Saturday, May 27, 2017

My freelance editor wants to send my ms to contacts at publishers

A funny thing happened on the way home from the edit.

I have novel that I swear is the best novel I can make it without another set of eyes. And I swear I’m not a completely terrible writer, despite my use of the preceding adverb. Except for commas. I suck at commas.

So, with a year of querying behind me (part of the 100 club), those last ten fulls out there, and me ready to move on to a new project, I decided to find an editor, because I didn’t get it—everyone who read the book liked it and many agents who did request and said no wanted to see everything I wrote next, so I figured there had to be something wrong with THIS book.

I went on Reedsy and found a former acquisitions editor for one of the Big 5 imprints now freelancing. Good, someone who could tell me what was wrong. He had some good ideas that we discussed, and he was excited for me to query this book until I told him I was pretty much queried out.

Maybe I had a terrible query. Maybe it was the 1st person thing. I also made edits whenever I got useful feedback, so maybe that was part of it too. Who knows? But when I told him this—that my point in hiring him was to learn from this book if I could and to grow as a writer, his response was that the things to fix were minor, and that he still had friends at the Big 5 and would be happy to send them my work as a referral.

I checked and his background is legitimate. He also did not ask for anything, money or otherwise. I have another WIP, but it’s 4-6 months away from querying.

(1) Should I consider accepting this referral?
(2) Do agents know something he doesn’t?
(3) Am I disadvantaging myself?
(4) If someone offers, should I try to get an agent?

I know agents know many things I don’t with regards to contracts etc., but what’s the procedure for trying to find an agent after a publisher offers if you answer yes to questions 1&4 and lightning strikes (or I get bitten by a shark of the publishing variety)?

I am happy I do math for a living. Publishing is crazy. :) 

(1) Sure, why not. No one will die if you do.**
(2) Yes
(3) No**
(4) YES

You didn't ask him the defining question: if he'd gotten this ms while he was an aquiring editor, would he/could he have bought it? The god's honest truth is a lot of good work doesn't get published.  That happens for a lot of reasons, none of which you have control over.

And that's what agents know that editors don't. We see many more manuscripts than editors do. I can hear my editor friends screaming disbelief, while pointing at their overflowing inboxes.  As proof let me tell you that an editor recently mentioned she had 30 manuscripts in her inbox from agents.  I have triple that in queries on a weekly basis.

And if he sends the ms to friends at publishers, remember, that means the ms has been submitted. If they say no, that's a no for the imprint, if not the entire publisher.  Since you're at the END of your querying process for this book, the risk is low. If you were just at the start of the querying process, I would throw myself in front of your keyboard to prevent you from doing that. (notice the *** after questions 1 and 3. That means this answer is NOT one-size-fits-all.)

And if an offer results from this, email the agents who read your full with this subject line: OFFER from PUBLISHER on TITLE.

If you don't get any bites, let me know and I'll help you find a publishing contract specialist who (for an hourly fee) will review your contract and keep you out of hot water.

Yes, publishing is crazy.
And the people who work in it, including writers, are crazy too.
You have to be; it's an actual job requirement.


Gigi said...

Super interesting. OP - I hope you'll let us know what happens!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

A quiet morning before I get into food frenzy mode.

OP-what a conundrum. And Janet is exactly the right person to ask. Congrats on this affirmation of your writing skills. And, yes, let us know how it goes. Best of luck. Your hard work is moving you places!

AJ Blythe said...

Author job requirements:
Can I write well? Can't be sure.
Am I crazy? Lost the plot years ago.

WooHoo, I'm half way there *grin*.

OP, go for it. As Janet said, you've nothing to lose. Good luck!

Amy Johnson said...

"those last ten fulls out there" OP, you must be doing a whole lot of something right. Congratulations on the interest so far! Add me to the crew interested in hearing what comes next. :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

What a great question, and the best of luck, OP!

There is a best, most graceful and professional way to handle every single publishing situation, and luckily, Janet knows those answers because most (many?) of the rest of us sure don't. Or we have a maybe-notion, but don't know exactly. It's always fun to make guesses before reading the "real" answers!

Lennon Faris said...

I love that asterisk on number one.

