Sep 30th, 2019
Hi everyone, and thank you for tuning in to another episode of the We Make Books Podcast - A podcast about writing, publishing, and everything in between!
This is the final week of Submissions September, for real this time! We’re rounding out the month with a short episode of questions, concerns, and follow ups. We got a few inquires and responses over the course of the month and thought it would be a good idea to wrap up with an episode where we answer them. Thank you so much to everyone that got in touch and we hope that this month-long walk through of the submissions process was helpful. If there is anything you’d like to hear about that we didn’t cover, let us know! We’re always looking for topics for future episodes!
In case you’re just joining us, this month is Submissions September on the We Make Books Podcast, we’re doing seven (7!) episodes this month all about the process of submitting your novel. We have a lot of awesome discussions lined up and even some special guests. Here’s what will be coming your way for the month:
Week 1 (9/3/2019): Is This Ready For Other People to See?- Submitting Your Manuscript
Week 2 (9/10/2019): My Entire Novel in Three Hundred Words - The Dreaded Query Letter
Week 3 (9/17/2019): Agents of Literature, Part 1: An Interview with Literary Agent Caitlin McDonald
(9/18/2019): Agents of Literature, Part 2: Interviews with Agented Authors
(9/19/2019): Agents of Literature Part 3: Interviews with Agented Authors
Week 4 (9/24/2019): What is Going On Over There? - The Other Side of the Submissions Process
Week 5 (9/30/2019): Now I’m Even More Confused – Submissions September Q&A Episode
We Make Books is hosted by Rekka Jay and Kaelyn Considine; Rekka is a published author and Kaelyn is an editor and together they are going to take you through what goes into getting a book out of your head, on to paper, in to the hands of a publisher, and finally on to book store shelves.
We Make Books is a podcast for writer and publishers, by writers and publishers and we want to hear from our listeners! Hit us up on our social media, linked below, and send us your questions, comments, concerns, and here’s the thing, Kaelyn’s a long-suffering New York Giants fan and she’s been doing this funny-football-comments-in-the-show-notes bit for the entire month and is curious if anyone has read her weekly rants. So, the first three people to DM her the score of Sunday’s game (9/29/2019) against Washington get a free Parvus ebook of their choice.
We hope you enjoy We Make Books!
00:00 Kaelyn Considine (KC): Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of the We Make Books podcast, a show about writing, editing, and everything in between. I'm Kaelyn Considine and I am the Acquisitions Editor for Parvus Press.
00:11 Rekka / R J Theodore (RJT): And I'm Rekka, I write Science Fiction and Fantasy as R J Theodore.
00:13 KC: And uh, this isn't really an episode episode.
00:18 RJ: It's a minisode.
00:20 KC: Yeah. It's the questions wrap-up. We did get some questions for Submissions September that we wanted to try to provide answers for.
00:27 RJT: Yep, these came in through Twitter and email and conversations we had in person with people so, it is a great little set of specific questions and we ran through them in, not necessarily the order they came in, but the order they would apply to the process.
00:44 KC: Yeah.
00:44 RJT: So it worked out really nicely as a little set of like quick summary... I mean, you obviously won't get everything you would get by listening to the other six episodes of the month but you know it's a good overview and maybe I dunno like a little refresher before the pop quiz next week.
01:02 KC: Absolutely. And no, it seemed like a good way to kind of round out the month. We kept it short, like we intended to.
01:08 RJT: Yeah, so this one, our "short" episode is the length we always think the episodes are going to be.
01:13 KC: But, well, we had a lot of fun doing Submissions September. We won't be doing anything similar to this any time soon.
01:21 RJT: This was a big, big project.
01:22 KC: This was a lot.
01:22 RJT: I think this encompassed three different recording visits.
01:27 KC: I think so.
01:27 RJT: You know, Kaelyn comes in to visit for the weekend and this weekend, in order to finish them all, she had to stay an extra night, and we are done now.
01:33 KC: It's okay cause I got brunch and mini golf out of it.
