go for it" approach, Janet.

Anonymous said...

Let's take the scenario to a couple of its logical conclusions.

Possibility 1. You make the cut on the small press's submission call. The cut probably isn't an actual decision to acquire. Instead, your manuscript goes to an editorial meeting. They ask for a rewrite. You provide. They like the rewrite and your manuscript goes to acquisitions meeting. Someone in the acquisitions meeting doesn't like the ms and you get told that as a small press, they need 100% staff approval...sorry. Three months have gone by. Or six.

(Not all small presses have this process, I imagine, but I know that at least some do.)

Possibility 2. The small press loves your manuscript. They don't ask for a rewrite. Forthwith, they offer. Your manuscript being so lovable, you also hear from two agents during the week it took the small press to make this decision. The agents are miffed. (Some agents would be, some wouldn't.)

Basically, if an agent is what you want, then you should be seeking an agent. If publication by a small press is what you want, go after that. But act according to what you want to accomplish, not out of fear that you'll miss a chance to get published at all.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

A timely question, as I'm currently waiting (patiently....) for reply on a novel which went to an open door submission period. It's in a "dead genre", you see, and at a genre press. I figured it was worth the shot.

Craig said...

Since all publishers have to start somewhere I imagine there are a lot of fantasy points in being either the agent or writer who can make a small press an up and comer. Look at Poisoned Pen.

Elissa M said...

This line from alaskaravenclaw sums it up for me: "But act according to what you want to accomplish, not out of fear that you'll miss a chance to get published at all."

Decide your ultimate goal and work back from there. This works for lots of things besides writing.

Bill Scott said...

I'm a gambler, too. If I there was an agent I was interested in, and she was reading my work, I'd put all my chips on a lifetime relationship with that person. I'd hold on the small press open window until I'd agented out. But that's just me. Good Luck!

Tam Francis said...

Interesting comments by both the Shark and readers. I've had a request by two small publishers for the MS recently and hadn't decided if I was going to send.

For me it will depend on what they can do for me. There are some international markets I would like to break into because of my subject and I can't do that self-pub and I'm giving myself to the end of this year on the agent queries...

Great food for thought. Thanks all.

Anastasia Stratu said...

I agree with Bill Scott.

I don't understand all the fuss about the hardships of agent search, though. All you have to do is light some candles, draw a pentagram, and say "I summon thee" three times. A bunch or two are bound to appear. I'm just not sure they'll do your bidding, though - you better have some chumburger prose, too. Don't rely on that pentagram alone.

I for one have a problem I never encountered in the archives. Maybe I missed a bit or two of Sharkonsulting - I've been only sporadically dropping by Ms. Reid's blogs since March. My problem is, I'm a compulsive editor.

Seriously. After I'm done writing, I start editing over and over and over again until I starve and dehydrate myself into total sleep deprivation. It brings me just as much kaif as the actual writing. And I hate editing other people's texts with the same intensity because what I do to my texts - and to myself - is developmental editing.

Even if my text looks perfect to me, I reread it again until I find some hairs to split. Then I split what I've split until I'm splat. Then I go back to rereading. Then I repeat. Then I (am supposed to) die, but I normally flex my willpower and stop at the third hairsplitting iteration.

You may laugh, but I recently sabotaged a paid translation commission just because I couldn't stop editing my query - and work has been scarce on the ground since I skipped continent. Hell, even this comment undertook three edits. OK, back for the fourth... fifth... Please help!