My one concern for OP would be if an editor said 'YES' and OP re-queried (with the suggested subject line), and still got no agent bites.

Then, what if your book sales don't do well? As I understand it, it would cripple your chances at getting an agent forever.

I know it's hard to be patient, but if it's a good book, I would write a new one (/finish the other WIP), try to get an agent, and then come back to this story once repped.

kathy joyce said...

Sounds like a great book! Congrats. I'm worried about what the editor assumes about his cut. If he shops your MS and finds a publisher, sounds like he's acting as an agent. Does he expect 15%? Maybe check that out before you go much further. Just a thought.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Interesting situation - shows how many twists and turns there are in publishing.

As for being crazy - big check. Always have been. Not sure it's helped my writing but it manifests in my compulsion to write and keep writing.

I hired a professional editor but on a book I have not queried as of yet. So if this editor offered same as OP's (she won't), but for argument sake, would I kindly say no for the now, and pursue an agent first seeing as agents have the secret sauce?

I know with certainty I need a good, sharp agent for negotiations and to keep me out of the one book wonder publishing pit of despair. If editor did offer, could I say let me find an agent first and then have the agent I sign with contact editor for that referral. I know, in my particular case, that the editor I hired knows a good number of agents I intend to query so would that be helpful?

On a side note, thanks to a comment on this blog, a light bulb exploded in my head, and I realized my over long fantasy could be two distinct books with two distinct story lines, and now my word count whoas are quelled. With a little extra work, I will have 2 books of around 100k words each to peddle. I love the Reef.

Karen McCoy said...

Flagging for later. I am also working with a freelancer who used to be at the Big 5, but I am at a different part of the asterisks, so I'm glad to know where the benchmarks are. Good luck, Opie!

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Oh, Opie, I feel you. You've got what you feel is a brilliant book, but can't for the life of you, figure out why nobody else can see your brilliance... except for this one editor.

"The god's honest truth is a lot of good work doesn't get published." This line is the necessary bit of hope we need to cling to.

Now, this isn't to say you should be pinning all your hopes on THIS book. Maybe your next WIP is the one that will get an agent, one who'll either be happy to give your first book a go or at least tell you why nobody wanted to touch it.

Maybe 4-6 months of patience is indeed the best action at this point. I'm not you, and your career isn't mine. What's your twenty-year plan for your writing career?

But yeah. I love Janet's question to your editor: if he was acquiring for a Random Penguin, would he want to acquire this book? And if you're sure you're all queried out (like some poor Opie a week or two ago), it might be worth taking him up on his referral.

Just remember, this isn't going to be the only book you'll write, and this isn't going to be your only chance at getting an agent.

P.S.: I'm glad you've got another WIP on the go. That bodes well.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Definition of insanity: Repeating the same experiment over and over, expecting different results.

That sums up querying.

Matt Adams said...

The editor is a freelancer. Freelancing is very hard. Any smart freelancer will want to keep current clients who might be future clients happy. The freelancer counts on you being a revenue source for him/her. This leads them to be kinder to your work than someone who you will never meet, like agents.

It doesn't mean he lied. But if you think he has faith in your work and he says nice (and constructive) things about your book, you are more likely to hire him again when you next WIP is finished. So he did, and that's great and he got excited and that's great. But as much as I hate to say it -- and as much as I hated to have to convince myself of it because it's happened with me -- you paid him to read your book. He's not reading it the way an agent would, or the way an acquisitions editor would. He HAD to be interested in it, and he HAD to power through the parts that might have lost an agent or an editor. it was his job to READ you; it's their job to BUY you. You can't underestimate the difference in perspective there.

And if he can get you to a publisher, that's a great line for his bio. And if he can't, no harm done to him. It could screw you up with those houses, though. So I'd be wary.

If he wants to help without tainting the submission pool, have him call some old colleagues and tell them a little about the book. If they are interested. he also should know a few agents, so maybe he could give you their names and you could mention he recommends the book. That might help.

Colin Smith said...

Great advice, as usual. All the best to you Opie! :)

Are there other things writers need to know, or should ask, when talking to editors? Is this list pretty much the same as for agents? If not, maybe that would make for a good blog post: "Things to Ask When Editors Come A-Callin'" or something like that... :)

Lennon: Then, what if your book sales don't do well? As I understand it, it would cripple your chances at getting an agent forever.

