[You can find a more recent version of this post here.]
Every so often we have someone ask, via interview, at conferences, or during conversation how our acquisitions process works at Carina Press. I’ve often wished I had a handy link that I could just say “go here for all your answers” because it’s not a short answer. So now I’m going to create one and give you some insight into our process, which will also help you get a sense of timeline as well.
To start, all submissions run through our email@example.com email address. Even when a submission is sent directly to a freelance editor from a returning or referred author, the submission is forwarded to me at that address so we can track it in our system, and have a record of all submissions.
Once a submission comes in, it’s entered into the system. Generally, submissions get assigned to an editor for reading within 2-3 weeks of hitting the inbox.
Submissions are assigned based on a preference basis. This means I keep a spreadsheet (a very thorough spreadsheet) of editor genre preferences. They’ve indicated if a genre is preferred, something they’ll read or something they don’t want to see. This allows me to match up editors and manuscripts, so no editor is reading a genre they don’t enjoy, and they are often reading genres they love. Additionally, I check in with the editors every few months to see if they want to make updates or changes, or if they’d like to see more or less of a genre. Also, I should mention that editors are paid for each step of the process, so we’re not asking for free labor from our freelancers and they have incentive to meet the deadlines (and incentive to read, read, read your submissions. It’s a win all around!)
When editors indicate they’re ready to read submissions, I send them out in batches of ten. Editors then have a week to respond with a preliminary report (of a few sentences to a paragraph for each book) based on a read of no more than 3 chapters (and often much less, as they get good at weeding through submissions). Do they recommend rejection, a full read or a look by another editor. Sometimes it’s a genre they enjoy, but a particular book is not for them but seems to have potential. For instance, we had a recent submission of dark urban fantasy that the original editor found a little too violent, but recognized as good writing, so she suggested a second editor have a look. That ended in an acquisition!
Once the editors have returned their prelim reports, they have two weeks to return reports on any manuscripts kept for full reads. Based on those reads, they recommend either acquisition, rejection or revise and resubmit (we’ll talk about revise and resubmits in a later post).
Manuscripts recommended for rejection get filed by me for response, unless the editor has worked with the author in the past, then they may send the response. Those recommended for R&R will get responses from the editor. And those recommended for acquisition get moved to a special folder and put on the agenda for our weekly acquisitions team meeting.
At the weekly meeting, I present the editor’s recommendation report and an acquisitions team member (comprised of people from marketing, production, promotion, sales, community and editorial) volunteers to read it. From that time, the team member reports within 2 weeks at a team meeting what their recommendation is. If the team member didn’t like it, it’s given to a second team member to read. Two people must say yes (the editor being one and a team member being the second) before a manuscript is acquired, but a manuscript isn’t rejected or sent for R&R without at least two acquisitions team members looking at it first, to give it a fair chance.
If you’re counting along at home, this means that once the manuscript reaches the acquisitions team, it can take up to 4-5 weeks (depending on when the report is received, especially if it’s received the day after the weekly meeting) for it to go through this step of the process. Acquisitions team members also report on the manuscript, and offer feedback.
After we’ve agreed to make an acquisition, I assign it to my list of calls/emails to make. I generally make these every 2 weeks, unless there’s an urgent deadline on a manuscript. If an author is in the US or Canada, I make the offer call. If an author is outside US/Canada, I send an offer email. And from there, a new process begins!
So, if you’ve been counting along, you can see how we come to need 12-16 weeks for some submissions. The process can be prolonged in several places: if the original editor recommends it be seen by a second editor, if the acquisition team needs more time or a second reader, if anyone in the process (the editor or me) needs more time in the process. The reports I’ve mentioned along the way, those are what I use to evaluate and send rejection letters. Sometimes the editor has included critical advice I think it will benefit the author to see. Sometimes the reports’ language is meant for my eyes only. We’ve discussed rejections in detail here and here.
And now you know the secret, behind-the-scenes acquisition/submissions process. Did it answer questions or raise more?