Monday, October 22, 2018

Sweating out the on-sub process

I love your blog, and it was so useful for drafting the query that got me my agent. I was over the moon when that happened, but now I'm in the seemingly eternal doldrums of being on submission. Can you help answer some questions about the submission process in general? I'm not sure how much information you have about the nitty-gritty of what goes on during the acquisition process, but I figure it's worth a shot. 
I've been on sub with a fantasy novel for 4 months and have only heard back from 4 out of 8 editors in the first round (all highly complimentary/reluctant passes). My agent initially predicted we'd hear back within 3 months from most, but it's been deadly quiet. What's a normal length of time for a round?

There is no normal. It varied by editor. It varies by season. The consensus among my drinking buddies is things are taking longer now. Is that because there are more submissions, or fewer editors, or editors have more things in their job description? I don't know. I know I've had books on submission for far longer than four months, and have gone on to sell them.

Is no news generally good news, in your experience? I'm out to an editor who I know already rejected someone who submitted 3 months after me, but I don't know if her silence regarding my book is positive or not.
Again, there is no one answer here.

How often do publishing houses hold acquisition meetings? Do editors try to acquire multiple books at once or focus on one at a time?

Publishing companies acquire books differently. Some editors can buy with a simple OK from the boss. Some need to go to the acquisitions meetings. Those meetings get moved and cancelled like every other kind of meeting in the world.

Editors don't acquire seven books on a Monday morning (usually) but they often have several at acquisition stage at once. Again, no norm.

Seeing a pattern here?

I'm in a support group for writers on sub who all have the same questions, but since it's such a secretive process, it's hard to find answers. I know the advice is to keep writing and try to pretend you're not on sub at all (and I've already finished one new book and have a second one in progress), but it's difficult not to obsess when The Call could happen today or never.

What you didn't say is why you're not talking to your agent about this?
She's got the scoop on the specific editors and will know their patterns of reply.
Asking about this isn't bugging her, as long as you don't do it every day or every week.

Sometimes no news is so anxiety producing it can be a problem. It's totally fair to ask her to update you monthly on subs, and talk to you about how she thinks the process is going.

This is YOUR book, and your peace of mind.


Timothy Lowe said...

Feel for you, O.P. There are hundreds of great resources out there for querying, not so many for surviving submissions.

I'm sure you already googled a bunch of resources, but in case you missed it, there is a pretty detailed set of interviews at "Writer, Writer Pants on Fire" that addresses submission:

Janet's right. There's no norm. If you can find clear head space to keep writing, you're well off. A lot of people can't.

Best of luck. Hope it sells, and soon!

Mary said...

I'm in this boat but it's my third time now so I know it can take a while. I think with #1 it took about 6 months and #2 about the same. My current has been out about three...I think? I see a pattern here...I tend to try to forget about it and am pleasantly surprised.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Getting the agent is only the first round of waiting. Being on sub is great, OP. Be patirnt. You must be close.

Jen said...

I know how hard it is, OP. I've had books on sub before, and an MIA agent who never answered my once-a-month emails politely asking questions as you are now. It sucked.

But don't despair! You have an agent. You have a book on sub that seems to have a good shot at publication from everything you posted. Just keep your chin up and keep those connections with other writers. Also, single malt scotch helps. I prefer the Dalmore 15.

Sherry Howard said...

It’s so hard to wait! Hang in there! And good luck!

Colin Smith said...

The first thing I wondered was whether you discussed this with your agent, Opie, before asking Janet. Not that there's anything wrong with asking a seasoned pro like our beloved Sharkiness. But it seems to me that part of a good author-agent relationship is being able to talk about these kinds of things. If you have concerns about the submission process, your agent should be able to set your mind at rest. If you're curious about your agent's submission strategy, you should be able to ask. Maybe Opie did ask and is merely getting another perspective. Anyway, that was my thought.

Sarah said...

This is an add-on to the ask-your-agent replies.

One of the things that I didn't realize when I first signed with my agent was that I would still be figuring out what I needed. You think you know what will make you feel secure, but you learn it on a gut level when you finally start submitting your ms. Or signing with an editor. Or getting your first revision letter.

To me, it sounds like you're realizing that you do best if you can get a regular update from your agent, even if it's, "No news." (I'm the same way!) And it's totally fine to tell your agent that you're figuring out what keeps the crazy at bay and does s/he mind doing XYZ from now on? You're not being precious–you're being communicative so that your agent doesn't need to use a crystal ball. (They are highly overrated.)

All that to say, don't feel badly about realizing what you need and letting your agent know!

Joseph S. said...

I'm glad publishers of academic books are receptive and supportive.

The "traditional" publishing system is way too frustrating.

Oh well, back to the trenches.

Steve Stubbs said...

I think it was Kristen Nelson who had a list of reasons on her blog about why fantasy novels receivw highly complimentary but reluctant passes.

Don't remember the whole list, but the common thread was, most fantass novelists copy a lot of worn out tropes from published stories, string them together, and think they have a new book.

So, check your novel. Is there anything new in your fantasy? If not, then getting it published may be a fantasy.

Writing anything is a very worthwhile exercise, whether it is ready for pub or not. Every time you do it, you get better. On the next go round, think creative. That's the difference between a writer and a typist.

OP: "I don't know if her silence regarding my book is positive or not."

Probably not. The silence follows four Nos and four NORMANs. One way to test the water is to pitch your new book. If you continue to get silence, that is not golden. In the business world they call that letting you drift out to sea.

Joseph S. said...

Then again, maybe OP can drift out to "Si."

AJ Blythe said...

Focus on the positive (you have an agent and are on submission) and not on the pain (submission moves slower than my Barbarians doing their chores) and do what you are doing...keep writing. Good luck, OP.