Thursday, May 17, 2007


I'm submitting right now. Or rather, my agent is submitting my new novel to a dozen publishers.

Submitting manuscripts to publishers is one of the main reasons writers have agents. Agents know publishers, and the types of books they're looking for. They also know how to get the best deal.

These days, submissions are electronic. No more making copies and Fed-Exing or messengering them around NY. Agents send electronic files, and the editors print them up. This saves time and trees, and hopefully shortens the response time.

Responses do take time. Depending on the buzz around the book (your agent should have talked it up to editors before sending it to them) and the star-power of the author, it may take a few days to a few weeks (in some cases, even months) for the editor to read and respond.

Hopefully, a publisher will make an offer. This usually involves an editor bringing the manuscript to an acquisitions meeting, where her peers (fellow editors, bosses, marketing people, sales people, accounting people) decide whether or not to try to acquire a book.

These meetings (called "ax" meetings) rarely result in offers. Even if an editor adores a book, the house can still vote no. This depends on a variety of factors: author sales record, publisher sales record with similar books, new and passing trends, buying habits of chains, and many other things. I've heard that 4 out of 5 books brought to ax meetings die there. So even if the editor thinks your book is wonderful, there's still a 80% chance they won't offer a contract.

In the meantime, the author waits. Chewing fingernails. Jumping whenever the phone rings. Dreaming of huge deals and fearing no deals at all.

If you aren't normally neurotic, being on submission will make you so.

So what should this neurotic author do while waiting for the yes or no?

1. Write. You're a writer. That means you put words on paper. You shouldn't stop doing this just because you're anxious.

2. Talk. Bottling all of this anxiety up isn't healthy. Share it with family, friends, and peers.

3. Leave your agent alone. Bugging her constantly, asking for updates, is annoying. If she has good news, she'll call. Assume that no news means she hasn't heard anything yet.

4. Relax. This is easier said than done, but be Zen about it. You've done all you can. It's out of your hands. Worry, stress, prayer, hope, wishes, and dreams aren't going to do anything for you. Don't try to control the situation, because you have no control over it.

I won't sugarcoat it. Being on submission is awful, right up there with being between contracts. The unknown is scary, especially when this is how you make your living. That's why politicians spend so much money on election campaigns. Not having job security is terrifying. So is rejection.

Which is why you need to get back to work.


Stacey Cochran said...

My fifth novel (first agented) made it to a number of ax meetings. And at every one, it got axed.

It sucks.

Afraid sounds like a kick-ass novel, JA.


Anonymous said...

Did Hyperion pass on it or is Hyperion being targed as one of the 12?

JA Konrath said...

Hyperion doesn't publish horror, so they had no interest in it.

Anonymous said...

Sounds great Joe. I'm a big fan of the horror genre, but other than Leisure, there is no publisher that has a dedicated horror line. Many horror writers these days, like Jeff Strand and JF Gonzalez, tend to go through the small press first. So I hope you can break through with this one.

Anonymous said...

I thought querying was difficult until I got an agent and she started submitting my novel.

Rejections from editors are a hundred times worse than rejections from agents. I've found that writing a new book is more productive (and fun) than biting my nails.

Good luck, it sounds like a great book, Joe. (But I can't help but wonder: As a multi-published author, do you feel more confident that this will be picked up?)

s.w. vaughn said...

Oh, man. And here I was feeling really good about going on submission next week... :-)

J.A., your new books sounds kick-ass. How long do we have to wait for it?? Never mind - I know you don't know. But I'll line up to buy it when it comes...

Tease. Tell us all about it, and then we have to wait a couple of years... LOL

Therapist/Writer said...

It sounds AWFUL! I live in Wisconsin and I swear, I'd never be able to sleep again if I read that! It'd give me the screaming horrors!
Well, good job, Joe. Keep it up.

Mark Terry said...

Sounds great. Break a leg.

I'm curious though: is your agent send the blurbs with the manuscript?

I'm asking because I've been seriously considering that should I write something that isn't appropriate and/or different for my current publisher.

JT Ellison said...

Sending good vibes your way, Joe!!!! The concept is terrifying. Sure to be a big sale.

Jude Hardin said...

I'm currently on submission as well. Thanks for the therapy tips.

Your horror thriller sounds awesome. Best of luck with it!

Jeri said...

Good luck, Joe. AFRAID's got "breakout" written all over it (preferably in subliminal ink on each page).

I never noticed until now that your full name sounds like Joseph Conrad. It lends gravity.

Last year when my agent submitted my novel, it was on paper. Maybe things have changed since then. And she was nice enough not to tell me about most of the rejections until after the offer came in.

