What Happens When... we like a submission
I know; it's been a while! What with the release of MOM by Collin Piprell at the beginning of April, the signing of ARK by Jesse Miller, and, well, editing, designing, and producing our already signed CDP books (wait until you see A. T. Balsara's super dark The Great and the Small... OMG!!!), the herd headquarters have been quite abuzz and we've neglected our blog. D'OH!! Let's rectify that with our next What Happens When entry, this time the WE LOVE IT!!! edition.
So you read in our previous WHW about what we do when we receive a submission. The hard and dirty truth is that many submissions just aren't for us. We can usually tell this right away; sometimes the subject matter isn't our cup o' tea, or maybe the genre does not suit our house's tone. You see, a rejection doesn't mean your manuscript is no good, my deers. It simply means it's not for us. Because of this, often submissions end in rejection, which none of us like (the author who receives the rejection, nor those of us who had to send it, knowing we were about to ruin someone's day). But sometimes...
Let's take Jesse Miller's book Unwrap Your Candy, which is the next book on our release list (September 10th, to be exact). CDP works a little differently than many other houses. Ellie reads the initial submissions herself. If she likes them, she requests more. That's when she turns the manuscript over to CDP's first reader.
When Jesse queried us, I knew right away his manuscript was going to be special. Jesse is very, very literary---almost to the point of absurdist at times. Ellie and all of CDP prides itself on bucking the norm, and I had no doubt that Jesse's manuscript was going to do this. I read the query, then I was so intrigued, I had to see the writing (because, really, it IS all about writing in literary). Because of this intrigue, I skipped the synopsis.
That's a good sign, folks.
Normally I read the query, read a few paragraphs in the sample (or all of it if the writing agrees with me), and then, if I'm hooked, I read the synopsis. With Jesse's, I requested the rest almost right away, and then when he sent the manuscript, I read the whole thing within a day or so. His was an exception.
CDP's first reader and I have a rating system for manuscripts. If she's a bit undecided, I ask her, "On a scale of one to Rex, where does this manuscript fit?" (Rex by Cody Stewart, Adam Rocke, and Mark Rogers being our idea of perfection). She will give me a number. If it's seven or above, I will then read the full too. If it's six or less, sadly, it is time for us to part ways with that manuscript.
If I read the manuscript and I love it, often I will also discuss it with Jenn, our marketing and sales manager. I, (Ellie), am a terrible sales person. I know what works with books as far as good writing, and I know how to make books. But I don't know how to sell them. So I often sum up the storyline as best I can and ask Jenn her opinion. The combination of Jenn's ideas, those of our first reader, and my own are what make the acquisitions decision.
There is also a degree of research that goes into a decision---are there other books on the market like this one? What makes this one special? What can we do to make ours stand out if there are other books like it already? How well did the other book sell, and why did it get those numbers (either good or bad)? That kind of thing. Acquiring a book is no small decision for us deer.
Once a decision is made, we contact the author to tell them to expect a message directly from me (um... Ellie), containing the contract. I will spend the next day or so preparing the document. You may think contracts are fairly simple---the clauses are all basically the same, and that is true...but they are also not. We have to sort out what rights we want to sign (in addition to e-book and print, do we also want audio, film/TV, and so on and so on)? How well do we suspect the book will sell; what level of advance can we offer the author? What will be the publication schedule? What about the royalty percentages? A lot of these things have to do with numbers. and numbers are terrifying. Seriously. Bed-wettingly so.
I think we will talk contracts in our next session. There are so many clauses and they all seem to be in a foreign language. What do they all mean? Can you negotiate any/all of them? And so on.
So there you have it, folks, the What Happens When...we like a submission. Mostly, it's reading. And then talking. And then more reading. And more talking. Finally...a decision.
Thanks for reading.