Do they really not want my fabulous book?

It is widely asserted that you need an agent to get a manuscript in front of editors at the big houses, but that you can submit work to indie presses directly. Yet I notice that many small publishers, from A to Z (Akashic and Zumaya cases in point) are now posting on their websites that they are 'temporarily' not accepting submissions because they are swamped.

Is this in fact a 'temporary' situation? (It seems to have lasted more than a year for some of these presses...) Can an agented manuscript get past this hurdle, or are these presses genuinely buried under their commitments?

Well, my last conversation with Johnny Temple at Akashic was conducted in a bar so I'm not sure if my transcription is accurate but here's what's going on there: they got REAL successful with their Noir series. Brooklyn Noir took off like a shot, followed by Brooklyn Noir 2, SF Noir, Chicago Noir and Godhelpus Dublin Noir. Considering each is an anthology, they have 25 authors in every book to wrangle. They ARE truly swamped. I know and like Johnny and have a lot of respect for what he's doing over there. If and when he's not busy, he'd probably tell me if I asked.

I don't know Elizabeth at Zumaya very well but I see her around on some BBSs I read. Most likely she's as tired as we all are of our slush piles and is just trying to get on top of it.

The value of an agent here is that we usually know the folks. The ones in NY we see a lot; the not-in-NY ones we see at BEA or other path crossing places like the Edgars. It's a lot easier for an agent to get a call returned or get an email answered than it is for a regular author. That makes sense from a time management view: agents represent a LOT of projects, individual authors just one. I tend to return phone calls from Bantam a lot faster than those from Bumf..err..you get the idea.

If you want to talk with these guys, the Small Press Fair is in New York every year. It's coming up in December 3 and 4. Here's the link:Small Press Center that sponsors it.


Elizabeth K. Burton said...

I'd be delighted to hang out--give me a call next time you're in Austin.

I closed subs temporarily in June to try and catch up with the backlog. Before I'd even gotten close to finishing them all, I had filled my publication schedule through 2008. I didn't feel it was fair to sign someone now knowing their book wouldn't see daylight for three years.

Simple as that.

I have a finite number of slots available in my publication schedule every year--about 30. It's limited by my ability to handle the editing and copyediting of each book along with marketing and other work I do. Once those slots are full, it takes something really, really special for me to change the schedule.

I also like to know what I have to work with at least TWO years in advance. It allows me to market better. As with any publisher that's been in business for more than a couple of years, I have writers under contract who are doing series or have other titles they want me to look at, and they have dibs on the available schedule slots if the work meets the criteria.

And, yes, they will tell you I've turned down stuff that didn't. However, enough of them come through that as many as half the schedule will come from that group.

So, nothing mysterious. I'll start reading for 2009, as the closed-to-subs announcement says, next July, and in the meantime am open to proposals for true ghost story anthologies. Anything else I get won't be read.

Liz Burton


Miss Snark said...

Thanks for taking the time to write!