Hello everyone! BIG thanks to all the people who sent me their questions! I’ve answered them to the best of my abilities, and I hope you find this post helpful and informative.
As with my previous Ask the Editor posts, I humbly ask that you take my comments in the spirit in which they’re intended. The advice here is meant to be friendly and helpful; I sincerely hope that no one finishes reading this post feeling vulnerable or discouraged.
I’d also like to add a general disclaimer that my thoughts are my own; I do not speak on behalf of my publisher or the publishing industry in general. I would not be at all surprised to learn that you’ve heard an editor or agent say something that directly conflicts with my perspective. Everyone in publishing has their own opinions and preferences, and I can only be honest about my own.
If you have any questions about writing, editing, querying, or publishing that aren’t addressed here, please reach out to me anytime. I’m always happy to gather questions for my next post!
Thanks, and happy reading!
How pushy is too pushy when it comes to nudging an editor to respond? For example, if I put a timeframe on a languishing proposal—my submission will remain exclusive for the next 4 weeks, after which time I will share it with other publishing houses—is that good form? Where's the line between being assertive and being demanding?
Excellent question! I’ll address the specific example in a moment, but I thought I’d also talk about this more broadly since I think a lot of writers have this question. You send your project out, time passes, and…crickets. What do you do? Do you follow up? If so, how long do you wait?
There aren’t any hard or fast rules for this, unfortunately, but speaking for myself, I try to respond to projects (both the yays and the nays) within 6-8 weeks. That probably sounds like a long time, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes during that time—researching the author/project/market, pitching it to the team, getting the necessary approvals, etc. Based purely on my own experience, I’d recommend waiting at least a month before checking in on a submission, unless you’ve received an offer from someone else and need to follow up.
For this particular example, it’s a bit different. I think most publishing houses assume that any submission they get is a simultaneous one, unless it’s specifically noted that it’s exclusive. So I do think it’s fair to put a timeframe on the exclusivity if that’s something you’re offering them (I’m assuming this isn’t a contractual first-option kind of situation).
If you’re ever worried that you may be coming across as demanding or aggressive, I would say that as long as you’re keeping your correspondences friendly and professional, you’re probably fine. To put it another way, it’s less about whether or not you follow up on a project and more about how you go about it. Remember the end goal: ideally, you want to be working with this person, so show them how great you are to work with by being kind and courteous in your responses.
What is the reasonable rate for agents to charge a writer? Is there a range?
Typically, a literary agent gets 15% of their authors’ earnings (that includes flat fees, advances, royalties, etc.). So for easy math, if your agent secures you a book deal with a $10,000 advance, your take-home amount would be $8,500, and the agent would get $1,500. Maybe surprisingly, it tends to be 15% across the board for literary agents; I’m sure there are some exceptions out there, but I’d say 15% is definitely the industry standard.
I’ve heard that Mondays and Tuesdays are days that editors concentrate on their new releases. Friday, of course, is pretty much the weekend. So that leaves Wednesday and Thursday to submit your manuscript to the editor. Does it really make a difference which day the manuscript arrives on the editor's desk? Certainly, time of year can have an impact, as summer and December seem to be dead zones. But day of the week?
I can only speak for myself here, but the day of the week I receive a manuscript really doesn’t make a substantial difference. If pressed, I’d say for my own personal schedule, I actually prefer to receive submissions on a Friday or a Monday—by Friday, I’ve usually tackled the big items for the week and have more time to dig into new projects, and on Mondays I build my schedule for the week, so I can easily slot in time to review submissions. But I could very easily see Wednesdays or Thursdays being ideal for other editors, so I’d say there’s really no “good” or “bad” day of the week to send in your manuscript.
That said, you do bring up a good point: there are some times of the year when I’m slower to respond to projects, usually because it’s a high vacation season (as you mention, December and summer) or because I’m swamped with current projects (which could honestly be anytime. If anyone comes up with a way of predicting when a busy season will hit, I will pay top dollar for the technology!). But honestly, one of the most common reasons I turn down a good project is because I just recently signed something similar, so I do think there’s something to be said for just sending out your manuscript as soon as it’s ready, rather than trying to “time” the submission process. But in the end, you have to decide what feels right to you. Good luck!