Thoughts from the Submission Pile

Back in my life as an actress, I spent every day going on multiple auditions, waking at dawn to ride the subway in my pajamas to arrive at the audition studio around 8AM. I’d write my name on a list of girls auditioning already 25 girls long, took a nap until 9:30, then put on my make up and waited my turn to be seen by the casting director for maybe one minute worth of an audition. Then I would walk out of the room, hop on the subway to the next audition and do it all over again.

It was hard. I spent my days surrounded by the same 50 girls who all looked exactly like me and who all wanted exactly what I wanted. The job.

Every time I walked in the audition room, I was nervous. But then I reminded myself of something one of my teachers told me.

“Every director hopes that the next person to walk into the room is the perfect person for the role.”

Sound familiar? Let’s take a look at some tweets that have been getting lots of buzz the past few weeks:

Yup. All of you authors out there who are treading the publishing boards every day, waking up every morning to get make your word counts before you trek to your day jobs, are like 20-year-old Jordan auditioning for the next big show. And all of us editors and agents? We’re those excited casting directors who hope that every time we open a manuscript, it will make us fall in love.

Since my move to Egmont, I have received a slew of submissions from agents and every time I turn on my e-reader and open a submission, I’m excited to find out if that manuscript will be the one. I recently bought a book that I absolutely adore. It was such a great feeling to walk into my publisher’s office and say “I HAVE to buy this book. I am the right person for this book. I get it.”

There are times when an agent will call me and let me know that one of the submissions I have has received an offer from another editor. At that point, that submission jumps to the top of my to-read list. Sometimes I love it, other times I enjoy it and see why other people love it, but I’m just not the right person to edit that book. I didn’t fall in love. It’s very similar to me not getting the part because the director really wanted a leggy, redheaded ballerina and I was a short, brunette tap dancer. It didn’t diminish the work I did. It just wasn’t the right fit. I always love seeing books I liked, but didn’t love enough, sell to an editor who I know will do the book justice.

Editors have to love the books we acquire because we spent a lot of time with them. Not only do we have to read the book multiple times, we have to keep our love and enthusiasm showing from the acquisition meeting all the way to the publication date. Our love pushes the book through the entire publishing process.

Just a quick note. I know a lot of authors on submission want the dream story of selling their book in a week. I’ve fallen in love with manuscripts that sat in my to-read pile for several weeks because things just kept coming up. I was going to love that book, I just hadn’t read it yet.

My hope for you is that the reason you are in this industry is because you love writing. You don’t know what to do if you aren’t telling stories. Editors love discovering new stories to bring into the world. It’s what keeps us motivated.

So keep treading the boards and remember that every time we open a manuscript, we are full of hope that we will fall in love.

In A Chorus Line, the director asks “If today were the day you had to stop dancing, how would you feel?”

So I ask you, if today were the day you had to stop writing, how would you feel?


12 Responses to Thoughts from the Submission Pile

  1. Marc Vun Kannon Apr 22 2014 at 5:52 am #

    I’d have to be dead. I don’t write to be published, I don’t write to make money. I write because the stories are there and they demand I write them, because I am the only one who even sees them in the world.

  2. JoSVolpe Apr 22 2014 at 6:44 am #

    I love this, Jordan! So on-point!

  3. jeffo Apr 22 2014 at 6:55 am #

    I think sometimes writers get the idea that agents and editors exist to say “No.” This is a good reminder that that’s not the case. Thank you.

  4. Heather Villa Apr 22 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    If today were the day I had to stop writing, how would I feel? Silenced.

    Your words are appreciated, Jordan.

  5. Laurence King Apr 22 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    Great post, Jordan! If I stopped writing, I would wither away 🙁

  6. Paul Atreides Apr 22 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    What a terrific post. With my 30+ years of theatre and now a theatre critic for a major newspaper, I can so relate to this. I write plays, stories, and novels because I must, and I feel I have something to say. My plays get picked up by those who fall in love with the scripts. My short fiction gets picked up by publishers because something about them connects. My novel gets picked up by readers who are intrigued with the subject matter.

    If perchance an agent, editor, or publisher finds one landing on their desk…well, I hope it’s the ‘right fit,’ but if not it’s not the end of anyone’s world.

  7. K. L. Martin Apr 23 2014 at 10:27 pm #

    My stories are ones that want to written. I don’t care about the publicity or being published. I’d have to be dead to not write.

  8. Alys Apr 25 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    Sitting here, editing my opening chapters for submission, this post is a brilliant encouragement. Thank you.

  9. A very satisfactory Aug 12 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    I really like what you guys tend to be up too. This kind of clever work and reporting!
    Keep up the amazing works guys I’ve you guys to our blogroll.

  10. Peter Taylor Sep 21 2014 at 5:00 am #

    Many thanks for your insights, Jordan. I totally agree that it’s easy for writers or illustrators to become discouraged, when they shouldn’t.

    My recently and traditionally published children’s picture book was first pitched to a panel of editors and agents at Bologna, who all said ‘Not for me – our (US) children wouldn’t relate to Australian dingos and brolgas (birds)’. It was submitted to an editor who loved it – but her team didn’t, and as far as I understand sales people have to like the ‘book’ enough to enthusiastically sell it stores, and they have an equal say. It was rejected at an acquisition meeting. The story was submitted to a competition but didn’t make the shortlist. But it was loved by an editor who appraised it at a SCBWI Conference, and later by her team who insisted that a CD should be included with the book. This does not make the other editors and folk lack appreciation – it just didn’t fit.

    Similarly I have had work loved but too expensive to print (contained paper engineering) and another also loved but the publisher had just accepted a book on the same subject, and one was enough. An editor told me she adores my current project …but wouldn’t know how to market it.

    Even the ‘normal’ publisher of works by an internationally highly successful illustrator with sales in the millions told him that ‘we don’t publish that kind of book’ when he showed them new concept drawings (though it will be released by another publisher).

    All best wishes from Down Under

    Peter Taylor

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