Join Jessica Brody for an in-depth discussion in this video Publishing houses: A peek inside, part of Sell Your Novel to a Major Publisher.
- [Instructor] Just so you're not totally in the dark here, I'm going to give you a little glimpse at what goes on inside the publishing house while you're stuck outside waiting and chewing off your nails and half your fingers. Although every house is slightly different, typically the submission process inside a publishing house goes something like this. Step one, an editor receives your manuscript from your agent. Step two, the editor reads the manuscript. But keep in mind she may have other manuscripts ahead of yours, not to mention, the books she's working on that she's already acquired.
So it may take a few days or weeks for her to even get a chance to read yours. Step three, if the editor likes your manuscript, unfortunately she usually can't just make an offer. She has to consult with other people within the house and take the book to what's called an Acquisitions Meeting. This typically happens weekly. It's an in-house meeting where editors present manuscripts that they like to a group of employees from the departments of editorial, marketing, and sales. The editor pitches your manuscript to the group and explains why she thinks the publishing house should acquire it.
Once again, she'll most likely use language from that original query letter you wrote, the chain of awesome continues. Either before or after the Acquisitions Meeting, representatives from other departments might read your manuscript as well, or at least a partial of your manuscript, to see if they agree with the editor's assessment of it. Step four, an editor either gets permission to make an offer or doesn't get permission. Now you can imagine how terribly busy all of these people must be. They're managing all of these plus the books that have already been acquired that they're trying to market and sell, which is why you shouldn't be surprised if the submission process takes a bit longer than you expected.
It can take weeks, even months, for your agent to sell your book to a publisher. That being said, if one editor from the submission list makes an offer on your book, it will generally speed up the process. Here's what happens when an editor makes an offer. First, obviously, your agent will tell you about the offer. Then the agent will call all the editors on the submission list to let them know that an offer is on the table. Then your agent will usually set a deadline to the other editors. This forces editors to shift into overdrive and pick up the pace.
Once an editor knows another house is interested, they'll be much more incline to move faster because they don't want to miss out on what is clearly a hot commodity. But until that first offer is made, unfortunately you'll just have to wait. When my agent sold The Fidelity Files, she had an offer in only 10 days. Because it was my first book, I had absolutely no expectations. But I've since learned that this is on the fast end. It doesn't normally happen this quickly, but it certainly can. I've heard of authors getting offers overnight.
That being said, just because you're waiting around for months doesn't mean your book won't ever sell. It may just mean that it's taking longer for an editor to collect all the necessary input in house. Okay, time for some bad news. It's been my experience that the rejections usually come first. And here's why. It's a lot easier for an editor to reject a book than it is for an editor to buy a book. Think back through that long list of things that happen behind the scenes of a publishing house while you're sitting on pins and needles at home.
If a book is going to receive an offer, it's going to have to jump through a lot of hoops. But if a book is going to be rejected by an editor, it doesn't usually have to go through any of those things. An editor simply has to read the manuscript, or some of the manuscript, and decide that the book isn't right for her. She doesn't have to consult anyone else. It's usually a decision she can make all on her own. Now granted there are some exceptions to this. If an editor likes a book, takes it to the Acquisition Meeting, sends it around to other people to get their feedback, and then it's decided by someone higher up that the book isn't right for the house or in-print, that rejection could take longer.
But the reality of the situation is that you'll probably get a few rejections up front, which can be really tough and often discouraging. But as your agent will probably tell you, don't get discouraged, stay positive, and remember what I told you, rejections usually come first. Of the 13 editors that The Fidelity Files was submitted to, I think I received rejections from about six of those houses before I received an offer. And believe me, that was tough. But I like to think that if the rejections come first, then you pretty much have to get them out of the way before you get any good news.
So look at each rejection you get from an editor as hopefully being one step closer to an offer. However, at this stage of the game, you will probably get a lot more helpful feedback with each rejection you receive. Editors tend to take a bit more time with their rejection letters than the agents who rejected you earlier. It's a courtesy they offer to the agent who submitted the manuscript. And it can really help you later on if you have to go back to the drawing board and revise again. Hopefully your manuscript will sell on the first round of editor submissions.
But if for some reason, it doesn't, it's nice to know why. And then you and your agent can chart out a clear course for your next steps. If the feedback from editors is fairly unanimous and you want to take a stab at revising again, at least now you might have some firm guidance. Your agent can always advise you as to whether or not this is the appropriate step for you, and whether or not they believe the editors who passed on your book would be willing to read a revision. Or your agent may advise you to start working on a new project and apply the feedback you received to a new book.
- Comparing traditional publishing and self-publishing
- Writing and revising your novel
- Finding an agent
- Perfecting your pitch
- Writing a query letter
- Researching agents
- Submitting to agents
- Reading your book contract
- Negotiating advances and royalties
- Understanding the publishing process