7.1 ON SUBMISSION TO PUBLISHERS: MAZ EVANS
YOU’RE AN AGENTED WRITER!!!
This is a feat worthy of all the champagne, capital letters and exclamation marks! You’ve taken a massive step up the publication mountain – and now you’ve got someone else to help carry your bags. Well done!
However… the mountain still looms large in front of you. Every stage of this process comes with its own glacial, anxiety-poking moments and you are about to embark on one of the bigger ones: submission.
Agents differ wildly in their editorial contribution to writers – some are very hands-on, others not so much. But the likelihood is that however much they love your MS, they will ask you do to some work on it – even if it is just producing pitch and synopsis documents, especially if you envisage your book as a series.
But once you’ve agreed the MS, it is over to them. A good agent will hopefully have prepared the ground with publishers for this exciting new project they have coming their way. Some agents might target certain publishers they think will be keen, others might maximise the odds by sending your book out more widely. But it’s out there and now… you have to wait.
Waiting is an essential part of the publishing process and the one certainly I have struggled with the most. Publishers are busy people and even having passed the agent gatekeepers, your book still has to compete with many others for their attention. Try to find something else to fill your days while you wait. You’ll still check your email every 30 seconds, but at least you’ll spend the other 29 doing something useful.
This part of the process is as unique as the book you have written, but very broadly, there are four likely outcomes from submission:
Your book doesn’t sell
- Let’s just get this one out the way. You’ve done all that work, you’ve had your hopes raised super high, you’ve already mentally bought your yacht. But publishing isn’t on board. This is everything from disappointing to devastating and there isn’t much softening this blow. BUT – you’ve got an agent who believes in your talent. Maybe the book needs something else. Maybe you need something else. But once you’ve railed against the universe, pick yourself up and carry on. The difference between the amateur and the professional? The professional kept going. You’ve got this.
A publisher loves your book
One of the publishers on your agent’s list gets back and is interested – HURRAH!!! The next stage is usually a meeting where you’ll chat about how you would work together, what editorial they see is needed, how they would position and market your book. This is no guarantee of a deal – either side might not feel that they can go forward together. But hopefully all are on the same page (boom, tish) and an offer will be forthcoming. If there’s only one publisher in the race, your agent has limited negotiating power, but they will work to get the very best deal for you.
Multiple publishers love your book
Well now it’s GAME ON!! You will still have the meeting as before – but this time they are trying to woo you from the others! You now have to decide with whom you click best and who shares your vision of what you want your book to be. Your agent will then oversee an auction, where publishers will bid for your work. You don’t have to take the highest offer – you take the one that works best for you. Advances are tempting and necessary – but ultimately you want to choose the people who you want to work with. This is a long relationship – trust your gut.
At least one publisher loves your book so much they don’t want anyone else to have it
- Well now this is an interesting one. Someone has read your book, got straight on the phone to your agent and just has to have it! They want it so badly, they are prepared to offer an advance to take it off the table RIGHT NOW! This is called a pre-empt. Now you have a choice to make – bird in the hand or the potential Puffins/Penguins in the bush… ? If one publisher is prepared to offer this much, will others offer more? Or if you let this offer go, will you see the like of it again? Your agent and you have some conversations to have – listen to their experience and expertise. And your gut. And hope they are saying the same thing!
There are any number of combinations of some or all of these things that can happen, but this covers the main likely bases. The main thing is to keep your business head on at all times. Take all the advice and time you need – this is a massive commitment and deserves your full confidence. Whatever happens, you are on your way – and should feel incredibly proud of that massive achievement.
Maz’s debut children’s novel Who Let the Gods Out was published by Chicken House in February 2017 and was selected as the Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month. It entered the bestseller charts on its first week on sale, has sold to 18 countries worldwide and has received over 20 award nominations, including the Carnegie Medal, Branford Boase, Books Are My Bag and Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Year.
The sequel, Simply the Quest was published in August 2017, Beyond the Odyssey in April 2018 and Against All Gods in February 2019. Maz also narrates the audiobooks for the series.
Her acclaimed creative writing events have featured at Hay, Imagine, Edinburgh, Bath, Cheltenham, Latitude, Wilderness and many other literary festivals and primary schools around the UK.
Maz began her career as a TV journalist, critiquing for The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Sun, and TV Times magazine and she still regularly broadcasts her views on anything from politics to parenthood on BBC Radio 2, BBC News, BBC Radio 4, Five Live and the bus. Maz has participated in the Casualty and Holby City BBC shadow schemes and her children’s poetry has been published in Caterpillar magazine.
Maz is much in demand as a comedy book and lyrics writer for the stage. Her original musical H. R. HAITCH, with composer Luke Bateman, was produced by Iris Theatre at the Union Theatre, London in 2018. She has previously had shows produced at the Actors’ Church Covent Garden, Southend Palace Theatre and Bryanston Arts Centre. Her cabaret songs are regularly performed in the West End and beyond.
As a songwriter, Maz has won the Iris Theatre Work in Process songwriting award three years in succession (with composer Luke Bateman). As a scriptwriter, she won thescriptwriter.co.uk scriptwriting competition and a place in Philip Shelley’s Advanced Mentoring Lab at the London Screenwriters’ Festival. She was also shortlisted for the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum and the Scriptangel contest. As an author, she has won the hearts of thousands of children and as a nuclear physicist, she has been completely rubbish.
Maz also runs our MG Mentoring course.