01:35 RJT: Okay, yes. So we aren't all work, no play.
01:39 KC: So it all worked out in the end and you know, your cats like me now so that's very exciting to me.
01:45 RJT: Yes.
01:45 KC: Anyway, so thank you so much for joining us for this whole month and we hope you enjoy this last episode of just the rounding out of Submissions September.
02:14 RJT: Well it's been a month, everybody.
02:17 KC: It has been a month.
02:17 RJT: We said this was gonna be a bi-weekly podcast.
02:24 KC: And then we said we were gonna take a month where we do an episode an every week, so it was gonna be four.
02:31 RJT: Yup, and then we said, "hey look we have a lot of interviews, this is too many for one episode."
02:36 KC: And then we had some questions.
02:39 RJT: So we're back with one bonus, final, "hey while it's still September"
02:43 KC: Yeah.
02:43 RJT: Hol' Up A Minute.
02:45 KC: Yeah, welcome. It's Monday, you have to listen to us. Yeah, we ended up with seven episodes.
02:49 RJT: Yeah, let's not do that again.
02:49 KC: No, G-d no. Please.
02:49 RJT: Cause, at this point of time when we are speaking to you in this recording studio, we haven't edited them yet. So we're not even done.
03:04 KC: Very true, but we did have some questions come up over the course of this. If there are things you're still wondering, things we didn't talk about, you know you can still send us questions, maybe we'll do something else like this.
03:16 RJT: These were all sent to us Direct Message and folks didn't say whether they wanted their names used so we're just going to err on the side of privacy.
03:21 KC: Yeah, just you know. Um, if you do wnat us to say it was your name then
03:26 RJT: Let us know.
03:26 KC: Tweet at us.
03:30 RJT: We'll assign credit where credit was due. And some of these were from a couple different directions.
03:32 KC: Yeah, so. Um, so first question: How perfect does my manuscript have to be before I submit it?
03:38 RJT: Yeah. I mean, ostensibly the agent, if you work with an agent, is probably going to do a couple passes with you. We spoke to Caitlin McDonald a couple weeks ago and she said she's gonna do two passes and that sounds pretty common.
03:55 KC: Yeah, that sounds pretty standard.
03:55 RJT: And then they're going to sub it and send to a publisher and the publisher is definitely not going to leave it alone either. So, knowing your manuscript is going to change, how perfect does it have to be?
04:05 KC: As perfect as you can get it.
04:08 RJT: I mean, should I be worried about copyedits or should I just try to catch what I can on my own?
04:13 KC: I know, from my perspective as the acquisitions editor: I do not expect a copyedited document. That said, I do expect a final document. I do expect you've put time and effort into this.
04:25 RJT: So it looks like the final that you would send to a copyeditor and it's just that you might have an opinion on stuff you think could be better.
04:35 KC: And I think it is a little frustrating, some people think like, "Well why do I need bother with that much of if because they're just going to change everything anyway?" And the answer is: You're trying to make a good impression. Also, it's showing me your work ethic. It's showing me the attention to detail and time you put into things and that this is important to you. It is funny because I get manuscripts submitted to us sometimes that I'm like, "I really feel like this is just a working draft, still, somehow." And that's not good, don't do that.
05:10 RJT: And what about manuscripts you get where like the first fifty pages are super tight, super clean, they've clearly been workshopped a couple times but it doesn't carry through the entire thing?
05:20 KC: I appreciate, to an extent, that they knew that I really need to nail the first fifty pages. And the other thing is I don't expect this to be copyedited. Copyeditors are expensive. I don't expect you to do that especially since we're gonna go in and do work on it anyway so we're just gonna get another copyeditor to work on it.
05:40 RJT: So the plot should hold up but you don't have to get all your commas in the right place or a typo or a repeated word.
05:46 KC: Avoid typos, that's..
05:50 RJT: But I mean, those happen.
05:51 KC: Yeah. I mean, you know, as we always say: Your first couple pages especially, pay very close attention to those.