Each rejection is like a little spike through the heart, even when you have an agent to filter them for you. Except for the ax committee rejections--those are like tractor trailers over the skull.

Marcus Sakey said...

Glad to hear AFRAID is out in the world, man! Very best of luck with it. Hell of a read.

Martha O'Connor said...

It sounds amazing, so I don't think you have to worry!

Tasha Alexander said...

Crossing everything for you, my friend!

Michelle Moran said...

Here's to landing a big contract and becoming lead title!!

Thanks for all the interesting posts.

Anonymous said...

Rollins? Morrell? Class acts and bestsellers certainly. But CROUCH? The man has a BABY (which even as we speak may be independently mobile). He KNOWS what it means to be truly AFRAID! I gotta get me this book!
All best,
Ross and Julia

Simon Haynes said...

"Chewing fingernails. Jumping whenever the phone rings. Dreaming of huge deals and fearing no deals at all."

I'm there right now, minus the dreaming of huge deals part. And minus the phone-ringing, since my agent is in a different time zone. And minus the chewing fingernails, since I've never done that.

I guess it boils down to fearing no deals at all.

So, remind me again why writing novels is more therapeutic than say, skydiving without a parachute.

s.w. vaughn said...

Look! The troll is back! How sweet.

Patry Francis said...

Fabulous premise! Can't wait to hear where it ends up. Good luck, Joe.

WayneThomasBatson said...

Good luck, Joe! And I love that you are stepping away from Jack into a subtly different genre. I think you'll do well there. Cool, scary concept. I'm already picturing the sheriff of that lil town. Poor guy.

JA Konrath said...

I'm fine with anonymous morons posting comments about me.

Any anonymous morons who post comments about my peers will be deleted. No exceptions.

If you're wondering why I'm writing this, it's because I just deleted an anonymous moron. :)

Own up to your posts, or don't post.

Anonymous said...

Ditto what Joe and others are saying about the submission process. Getting rejected by agents is bad enough, but they rarely knock your work. Editors will tell you what they really think. It's deflating.

And to the Troll: I see you failed to take Joe's advice and ingest some drugs. So tell me, who's blurbing your next book?

Whoops! Joe just deleted you as I was going to press with my comment. That's fair; oblivion is what you ultimately deserve.

Joe Moore said...

Here's wishing that AFRAID is the breakout for you, Joe.

Anonymous said...

The book sounds terrific, Joe. I'm wishing you much luck!

PJ Parrish said...

I knew you were up to something.
Best of luck, Joe, on the new direction.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Afraid sounds terrifying. I don't even read horror, as a rule, but I'll definitely read that one when it's published. Good luck with the negotiations!


Anonymous said...

Afraid sounds very interesting. But I'm curious. Will this horror novel contain humor, like your Jack books and short stories?

Best wishes on finding a publisher for it. And congrats on taking a chance with a new direction on this book.


Tom Schreck said...

Holy shit--that's an unbelievably good hook for a novel...

I smell auction.

Tom Schreck
"On the Ropes"
Sept '07

Ty said...

Holy Dean-Koontz-meets-Stephen-Coonts, Joe, sign me up for Afraid.
The plot sounds so great, I can hardly wait to see it at a bookstore.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'd read that. And I don't like horror stories.

Let us know when it comes out.

Anonymous said...

oh, wow. that sounds fantastic!

i've just been told horror doesn't sell, but i think horror could be what the book biz needs right now. somebody just has to get the party started.

Patrick said...

For what it's worth, Joe, if I were in a book store and came across one with that write-up on the jacket, I'd definitely buy.

Good luck with it...can't wait to read it.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

I am so excited for you Joe. Good luck in the new direction. I was scared enough by the Jack Daniels books. This will probably put me into cardiac arrest and that's a sure sign of a best selling horror book! Terrie

Charlie Wonderlic said...

I see "movie deal" written all over AFRAID. Is your agent going for that, too? Mine is. I'm not holding my breath for Steven Speilberg to scoop up my story or anything, but it would be nice.

I have three novels on active submission right now. The thing that always gets me is, every rejection might have been a yes. I might have been celebrating instead of drowning my sorrows.

Anonymous said...

This book sounds really cliche. Getting attacked in a town called Safe Haven... c'mon.

Anonymous said...

This book sounds really cliche. Getting attacked in a town called Safe Haven... c'mon.

Not as cliche as anonymous trolling...

Unknown said...


Can I get a PDF of this?

Anyway, while AFRAID is a cool title... I love the idea of a book called SAFE HAVEN, especially considering the delicious contrary nature of such a title.