Janet might fry me in oil and call me a chip off the idiot block for suggesting it, but from what I understand, unless you demonstrate yourself to be complete, utter, and totally unstylish posterior headwear, your ability to snag an agent will always come down to the book, the writing, no matter what you've published before. Sure, doing certain things may mean you have to work a bit harder to prove yourself. But what agent in his/her right mind (accounting for the general insanity of the publishing industry) is going to turn down a novel they love that they are convinced will sell like Beatle sweat? Never say never. Unless you're saying "never say never," then it's pretty hard to avoid saying "never"... you know what I mean... :D

That's my thought. Or one of them, at least.

Colin Smith said...

Or if the sleazy hipster with the pencil mustache asks you if you'd like to take a ride around the block in his luuurve mobile. I guess you could say "never" then. Just lookin' out for y'all... :)

Janet Reid said...

The preceding comment from Our Colin makes me wonder if that is a flashback to his misspent youth?

Karen McCoy said...

I'd say the pencil mustache gives it away...

John Davis Frain said...


Are you wondering if Our Colin has a collection of Beatle sweat? Alternatively, are you wondering if he was the driver or the passenger in the luuuurve mobile?

I'm betting Yes, No, Refuse to Answer for the trifecta wager.

Janet Reid said...

I'm not even guessing about that first one.
As to second and third: Clearly he's the driver...right??

kathy joyce said...

Oooh Colin, now I remember you: powder-blue Chevy Vega, fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view, purple shaggy seat covers, and stringed beads separating front from back. Cruising with the windows down, your left elbow hanging out, jaunty-like. You in elephant bells, triangles of psychedelic fabric sown in to show your macho. Feathering the gas with worn leather boots, featuring a brass side buckle over two-inch clunky heels. The gypsy shirt, cream, with puffy sleeves, and red roses as big as my fists, showed off your impressive collection of wooden-beaded necklaces. Any of it would have made me swoon. But the heart-shaped glasses with lavender lenses? Those sent me straight over the moon. Sooooo groovy!

Sherry Howard said...

Ha! What a trip down memory lane!

Back on topic: I wish great luck with the OP's work. It seems like the few connections I've made have been happenstance, so maybe something perfect will develop. The work may land in front of the right set of eyes.

BJ Muntain said...

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. You're at what you consider the end of the querying process. You haven't had much luck (though obviously a number of full requests). You're considering shelving it, anyway, so why not take the referrals?

I say 'what you consider the end of the querying process' simply because you've only been querying for one year. Maybe it sounds like forever. It's been quite a bit longer for me. There are a lot of agents you haven't queried, a lot of places you haven't gone. But this is your career, and you will make the decision that is right for you.

And yes, writers have to be crazy to want to do this, to have to do this, and to put themselves through the crazy-making business that makes up their portion of publishing.

It's been found that the only real difference between creativity and insanity is the ability to discern the unreality of what's in their heads. And that difference can be a fine, fine line.

BJ Muntain said...

Lennon: Chances are, if the offering publisher is a Big 5 publisher (as this editor's friends are Big 5 people), OP will get an agent. Since most Big 5 publishers won't even look at manuscripts that haven't been vetted by agents (or people they know, like this editor), that's a big bonus. Even if they don't get an agent and their sales don't do well, they've still got a Big 5 career behind them. Big 5 publishers have money behind them to put into marketing and public relations. It's not impossible to have a comeback career, but this opportunity could create a break-out career.

Kathy JOYCE: OP says "He also did not ask for anything, money or otherwise." Perhaps he should clarify this, but it does sound like the editor is simply excited for this novel and wants to help. Maybe get his name in the acknowledgements or something.

EM: We Reefers love you, too!

As for Colin's hip ways... umm, he's younger than I am. I would have been too young to drive in the 70s. I think Colin would have been barely able to walk. Now, if his home country was behind the times, fashion-wise (as Canada was in the 80s), he might have been able to get that clothing at certain store, then got his license in time to buy an ancient Vega. Although the fuzzy dice are still around, alas. As for the two-inch clunky heels... they are back in style, aren't they?

kathy joyce said...

