By Deb Werksman
Next week is Book Expo, the independent booksellers’ big trade show at the Javits Center in NYC, and preceding the show is Publishing University, annually run by the Independent Book Publishers Association.
I will be on a panel on EDITORIAL BASICS with Cynthia Frank from Cypress House, and Roy Carlisle from The Independent Institute, who have been in publishing for many years and both of whom both publish and consult with publishers and authors.
Roy will be talking about the unconscious parts of the editorial process and how editors are filtering through current events and the trends in current media. Cynthia will be talking about professionalism and some of the practical questions editors ask as they consider a submission, and I’ll be talking about the conscious part of an editor’s process and why submission guidelines are the way they are.
If you’ve heard me on my soapbox about why an author might want to follow submission guidelines, then some of this will be familiar to you.
You see, every editor must create a process for reviewing submissions that accounts for two things. The process has to 1) effectively handle an enormous amount of volume; and 2) fit into the editor’s personal circadian rhythm and workflow style.
To the first point, I myself get about 200-250 submissions per month, and a big list in one year would be 80 titles. I get to publish about 2½ % of what I see. The process has to make sure everything gets reviewed, researched as needed, and responded to in a timely fashion. I want to make sure I don’t miss anything, that I’m fresh enough as I review everything, and that I have time and space to think through my conclusions.
To the second point: contrary to popular belief, most editors do not read or edit during business hours. Most Reading/editing gets done evenings and weekends. During the day, I’m working on contracts, writing back cover copy, taglines or other marketing materials, talking on the phone to agents and authors and colleagues, answering emails, attending meetings, reviewing cover designs, schedules, managing staff, writing blogs , etc.
Some editors are night people, some are morning persons, some are both, or neither. So when we develop our submission guidelines, we’re asking authors and agents to submit in a way that allows us to work our process effectively.
One example: My guidelines ask for a full submission to include a synopsis, a pitch letter(email), and a full manuscript (or a partial from an established author). How this synchs with my process is, I prioritize first, and then queue everything up. So I’d just as soon have the manuscript to read. It doesn’t take up any more space, since it comes by email, and it allows me to handle the submission all at once, rather than having to go back and ask for more material and then queue it up again. Other editors have other processes, and many agents want only a query to start with.
So my process synchs with my own way of working, but may not be what someone else wants.
And guess what? Their submission guidelines will tell you what they want. And, if you actually follow my guidelines, you’ll stand out because guess what else? Most submissions DO NOT FOLLOW MY GUIDELINES. Hard to believe, I know. Seems obvious, I know.
It used to be worse. I’m happy to report that Cat and I now estimate that 1 in 20 submissions do follow the guidelines. You’ll stand out if you do!
Check ‘em out! My submission guidelines are on our website http://www.sourcebooks.com/ Follow the links for authors and you’ll find them right there. Here’s a very quick summary:
*single title romance, 90,000ish words
*all subgenres: contemporary, romantic suspense, paranormal, historical, erotic romance
--a heroine the reader can relate to
--a hero she can fall in love with
--a world gets created
--a “hook” I can sell with in 2-3 sentences
--the author has a career arc (in other words, if readers love this book, what comes next, and next, and next?)
THANK YOU! I CAN’T WAIT TO READ YOUR SUBMISSIONS!