The Submission Process by J’son M. Lee

J'son M. LeeFor the last few years, I’ve focused on the careers of other authors. I co-authored a project that went on to garner a few awards, and as president and owner of Sweet Georgia Press, I am an editor with a growing client list. During this time, I wrote a few short stories here and there, but never took the time to focus on another novel. I wrote a few chapters, titled the projects, and even created covers for them for my book vision board. But, there never seemed to be enough time to focus on a full-length project. As I reflected on this reality, I came to the conclusion that I needed to invest more in myself. To this end, I picked up Become A Successful Author by Deatri King-Bey. While there were many takeaways from this book, the one that registered most with me was her belief that “…all authors should pursue traditional and self-publishing.”

Aside from a short story that was published in an anthology (1998) by Painted Leaf Press, I’d never submitted for traditional publishing. I realized there was no time like the present. So, for almost a month, I worked with my gal pal, Michelle “Big Body” Cuttino, on my submission package (query, synopsis, and sample chapters). I also connected with an outside consultant who had a database of agents and publishers who agreed to receive e-query proposals. The desired format was very specific. My package was assembled and sent to me for final review. I had my mentor look it over, and she gave great advice. I made more changes, and my query was finally ready for submission…

The consultant advised that many of the responses would be form emails saying the query was not right for their office. He cautioned me to not to get discouraged by these emails as they likely hadn’t read the query, but said no based simply on the genre or word count. He went on to say that I would not receive responses from all the agents as most did not have the ability to respond to every e-query, not even with a form email. Lastly, he advised I would likely receive the bulk of my responses the first week, with others coming in for up to two months. The goal was to have about half a dozen agents who wanted to learn more about my book.

As he predicted, responses began rolling in immediately:

“Not for me-thanks anyway.”

“Thanks, but I’m not the right agent for this.”

“Thanks for the query. I’m sorry but I’m overwhelmed with submissions and this didn’t pique my interest enough to add to my stack of manuscripts. Good luck to you.”

“Thank you for your query, but I’m afraid this project just isn’t right for my list at this time. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but others will surely feel differently and I certainly wish you every success in finding the right agent and publisher for your work.”

“Thank you for your letter. From your description, I don’t believe I’d be the right agent for this project. I’m sorry to have to pass on the opportunity to read your work, and wish you the best of luck. Sincere apologies for not being able to answer more personally; given the volume of queries, it is simply not possible.”

“Thank you so much for querying me and giving me the opportunity to consider your material. I’m afraid, though, that after reading your letter, I just didn’t feel strongly enough to ask for more, and I firmly believe every writer needs an agent who is passionate about his or her work.

Much of this boils down to personal preference, so please bear in mind that what isn’t right for me might be right for another agent. I encourage you to continue querying and working on your next book. I wish you the best of luck and much success with your writing career.”

“Thank you for thinking of me, but I am not a good fit for this.”

“It’s a pass for all of us here, but we do appreciate being included.”

“Not for our market, sorry.”

“Thank you for your query. Having considered it carefully, we have decided that your project is not the right fit for [us], and so we are going to pass at this time. Tastes and specializations vary widely from agent to agent, and another agency may well feel differently. Thank you for thinking of our agency, and we wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.”

“Thank you for letting me review your query. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that we are the appropriate agents to represent this material. In this very competitive market, we are simply not enthusiastic enough about our ability to sell this work to offer you representation. We wish you the best of luck placing this successfully. Thank you, once again, for letting us consider it.”

“Thank you for thinking of me with your query for JUST TRYIN’ TO BE LOVED. While this sounds like a strong project, I’m afraid it doesn’t strike me as a likely fit with me and my particular editorial contacts. I wish you well in finding the right agent for your work.”

Despite all the rejections, I remained positive. It’s important to have thick skin as an author. Always ask yourself if a criticism came from someone to whom you should listen. Whether you agree or disagree, look for ways to learn from what they said. If there’s nothing to learn, discard it. Move on!

Just as quickly as the rejections came in, there came a glimmer of hope:

 “Thank you for your interest in our agency. Per [our] guidelines, please send the first ten pages of your manuscript, along with the original query, to this email address with both embedded in the body of the message. Please note that we do not open attachments.”

 “Thanks for your recent query, which Jane passed along to me. I’d be happy to take a look at your manuscript. Kindly send it along for my prompt review. A Word attachment is most preferable if possible.”

 “We would be happy to read something if you would like to email it to submissions@…… for my attention. Many thanks.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I wanted to make sure I put my best foot forward and not ruin my chances. The consultant said, “Just respond politely with whatever they ask for. They are regular people, only extremely busy. So try and give them exactly what they ask for, exactly the way they ask for it. Do not respond to the nos, you don’t have to worry about them.” Easy enough, right?

So…I responded…I think I’ll read Characters Make Your Story by Maren Elwood while I wait. I’ll keep you posted!

J’son M. Lee (Editor)

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