April 2, 2013

Idealistic Practicality

Despite my title woes, the day is soon approaching when I will bite the bullet and submit my first round of queries for my manuscript. As I have mentioned before, I plan to include Avon Romance in my first round of submissions, for a few reasons. 

Avon is a quality publisher and has published books by one of my favorite authors in my genre, so while I acknowledge the fact that I am most likely to be rejected by them, I am also choosing to submit to them first because I would love to be published specifically by them. Rather than submitting to smaller publishers "to get the rejections out of the way," I am choosing to bet on the quality of my work and submit first to my ideal publisher.

Besides having confidence in my work, the reason for this is primarily practical: if I were to submit to other publishers first and hold off on submitting to Avon, and then by some quirk of fate one of those publishers were to agree to publish my work, I could not reasonably ask said publisher to wait months while I submit to Avon in case they, too, would be interested. I also wouldn't feel comfortable accepting a publishing contract elsewhere without knowing whether Avon would have been interested. So, Avon will be in the first round of publishing houses I will be querying. 

One of the benefits of submitting to Avon is the shortened time frame. Whereas many publishers and agents first accept only queries (up to 3 months for a response), then may request a partial manuscript or synopsis (a few more months), and only then request a full manuscript (bringing the total time to more than half a year, minimum), Avon offers an online submission form, requesting all of the material at once and cutting down the definitive response time to three months.

This online form appears straightforward at first, though in reality, with all the conflicting usage of the same terms within the publishing world, it is somewhat complex. For instance, one section asks for a 200-word "synopsis". I have yet to describe the synopsis part of the pitching package (some basics can be found here), but it is generally a one- to ten-page document providing a detailed overview of all of the plot elements and major characters of your novel – basically, another way for editors and agents to see if your 300+ page book is worth the time it would take to read.

Thanks to Avon's involvement in the NaNoWriMo forums, where Avon editors graciously answered many questions about submissions, etc., I found out that in reality, the synopsis which they seek in that section is actually what other sources have called the "two-paragraph pitch", i.e. the text akin to a back-cover blurb. Those forums also included the tip that these editors preferred the full manuscript to be submitted in MS Word or RTF formats, not as a PDF; good to know, especially since I had first intended to submit my manuscript as a PDF (and their online form has no such specification). Armed with all of this information, directly from those people who will in fact be reading and judging my query, I feel as confident as I could about my choice to submit to Avon. (Unfortunately, that doesn't mean I am nearer to feeling confident about the query materials themselves.)

Still, in a blend between not putting all my eggs into one fragile basket and not burning too many of a potential future agent's bridges, I've decided to submit to a second publisher as well. As it turns out, Amazon has been progressing from simply a retailer to a full-fledged publisher. They are currently in the process of building divisions for pretty much all genres of literature, including Montlake Romance, and they, too, [used to] accept queries from authors without agent representation. 

Unlike Avon, Montlake abides by a somewhat more standard query process, in that queries are sent via email.  Like Avon, they also request not only a query letter, but also a full manuscript (for previously unpublished authors) as well as a detailed synopsis – in this case, in the vein of the more frequently used meaning for this term. Unfortunately for me, this means I need to craft a synopsis in addition to the other materials for a submission. Since this is a fairly common portion of the submission process, however, it is probably best that I undergo this dreaded yet valuable experience, even if I am extraordinarily lucky and receive an offer from Avon. 

While it is idealistic to believe that either one of these publishers would offer me a contract, it is nonetheless more practical to submit to more than one entity at a time. Even though my receiving an offer from one of these publishers is unlikely, it is simply smarter from a business perspective to give myself the best shot at negotiating a good contract, which means seeing what other interest there may be for my work. If both Avon and Montlake offer me contracts, those deals can be compared both on a financial scale and with regards to other rights, providing not only perspective on whether the offers are fair, but also an opportunity to negotiate without the fear of losing my only shot at publication.

Still, I must and do remind myself that the most likely scenario will be to receive rejections from both publishers—if I am fortunate enough to hear anything back at all. 

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