6.03.2006

How many times can you send a ms to 175 Fifth Ave?

Dear Miss Snark (alternately read: Oh, Wise One):(Miss Snark, the potato chip?)

I just finished reading Some Writers Deserve to Starve by Elaura Niles.

Niles says, "Most publishers will not consider a manuscript twice." She says the big houses keep a database of everything submitted to any of their imprints, and that if you try to submit to another imprint in the same house, the new editor will check the database and reject your manuscript without even looking at it.

Is this true? I certainly understand not subbing all the editors in an imprint, but can we really only sub one editor in one imprint of a major house?

As always, thanks so much for providing wisdom and insight to all of us newbies,


Well, what may apply to unagented writers in the slush pile certainly doesn't apply to me.
Of course, I don't exactly try to put one over on an editor either.

And "house" is a hard thing to define given that there are groups of imprints all at one address, but they not only don't all talk to each other, they sometimes compete with each other.

Remember too, I've never been an editor so I have no idea what the data base at Dutton looks like.

You might ask Miss Genoese, given she works at a big house for one of the imprints.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd heard this about Harlequin -- that if you'd submitted to one line you couldn't submit to another because it was logged in, and the editors checked it, and if you did you'd be blacklisted forever. And ever. I had no idea that big houses did this.

How could a writer submit directly to these big houses anyway, since they only accept agented material? So this would pertain to agents, no?

Anonymous said...

What would keep an author from giving the book a new title and resubbing it?

Anonymous said...

Don't tell anyone, but I've submitted three different rewrites of my latest book to five major publishers under four different titles and three different aliases.Once my contacts run dry, I'll be approaching agents again, with a new title and a new name.
The question is, if someone agrees to publish the book, can I return to my real name and original title?

Kalen Hughes said...

Harlequin readily takes unagented submissions. Lots of my friends have sold to them. For their category line an agent isn't as necessary as it is if you're trying to break into single title (some agents won't even take you on if all you write is category). Their contract is pretty firm, as is the money, so really (I hear) all an agent gets you is read faster.

There is NOTHING to keep you from changing the title (and hero and heroine's names; I hear they log these too) and resubmitting to a different editor/line (assuming your book will suit multiple lines, which many won’t as they can be VERY specific).

litagent said...

Well, I've never been an editor either, but I've never heard of this, and frankly, keeping a database of all submissions sounds more organized than I would give most publishers credit for. My rule of thumb is to only submit to one editor at an imprint, and only one imprint of a large house at any one time. Although some houses, like Random House will let imprints compete for titles, other houses discourage it, so it's just easier to pitch to one imprint at a time and then move on. (I don't do Romance, so I have no idea about Harlequin.)

macrina younger said...

Like Litagent said - more organized than I'd expect - and every publisher is different - even imprints are different within a house. Most publishers I've dealt with (not biggies, admitidely) don't even bother recording the ms. that arrive in any systematic way, as far as I know. (And judging by the number that claim to have lost the ms. I believe them.)

aardvark.novelista@gmail.com said...

If you make substantial changes to a novel, why wouldn't an editor reconsider it? Particularly if enough time has elapsed...

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I submitted to LUNA/Harlequin. I got a very nice personal letter back detailing their likes and dislikes. I originally submitted in September of last year. They took seven months to reply. In the mean time, I'd already identified and rewritten the areas their editor focused on.

I made the mistake of sending the rewrite to them. He wrote back saying that they never review rewrites unless specifically requested. ... So there ya go.

I don't understand this policy. He said my writing was nicely nuanced, that it was entertaining. He pointed out flaws in character development that I fixed months ago. And now they won't read it?

I suppose this keeps them from being flooded by continual rewrites. But it removes from reconsideration those manuscripts that are near to what they want, but don't quite make it. Seems silly to me.

Will I submit to them again? Oh, yes. They were very nice to me. I'm not complaining about my treatment. LUNA was nothing but great. They just wouldn't read the re-submission.

Harry Connolly said...

Ms. Genoese has previously said that she used to log all her slush submissions, but gave it up. It was too much work for too little return.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is it varies publisher to publisher. Don't see the harm in submitting to different imprints, though, unless one sees an explicit policy against it--worst that happens is that you apologize if someone tells you it goes against their policy.

Though I probably wouldn't simulsub to two different imprints at the same house.

yrrxo said...

How could a writer submit directly to these big houses anyway, since they only accept agented material? So this would pertain to agents, no?

Except sometimes, after one meets an editor at a conference, or pitches to them at a pitch session, one is able to submit as an individual to the larger houses. Some (but not allo) editors will also look at mss from those who attend their conference sessions.

ilona said...

That's why the safest way to avoid this whole blacklisted thing is to try to get an agent who, unlike me, will know what he is doing.

zuuehah said...

Sha'el, if they didn't request the rewrite, of course they won't read it. What you did is one reason why editors (and from MS's comments even agents) decline to give specific feedback -- because it encourages writers to resubmit when a resubmission isn't wanted. The plot/story/whatever didn't WOW them.

Kalen Hughes said...

I doubt Harlequin logs all their slush submissions (the horror!), I think the editors just log those that they request partials or fulls of.

Anonymous said...

I think this varies from publisher to publisher. Some imprints won't compete against one another (Berkley and NAL at Penguin, for example) but others, at, say, RH, will.

Here's a hint, though. Don't ever ever ever ever ever send something to *both* "Bantam" and "Dell" and insist they are two different publishers or you will piss everyone off.

lizzie26 said...

ilona's got it.