05:56 RJT: Right, but I'm talking about a three hundred page novel.
05:59 KC: Yeah, if there's A typo in it, it's not the end of the world. There are published novels with typos in them. Not that that's good but it does happen.
06:04 RJT: Right, that's what I'm saying. One person looking at this over and over again is not going to catch everything.
06:11 KC: Exactly. So next question we kinda got, feeding into that...
06:14 RJT: This is sorta into a query letter here.
06:16 KC: Yeah, we're moving into query letter section. What if I don't have any previous publishing credits? Is that a big deal? I mean, no.
06:24 RJT: Every author was a first time author once.
06:24 KC: Yeah. most people don't. A lot of the times when you're querying agents and submitting to open calls of course you don't have any publishing credits. If you did, you'd... I mean, people do leave their agents.
06:40 RJT: Or transition from one to another.
06:40 KC: Or transition and get new ones but I mean, a lot of times you don't have publishing credits, that's why you're looking for an agent.
06:46 RJT: Right, right. And so just to keep in mind you can introduce yourself without you know, puffing this up This isn't like a fake resume or anything like that. If you have an interest or skill related to your manuscript you can mention that but, for the most part, you don't... they don't expect you to say the most impressive thing about yourself. This isn't that party where you have to be that guy. You can just say, like, you know, if there's a gardening aspect in your space opera, just say like, "And I like to garden on the weekends." And you know that's cute. But if the gardening doesn't tie into your manuscript it's not necessary. You can just say.. This would be..you know like, "I am an unpublished author—"
07:35 KC: "I would like to become a published one."
07:37 RJT: Yeah. You're overthinking it, even at this point. Just say, you know, "This is me."
07:42 KC: Yeah, and don't be ashamed of that by any stretch of the imagination. I think there's this intimidation factor where people who are especially trying to submit novels for publication hear about like, people say, "I had this short story published and I had this and this." There are plenty of people who come straight out of the gate to a novel.
08:01 RJT: Right. I did. I'm working stories through submissions process nw, but I had a novel first.
08:11 KC: There's no set linear way to do this. It's. you know, you come into where you come into. There's... it's not... you're not ticking off boxes and then you get to query an agent or submit a manuscript.
08:24 RJT: And I didn't have anything that I could speak to. I was a graphic designer which is cool but it's not pertinent. So I really had very little to say about myself in my query letter, which I read to you during the query week anyway.
08:36 KC: Yes.
08:41 RJT: So go back and listen to it if you're worried about it. But I don't have an MFA and an MFA is not a prerequisite to getting a novel purchased.
08:46 KC: No, G-d no.
08:46 RJT: I don't... I didn't major in English. I took one essay writing class at art school.
KC: Okay, then.
RJT: It was pretty much just to spare the art history teachers a couple of classes of having to go over this every semester. Yeah. Don't stress it. You wrote a book, you know, so be proud of that and you know, like I said, you don't have to inflate it. You don't have to be extra humble. Just, you know, write your query letter.
09:18 So, you've sent in this query, however it needed to be written, and you have checked the publisher's submissions guidelines and you know that thay're gong to tell you to expect a response after such and such number of days they might even invite you to reach out and check on it if it's been this long. Or you see on Twitter, "hey we've gone through our entire submissions pile so you should have heard from us."
09:44 KC: "Thanks for submitting."
09:44 RJT: So, what do you do if you have't heard back at that point, in either case?
09:52 KC: Well I mean, if they say you know... like at Parvus we say ninety days for you know follow up the query with us. Here's the thing, if you haven't heard back from me in 90 days there's a good chance I just haven't gotten through the pile yet. It's funny, we say 90 days because that's just a good amount of time but like we get hundreds and hundreds of these when we open for submissions so depending on what's going I may not start reading them immediately. As they're coming in. I try to stay on top of it but that's just not always possible.
