Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Submit Now Or Later?

STATUS: Work all morning. Meetings all afternoon. That’s New York!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEY JACK KEROUAC by 10,000 Maniacs

Yesterday I had an agent friend who doesn’t handle a lot of adult trade fiction shoot me an email with an interesting question. She asked this: with fiction, she had heard that some agents were not even submitting right now and were planning to wait 6 months to let things settle down. In other words, things were a little volatile right now with lay-oofs and projects that might have been bought 6 months ago were now being passed on in this current cautious climate. (Hard to sell a project if you are unsure the editor is going to be there 2 months from now.) Since I did a lot more adult fiction than she did, what did I think?

Darn good question. To be honest, I didn’t have an answer. I’ve been doing quite a few deals as of late but all for current clients who are already established at their houses. None for debut authors in the adult field. Now I do have some YA submissions out but that’s not the same thing.

Since I’m here in New York, what better way to find out than to ask? Well, the lucky editors at St. Martin’s Press were first up to bat so I asked them, what is SMP’s stance on buying adult fiction?

Here’s what was said:

1. They had wondered why it had been so slow. They weren’t seeing the usual amount of submissions that normally happens for this time of year. (Interesting.)

2. That SMP (and this was emphatically said) was aggressively buying so bring it on. (Nice!)

3. Major accounts were tightening their buy lists. Not ordering as much and not as far in advance. (I’ve heard this from several places—not just SMP.) So if a project is borderline in terms of an editor loving it, they might pass. (Agents might not be submitting right now in order to not risk this.)

So what had they bought recently? SMP just paid big money to lure two mystery authors to the house. One editor had bought two novels—a mystery caper and then a literary commercial novel about a Viet Nam soldier and his specially trained German Sheppard who worked as a team in a special army unit.

You know how much I love dogs. I would have LOVED to have seen that second novel. History. Dogs. A War. Gosh, no one ever sends me that kind of stuff. Oh wait. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet (although there are no dogs in that one.)

So novels with that intense emotional hook or connection. Check. Historical novels. Check. American based narrative mystery or crime nonfiction (a la Devil In The White City). I don’t do but check. Memoir. Check. And I learned a new term. Editors are looking for midstream mainstream. (i.e. Stuff in the Jodi Picoult realm where it’s ordinary people faced with extraordinary decisions about real problems).

Midstream mainstream. Try saying that 5 times fast! (I think I just call it upmarket commercial fiction.)

Okay, check.