Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Waiting Game
By Angela Henry

Publishing is a game of hurry up and wait. When you’re looking for an agent or a publisher, and sending off query letters and sample chapters, you’d better be prepared to wait AND wait. Sometimes the answer is a quick yes or no, usually no. Yes, publishing is full of stories of manuscripts starting bidding wars between publishers mere days after being submitted. But those stories are few and far between. The reality is that most of us wait for several weeks to several months.

When I submitted sample chapters of my first book to BET Books back in July of 2003, I got a call about submitting the full manuscript six months later and had an offer of a book deal a few weeks after that. Seven months from submission to an offer is pretty typical. But it can be even longer. When I was looking for a new agent, I once had a request for my full manuscript from an agent who didn’t respond until two years later, after I had already sold the book myself. This particular agent had seen my book deal posted on Publishers Marketplace and remembered she still had my manuscript.

I now find myself in the same position once again. Patiently, or not so patiently—depending on my mood—waiting for an answer from the editors considering my latest manuscript. But things are different this time around because the revival of my writing career could hinge on this submission. It’s been about two and a half months since project X went on submission and I’m getting really antsy. My agent assures me that no news is good news. The longer it takes for a response, the better chance of getting a deal.

You see, for most editors acquiring manuscripts is a process. First an editor or assistant editor reads the manuscript. If they don’t like it, they pass on it. If they do like it, they pass it up the food chain for second and third reads from other folks at the publishing company. If the manuscript makes it through second and third reads, it gets discussed at an acquisitions meeting to see if it’s something the publisher would like to acquire. And this process can take months. Even if a manuscript gets that far, it can be rejected for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing.

For example, if the publisher already has a similar book on its list that didn’t sell well, or the sales and marketing department can’t figure out how to market the book, or if the author doesn’t have that almighty author platform, then the answer can be a resounding no regardless of the fact that more than one person at the company may have loved it. Then there’s the current economy. Many publishers are tightening their belts and being more selective in what they are acquiring, or so they say. A quick peek at the daily book deals posted on Publishers Marketplace shows that publishers are indeed still buying books. In the past twelve months alone, there have been 200 book deals posted for debut authors alone. So books are still being acquired.

As for me, I’m still waiting and hoping that the sound of crickets I’m hearing is a good thing ; ).



Rhonda McKnight said...

Truly does sound like no news is good news. Is this another mystery?

angela henry said...

Hi, Rhonda-

It's romantic suspense with more emphasis on the suspense than the romance.

Gammy Singer said...

Black characters? Series character?
Does your agent give you any clue to whom it's being submitted? Just curious.

angela henry said...

Gammy-This book is a lot more race neutral than any of the other books I've written. And I'd like for it to be a series but that's still up in the air for the moment. I don't know who it's been submitted to. My agent would tell me if I asked but I think I'd obsess even more if I knew.

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