Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Publishing Survey

I want to conduct a small publishing survey, and I’d be grateful for some help with formulating my questions.

Now, as this is going to be a survey of the publishing industry I’m not going to ask things like, “pleeeeease will you publish my book?” I was thinking more along the lines of, “what guarantees a rejection?” or, “how many submissions do you receive each month?”

So what would you really like to ask an agent? What do you want to find out from all those editors out there? Post your questions in the comments section here, and I’ll include as many of them as I can. I’m happy for you to remain anonymous if you’d prefer; or you could email your questions to me at “hprw at tesco dot net” (please put “Publishing Survey” in the subject-line).

Thanks to you all for your help with this. I'll let you know how I get on!


Keith Sheppard said...

I can think of all sorts of questions I'd like to ask. Here are a few just off the top of my head.

Do you read submissions in the order received? If not, how do you prioritise them?

What is normally the longest delay between receiving a submission and reading it?

If your submission guidelines are "send three chapters" do you prefer chapters 1-3? If you receive chapters 5-7 do you instantly wonder what was wrong with the first four?

How long is the ideal synopsis?

I am sure more will pop into my mind as the day progresses.

Anonymous said...

1. What are the most common reasons for rejection?

2. How are manuscripts accepted, is it as I believe in group meetings?

3. When an agent submits a client's work to agents, is it cold or do you call the editor first?

Governance Geek said...

Hi Jane. I'd be interested to know whether some agents have a policy of not responding to submissions, even if the author has enclosed a pre-paid reply envelope, unless they're interested in taking on that author. There's one major London agent who not only didn't reply to my submission, they didn't reply to my follow-up letter either, even though both included suitable SAEs.

Lynn Price said...

Jane asked:
What do you want to find out from all those editors out there?

Okay, first off, we really *do* have hearts, so no fair asking that question!

Sandra Patterson said...

(Flyingtart here - finally thought of something and found my typing fingers.)
I wondered how far into reading a slushpile submission do you know it's a rejection. Is it true you can tell within the first paragraph?

Anonymous said...

OK, as a writer, how long does it take to reject something, when as an editor I know from the first paragraph if the person can write and from the synopsis if I like the story. It isn't rocket science, all you editorial people out there. You just want it to look that way.
And, if you ask to see something, why do you then turn it down on the grounds you don't handle that particular genre? If you don't, why ask to see it in the first place?
As an editor, if someone sent me chapters 5-7 it would go back unread. That would say to me that the writer has only got the story going in chapter 5 and there are 4 boring ones to plough through.
As an editor, why do writers expect you to read to the end of something you very obviously do not want, because it is not right for your list? I was once accused of not reading what he admitted was a 26 chapter love letter, not a book. I read ten pages, which was enough for anyone!
As a writer, why ignore the query letters, saes, emails and everything else you receive? Would YOU like it?

Jane Smith said...

Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions so far: there are a good few that I'd not thought of, so you've been useful already!

Anonymous said...

If a publisher/agent wasn't confident in the writer's ability to promote his/her book, how much would that affect their decision whether to take it on?

How many publishers and agents read the synopsis/covering letter/anything else that isn't the book itself? If they don't read it, why are we bothering? If they do, how many base their decisions on it, thereby possibly missing a great novel because the writer isn't good at non-fiction/blowing his or her own trumpet?

Will having dabbled with self-publishing (or the YWO offer) put agents and publishers off? How often are self-published books picked up by the main stream publishing houses? And do publishers and agents make any distinction between Print-on-Demand and Publish-on-Demand?

Jane Smith said...

I particularly liked your comment, Jay, and feel a blog post coming on! Thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

I have just asked this on an agent's blog but I shall put it here too.

1. Submission length - does knowing the word count affect perception of the piece? Could it be a deal breaker?
Example - my finished novel for YA stands at 95,000 words. I was told that it was too long by a literary consultancy but I feel it is the length needed to tell the story and I feel I've edited ruthlessly.

2. Some agents/publishers take on work that still needs work but shows promise, others only accept work that is nearly perfect.
I've read some blog posts recently by new writers getting very good deals but having to do a lot of revision work after the deal is done. I understand that revision is a way of life for the writer but how is the line drawn/decisions made when first submissions are sent?

3. Leading on from the above point I suppose I'm wondering if the biggest draw is the
a) writing
b) concept
c) a strong combination of both.

4. I'm interested in the answer to Jay's first question about promotion/marketing.

There might be others, I'll get back to you.

Keith Sheppard said...

I should like to thank Dorothy for confirming something I have often suspected. "Send three chapters" actually means "Send FIRST three chapters".

That could usefully be added to the many advice lists for would-be authors which I have read over the years.

Anonymous said...

I would like to ask agents to be specific on the following question(s).

Would you reject the work of a writer on age grounds, feeling that their future output would be minimal? Or, to be more precise:

If a writer is over 70, would their work: - be rejected out of hand?
- be harder to accept?
- be as acceptable as anyone else’s?
Same three questions for an over 60 writer.
And for a writer who is over 50.

Anonymous said...

To an agent:

Would you reject the work of an as yet unpublished author who is of retirement age, on the assumption that he/she was writing 'as a hobby' rather than as a career?

Jane Smith said...

Thanks, all, for the questions: you've raised many issues I'd not thought of, and I'm very grateful.

Just so you know, my piece about "publish on demand or print on demand" which Jay asked for should appear tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

If it's not too late, I would ask, 'Do you ever return submissions unread, just to catch up with the backlog?' and 'How differently are submissions via agents handled?'

Anonymous said...

Has the current economic crisis had an effect on publishing? Are agents finding it harder to sell manuscripts by debut authors?