Thursday, July 11, 2013

An Inside Look into the Submission Process

Courtesy of
Being "on submission" is when you or a representative for you (read: agent) sends your manuscript (or book proposal for some non-fiction/option books) to an editor or publisher for consideration. That consideration, of course, would ideally lead to a purchase and publication of said manuscript (be it a digital or print publication - it's all the same in this case.)

Being on submission can do crazy things to a normally normal you. It can kill your appetite and make you lose weight, or it can make you eat an entire red velvet layer cake in one sitting. It can provide you with dog-like hearing, creating a Pavlov-like reaction to any email/voicemail alert on your phone or computer. It can make you read every entry on Publisher's Marketplace for any editor or publisher or genre of book that you think is even remotely close to being like your book, so that you can then create some kind of weird (and wildly inaccurate) analysis related to the potential purchase of your book.

The submission process can make you crazy.

Courtesy of

It can also make you a published author. (YAY!)

Courtesy of

But, aside from writing the book, you have very little control over the process itself.

As someone who has been on submission, I know the spectrum of these emotions and I found myself interested in the experience other authors -- more specifically, other 2013 debut authors -- had when they were on submission. I set up an informal survey about submissions on the Luckies message board and the following is the raw data I compiled from my very generous fellow Luckies who were willing to participate and answer questions.

2013 Debut Submission Data


Number of Participating Authors: 27
Number of Young Adult (YA) Manuscripts: 24
Number of Middle Grade (MG) Manuscripts: 3


YA Contemporary 10
YA Science Fiction 5
YA Fantasy 3
YA Historical 1
YA Historical Fantasy 1
YA Paranormal 3
YA Urban Fantasy 1

MG Fantasy 1
MG Contemporary 1
MG Adventure 1

Submission Data:
Out of 27 authors –

Submission to sale in 2 weeks (or less) - 11
Submission to sale in 1 month (or less) - 6
Submission to sale in 2 months (or less) - 2
Submission to sale in 4 months (or less) - 4
Submission to sale in 6 months (or less) –  3
Submission to sale in 9 months (or less) – 1

 Additional Factors*:

 Number who had written one or more MS prior to writing their 2013 debut - 14
 Number who used beta readers - 7
 Number who participated in writing workshops/groups - 6
 Number who’ve been on submission and not sold in the past - 3
 Number who revised their MS for sale based on publisher input - 2
 Number who are on submission currently - 5

 (* Not all authors whose data was used for the above statistics are reflected in these additional factors.)

Some (Very) Basic Data Analysis
Point #1:
Arguably, the most interesting statistic is the sale of manuscripts in two weeks or less -- 11 people received offers for publication in mere days of their MS being pitched to an editor, and 17 people in total received offers within one month.
I struggled a little with this when it became clear in the data - I didn't want to make it seem like it was easy to sell quickly, nor did I want to devastate authors currently on submission who have been out there, living in submission limbo, for far longer than a month.
So what I want to say is this --
1. Take solace in the fact that agents are pitching well and editors are reading quick! There aren't MS's languishing on desks -- they're getting read, and that's great news. A "no" may suck, sure, but a "no" is better than a "forgotten."
2. Sales that happen that quick prove that editors know good writing when they see it and they know what they want. So much so, that they snap it right up when it comes across their desk.
3. Editors are buying books, people! And fast! How fantastic is it that our colleagues are getting picked up so quickly?!?! It means that there is hope for all of us in this business! (Sorry, that was a lot of exclamation points.)
Point #2
The secondary factors (writing groups, additional manuscripts, beta readers, etc.) were added at the suggestion of a Lucky, who made an excellent observation: while this data is a snapshot of our experience, it isn't the whole story.
On the survey, the participating authors shared anecdotes about their careers as writers.  Many Luckies had other manuscripts in various levels of completion sitting in drawers or hard drives. Some tried to sell those MS's in the past, but weren't able to. Some Luckies revised for years before submitting their work to an agent. Lots of Luckies dealt with rejection in different phases of their careers. There are so many other facets to this writing life.
As one Lucky so eloquently put it - and I'm paraphrasing here, "Yes, I sold my book in less than a week, but I also worked on writing it for years. Then I worked on revising it for a year. It wasn't an actual one week process, just a one week sale."
Point #3
There are five Luckies currently on submission right now -- which brings up another point: just because you're a published author once doesn't mean you're going to be a published author again. Until you have a proven track record of both sales and productivity, you will mostly likely be going through the submission process again.
Moreover, if you want to write something different than your debut -- say, changing from YA to MG, or even from YA contemporary to YA paranormal - may require you to work with other publishers or editors, again requiring a submission the "good old fashioned way."
There is no one size fits all career or submission experience. Your experience will be yours -- but I can promise you that we're all rooting for you, whether you're on submission now, hoping to be soon, or still just dreaming of that great book idea that you know will be a best seller!

Kelly Fiore is an author, foodie, Def Leppard enthusiast, and Fiat owner, Her debut, TASTE TEST, is available 8.27.13 from Bloomsbury USA. Find Kelly @ or on Twitter - @kellyannfiore.


Kelly Fiore is an author, foodie, Def Leppard enthusiast, and Fiat owner, Her debut, TASTE TEST, is available 8.27.13 from Bloomsbury USA. Find Kelly @ or on Twitter - @kellyannfiore.


  1. Yeah, that depressed me anyway (currently on sub). ;p

  2. Interesting. I think it shows what agents/editors are always saying - something about your work needs to make it stand out, whether the concept, the writing, that something special that makes it pop.

  3. I'm actually REALLY surprised at the number of quick sales (though congrats to you all who got them!). My SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE took about 15 months to sell, so you just never know. I'm on submission still/again (I've always got something out there) and it does get easier as time goes on, but the anxiety is always there in the background.