Beyond the Manuscript: What ELSE an Editor Looks for in a Submission

Let’s pretend (only for one horrifying second) that the content of your manuscript didn’t matter.

Yes, I know. It’s awful. But bear with me.

Let’s pretend that it didn’t matter how good or bad your actual writing was, and that an editor only focused on the other pieces of your submission—your platform, your hook, etc.

Okay, now you can stop pretending. That was pretty scary, right? Don’t worry—content is always going to be the #1 concern for an editor. However, it isn’t the only concern. So let’s dive into the other elements of a submission an editor considers when thinking about acquiring a book.

Author. Okay, this one seems pretty obvious. Of course the editor wants to know more about you. (Who wouldn’t!?) We all do some casual internet stalking when we get a new submission to see if the author seems like the kind of person we want to work with. (We usually want to work with people who like books and animals and tea or coffee. We’re easy to please.)

Agent. Having an agent is great. Having a great agent is even better! This may not be a huge factor in deciding whether or not to pursue a manuscript, but editors will definitely think about the editor/agent relationship as a piece of the puzzle. Is the agent or agency reputable? Do they have strong ties with other authors? Will the agent support the author throughout the publishing cycle? You see where I’m going.

Publishing History. Is this your first book or your tenth book? Have you sold five hundred copies or five hundred thousand? Editors will look at previous publishing history for authors, not only to see if there have been successes, but also to see if there have been failures. This is important for when we pitch a book to our sales accounts—booksellers and librarians love authors with a strong publishing histories and they will be open to debut authors, but they will be wary of someone who has crashed and burned for them in the past. An unsuccessful book isn’t a make-or-break issue, but it is worth taking into consideration, especially if there is a pattern across multiple books.

Platform. It’s the worst. I mean the best. I mean…it’s necessary. Having an online presence is important, and editors expect to type your name into a search bar and find relevant results. Make sure you have a professional web presence (website or blog) and a professional social media presence up and running when you submit. You’ll have to make one eventually! Also, if your platform extends from the virtual world to the real world (think: speaking engagements, performances, and the like), let us know!

Connections. I love knowing that an author has book friends. Book friends are the best! Not everyone must list their potential endorsers or influencers in a submission, but it can be helpful to include for an editor if you have some notable connections (and it saves me time on the aforementioned internet stalking). When editors are thinking about an author’s reach, we often take into account the authors, bloggers, reviews, etc. that are connected to that person.

Hook. A hook is a great marketing tool. (Learn more about creating your hook here!) Having a hook for your project will go a long way with your editor… and your marketer… and your PR rep… and your sales rep… and the person in the bookstore who is recommending your book. Moral of the story: have a strong hook.

Trends. Trends are good. They’ve brought us a lot of unique, wonderful novels. Trends are also bad. They’ve brought us a lot of derivative, boring novels. My advice? Don’t write in a genre or on a topic because it’s popular. Odds are, things will have changed by the time your book gets published. For example, 2008 was a great time to be publishing vampire YA. But 2017? Not so much. If editors feel something is too trendy—as in it will have become dated or overpublished when the book releases—we may not move forward.

Timing. Editors always have to consider the potential timing for the release of a book. A Christmas title should come out before Christmas. A summer beach read probably shouldn’t publish in January (unless you’re in Australia). We consult our publishing schedule to see when a book will fit and what the competition from other publishers might look like.

Audience. And finally, we are always responding to what readers want. That’s the whole point of publishing! Editors must be thoughtful about whether there is a market for a book and who that audience will be. Without readers, we are nothing. Nothing! (Thanks, readers!)

And finally, to reiterate, your manuscript still matters most. So make sure your writing is polished, your story is strong, and you’re putting your best foot forward with your query!

Favorite Books of 2017…So Far

As we are now a little over midway through the year, I thought it was about time I made a list of my favorite books I’ve read in 2017 so far. There are, of course, some important caveats:

  • Not all of these came out in 2017. Some came out a while ago and I am just behind on my TBR pile! *Shame*
  • There are seven books on this list, but they are listed in alphabetical order and not ranked order. Choosing favorites of the favorites is too hard!
  • None of these are books I have edited, since obviously I love my babies the most.
  • And finally, these are all YA novels because, well, I’m a YA editor. (And Peter Pan. Who needs grown-up books? Okay, maybe grown-ups.)

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins Continue reading

I Want a Book Heroine Like Wonder Woman

I watched the new Wonder Woman movie a few weekends ago and fell completely in love. Not just with Chris Pine (our love story began long ago), but with Wonder Woman herself and what she means as a heroine. Gal Gadot plays a character who is filled with optimism, strength, and kindness, without ever seeming cheesy or “too perfect.” In fact, some of Diana’s flaws are her best characteristics, and only serve to make us love and relate to her more. I love her so much that I’ve found myself scrolling through my submissions desperately seeking the next Diana Prince. So, with *some* spoilers, I will try to put into words why I want a book heroine like Wonder Woman.

