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!

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

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

Editor Talk with BLINK YA’s Jillian Manning

Thank you to The Spinning Pen team for this awesome interview! An inside look at life as an editor.

The Spinning Pen

Pen Friends ~ We are elated to have Blink YA Book’s Editor Jillian Manning with us today. Hope you enjoy her insights, tips, and recommendations!

wpvdcemmSP: Welcome Jillian! Let’s start personal ~Who are you and how long have you worked as an editor? Which books made you fall in love with the publishing industry?

I’m Jillian Manning, one of the editors at Blink YA Books. I’m a Michigan girl, cat lover, list maker, and avid YA reader. (Grown-up books? Yikes.) I’ve worked in publishing since my early college days, and have been an editor here at Blink for over two years. According to my mother, I started reading when I was two years old (though that may be a parental exaggeration), and I haven’t stopped since. I grew up reading Tamora Pierce, J.K. Rowling, and Caroline B. Cooney, and I decided I either wanted to be them or work with people…

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5 Reasons I Say No to a Good Book

I hate writing rejections. I hate writing rejections even more when I have to say no to an amazing book. But, because the world of publishing isn’t all kittens and rainbows (alas!), sometimes I do have to say no to an awesome story. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. I already have a book like it. I will read retellings all day, but I can’t have three Beauty and the Beast stories on my list at one time, even if they are all top notch. Having competition within your list is tough on marketing and on sales—marketing can’t keep pitching the same kind of book, and buyers won’t take repetitive stories from a publisher. Continue reading

The Subjective Editor: Why taste matters (and why that’s okay)

When I first started as an editor, I hated sending rejections to authors or agents with a note saying, “sorry, but it just wasn’t my thing.” I always wanted to give concrete, constructive feedback about why I didn’t feel I could acquire the book. I still want to do that, if only because that’s my job.

But sometimes, there are no typos to blame. Sometimes the characters are interesting and well developed. Sometimes the book may be the most marketable thing since sliced bread (or, you know, since the latest novel by John Green). But I still may not have completely connected to the story or the writing. And taste isn’t something an author can fix by running spell check or making a few tweaks.

In those instances, I dreaded writing rejections. What good was I doing anyone if I said the book just wasn’t a fit for my taste?

Well, it turns out, I was doing everyone involved a lot of good. Continue reading

I Want to Be an Editor. Where Do I Start?

At the past two writers conferences I’ve attended, I’ve been asked a different kind of question. Not, “Will you publish my book?” but “How do I become an editor?” Well, here’s my answer, as told in someecards memes. Because what better way is there to do so?

(P.S. You can also check out these articles about working as an editor: What Do You Do All Day? A Look at the Life of an Editor / The Freelancer Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need to Know About Freelance Writers and Editors)

Complete a degree in a field like English or Creative Writing.

im-an-english-major-my-parents-have-serious-concerns-34b6a Continue reading

What Makes for a Good Publishing House?

When you’re on the quest to publication, it can be hard to know what makes a publishing house good or bad. Whether you want to go indie or join the Big 5 (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster), you may feel like you don’t even know what to put on your pro and con list.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have gotten a book deal offer, it’s still a good idea to check out who you’re partnering with. Here’s what you want to find in a good publishing house: Continue reading