In the comments last week, Joan Swan asked us to review how submissions are done. I raised my hand to offer this explanation:
I submit proposals and manuscripts on a multiple basis nearly all the time. While the proposal or the manuscript is being completed, I am talking about the project with various editors who I think might be interested. If they are, I add their names to a submission list, and when we deem the proposal or manuscript ready to submit, I set a date and tell the author when I am planning to send it out.
All of our proposals and manuscripts are now being submitted electronically as opposed to only a short while ago when they were sent in the mail. We find this is far more efficient and it has helped us streamline the process. With nonfiction proposals, we generally go to at least 20 publishers at a time. With fiction, we submit to 5 or 10. On the day of the submission, I sometimes call editors to say the material is coming to give them a heads up–editors receive so much material from agents and authors, I don’t want our submissions to get “lost” in a crowded inbox.
With nonfiction I usually begin following up, if I haven’t heard back from editors, about a week to 10 days later. With fiction I will wait for two weeks as reading an entire manuscript is bound to take longer than just a proposal. I ascertain the editor’s level of interest (and, yes, I collect their rejections) and then I gently try to press for when we will have an offer. If more than one publisher makes an offer, I usually try to have an auction.
Sometimes this process takes only a couple of days; sometimes it can take months depending upon how many interested parties I have and how many rounds of publishers I have to go to.
If I feel after the first round that more work needs to be done to improve the proposal or manuscript, based on feedback from the editors, I will suggest that to my client and share the comments that I have received from publishers. It is up to the author to decide whether he or she wants to make any changes.
Depending on the project and the comments I receive back from publishers, I decide just how far I will go in terms of submitting to more and smaller publishers. Sometimes we go to a number of rounds and sometimes we don’t. I do find though that I am persistent enough to sell a very high percentage of the projects I take on.
I am happy to answer any specific questions on this process if you have them.