Sprouting seeds

Photo by Flickr user amanda.

In acquisitions, the most common questions we get from writers who’ve submitted proposals or manuscripts is “how long until you decide?” or “is there anything I can do to speed up the evaluation process?” We know how excited writers are to have their project out in the world, potentially being chosen for publication, but this process takes longer than many people know, so here’s a breakdown of what happens after you submit your book to Ooligan and why it might be taking longer than you imagined to get an answer.

If you’ve made it past the query stage and submitted a proposal—about sixty pages of your manuscript—your project has entered the bottom of a pretty lengthy queue of submissions under evaluation. We try to keep our acquisitions process moving quickly, but during busy times of the academic term, or if a project is coming up for pitch, our evaluators often have other work on their plates and evaluations take a back seat for a week or two. We also require that two evaluators decide the same outcome on a proposal (either closed rejection, open rejection, or requesting a full manuscript for further evaluation) before we take the next step. Sometimes the first two evaluators agree, and sometimes rounds of tiebreakers are necessary.

If we request your full manuscript, your project enters the bottom of a much shorter queue, but the evaluations now take longer. Manuscript evaluations require two weeks of work from students, who provide a thorough analysis of not only the potential of your book but the foundation for market research and developmental editing requirements. Not as many students have the hours to provide for this stage, or they haven’t taken the course we require to ensure your submissions are reviewed by students who fully understand the editorial process. This stage again requires two evaluators to agree on the next step—rejection or developmental editing.

If your book moves to developmental editing, one to three experienced students get three weeks to review your manuscript and submit a letter with developmental suggestions. (We usually only have one to two books going at a time.) If evaluations are completed concurrently, the process takes about a month when you factor in the managers’ time to review and combine the letters. If not, it can take a few months. When we submit the developmental letter to you, the writer, we don’t like to put deadlines on your revision process because this can be a difficult editing stage. And when you do return your revisions, we often put the manuscript through another round of developmental editing with the same or different students. One book we recently acquired went through two rounds of development that took a year, but the project is better for it. It helped us get the book to a stage where we could prove to the press that it was a good acquisition that fit our mission and the author was responsive to the editing process.

After developmental editing there’s still the pitching stage, where acquisitions managers present the project to the press for a yes or no vote on whether to acquire it. The research and preparation of this stage takes one to two months, and there’s no guarantee the press will vote yes, though we do our best to present projects that reach this stage as solid cases for acquisition.

Here’s a breakdown of the time between submission and project publication date for four titles acquired by Ooligan in the past year:

  • Siblings and Other Disappointments by Kait Heacock: Proposal submitted January 2014, publication scheduled for fall 2016.
  • Seven Stitches by Ruth Tenzer Feldman (third in a trilogy published by Ooligan): Manuscript submitted September 2015, publication scheduled for winter 2017.
  • Untitled adult novel by Brian Friesen: Proposal submitted June 2014, publication scheduled for spring 2017.
  • Untitled young adult novel by Meagan Macvie: Proposal submitted February 2016, publication scheduled for fall 2017.

We know this lengthy process can be frustrating after you’ve released your much-loved manuscript into the world, but we take our time on evaluations to ensure we’re giving each submission its due. Your idea was the seed, your completed manuscript is the sprout that’s broken loose of the ground, and it takes a while before it grows into a full plant—but rest assured, we’re working behind the scenes to support that growth.

Leave a Reply