Publisher/Editors responses to agent pitches/proposals

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litdawg

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Edited to clarify: I'm referring to submissions/pitches made by an AGENT on behalf of represented client to an EDITOR at a publishing house.


I'm in new territory and I'm not sure where to pose this question. This forum seems focused on getting an agent, and the Editor forum seems to focus on developmental editing. My question is about editors at publishing houses.

Are editors at publishing houses as overwhelmed with pitches as agents are? Are requests for full manuscripts as rare from editors as they tend to be from agents? I'm on sub now and want to get a handle on the process.

Mods--please let me know if there's a better forum for a question like this. The publishing business forum, maybe? That seemed to have a lot of questions relevant to negotiations.
 
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Ask the Editor has grown to be all-encompassing, but acquiring editors do still wander by.

(Moved from AtA.)
 

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Are editors at publishing houses as overwhelmed with pitches as agents are?

Yes. Most only take agented submissions but still get flooded with submissions by writers who don't respect that the publisher only wants agented submissions or doesn't care and think they are some special snowflake that can skip the line. Not a good idea to query a publisher who doesn't take unagented submissions. You'd be wasting your time and theirs. Also, it makes you look unprofessional and amateur.

Are requests for full manuscripts as rare from editors as they tend to be from agents?

Yes, it is very hard to get a request for a full from an agent and editor but it can be done. You just gotta have a darn good query.
Once again, I wouldn't query an editor who only wants to hear from agents.
 
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lizmonster

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Back when I was first looking into it (2013 or so), it was common to hear of books on sub for a year that did eventually sell. These days? I don't know. I expect it depends on genre, and on how thin the publisher's staff is - based on watching folks on Twitter, publishing seems to be a fairly mobile industry. Timing may depend on whether or not you catch a particular publisher in a time of flux.

Your agent should have some idea of current trends.
 

litdawg

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Are editors at publishing houses as overwhelmed with pitches as agents are?

Yes. Most only take agented submissions but still get flooded with submissions

That's interesting to hear. I'm agented, and my agent sent in the pitches and proposals. Two of the five editors requested the full ms within the hour.

Timing may depend on whether or not you catch a particular publisher in a time of flux.

Your agent should have some idea of current trends.

We were both kind of floored by the quick reactions. I assume the remaining three will be more like current trends, but my sense is that the industry is, indeed, in "a time of flux." I'm attributing these first two to coronavirus shelter at home efficiency. If we get requests from the remaining publishers in the next month or two, I may attribute it to something else.

Thank you both for replying! My agent doesn't usually represent work in my genre, so we're both feeling our way.
 
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lizmonster

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Thank you both for replying! My agent doesn't usually represent work in my genre, so we're both feeling our way.

Word of advice, from the once-burned: when you get an offer, talk to the acquiring editor about the publisher's marketing plans before you sign with them. I have been told by more than one source this is a normal thing to ask for, and you'll almost certainly find nothing to debate in what they tell you - but if what they're saying seems off, you'll have the opportunity to evaluate your risk before you sign a contract.
 

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I'm going to preface this with the comment that it also depends on what you're writing. Non-fiction often starts with a book proposal directly to a publisher and those publishers are set up to deal with it. There's a slush pile at the publisher just like there is at any agency and there are interns to slog through them.

Now, of the editors I know that only accept agented submissions, they have all developed a current policy on non-agented submissions. It's called the delete key. You don't read submission guidelines, you don't get any courtesies at all. Harsh, but necessary. On publisher I know of, small press, has her email blocked and only allows agents she has added to her directory send emails. If you're an agent, the first step is getting her approval to send any queries or submissions. And she has been known to kick agents off her private list who send her crap. She does a fairly limited number of books a year and very specific categories so she can do this. Pretty much, if an author gets a manuscript in front of her it is extremely likely to get published. Eventually.

However, I know several employees who handle slush pile submissions. They pretty much have a set of responses they use, from the basic delete key to sending an email that they're interested. Sometimes they'll recommend it go through an agent (most times) and even send a few contacts to the promising ones. Sometimes they'll see something that could eventually work and send a response that they only accept agented submissions and the author should feel free to have their agent send it to the publisher when it's ready.

My guess is that, like most agencies, most submissions are summarily deleted with no response. I've found that agents and slush pile readers get pretty good at telling in something has any potential in the few pages.

Write your best work, submit it to the best agencies you can find, using their specific requirements for submissions, and continue to network and find the agent that will work best for you.

Or, you can post crap on Amazon and pay for fake reviews to boost your ego... :)

Jeff
 
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litdawg

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Now, of the editors I know that only accept agented submissions, they have all developed a current policy on non-agented submissions. It's called the delete key. You don't read submission guidelines, you don't get any courtesies at all. Harsh, but necessary. . .

Write your best work, submit it to the best agencies you can find, using their specific requirements for submissions, and continue to network and find the agent that will work best for you.

Or, you can post crap on Amazon and pay for fake reviews to boost your ego... :)

Jeff
Are editors at publishing houses as overwhelmed with pitches as agents are?

