I’ve read my client’s manuscript; gone back and forth with them a number of times, making sure it’s in the best shape I can help them get it into; and crafted a submission letter (which is the agent version of a query letter). I open up a new, empty Excel spreadsheet. I’m ready to populate it with names, imprints, publishing houses, email addresses and phone numbers. How do I know who to put in that spreadsheet?
The process of putting together a submission list for my clients’ work is not dissimilar to what authors should be doing when they are querying agents. Here’s where I look to find the right people to whom I submit my clients’ work.
1. What editors have I met at a conference, over coffee or lunch, who might like this manuscript?
2. What books have I recently read that are similar in theme or tone to my client’s work? Who edited them?
3. What manuscripts have recently sold that are similar in theme or tone to my client’s work? Who did they sell to?
4. Poking around on Publisher’s Marketplace, what other manuscripts or authors’ work is similar in theme or tone to my client’s work? Or what have I recently read about in my daily Publisher’s Lunch email that feels similar? What imprint published them or who edited them?
5. What have I read about in the New York Times Book Review, the New Yorker, Shelf Awareness or the many blogs I read, that feels similar? Who was the publisher? Who was the editor?
6. Who is on my agency database that I may not have submitted to yet, that my agency-mates have indicated works with the kind of manuscript I’m about to send out?
7. What editors have my fellow agents (who I’ve hung out with at conferences or socially) mentioned to me who are looking for something like my client’s work?
8. What have I seen on Twitter, posted by an editor, agent, author, (or anyone!) that might give me a hint at someone I haven’t yet thought of?
9. Who is on my client’s wish list of editors, or who my client has had some kind of interaction with, who might be appropriate for this manuscript?
10. What can I find out by Googling? After diving down the rabbit hole of the interwebs, is there someone else out there who would be perfect for this manuscript?
Oftentimes, while still in the midst of working on a manuscript with my client, I think of editors I know who would like the material we’re working with. Sometimes I’ve even mentioned the manuscript to an editor before it’s ready, gauging interest or getting ideas from them about editors with whom they work who might be best suited to the manuscript. Sometimes I start from scratch when I face that empty Excel spreadsheet. But what I always do is make sure that the editors to whom I’m submitting seem somehow appropriate to the work. When I send my clients’ work out on submission I don’t just send out blind emails to editors, crossing my fingers, hoping I’ll hit the jackpot with an editor who seems really cool, or is high profile, or has edited lots of books I like (but aren’t similar to my clients’ work).
As I fill in my spreadsheet, I make sure for each round that I’m not sending the manuscript to more than one imprint at a house at the same time. So if I want to send something to Farrar, Straus Children’s I don’t also send something to Feiwel & Friends or Roaring Brook Press. They are all imprints of Macmillan. I send it to my first choice and save the others for another round of submissions.
This is the basic process I go through when sending my clients’ work out. Of course this changes after they’ve published something, because oftentimes their editor has a first-look option in their contract. That means that whatever manuscript my client writes next, usually in the same genre (i.e. adult, YA, MG or picture book), their editor gets first dibs on it.
So. Any questions?