10:28 RJT: I know I've heard that some agents for example, will read the query letters and then divert some of those to like hey check this out soon. So they go through the query letters and get through the rejections just based on the query and then they'll go through like the next round of consideration is to open the document and check it out but that may not happen as fast as they read the letter.
10:53 KC: Yeah, I mean, sometimes I can get through these pretty quickly. Sometimes I can't. If you haven't heard back and they say, "feel free to reach out to us," feel free to reach out to them. The response you're probably going to get back is "Yeah I'm still working through everything."
11:06 RJT: Yeah.
11:08 KC: Don't be rude. Don't...
11:12 RJT: Cause you are still technically submitting. This is still part of your interview.
11:16 KC: Well, Don't be demanding, I guess.
11:19 RJT: That's what I mean, like, be decent, be polite, be professional.
11:19 KC: Be just like, "They I'm just following up."
11:22 RJT: This is an extension of the first submission you sent. It's an extension of the impression you're making upon them. So acting as though you're tapping your foot and crossing your arms and raising one eyebrow? Is not gonna d you any favors in terms of how your query is going to be judged. Because frankly we're all human and you can't separate that from the experience of reading.
11:43 KC: No, And you know, I understand there is a little bit of a power dynamic here that maybe isn't necessarily fair but at the end of the day you are... you're applying to something. You are asking someone to give you their time and consideration and, I don't wanna say they don't owe it to you because it's not that. If you submit
12:04 RJT: If they invited you to submit, especially.
12:06 KC: They do owe you that but it's not... you don't get to demand that they pay attention to you right that second. And along those lines, if you get a rejection back don't write back and ask for notes cause that's another demanding of someone's time.
12:26 RJT: And thats a level. There are times you might get notes and that generally is pretty promising. It means you might have needed less work that other people in the pile.
12:37 KC: It also means that maybe you were under, you were considered. It was you know "we're happy you sent this to us. It had some things that we thought needed attention."
12:49 RJT: And this is one of those cases where it's an investment of your time as a publisher to finish this book and if this book needs more work than you budgeted for...
12:55 KC: Than you're willing to put into it.
12:57 RJT: Yeah, so. so you send back notes and that person is, at least got that feedback for the net time they submitted this manuscript They can consider it. Now, if you give them notes, and I know this is probably case-by-case, what about Revise & Re-query or Revise & Resubmit.
13:20 KC: Generally I will say like listen, you know, here's some notes. I always... I don't... I always feel a little uncomfortable sending notes because it's like, especially if they're unsolicited but generally I think they're appreciated. But I usually send a note that's like, you know, "we really liked this. There are these problems. If you wanna take the suggestion or maybe if you want to work with another editor, please feel free to resubmit with us in the future." And a lot of the times, I'll even say, "Please feel free to resubmit, you can send it right.. directly back to me."
13:55 RJT: Rather than needing to go through the digital system.
13:56 KC: Yeah, the usual process. Because sometimes I'm just like, "Yeah, I'm curious to see what they do with this." And I like it flagged that it's like.. cause, again, I get hundreds of these. And even though a lot of times it is something I'll remember, especially if it's something I sent notes back. You know, you never know. If it gets..
14:18 RJT: If it's three years later or whatever.
14:18 KC: Yeah, if it goes through the regular submissions manager it can absolutely get lost in the shuffle. So yeah I would say just do not be demanding and do not be impatient and you know if you get invited to revise and resubmit absolutely do that.
14:35 RJT: If you get notes back, though, and no invitation to resubmit?
14:36 KC: Do it anyway. I mean. There are some manuscripts that we've had open calls for and every time I get the same manuscript back.
14:45 RJT: Okay.
14:44 KC: That's not necessarily a good thing but you know there's no ... I don't think I've ever read submissions guidelines that are like, "(If you already submitted to us once don't ever do it again."
15:01 RJT: Okay.
15:01 KC: Have you?
15:01 RJT: Well I know magazine you know like they are pretty strict. It's pretty much expected, I don't even know that they come right out and say it, but some of them do, is like, "you have one shot with this story unless we invite you to resubmit."