(P.S. If you have a character like this, have your people call my people.)

(P.P.S Yes, I know the amazing Leigh Bardugo is publishing a Wonder Woman YA novel. Wonder Woman: Warbringer!!!!!! I have obviously already preordered it and routinely stalk her social media for updates. You should do the same, because preordering and social media stalking are cool.)

(P.P.P.S. Also, please consider this list of other mega-awesome novels that can help cure your Wonder Woman hangover. But now, let’s get back to the post.) Continue reading

Not Just a No: The Decision Behind a Rejection

Let’s face it—getting rejected sucks. You poured your heart and soul into a book and were brave enough to ask other people to read it…only to get shot down.

Quite frankly, doing the rejecting isn’t all that fun either. We editors and agents know the hard work that goes into writing a manuscript, and it’s never a good feeling to know you’re crushing someone’s dream. We’re not sitting behind our desks, holding red pens and grinning evilly as we write a giant “NO” on someone’s submission. We want to fall in love with books. We want to publish them. But not every submission will be a fit, and here’s why. Continue reading

Reblog: What an aspiring writer needs to know about editing, marketing, and publishing: An interview with editor Jillian Manning!

Reblogged from

Monday, May 22, 2017

Stephanie here! I’m really excited that Jillian Manning, the acquisitions editor at Blink YA Books, is here with us today! Jillian was my editor for my 1920s mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, and is a rock star of an editor. Not only is she great at the red pen stuff, but she’s super encouraging, and will even dress up for her authors:

Jillian and me at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Wouldn’t we have been great flappers?

Jillian was gracious enough to take time out of her schedule to answer a few questions for me about the unique struggles of trying to get your first book published. I wish I could have read her detailed answers back when I was a flailing and confused aspiring author!

Continue reading

Writing Conference Pitches: Dos and Don’ts

Many writing conferences offer aspiring writers the opportunity to pitch agents and editors. These meetings can be a chance to get representation or even a book deal, and as a result can seem totally intimidating. But don’t get overwhelmed—follow these dos and don’ts to make the most of your face time with a publishing pro!

Do…research the person across the table. Spend time before the meeting checking out the agent or editor on their website and on social media so you know exactly what kind of project they’re looking for. Choosing the right person is the first step to finding a home for your book. Continue reading

Seven Things to Do Before Querying Your Novel

Finished your book? Starting to query agents and editors? Wondering how you can stand out from the slush pile? Check off these seven steps before sending off your manuscript, and you’ll be well ahead of the game.

1. Edit. A book that has not been edited by a third party is not your best book, and working with a critique partner or hiring a professional editor is always a smart move for your manuscript. You can connect with thousands of other writers online or in your local community and even find folks in your genre who are willing to read your work and provide notes. A second set of eyes can provide invaluable feedback and catch those pesky typos that you’ve overlooked. Continue reading

5 YA Authors Whose Writing Inspires

As an editor, reader, and writer, I deal with a lot of words on a daily basis. To quote Friends (as we all should), sometimes my life feels like this:

Dr. Franzblau: I try not to let my work affect my personal life, but it’s hard, when you… do what I do. It’s like uh…Well, for instance, what do you do?

Rachel: I’m a waitress.

Dr. Franzblau: Ok, all right, well aren’t there times when you come home at the end of the day, and you’re just like, “if I see one more cup of coffee…”

(Bonus points to anyone who can name that episode.)

Sometimes I am just sick and tired of WORDS, especially the boring, ugly, or hateful ones that may surround us in everyday life. And yet, my livelihood and my favorite pastime both depend on letters on a page. So when I’m feeling uninspired as an editor, reader, writer, or even as a human being, I turn to some of my favorite authors, authors who I know will bring back the wonder of the English language to my word-weary mind. Below are five of the authors who inspire me to keep doing what I do, even when it means upping my eyeglass prescription to stare at yet more words. Continue reading

Preorders: What They Are and Why They Matter

verb: order (an item of merchandise) before it is available, with the understanding that it will be shipped later.
noun: an order for an item that has not yet been made commercially available.

If you’re an avid reader, odds are you’ve preordered a book. When you purchase a book before it’s on sale to the public, that’s a preorder. (Remember the good old days of Harry Potter midnight release parties? *nostalgia*) So what’s the big deal? Why are preorders so important? I’ll give you three reasons. Continue reading