A Publisher's Conversations with Authors: Your Book Has Been Rejected by an Acquisitions Editor; Now What?


It is Tuesday. Time to tall turkey. Monday's madness is over, and Wednesday will take us over the hump, so Tuesday it is--for some serious discussion with authors. Tuesday talks mean to address authors in waiting and self-published authors who would like to go a more traditional route or who would at least like to take their steps with a publisher by their side.

Today's topic is about rejections. How should you respond to them?

To answer the obvious question first, yes, ethically, you should tell publishers that you are making a multiple submission. Most publishers understand that authors cannot wait weeks for one publisher after another to react to their books; therefore, multiple submissions, especially for a cutting-edge book or one that might become dated, is often the most pragmatic way to go. And, of course, once a publisher accepts your book, you should immediately let all other editors know that you are withdrawing the book from their consideration.

That said, there are indeed pros and cons to multiple submissions. There are also way to turn most of the cons into neutral markers.

- Pro: obviously, this is very time-efficient.

- Con; this can be costly. If you send out 10-100 copies of your book and proposal to potential publishers, that will take both money and time. All of that will be wasted for all but one of the publishers (if one does accept the book). Pare down the number of places you submit your book, and make sure it is potentially the right home for your book -- and target your proposal. (Check HERE for our conversation about targeting proposals.)

- Con: some publishers will not accept a multiple submission. Hiding the fact that you are sending the manuscript to more than one publisher at the same time is unethical and will likely create the rejection of any future books you may wish to place with that publisher. Just do not send a submission to these publishers unless the likelihood of acceptance is high and this is your dream partnership. In that case, mail on!

- Con: There is a temptation to treat multiple submissions as a competition: "Let me see who make me the best offer." If this is your intent, most publishers will see through it and will be turned off. If someone says to me, when I am ready to make an offer, that he or she would like to wait and see what -other publishers have to offer, my response is generally, "Sure -- and good luck!" And I turn down the book. There are just too many good books out there to waste time on an author who wants to turn a proposal into a betting war. I will go with one of the books that is equally good and easier to acquire. If you indeed (and fairly) want to wait for a better offer, don't try to goad an interested publisher into upping the ante by stating that you think one of the other publishers will come through for you. Simply ask for time to think it over -- and if you truly have some preferences that the publisher has not offered, request them. Often a publisher will consider contract adaptations, within reason. It never hurts to ask, which is far different from trying to instigate a bidding war. The former is often successful; the latter rarely is.

If you decide on making multiple submissions because of time constraints, keep in mind the cons and the ways in which they can be neutralized. 

Lesson for today's Tuesday talk: Time is Everything!
The time you put into multiple submissions vs the time you wait for a publisher's decision should form, at least in part, your decision on how to submit. As time is money and mailing costs (if you mail rather than e-submit) are also money, cost plays a role, too. Most important is how the publisher you prefer will look both at a multiple submission and how you present it. Think things through carefully. There are always pros and cons, and often it is not the number of either pros or cons that matter but what will get you to your publishing goal more successfully.

Read more posts about publishing HERE.

The Tuesday talks reflect real discussions between the management of MSI Press LLC and our own authors or those would-be authors who come through our doors but don't make the cut--yet. If you have a topic you would like addressed, leave the question in the comment section. Chances are, in our 17 years of publishing first-time and experiences authors, we have had a conversation with one of our authors that we can share with you.


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