15:15 KC: Yeah, okay. That's... novels are maybe a little..
15:20 RJT: Maybe a little different. So I can understand when someone's getting hundreds and hundreds of submissions that you don't want to open it up and go, "Oh, this one again?"
15:25 KC: Yeah you don't want the same thing over and over. Um, I mean, that said, I'm sure people do it. Just do it is creating the work of having to reject it. There isn't really a way to blacklist people from an open submission. Um, if you get invited to resubmit you absolutely should resubmit because that means they probably
15:47 RJT: Were very interested.
15:47 KC: Were very interested just did not have, for whatever reason, could not take it.
15:52 RJT: It needs more work on your side, basically, before a publisher's gonna take it on and do the work on their side.
15:57 KC: Yeah.
15:57 RJT: Okay, so what if you do get accepted in an open submissions? You've got an offer from a publisher. Can you take that offer and find an agent with it?
16:08 KC: A lot of publishing houses are going to want you to do that.
16:11 RJT: Okay.
16:14 KC: So if you go back and listen to the second episode of Week Three which was the first of the author interview episodes.
16:18 RJT: That's Episode 15.
16:18 KC: Episode 15. Tyler Hayes is in it and he talks about how he actually got accepted, his manuscript got accepted, and then he had to go find an agent. If you go listen to our Nebulas interview, we talked to Mark Tompkins who is the author of Last Days of Magic and he talks about the same thing that he got a manuscript accepted and they were like, "Okay cool well where's your agent?" and he's like, "I don't have one." They were like, "Here, call this person. Tell them you need an agent." So a lot of publishing houses want you to have an agent. The answer is they don't always want to deal with authors direct one-on-one. Because when you have an agent you have someone that...
17:01 RJT: Knows how this works.
17:03 KC: Yeah, and they know the contracts and they know.. They're also... agents are also very useful for their connections and what they're gonna help with. So yeah, absolutely if you have an offer and you can find an agent that you can talk to quickly about that might be willing to take you on that's absolutely something good to do.
17:27 RJT: Do you need to have a contract? Or is a phone call where they're saying, "Okay, we're gonna send you a contract in a few days" enough?
17:34 KC: I think it really depends. You have to feel that out. You know if the publisher has said "yes we want to move forward with thus."
17:44 RJT: Okay.
17:45 KC: If you already have a contract definitely..
17:46 RJT: Get on that.
17:46 KC: Get on it. If they're sending you a contract, same thing, just query
17:54 RJT: And when you query the agent make sure you say, "This has a pending contract."
17:56 KC: Yeah this..
17:56 RJT: This is easy money for you.
17:58 KC: Yeah. "I have a pending offer." And you know, the agent is going to come in and will, of course want to look at the contract. If you've already signed the contract, that's a whole other...
18:06 RJT: Yeah, the agent's not going to be able to do anything for you and they're not going to be interested because there's nothing for them to do
18:11 KC: Yeah, they can't really...
18:11 RJT: That's... Their portion of income is dependent on what they can do for you in your contract. So if you already signed the contract, they would not be representing you for that book and then therefor this would be okay, the promise of another book? Do you have that book ready? Like what...?
18:31 KC: Yeah the contract...
18:31 RJT: Don't sign the contract first.
18:31 KC: The contract is gonna say in it where to send payment and if it's an agent, what it'll say is, "Rekka Jay, care of" and the agent and the agency. So you know, if you go back and listen to our Money episode [Episode 9] we talk about how if you have an agent, you're not getting a check from the publisher. Your agent is getting the check from the publisher and then the agent is writing you a check.
18:56 RJT: Unless you managed to work out a very special exclusion to that.
18:58 KC: Yeah. So that's not uncommon, that kind of stuff does happen. Like I Said, a lot of publishing houses would rather deal with an agent cause...
19:12 RJT: They're professionals.
19:12 KC: Exactly.
19:11 RJT: And you don't know what the author doesn't know but you have a pretty good idea of what the agent does know.
