It Takes a Committee

Portrait of a group of panel judges holding score signs

One well-known and frustrating fact about seeing a book finally accepted is the looooooong process. Trust me, literary agents would like to see the process move faster, too.

Believe it or not, the fact that at most large publishers, a proposal must go through several rounds of review before a contract is offered is actually good for the author. Yes, you read that right. It’s good for the author. 

I got dumped
Let me back up to an experience I had writing for a newspaper years ago. I had a pretty good gig writing about real estate. Then, Chris, the editor who hired me, left. 

Soon afterwards, I overheard someone identify me as, “Oh, she’s someone Chris brought on.” 

Her dismissive manner of me and the way she emphasized his name told me my gig wouldn’t last much longer because the new guard wanted to bring on their friends. Assignments from the new guard evaporated within a month. I was fine, though, because I had several other writing gigs at the time and wanted to move away from writing about real estate, anyway. But I might not have felt as cavalier if this had happened while I was writing books.

Strength in numbers
As a book author, you do want your editor to love your work. But you don’t want your editor to be the only person at the publishing house to love your work, even if that advocate is the most powerful editor at that house. 

Why? Because even the top editor may decide to leave, for any number of reasons. Then where are you as an author with your only advocate gone? You may be left as an author with very little support for your current book, which is sure to mean terrible sales numbers and no future contract with that house. Not to mention, terrible sales numbers will ensure a difficult road to a contract with a different house.

All aboard!
The editor who’s excited about you and your work will do everything she can to ensure success for you at each meeting as your proposal makes its way through the chain. When the team of editors, along with sales and marketing people, understand you and your book and are rooting for you, they feel invested in you and your work. Having the team’s support is much better than one editor fighting the good fight alone.

And if your editor does decide to move on, good people at the publishing house will still be left to make your book a success.

Patience is a virtue
Indeed, this is yet another example of how the writing life tries our patience. And to use yet another cliche, good things come to those who wait.

Your turn:

How has being a writer tested your patience?

What is the longest you have waited for a response?

10 Responses to It Takes a Committee

  1. Jackie Layton April 17, 2014 at 4:39 am #

    Thanks for shedding new light on the process. I’m so glad you’re not still writing about real estate. It’s always amazing what doors God opens for us when one shuts.

    I made a friend this weekend who shared with me that she wrote nine books before she got the first one published. I do believe that good things come to those who wait. In the waiting I grow closer to God, and I learn more about the craft of writing. And I continue to write.

    Have a blessed day.

  2. Katie Clark April 17, 2014 at 5:29 am #

    All excellent points. Waiting is so hard!

  3. Angie Dicken April 17, 2014 at 6:14 am #

    Tamela,

    This is such a great post…I will have to tuck it away for reference each time I am in that waiting period. I have definitely struggled with patience over the years, and have realized that if I glean anything from this process, it’s the importance of that hard-to-attain fruit of the Spirit! Oh, and you know how long I’ve waited for a response, thank you for always keeping me informed!

  4. Sherry Carter April 17, 2014 at 6:41 am #

    Boy,
    I wish knew this before my first bible study came out! My proposal went in May 2006. Contract finally came through February 2007. Rewrites and rewrites later, my study finally came out December 2010. Almost three years!! I’m sure part of this was because I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t have an agent.
    I’m working on study number two and I certainly need to get an agent this time around!

  5. Terry Whalin April 17, 2014 at 6:49 am #

    Tamela,

    What a terrific and valuable topic you have tackled today. I’ve been one of those “orphaned authors” where my editor left during the middle of a book project. It was disappointing to have the plans disappear with that editor. You have wise counsel that the author needs to be loved by more than that single editor. What are some practical ways that an author can get that positive exposure with more than one editor? Maybe that is fodder for a future article from you.

    You are exactly right that publishing is a group process and it does take time and patience. Thank you for these insights.

  6. Sarah Chafins April 17, 2014 at 7:24 am #

    A similar experience happened to me when I worked in a past position as an operations manager. When my hiring manager left, I was given a “lateral” transfer to another position, instead of the promotion I thought was coming. Fortunately, God knows what I need and He placed me in a position where I can do what I love and spend more time with my children.

    As for the longest I’ve had to wait for a response… 7 months to hear an agent had decided to pass on my MS.

  7. Patti Jo Moore April 17, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    Thanks for this post, Tamela. :) I am learning so much from reading this blog, and what you pointed out today is such an eye-opener – - especially your statement: Having the team’s support is much better than one editor fighting the good fight alone.
    Makes perfect sense – - but something I hadn’t really thought deeply about in the past. Thanks again, and have a blessed Easter. :)

  8. Jim Lupis April 17, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    Great post, Tamela. It is so important as a writer to have a team behind them. The waiting is always difficult, especially, when the result is negative. I always feel so much vital time was wasted. I have prayed for more patience, but I am having a hard time waiting for the answer. :)

  9. Richard Mabry April 18, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    Tamela, writers worry about their publisher “leaving them” (i.e., not giving an additional contract or exercising an option), but just as real a threat is their editor leaving them “orphaned.” Great reminder.

  10. Nancy B. Kennedy April 20, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    It is equally as frustrating when an editor leaves before you’ve even had a chance to forge a relationship with a publisher. I once had a request from an acquisitions editor for one of my manuscripts. She was enthusiastic about even the title — a children’s book titled “Rainy Days and Monkeys.” I thought I was home free! But immediately after I hit send, the publisher went through a round of layoffs and the editor was gone just like that. The manuscript is still on my desk, and I still wish I could find a home for it! Sigh.

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