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Should I submit to a particular editor?

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I have something I would like to submit and am trying to do some research to figure out where to send it. I notice that the CWIM lists the names of editors, and there seem to be many resources to follow the comings and goings of editors at various houses.

So I'm wondering, 1) should I (somehow?) research which books were edited by whom and then attempt to target a particular editor at a particular house, or is it enough just to target the house? and 2) if I'm not actually targeting a particular person, should I use an editor's name (as listed in the CWIM) on my envelope and cover letter or simply send my book addressed to "Dear Editor" and leave it at that?

Thanks!
Carrie
#1 - January 07, 2011, 01:24 PM
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Well, first you need to make sure that the houses you're interested in take unsolicited submissions...many are closed even to queries, much less partial or full submissions.

Once you've got that researched and you have houses that you think would be a good match, then double-check their submission guidelines--some have queries and submissions sent to a central source, while others permit a more targeted process.  To research what books are edited by which editors, a trip to a bookstore is helpful (as authors often thank their editors in dedications or acknowledgements) or pay for a few month of Publishers Marketplace.
#2 - January 07, 2011, 01:43 PM
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Harold Underdown has a great blog entry on this very question here:
http://www.underdown.org/editors-names.htm

good luck with your submission!
Amy
#3 - January 07, 2011, 02:27 PM
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Carrie, it's a dilemma.  Someone (I think it was Harold Underdown) said that if we authors don't know an editor directly, like from a conference, then we shouldn't address our subs/queries to one in particular, especially if the publisher's guidelines say to send to someone generic (such as Acquisitions Editor).  Advice from lots of other places has said it's better to send to a specific editor.  So, it's hard to know.  I usually try to find a specific editor to send to.

In either case, you're right to research to see if your manuscript would be a good fit.  Your submission is a stronger submission if you can say at least a sentence or two about why you are subbing to that particular house or editor.  The editor who reads it then knows that you're not just mass mailing your ms to anybody and everybody, but that you've been professional enough to do the research and find out where it might fit.  That way you're respecting their time, not wasting it with a useless sub, and aren't needlessly adding to their slush pile.

When an editor gave a positive critique of a query of mine at a conference, one of the things she commented on favorably was the section on why I was submitting to that editor--so, yes, they do care about that.

And yes, Marissa, has given you good advice.

Best wishes on your submissions!

P.S. I see Amy has posted while I was writing and given you Harold's link.  Great!
#4 - January 07, 2011, 02:44 PM

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Thanks for the input. I just read Harold's article and one key point hit home with me. He said, "the work time spent researching the editor is time not spent writing." I think that is exactly what is bothering me about this whole process -- I have extremely limited time for writing as it is and to spend it figuring out the name of a particular editor and their probable tastes, which may or may not be accurate (or may or may not even be with the company by the time my manuscript gets read) is not the way I want to be spending my time. So. I will spend more time researching to find the houses, and possibly editors, who might be a good fit for my book, but now feel free to end my search when I've reached a point of diminishing return.

Thanks, all!

Carrie
#5 - January 07, 2011, 05:19 PM
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Thanks for the input. I just read Harold's article and one key point hit home with me. He said, "the work time spent researching the editor is time not spent writing." I think that is exactly what is bothering me about this whole process -- I have extremely limited time for writing as it is and to spend it figuring out the name of a particular editor and their probable tastes, which may or may not be accurate (or may or may not even be with the company by the time my manuscript gets read) is not the way I want to be spending my time.

Only you can decide, and I don't mean to contradict Harold, who certainly knows from his side of the process -- but I will say that the longer I'm in this business, and the more editors (and agents) I meet in person, the more critical I really believe that research process is. It's not THAT time-consuming to Google an editor's name and read the (usually multiple) blog interviews of them, where they give away all SORTS of useful information about themselves, their tastes, their preferences, and their likely work and communication styles. Not to mention Facebook and Twitter insights.

I wouldn't DREAM of sending a manuscript now for which I hadn't done literally hours of research on the target. Compared to submitting to people who aren't going to be right, and waiting eons to hear back from them (if at all), I think it's time very well spent. (And frankly, if you can't make time to do this research before acceptance, how will you make time to do promotion after?)
#6 - January 07, 2011, 06:36 PM
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I didn't mean to imply that I don't want (or have time) to do basic research. I would consider Googling an editor's name and looking at the publisher's catalog, website, and most recently published books to be basic research. What I'm trying to figure out is how to strike a balance between a basic amount of research and an exhaustive amount of research. I would consider an exhaustive amount of research to be, for example, going to the library and reading every back issue of Publisher's Weekly for the last year to see if there is any mention of a particular editor's name, or going to multiple bookstores to examine the dedication pages of new books to see if an editor was thanked -- and from that information trying to piece together that editor's potential likes and dislikes. If it were absolutely necessary, I could do that research but I'm not convinced it is absolutely necessary. That is, if that basic research is going to get me 80% of the way there, I think I'm going to have to say that is close enough for me, right now.

As for finding the time for promotion...I'd be happy to have that problem.  :) Thanks for your faith in me!

Carrie
#7 - January 08, 2011, 06:03 AM
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I just want to jump in (and thanks, Amy, for posting the link to my article) to say that there's research, and then there's research. The research that you should be doing all the time, reading about our business, sopping up information about publishers and editors and agents, is the research that will over time give you a grasp of where to go with a particular manuscript. Research you do when you want to send out a manuscript should have some limits. Are you digging around to find names, names of people you don't know? Then I don't see much value in that.

Why? Because a little knowledge can mislead you. Let's say that you have a picture book manuscript. You find the name of a particular editor at a particular publisher who looks at unsolicited manuscripts. So you send off the manuscript to that person. But you didn't know that that editor mostly edits novels and nonfiction. And so a few months later the ms. comes straight back to you.

I know that a lot of people say to put a particular editor's name on a submission if you can find one. But I can tell you from my in-house experience that if you don't know the editor (meaning the editor also doesn't know YOU, and won't recognize your name), your manuscript will at best be treated as general slush, and at worst may be rejected as in the scenario above--where if you had addressed it to the "acquisitions editor" you might have received a more sympathetic reading.

And so, yes, keep learning and getting to know people, but don't overdo the research, don't claim a connection you don't have. And give yourself time to write.
#8 - January 08, 2011, 07:51 AM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

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