19:21 KC: Exactly. So yeah, don't be afraid to do that.
19:22 RJT: So if you get a publisher that would retract the offer because you went out to try and protect yourself by getting representation...
19:29 KC: Yeah you probably didn't want to work with that person to begin with.
19:31 RJT: ...You're better off. And I have heard of publishers doing that. Retracting offers based on that.
19:37 KC: Yeah I mean the one scenario in which I would say, "Okay I understand where they're coming from" maybe is if you get, I don't want to say the wrong agent, but an agent who's gonna come in, tear up the tentative deal that you had already, and start asking and demanding a lot more stuff. And then the publisher's gonna go, "This is not worth it for us."
19:59 RJT: Right.
19:59 KC: You know maybe it's a smaller publishing house like Parvus and you've worked out an advance that both sides are comfortable with, you worked out royalty rates, and then the author said, "You know I signed with an agent, I want them to look at it," and they come in and then go, "No, no, no, no, no! You deserve..!" And on the publisher's side we're going, "Look. You know, we're not Random House. We're not Penguin." And maybe your book would not be getting picked up by Random House or Penguin. So we're working on the same level here. So yes there might be some areas where a publishing house retracts an offer but
20:40 RJT: Not usually based on the fact that you went to find an agent in the first place. This is going to be your agent is trying to bowl them over.
20:47 KC: Yeah it might be that or it's because you went and got an agent and then the agent's asking questions like, "hey what about this contract," and they're like, "Nope. Forget it." Then you probably didn't want to work with that publishing house.
20:57 RJT: Yeah. yeah. Because that's why you want an agent is to help you with these legal documents and they know what's reasonable for you to ask for, and a shady publishing house may be hoping that, by going straight to the author, they can grab more rights or something than they would have been able to.
21:15 KC: Exactly.
21:18 RJT: Or write in some nasty clauses about your future works.
21:18 KC: Exactly. So I think that's all of our questions.
21:24 RJT: Yeah, that was it! It was hopefully a nice reprieve at the end of the month.
21:28 KC: It was actually short this time. We always say we're going to keep it short and then we never do.
21:31 RJT: Yeah this one actually did. But I think those questions were pretty straight forward but they were good questions.
21:35 KC: Yeah, good questions.
21:35 RJT: And I know that at least we didn't cover them directly throughout the rest of the month. So, if you have more questions like this please send them on over. You can find us @wmbcast on twitter and instagram. You can find us at Patreon.com/wmbcast and like we said, if you want credit for your questions, say so, because if you sent it to us directly, privately, and not just tweeting at us.
22:01 KC: We assume anonymity.
22:04 RJT: And you know, when you're talking about querying, you feel a little shy about it and like you might get it wrong so you don't wanna leave your name out there for someone to say, "Ha, they didn't know." But no most people don't know when they're getting started so these are good questions.
22:15 KC: So that's officially the end of Submissions September.
22:19 RJT: For real this time.
22:19 KC: Yeah, thanks for sticking with us, everyone. This was fun. I mean..
22:24 RJT Let us know what you got out of it. Let us know what surprises you heard this month. And hopefully this has you excited for this step of the process if you haven't made it there yet.
22:33 KC: We won't be doing seven episodes in a month again any time soon.
22:37 RJT: Ever. Like, ever. I will walk out of this shed.
22:37 KC: So hope you enjoyed this while it lasted.
22:44 RJT: Yeah we're a little tired but I think it was worth it. This was something that, from the very conception of this podcast, Kaelyn was excited to do, so hopefully Kaelyn is satisfied with our...
22:58 KC: I am.
22:59 RJT: Good.
23:00 KC: Are you?
23:00 RJT: I'm satisfied.
23:00 KC: Alright well thanks everyone so much for listening. We're back to our regular schedule after this. There will be an October 8th episode, and then it's back to every two weeks.
23:13 RJT: Yep.
23:15 KC: So thanks again for listening.
23:15 RJT: We'll talk to you then!