Monday, April 30, 2007

Fiction Free-for-all

One of our blogees posted a menagerie of questions concerning the acquisitions process last week, so I'll take a stab at making some sense of the insane. . .

Paige asked: How do you organize everything? Do you keep electronic files of submissions, sorted by folder, or are you buried under stacks of paper that you print out.

Susan says: Short answer=Yes. Yes. And Yes.

We each have our own ways of handling submissions, but here's mine. I have two separate e-file systems for all incoming proposals. First, I create alphabetized folders by author's name in my Outlook program. Every received/sent e-mail is saved in this folder.

I also have an alphabetized computer-document filing system stored under "My Documents," which is broken down into three main categories--CONTRACTED, UNDER CONSIDERATION, and REJECTED. Those authors files that are under the Contracted category include PDF file copies of their contracts, author photos, and all versions of the contracted manuscripts from first submission through the various editing stages.

In addition to these e-files, I keep a NON-electronic, plain ol' manila file folder for each contracted work in my office filing cabinet. This includes a print out of all incoming contracted manuscripts, which I use for my initial read-through of the complete story. I make notes to myself in the margins and keep these on hand until the project comes out in print.

As far as proposals in my Under Consideration category. . .if I can tell by a quick glance that this project doesn't meet my needs, it will go directly into my Rejected e-files. If I see something that piques my interest, and I think an incoming proposal shows potential, I will print off a hard copy so I can give the project a more in-depth look. On occasion, I will rank the proposals I have on hand in order of strongest candidates to weakest. Often, it's not a matter of the craftsmanship of one being better than the other so much as it comes down to a particular story trait that fits well with the other stories in the cycle I'm scheduling. (For example, I don't want to schedule four stories set in Texas in the same cycle. I look for a good balance of settings.) I try to give the author at least eight months between time of contracting and manuscript deadline.

When an unsolicited proposal first arrives in my In box, I try to send an immediate form response, letting the author know that the project was received. I invite the author to send a follow-up e-inquiry as to my progress if she's not heard from me within four months or so. Since the delayed launch of the mystery book club, however, I'm still holding for consideration a stack of three dozen or so proposals I received up to a year ago now. I just hate to let the little darlings go! (I suppose, though, when the stacks start to wobble and fall, for safety's sake, it'll be time to send them back to their mommies.)

Boy howdy, I'm afraid I've muddied the waters rather than cleared them. Feel free to shoot back more questions if I can clarify my review process in any way. I'll save the scheduling questions for next time around.

Until next time,



The Write Life said...


Thank you for answering my questions! Your post was actually very clear and easy to understand. I'm more impressed than ever at how you all juggle the projects on hand.

Thank you for taking the time to give such an in-depth explanation of how the process works. Technology is amazing, huh? And your ability to USE that technology in such a way, to keep organized, is even more amazing!

I know others will appreciate and find this information useful, too.


Rhonda said...

Thanks Susan... I find it interesting to see how the process works. I agree with Paige, your post is clear and easy to understand.