Friday, December 5, 2008

What to do with those editorial This responses?

So, you submit a story to an editor and get a rejection.

We hate those, right? Well, let me tell you, as an agent, I hate them just as much if not more because I have to deal with the message 2 times.

But, what do we do with these? Actually, I am only dealing with one type of these letters. I'm talking about those with that great line, "If you have something else..."

It is that "something else" that I want to deal with.

Now, I understand that you might not always have an additional stories on hand but you need to have additional stories in mind and ready to go. You also need to know how quickly you can write them. At this point, you have an editor who is interested in your work and you need to respond and respond FAST! Waiting 6 months is far from the time period they are looking for.

Editors (and agents) are often looking to "fill slots". Now this is not to say that is the only way we acquire but there are times that we have an interest in finding something in particular. When we see a submission that comes across our desk that looks really good, but doesn't quite fit, we want to see if that person has something else. Maybe the next one will work for us.

What I find amazing is that when that request goes out, we very rarely see another manuscript. We often think that the editor or agent just didn't know what they were talking about, or that you believe your writing doesn't need to be tweaked the way the editor or agent wanted. Sure, that might be the case sometimes, and yes, because the business is so subjective, there is a chance that the story might sell to someone else, but hey, the door is open to you.

I should also add that it is this reason that many editors and agents are a bit shy of authors that have just written their first story. Can they really produce a second story? I know that I have frequently had editors say, I would love to see something else. and yes, those second stories have sold. But you need one.

So, my advice:
A) Always have writing in the wings before you submit to anyone.
B) Make sure that writing is in the same genre, but not identical to the first one.
C) When you get that letter, review the comments, return to manuscript #2 and make those changes
D) Get that new version out ASAP with a cover letter that states the way manuscript #2 meets those needs. BE SPECIFIC!
E) If you don't have a second, make sure you have an idea and can produce the first 3 chapters in record speed.
F) Respond immediately to the editor stating when you will have that new manuscript to them (at least the partial). For a partial - it should be there in no more that 1 1/2 months. For a full, 3-6 months at the most, and that is assuming you have to write it from scratch.

Yes, I know this is a rush order, but hey, the publishing business is not about casual writers who view this as a hobby. You have deadlines, and you have editorial direction. You have to meet both.


  1. Oh man, Scott. This is a great post, but I don't know what to do with it. Sending something else out quickly seems totally pathetic and humiliating. "That doesn't work for you, but how about this, cause I am clearly utterly desperate here. " Don't think i can do it.
    For instance, I received a lovely personal letter from a top agent last week, telling me that he really liked my proposal and considered it for a long time, but he is overwhelmed with the number of writers he already reps, and on.
    I was surprised, because i had submitted to a lowly junior agent- never expected to hear from any of them again.
    And I do have a historical romance I have been putting together for two years, but think if I fire this out, he will only think, my god, now I'll never get rid of this writer. I should never have sent a personal letter. She's a total leech in my life now."
    I can't stand this scenerio. It seems better to leave it at having nearly been taken ion by the head of a top agency. Gloom and doom. Thanks for the post. I don't want to look so pathetic to him, If he almost took it, perhaps another agent will.
    I will think about your words. I am going to answer Harlequin's gracious invitation and write a short piece. i won't have so much of a personal stake in something light and short. Thanks for your wise words-I just don't think I can present myself as that pitiful to the guy. Ouch.

  2. Scott -- thank you so, so much.

    An editor who rejected one of my manuscripts last year emailed me a few months ago and asked what was going on with the MS. It's with another house now as I'm revising for them, and I told him as much, and he asked to see anything else like it that I come up with. It was a huge ego boost, of course, and I immediately started thinking about something that would be in the vein of the old ms.

    I have a 5-page synopsis written up for the new project, even though I haven't gotten to writing it yet. At what point should I contact him again? He's someone I'd love to work with, and the house has a good reputation. I still have no agent.


  3. I would contact him with the proposal and set a deadline of when you can get him the projects. I would shoot for a proposal (first 3 chapters and synopsis) within a month, and the full in 3-4 months.

  4. I'll do just that. Thank you so, so much!