Semi-on-topic: I think this came up before, but I don't remember the answer. It didn't apply to me then, but does now. If you've worked with an editor, do you say that in the query?

Panda in Chief said...

Who DOESN'T love fuzzy dice?

Lennon Faris said...

Colin, next time I see the luuurve mobile, I'll tell him NEVER!

Gee, the things you learn on this blog.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Now I'm wondering what querying was like in the '60s and '70s...

"Wanna see my manuscript? passes the bong There's some groovy horses and a far-out donkey."

"Yeah, baby!"

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I KNOW Colin had at least two vials of Beatle sweat.

Colin Smith said...

OK... let me set a few things straight. I was definitely walking by 1972, but always willing to cadge a ride in the pushchair if one was going. It might have been a stylish set of wheels for the time, but it was no luuurve mobile.

I learned to drive in 1992, well past my teen years, and into my married years. So there was no cruising around pulling chicks when I was a youngster.

So no, I ain't no hipster. Besides, I think my wife and children would abandon me if I grew a pencil mustache.


Colin Smith said...

Melanie: See ON WRITING by Stephen King. I believe the way he describes getting an agent is how he went about it in the early 70s. After all, why would he need to update his information? He hasn't written a query in 40 years!

BJ Muntain said...

Kathy JOYCE: No, you don't tell an agent you worked with an editor in the query. The agent doesn't want to know that and it takes up query real estate. Hopefully, the agent can see that the novel's been well edited from the pages, and that's what really counts.

Colin: I notice you didn't say anything about the vials of Beatle sweat, though...

Craig F said...

Occasionally, on that long and winding road through the dream of being published, a car stops and offers you a ride. Sometimes it is your Hero, sometimes not. Be careful before you commit yourself to that ride. It might be one of those lunatics known as writers, editors or publishers.

Wait a second. No I'm not talking about myself. I swore off crazy for Lent. Too bad I am not religious.

Oh well, time to go shave my head and comb my face.

Y'all have a nice weekend and Memorial Day. If any of you are near Tampa, let me know. I'll let you come and sniff the butterfly orchids. Got around a thousand blooms open at the moment. Bring a swim suit and you can float around the pool and pretend this is paradise.

Julie Weathers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Weathers said...

OP, congratulations on the good response even if it wasn't an acceptance you wanted. Forward progress of any kind is worth celebrating. I hope this all works out for you.

Craig, I would take you up on your kind offer, but the last time I was in a swimming pool my physical therapist dragged me into the deep end of the pool and threatened to drown me. It might have been something I said. I still don't know how to swim.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I don't see a Beatle sweat denial in there.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

A little late BUT
MELANIE, here’s what 1970's querying was like, after many hours at the local library researching literary agents:
1. Write and rewrite the query (on a typewriter). Every time you change a word or a comma you RETYPE the whole page. Same with entire manuscript, which messes up page numbers and format. One word, everything changes. Writing becomes a series of choices, best=more work, less than best=get on with your life.
2. Once your query is perfect, sign, fold in thirds, insert in envelope, (stamped SASE included), attach (licked) stamp and mail.
3. wait, Wait, WAIT. If you think waiting now is hard, imagine waiting for your mailman every day.
4. After weeks and perhaps months, if you are lucky, your SASE is returned, with a form rejection note inside, and if you’re really lucky, a scribbled note regarding reason for rejection or request for a rewrite

Peter Taylor said...

I've a similar problem. 2 years ago I submitted a story to about 4 editors I regularly meet at SCBWI conferences and who have provided critiques of a range of works. Rejected.

For the last year I've reworked this story with an ex Big5 editor/publisher with her own imprint. It's very different now. She considers it ready to submit and has given me email addresses of editors/publishers at four of Australia's Big 5 houses and a couple of others who she knows. (Two of them read the first version).

My current agent says to submit it myself as the story is 'not right' for her.

But I'm only just starting to send it out...

Send it to the publishers or try to find another agent first? Doh!!!

It's historical narrative non-fiction to be highly illustrated for MG/YA and the main character's wife is now aged 97. I'd really like to give it every chance of at least being contracted while she's still alive.