Friday, December 08, 2017

My agent is alive and well; it's my editor who's AWOL

What happens when an editor leaves a publishing house?

In my case, an editor my then-agent had submitted to left the publisher. It was a great publisher too. And my agent decided not to resubmit there. (I still often still think about emailing that publisher and explaining the situation, but I know they probably won’t take a submission directly from the author.)

But it made me think - what does an agent do if they submit to an editor who leaves? Does the editor usually give these subs to another editor or should the agent resubmit to someone else at that house? And what if the author had directly submitted to an editor at a house that takes unagented subs. Would does subs be passed along? Or in these cases (whether by agent or author) is it always best to resubmit?
I'm not sure how a publishing company that takes unagented stuff works, so I can't answer that question.

If I've submitted to an editor who then decamps for greener pastures, I send the submission to another editor (usually). It can be the case that the now-gone editor was interested in this kind of book, and other editors are not, so there might not be someone to send it to, but generally there is.

And  yes sometimes I've found out the hard way that an editor is gone (a bounce back on a follow up email) but generally editors send out an email blast saying "sayonara sweetheart, it's been good to know ya."

The problem arises when they don't so much decamp as move to another team.  Often I will have sent the ms to another editor at their new house, and you can't send to two editors at the same place. Oh yes, ain't we got fun!

I never assume that a submission gets passed on to someone else, and you shouldn't either.  If an editor leaves, it essentially restarts  the shot clock.


Amy Johnson said...

OP: Sorry what sounded promising fell through, and hoping something even more promising comes along soon.

I have a feeling I'll be humming "Ain't We Got Fun?" all day today.

Unknown said...

OP, hang in there. What a disappointment! Writing is to publishing as a flower is to a hummingbird.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Wow. Well, this is a pile of no fun. How does anyone survive the publishing process? So many possible stumbling blocks.

Susan said...

OT: Just popping in to say hello to everyone! It's been a crazy past few months so I've been taking a step back, but I still read the blog everyday and love and miss this community. Can't wait to join y'all again in the new year! Thanks for everything, Janet!

Kim Long said...

This happened to me. The editor emailed my agent and said she liked what she had read so far. She explained she was leaving and asked if we had subbed to anyone at the pub she was going to, and if not, if she could take it with her for consideration. We had not subbed there yet and were of course thrilled. In the end, it didn't get past acquisitions, but it was a nice note in a sea of rejection. Lol.

Sherry Howard said...

Sorry OP. So many possible disappointments along the way. Among my friends, someone has experienced each of them I think!

WRITER: The brain of a dolphin, the rhino’s thick hide, the will of the salmon, and great words inside. Keep swimming upstream!

Joseph S. said...

Kim Long may have explained part of my followup question. Legally who does an agent submit to? – an individual editor or the editor’s publisher? And the related question - who has first dibs on a successful author or a promising manuscript if an editor leaves – the editor or the publisher?

I assume the author/agent can re-submit to the old editor if the old editor just changed firms (and no contract yet signed with the old publisher), but can an editor say “I’m leaving, and I want to take your manuscript with me (without the publisher’s consent)”?

The duty of loyalty prevents that in many organizations.

Janet Reid said...

Legally there is no ownership transfer during the submission process. The author owns the work forever, absent a SALE of rights. Publishing generally involves a LICENSE of rights: a specific set of rights for a specified period of time.

How the submissions are handled in house is a matter for each company to sort out but generally the ball is in the agent's court about subbing/resubbing etc.

Joseph S. said...

Thank you.

Craig F said...

Crud, the steady diet of vagary and perversity that I have been pretending to really enjoy while in the query trenches won't be over when I hook an agent. That is depressing.

Hopefully your agent has subbed to others and has a reason not to chase the quitter.

Why not, hell froze over today. It is snowing on the Trumperade, in Florida. Maybe this proves that a Democrat really isn't as dangerous as a pedophile.

I hope all of you that got caught up in this weirdness are safe and warm. More snow in Birmingham than in Chicago, there is something weird in the neighborhood.

Joseph S. said...


I live in Birmingham (Homewood). My house is a sieve. It's cold! But gosh my yard was beautiful this morning.

Brigada, the miracle kitten, is unhappy with the whole thing.

Joseph S. said...

P.S., Craig

I found out today a former student of mine is Roy Moore's lawyer. And Moore's opponent, Doug Jones, graduated from the law school before I started teaching there.

Sam Hawke said...

The editor who eventually bought my book had received it from my agent at one house then moved to another. The way my agent handled the move was to contact the editor and let her know who at the new house had the book - my editor then discussed with him and as he hadn't got to it yet she kept it on her books (and in the end it was her first acquisition at that house). As long as you're transparent about these things it doesn't need to be the end of the world! Good luck!