Writer’s 101: An Anonymous Romance Editor Spills On How To Get Your Manuscript Picked Up!
For all of our newbie author friends out there, we decided to get inside the mind of a book editor. We wanted to the editor to feel free to be candid, and they agreed to do so anonymously. This editor hails from one of the major New York romance publishers, and she tells us how to get the manuscript pitch right!
If there’s a candid question you’d like answered, let us know on Twitter (@onfrolic) by tweeting us with the hashtag #WritersRoundtable
Frolic: Tell us about your role, please.
As an associate editor, I acquire both digital and print books. Right now, I’m on the lookout for rom-coms, cowboy westerns, small-town/sweet contemporary and women’s fiction with romantic elements. I would love to see more diverse books in the market, and I’m definitely looking for own voices.
As your editor, not only will I edit your book, but I’m going to be your in-house advocate. I’ll work with you on title brainstorming, branding, cover looks and positioning your book to hit market trends.
Frolic: Do you accept unagented submissions?
Great question, and it’s something to be aware of. Every company is different. We only accept agented submissions with a few exceptions. I will accept an unagented submission if:
1. I request the manuscript from a contest
2.I request the manuscript from a pitch session
3.I request the manuscript from a conference meeting
Frolic: What percentage of the projects you publish are agented vs. unagented?
We take 60% agented and 40% unagented.
Your chances of being published are greater if you have an agent. There are a couple of reasons why. First, an agent will read your book and will typically ask you to edit and polish your manuscript before it ever reaches my desk. That means I’m seeing a better version of your book on first read.
Second, an agent will know what is working in the market and will help you position your proposal to highlight market trends. This will help me make my case to the rest of the team as to why we should publish this book.
Third, part of an agent’s job is to get to know editors. A good agent will know what I’m looking for and will only pitch me a book that they know I’ll be interested in buying.
Frolic: How many submissions do you receive every week?
I receive anywhere from two to eight submissions per week.
Frolic: How many of those pique your interest?
I would say, on average, I ask for second reads on two to four submissions per month. I have to really fall in love with the book — and know that I can sell it — in order for me to pass it along for a second read. And then my second read(s) have to fall in love with the book — and agree that we can sell it — in order for me to make an offer. Som even if I absolutely love a proposal, if the genre isn’t working in the market, I can’t move forward.
Frolic: What are the odds my submission will get published with you?
Out of the 200-300 submissions I receive a year, I end up publishing 15-20 books a year.
Frolic: How can a writer increase their odds? Catch your attention? Stand out?
Do your homework and find out what is working in the market. Check out bestseller lists, follow editors on social media, and look at our current list and see what authors/genres a publisher gravitates toward. My best advice is to lean in to what’s working while making the trope or theme of your book feel fresh.
Frolic: Can you describe one (irl) great submission and one terrible submission?
I received a great proposal that included a one page-synopsis for each book in the series, plus an in-depth outline for the first book. Each synopsis included what trope would be used, a description of the time and setting, character descriptions that included “playing cards” with the character’s personality traits and a photo of their celebrity inspiration, plus comparative titles that were working in the market at the time. The entire proposal was well done, enjoyable to read, and got me excited about the project — and, most importantly, gave me all of the information I needed.
And then there are the bad ones. I sometimes receive short synopses that don’t give enough information and/or are confusing. OR I receive too long synopses that include unnecessary information (the name of a friend that shows up once in the book, the backstory of a secondary/unimportant character, etc). Find a balance and focus on exciting and important information that will entice me to read more.
Frolic: Finish this sentence, “Your script will definitely end up in the trash if….”
I rarely come across unforgivable errors. I do think it’s important for a manuscript to hold up the hallmarks of the romance genre — inclusion, love, and acceptance.
Frolic: Lastly, can you tell us what themes you’re tired of getting pitched on?
There isn’t a definitive answer for this. Trends change every few years, and when a trend is at its height the market is flooded. Sometimes it takes a while for authors to recognize that a theme is dying, and I’ll have to turn down projects that I know aren’t going to work in the market.