But the different kinds of sales play out very…well, differently.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of both options.
The Proposal: Pros
- You don’t have to write the whole book before making a sale!
- The money comes in while you’re working on the book. Fantastic!
- You can write without the stress of wondering if the book you’re working on will ever turn into an actual book.
The Proposal: Cons
- You don’t have to write the whole book before making a sale.
- Why, exactly, is this a bad thing? (cue pesky inner voices…) What if I run out of inspiration halfway through? What if the plot, which seemed like it would work perfectly in outline form, stops working? What if it isn’t any good?
- Stress. Doubt. Angst. Not the best environment for creative work.
- Also? Synopses and summaries and pitches are really tough to get right.
Hmmmmm. Let’s have a look at the other option.
The Full Manuscript: Pros
- You have time to run the story by your beta readers.
- You have time to get everything working thematically and structurally before an editor ever sees it.
- By the time it’s good enough to send to your editor, you’re probably at least halfway done!
- You get the chance to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with your story without looming deadlines.
The Full Manuscript: Cons
- You may work for months or even years on a story that isn’t what your editor is looking for.
- You may write a story that you love, and your editor loves, but that can’t make it past the acquisition process.
- It’s tricky knowing when to send a manuscript to your editor. You don’t want to hold on to it too long and overwork the poor thing. But you also don’t want to send it in before it’s really ready, before it’s the quality of book a whole team can get behind.
So if I had my choice, which would I pick?
Well, my first two books, Parched and Audacity were sold as full manuscripts. I loved being able to shape each story into a book I was really proud of before anyone ever laid eyes on it. But I’ll admit, there were some anxiety-filled moments while we were waiting for a sale!
My 3rd book, A Nearer Moon, and my 5th book, an untitled Middle Grade, were both submitted via proposal. That vote of confidence from your publishing house from the start of a project is really great. But there’s some stress there too. You can’t ever really get away from it, you just learn how to tune it out while you’re working.
I suppose the submission sweet spot for me came with my 4th book, a super-secret project I’m not yet divulging the details of. It was the second part of Audacity’s two book deal. It sold as an unspecified YA, with a far-away deadline that gave me security and freedom, motivation and time. Yep, if the literary gods let us pick, that would be my choice.
What about you? What are you hoping for, or what have you discovered works best for you? Whatever your preference, here’s to many submission success stories in your future!
MELANIE CROWDER holds an MFA from VCFA and is the author of three books for children and teens: Parched, Audacity, and A Nearer Moon. Her books have received honors such as Junior Library Guild selection, Parent’s Choice Silver Medal, Bank Street College’s Best Books of the Year and a collective eight starred reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, PW, BCCB, and SLC. She lives in beautiful Colorado; catch up with her online at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or her website.