Yes. Most only take agented submissions but still get flooded with submissions by writers who don't respect that the publisher only wants agented submissions or doesn't care and think they are some special snowflake that can skip the line. Not a good idea to query a publisher who doesn't take unagented submissions. You'd be wasting your time and theirs. Also, it makes you look unprofessional and amateur. . . .
Once again, I wouldn't query an editor who only wants to hear from agents.

Apologies to both of you for ambiguity in the original post. I've edited it to add that I'm referring to submissions/pitches from an AGENT to an editor at a publishing house, made on behalf of a represented client.

Word of advice, from the once-burned: when you get an offer, talk to the acquiring editor about the publisher's marketing plans before you sign with them. I have been told by more than one source this is a normal thing to ask for, and you'll almost certainly find nothing to debate in what they tell you - but if what they're saying seems off, you'll have the opportunity to evaluate your risk before you sign a contract.

I sincerely hope I one day have the opportunity to use this advice ;)
 

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If your agent submitted your work to publishers, then you need to stay out of it and let your agent work for you. Your part is done, now you wait for them to do their part. It may take a few hours, it might take many months, but it's your agent's responsibility, not yours. I'm assuming you selected a good agent for your work and they know what they are doing, of course.

Jeff
 

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If your agent submitted your work to publishers, then you need to stay out of it and let your agent work for you. Your part is done, now you wait for them to do their part.

I think this can depend, a little bit? You should know which publishers the book has been subbed to, and which ones the agent will go to next if the first batch passes. Some authors like to hear feedback from publisher rejections; others prefer the "call me when someone wants it" approach. Some authors want to hear all the offers, even if it's not an offer the agent would recommend. And like I said: find out the publisher's marketing vision before you accept anything. I don't care how much money it is, there's no amount of cash that can make up for mis-marketing.

You should certainly have an agent you can trust. But it's worth remembering their career is not at stake here - yours is. If you end up badly published, you're in a worse position than you were when you started. Your agent and your publisher both have other writers and other books. To them, you're a learning experience, but you're stuck on your own to dig out.

You have more skin in the game than anybody else in this process. Keep your eye on the ball.
 

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There's some insight in this article, but I wish the author had interviewed editors rather than agents. This has the feeling of a betting pool at a Super Bowl party.

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw...r-to-submit-projects-during-the-pandemic.html

Yeah, that's a great big dose of "we don't really know."

It's also exposing, I think, the dependence the industry has had on print books. I've actually bought more print books in the last month than I have in the last year, mostly because I'm trying to support indie bookstores. But my fiction reading has been almost exclusively ebook for some years now. Publishers still haven't figured out how to handle ebooks (and Amazon doesn't help).

Just as a note, the one dollar figure mentioned in that article is $250,000. That's a unicorn deal. I know one person who got an advance like that, and it was for three books. That's a book that would've sold big with or without a pandemic, and shouldn't be taken as any kind of data point right now (in my opinion :)).
 

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Another full request came in from the first five submissions--that's three total. This last request is from an editor at the very top publisher in my genre--unbelievable! One editor has declined after reviewing the full ms. So something unusual is definitely going on here--60% request rate, with the remaining 40% still in contention.

The pandemic must really be skewing things.
 

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Another full request came in from the first five submissions--that's three total. This last request is from an editor at the very top publisher in my genre--unbelievable! One editor has declined after reviewing the full ms. So something unusual is definitely going on here--60% request rate, with the remaining 40% still in contention.

The pandemic must really be skewing things.
Curious about updates on this question and your process. Did you get good news from those fulls? How long did it take?

I'm agented, but fairly recently. I have a contract for one project (but I'd made that connection before signing with the agent) and we're out on sub for another. It's just so hard to know how long the process will take, and I want to have reasonable expectations. Even with the world being weird.
 

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Just as a note, the one dollar figure mentioned in that article is $250,000. That's a unicorn deal. I know one person who got an advance like that, and it was for three books. That's a book that would've sold big with or without a pandemic, and shouldn't be taken as any kind of data point right now (in my opinion :)).

I think advance size depends on genre. There are regular mention of six-figure advance in the specialised press (UK and US). The unicorn deal seems to be for seven-figure deal, I think those can be counted on one hand each year.

I believe response time and request for full also depends on who's the submitting agent and their reputation/track record. Some agent's submissions get to go top of the pile and I would suspect get read a lot quicker.
 

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I think advance size depends on genre. There are regular mention of six-figure advance in the specialised press (UK and US). The unicorn deal seems to be for seven-figure deal, I think those can be counted on one hand each year.

I believe response time and request for full also depends on who's the submitting agent and their reputation/track record. Some agent's submissions get to go top of the pile and I would suspect get read a lot quicker.
This is an old thread, but: in my genre (SFF), $250,000 is a unicorn deal. I can't speak to other genres.

I've never heard of a debut author getting a seven-figure deal. I'm sure they're out there, but they're hardly the norm.
 
