You are here

How to Get Published ... Step 3—Submitting to Publishers


So you wrote the book and now found an agent! Step 3: Time to sell the book!

The first thing you need to know is that your agent is only human (hopefully). She may have fifty clients, all hoping that they’re her number one priority. But you’re likely not. An agent needs to eat so clients that have a stream of income pouring from them are going to come first. So lesson number one is: be patient, don’t over think long pauses in communication (easier said than done), and get ready for the long haul. This is just the beginning.

The second thing to realize is that an agent is only as good as the work they represent and so they take pride in ensuring that your work is fantastic. They are on your side.

If you have an editorial agent be prepared for at least one round of major edits. She’ll then want to read the rewrite.  You’re looking at 3-6 months before submission to publishers.

A good agent will then prepare a list of editors they think are looking for this type of book. They’ll know their market and editorial tastes. This is usually a list of 5-7 editors at major publishing houses. The agent will then prepare a submission package which is a lot like a query but often a bit longer. You will HAVE to have a synopsis by now—these are used by the editor to sell the novel internally and it will be requested, so get to it. The manuscript will be so polished it shines. The package will go out and, if all is well, the vast majority of editors will accept the full submission of the manuscript.

Then you wait. I know right? Wait to hear from agents, wait to win the agent, wait to submit ... just wait, once you have a publisher then you really have to wait!

You know the saying ‘curiosity killed the cat?’ The meaning has changed over the years. In its original form it wasn’t curiosity that did it, it was care or WORRY. Which makes sense, right? Curiosity is a good thing. Worry on the other hand, worry is the mind killer. Worry is the little-death that brings total obliteration. What’s the antidote to worry? Go write another book.

But you will hear a response, eventually.

There are three types of scenarios for your book. You may receive an answer super fast that they want it (very good sign). Or you may need to wait months for replies to trickle in. They all might be ‘nos’. Just saying. Then you’ll need to do another round of submissions and wait again. It may never sell. THE TERMINALS didn’t sell for me. The key reason—I think because you never really know—is because it didn’t really fit a specific genre. It was halfway to a thriller and halfway to a horror and didn’t quite fulfill the requirements of either. Here’s one example of a response:

“I think my issue with The Terminals at this point is that it, very admirably, tries to work itself into so many different genres and subgenres, and it exists as a thriller, suspense, fantasy, sci/fi, and even a bit of mordant, bleak comedy, but it doesn't quite excel in any of those categories enough to elevate it to those fans.  It's an extremely diverse buffet dinner of perfectly edible, often quite good food, but it doesn't feel like the sort of meal I'd reach for when hungry.”  

ASSURED DESTRUCTION which also went on agented submission I pulled from the process during the first round because I received funding to do a transmedia campaign bigger than any advance could have been, but I also had had a few passes from editors who thought the shelf life of it was too short because of all the technology involved in the book. I took this to heart and took a route that would take it to market much faster. (More on this later when we talk about some of the advantages to self publishing.)

Or ... you might get more than one ‘yes’ and your agent can create a bidding war between the two to get a really great deal. Big deals do happen. Deals in the millions but even a deal at the $100,000 mark is considered a big one. The average advance for a first time author is somewhere around $5,000-10,000. But the range is varied.

Editors receive a whole lot of books to read and have very limited publishing spots for new authors so they have to LOVE your book to buy it. Actually not just them. If they love it, they’ll take it to an acquisitions committee usually comprised of another senior editor and the marketing group. Everyone needs to love it and think they can sell it. The numbers need to work. It’s a business.

There’s another option though and that’s what is called a Revise and Resubmit, or R&R. This is where an editor likes a book enough to make notes and offer a second chance if you decide to incorporate their comments into a new draft. This is a big compliment—why would they give you this chance if they didn’t think it was worthwhile? The trick here is to listen well and don’t go halfway. Rewrite your novel REALLY taking into account their comments and send it back in with your fingers crossed.

So say everyone loves the book and they give you a contract! Hooray, you’re a big deal. Part of a very select group of authors. Congratulations! Celebrate.  Celebrate and get ready because now the real work begins. You’re a year minimum from publication still, maybe two, and there’s a lot to be done. (One of my books, HURAKAN, took four years to publish.)

In the next post I’ll explain what steps a publisher will take with your book. They are the same steps you should be taking if you’ve decided you want to self publish instead. That’s right, if you’re the publisher you have to do what they do.

Stay tuned for Step 4—working with the publisher and the advantages of publishing traditionally.

Michael Stewart is OPL’s  first official writer in residence for teens and tweens. Michael likes to experiment by combining social media with storytelling. He's both traditionally published and indie published. He writes middle grade through to adult novels, graphic novels and new media projects across many genres.

Image: With Zombies

With Zombies

By Stewart, Michael F.
Image: Assured Destruction

Assured Destruction

By Stewart, Michael F.
Image: Script Kiddie

Script Kiddie

By Stewart, Michael F.