An Agent’s Submission Strategy

I saw something on Twitter a while ago about how editors respond to an agent’s submission strategy. It bugged me and while I’ve sat on it for the required 24-hours, I think it’s time I say something.

In the Tweet or Twitter thread, editors were complaining about being on the bottom of an agent’s submission list. That they were getting materials that already had offers. The general feeling was, “don’t bother. We don’t want to be 2nd best.” This is a shame because sometimes we leave the 1st best for last.

How Agents Submit

I don’t know how every agent works. I do know how I work and how BookEnds works. For us, each book is different, each author is different and every single one of them requires its own unique submission strategy.

I don’t necessarily send only to my top choices in the first round. Sometimes I might like to hold a few of those back. Test the waters and keep my options open. If I get a quick offer I hope that editor and I have a relationship that allows me to keep them in the loop and include them in what’s next.

It’s not because I think they’re second best, or even second best for this book, it’s simply that’s the strategy for that book.

Sometimes I’ll go hard and hit a huge number of publishers in one shot. Once in awhile I’ll hit all the publishers right away. Sometimes I’ll go out in a tiny batch, and dribble out submissions over the course of a few weeks.

Trust me, there is a reason and strategy behind each of these techniques, but none of it is because I think one house or one editor is better or worse than the other. To be honest, the house and editor that feels the most passionate about my client and their book is the best editor. No matter what I think at the submission stage.

I wish we’d stop hyper-analyzing and critiquing the way others in the business are doing their jobs. Unless you’ve been in my shoes you don’t know what creating a submission list is like. Unless I’ve been in yours I don’t truly know what passing a book through an editorial board is like. Mutual respect is important, throwing shade gets us nowhere.

Now, onward, let’s make a Zoom date for coffee, gossip, and a shared love for this business.

Category: Blog

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2 comments

  1. An advantage you have over writers in the query trenches. Do we query our best fit first? But what if the query needs tweaking, should we test it on agents who aren’t top of the list? But then, they might reject because they aren’t the best fit. But if we query #1 first, and the query isn’t as perfect as it might be (even after all the edits, betas etc) then you’re done and dusted with that agent.

  2. More fantastic wisdom from BookEnds! More testimony to their integrity regarding the literary industry. More reason I’m floored that this agency doesn’t have an even larger following than it has at present!

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