Anonymous said...

But agented writers have to know what they're doing, too.

Saying "my agent's handling that, I don't need to understand" is a really, really bad idea.

It's still your career. If nothing else, you need to know enough to know that you and your agent are working well together--and that your agent is the right agent for you. But ideally you need to know more than that.

And it's not like you stop needing to make your own career decisions once you're agented, either.

Anonymous said...

So does this mean, that even if you have an agent, that you get ONE shot at all the Penguin group imprints, HarperCollins imprints, etc.?
Which means that there are really only six houses to submit to if you're talking big houses?
So if your agent chooses the wrong editor to send to, your book is gone, out of there, as far as the rest of the imprints are concerned?
If so, this sucks.
And if so, how does Miss Snark find so many editors to submit to?

Anonymous said...

Yes, it seems like a lot of work to log everything for editors that are already overwhelmed with submissions. Those of you who are just subbing the same mss under different names with no revisions at all are just making it harder for the rest of us. A no means no. If you get comments, make the changes and aim for some one else. I however consider nos to queries different than nos to full mss. When a one page query is being subbed you may get rejected based on the query alone. So if you've updated the story, fixed what others have said are weakenesses (and which you agree with) there's no harm in querying again, with another letter of course.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Zuueh*,

You have such a way with words. Not everyone can restate the obvious so succinctly.

Nevertheless, he did explain in some detail why he was rejecting my story. He also made some very specific positive comments. I was on the verge of giving up. I'm not now. I'm a good writer. It's an excellent story. I'm still encouraged. I appreciate his kindness and thoughfulness.

LUNA went up ten notches in my estimation.

Oh, and I never denied being a nitwit.

Julie Rowe said...

The best thing to do if you've received a rejection from Harlequin is to send a thank you letter to the editor, thanking them for taking the time to review your submission. In the next paragraph ask if they would like to see a revised version of your ms or something new. Send an SASE with it. If they like your style/voice they'll give you permission to send the revied ms or a new project directly to them.

Editors (like agents) have long memories and don't get near enough thanks for the work they do.

Anonymous said...

Seems this conversation is stuck on Harlequin.
I don't write romance, and I'm curious about this new wall to climb! Is this the same everywhere except Random House?
This seems like a lot of extra work for editors, if not downright stupid. What might be right for one editor's line doesn't work for another, and if they're from the same house, everyone loses? How is this possible? Seems bad business practice to me. It also seems like restraint of trade.

Anonymous said...

even if you have an agent, that you get ONE shot at all the Penguin group imprints,

My former agent subbed my work to NAL and Berkley, but said if one made an offer, the two imprints couldn't get into a bidding war with each other, so I'd guess that'd be a no.

mistri said...

Harlequin *does* log all the submissions, at least it did when I worked there (a few years ago now, things may have changed). I'm not sure how many people took the trouble to search the database for a writer's history, but I often did, simply to find out what had happened to previous works, if there were any comments, or if the writer had submitted the same MS to multiple lines.

I wouldn't automatically reject something that had been submitted before. *However*, if an editor genuinely sees real potential in your work they will ask you to resubmit/revise. If they see promise, but don't feel that particular story will work, they *might* send a personal letter listing some of the problems.

Please don't assume that the MS is suddenly perfect/publishable/near-publishable simply because you've fixed the reasons listed. It could simply be lacking the wow factor.

Anonymous said...

I hate this. Just when I think I've got a handle on the steps to possible publication, along comes another hurdle to jump.

Anonymous said...

The request to rewrite was something I hadn't even heard of until I started logging rejections on Submitting to the Black Hole. When I got what turned out to be a request to rewrite from Luna, I had to ask on AW to be sure. Except for one line, it looked like a polite and helpful rejection.
For what it's worth, Luna at least does log submissions (probably not the editor's job, more likely the intern who opens mail, I'd guess) because I had to send a note to find out whether a mss had arrived, after the tracking failed, and they were able to confirm that it had been received.
-Barbara
PS: hi Sha'el! sorry to hear about Luna - have you tried Edge, in Canada?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Hi Barbara!

I'm working on a new synopsis for Edge. My old one is just nasty. I'm about a third done. I want it to be my best, so I'm taking my time with it.

Thanks for asking, and thanks for all your help.

Oh, a not quite current version of chapter three is on crapometer.blogspot.com.

There have been three changes to it since I submitted it to crapometer, mostly minor.

Chapter two has an new section. The Great Mother Dragon shows up too abruptly in the old version. I warn readers to expect something.

Remember where Robert tells Sha'na that he's nuts and she's not real? I've changed it to this:

What Father said was, "You're not real."

"Yes, I am," Mother said. And she took his hand to show him.

"Umm humm, and I suppose dragons are real too."

Momma nodded.

"So when do I see one?"

"They don't like to bee seen. Besides dragons and pixies don't socialize."

She paused. Papa studied her face. She smiled.

"There was ... well ... a misunderstanding ..."

"And unicorns?" His eyes danced with mirth. (A cliche, I know, but true.)

"They're extinct. At least no one has seen one lately."

"Griffons? A phoenix?"

"Don't be silly," momma giggled. "They are mythical."

Momma paused again. "But I'm not."

"Not what?"

"Mythical."

Looking down at her, he repeated, "You're not real, and I'm insane."

Mother is an elegant flier. She flitted up to face level and gently stroked his face, then just as gently kissed him.

"I am real. See?"

"Indeed you are not." He paused at that. "If you are, you're cold. Let's go inside and get you a coat."