February 27th, 2004


Response times...

The question below got posted to my comments on the quote from Victoria Strauss' interview. Since things so often get buried in comments (imo), I thought I'd just go ahead and post the answer in a new entry.

I hope you don't mind questions from a curious visitor. I've heard so many stories about lengthy response times (overworked editors only have so many hours in the day, after all), and how a novel might see only one or two publishers in a two-year span. Your comment makes me think that the stories aren't entirely accurate. Or are agented submissions handled that much faster?

Question certainly not minded. It's a good one. With regard to the book in question -- it went to six publishers in the time period I was marketing it. Just as a point of interest. Please note that that this was one of the very earliest books I sold, so at that time I was basing it on my admittedly limited experience with other books and comparitively I was having a tough time with it. Also -- I feel the publishing landscape has changed somewhat since then. It's true that editors are now handling many more projects per capita and have less assistance to do so, thereby necessitating longer response times in many cases.

That said, your mileage will vary. One of the things I consider when submitting a project is my knowledge of the editor's reputation in terms of response time. For example, if I think there are two editors who might be interested in a book and #1 takes (on average) 3-4 months to respond, while #2 takes a year or more, I'll opt for #1 to begin. If, on the other hand, I felt that #2 was clearly the best match for the book, I'd just suck up the issue of response time and go for it. (I just had a book sell in December that had been on submission with the editor for 16 months. My goodness - I only realized that when I sat down to count it out.)

I have to admit that I don't think the times you mention are all that unusual, really. Especially if one is new to publishing or unfamiliar with editorial habits. I do think that experience has granted me something of an insight into how to get something sold faster - either by judging the tastes of the editors, the response times involved, whether I'm able to do a multiple submission, or any number of other variables. And I do think agented books get read faster. Particularly if said editor is also somewhat acquainted with the agent's taste. If the editor knows that there's a certain level of quality to be expected, it seems only practical for triage to come into play as they are far more likely to find something that works for their line from an agent who knows them and their publishing program than to take the risk of finding a diamond in the rough in the pile of unknowns.

*whew* Turned into something of an essay question. I hope that adequately answers it.
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This week's query count came in at 98(!) -- 33 unsolicited packages and 65 letters. I also got a couple of solicited packages to add to the pile of manuscripts to be read. (This does not count those people who refuse to understand that when my guidelines say I don't respond to email queries, that I mean them. *wry smile*)

Meanwhile.... over on this thread, bgliterary asked me: can you elaborate on what you look for in a query letter? I imagine publication credits certainly, and an intriguing brief synopsis of some sort...but what is it that tells you that this manuscript is worth requesting? I know this isn't an easy fill-in-the blank answer, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

And last week, Tempest (whom I want to say I met at Torcon? and is hooked up with those OWW people, I believe) had asked me if I'd be willing to do something of that sort for her site: For Writers. I replied in the affirmative today, so over the weekend, I'm going to try and sit down and quantify it. If anyone has any comments to add or ideas they want me to consider as I go at it, feel free to offer them up....

Addendum: To the writers out there... Out of curiousity -- since I'm thinking both about what I want in a query (half-full) and why I reject things most often (half-empty), what is the most frustrating rejection you've ever gotten, and why?
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