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This is a place where there's data:

BookRiot: How much do authors make per book

John Scalzi #publishingpaidme

Tobias Bucknell data for SF/F in 2005, 2007

The typical first time author advance for fiction is around 5,000.00 to maybe MAYBE $15,000. That's split in several payments, at least tw0, but typically 3. The agent gets 15%. Taxes take a chunk, because it's 1099 income, in the U.S. so you have to pay income tax, state and federal, and you have to pay both your share of social security etc. AND the employer's share, becuase 1099 means you are your own employer.
 

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This is an old thread, but: in my genre (SFF), $250,000 is a unicorn deal. I can't speak to other genres.

I've never heard of a debut author getting a seven-figure deal. I'm sure they're out there, but they're hardly the norm.
There are more common in general/suspense/thriller fiction.

I know of about four recent(ish) seven-figure debut deals. As I said you can count them each year on one hand.
 

J.A.Nielsen

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This is a place where there's data:

BookRiot: How much do authors make per book

John Scalzi #publishingpaidme

Tobias Bucknell data for SF/F in 2005, 2007

The typical first time author advance for fiction is around 5,000.00 to maybe MAYBE $15,000. That's split in several payments, at least tw0, but typically 3. The agent gets 15%. Taxes take a chunk, because it's 1099 income, in the U.S. so you have to pay income tax, state and federal, and you have to pay both your share of social security etc. AND the employer's share, becuase 1099 means you are your own employer.
Thank you.
This is weirdly encouraging. Just knowing what is normal and being able to manage expectations.
It seems there are plenty of "big littles" that are still paying royalties only. No pressure from the advance, but...no advance.
I know several authors who won't look at those smaller houses, but they're all in a position they can do so. And plenty of agents who won't pitch to houses with that policy. Which makes sense, for them. No advance means no %15 until the book starts selling--which could be awhile.
 

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I know several authors who won't look at those smaller houses, but they're all in a position they can do so. And plenty of agents who won't pitch to houses with that policy. Which makes sense, for them. No advance means no %15 until the book starts selling--which could be awhile.

The flipside of this - which I've been told by more than one agent - is that an advance is somewhat correlated to what a publisher will put into marketing your book. Small publishers who don't pay advances likely don't have the resources - or won't pay for the resources - to market you much.

I'll never earn out my advances, but that money is still earning interest in the bank, and will be long after my books fall out of print.
 
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J.A.Nielsen

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The flipside of this - which I've been told by more than one agent - is that an advance is somewhat correlated to what a publisher will put into marketing your book. Small publishers who don't pay advances likely don't have the resources - or won't pay for the resources - to market you much.

I'll never earn out my advances, but that money is still earning interest in the bank, and will be long after my books fall out of print.
Right.
Globally distributed does not equal having a marketing rep who goes around ensuring that certain books are making it onto shelves or having an intentional campaign to promote the work or setting up events.
There is quite a lot of shlepping left to the author.
But, I've heard that can happen anywhere--big or little. 🤷‍♀️
 

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Right.
Globally distributed does not equal having a marketing rep who goes around ensuring that certain books are making it onto shelves or having an intentional campaign to promote the work or setting up events.
There is quite a lot of shlepping left to the author.
But, I've heard that can happen anywhere--big or little. 🤷‍♀️

Author shlepping is of limited utility. The best predictor of a book's success is the publisher's marketing budget.

If you're in a niche genre or a small market, author shlepping may move the needle. For most markets, though, nothing you do is likely to be statistically significant.

(There are always exceptions, of course - I've seen people catch the attention of Just The Right Folx on social media, which helped them take off. But it doesn't always work that way. Felicia Day, of all people, gave my debut novel five stars on Goodreads, and tweeted about it. Didn't help sales at all, although I will forever love her for it.)
 

J.A.Nielsen

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Author shlepping is of limited utility. The best predictor of a book's success is the publisher's marketing budget.

If you're in a niche genre or a small market, author shlepping may move the needle. For most markets, though, nothing you do is likely to be statistically significant.

(There are always exceptions, of course - I've seen people catch the attention of Just The Right Folx on social media, which helped them take off. But it doesn't always work that way. Felicia Day, of all people, gave my debut novel five stars on Goodreads, and tweeted about it. Didn't help sales at all, although I will forever love her for it.)
Felicia Day?!?
Fan girl moment!!
Ok, that, right there is a reason to keep on writing!
 
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lizmonster

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Felicia Day?!?
Fan girl moment!!
Ok, that, right there is a reason to keep on writing!
She is by all accounts a lovely person. I know she has good taste. :)

But back to my previous point - the marketing on that book was dreadful, and it really never had a chance. Which I suppose isn't quite my previous point - but the truth is it's the publisher's marketing machine that determines how successful a book is going to be.
 

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Wow, this is an OLD thread! None of the full requests from the first time I went out on submission panned out. I had a revise and resubmit from one that was still declined, but their feedback led me eventually to a massive rewrite that added 50k words to the MS. We just went out on sub again in late October and got two full requests fairly quickly. One has already declined. I think I'm dangling with six or seven publishers right now, including the two-year slush pile at Baen :sleep::unsure:
 

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