What EXACTLY happens when you submit a book proposal to a publisher? INTERN spills all!
Step 1. Your manuscript arrives in Big Fancy Publishing Office*
Big Fancy Publishing Office is not as moneyed and luxurious as you might be imagining. We use regular whiteboards for which there are never enough or functional markers. We have the same assortment of humorous or titillating coffee mugs as any office. We do have a very nice leather couch which editors occasionally nap on, and a little altar thing with candles and incence and flowers and crystals and various voodoo contraptions.
INTERN is pretty sure this is a standard fixture, but who knows?
Step 2: The Editorial Assistant logs your manuscript.
The Editorial Assistant is a very bright, very pretty young woman who could easily be a brain surgeon or a supermodel or an astronaut, but instead she has elected to be here at the publishing house logging YOUR manuscript and either farming it out to the appropriate editor or tossing it to THE INTERN for appraisal. Her desk is closest to the door, and she has a way of stirring her iced coffee with a spoon that would send any male or female creature over the age of 12 into immediate and uncontrollable romantic conniptions.
Step 3: An editor or THE INTERN looks at your manuscript.
If your manuscript came in via an agent (a legitamate agent, not a phony agent—more on those some day) it will go to the editor whose area of specialty it falls under. That is, it will go to this editor's inbox, and she will read it as soon as she has a moment. The editors' offices are filled with books and decorative odds and ends and they seem to have a prediliction for pretzels, which (oddly) get delivered to our office is 40-gallon buckets.
If your ms was unsolicited, it will go in a big box. The Editorial Assistant might have a first pass through this box and pull out anything promising. THE INTERN spends most of her time going through this box as a form of occupational therapy. To help you imagine this scenario in better detail, INTERN will now reveal that most unsolicited ms-reading goes down on the aforementioned leather couch, where INTERN sits crosslegged eating cereal from a ziplock bag.
If a manuscript looks promising, or if it came from an agent and an Editor requests it, INTERN will fill out a Manuscript Assessment Report, which is basically a free-association poem explaining whether or not INTERN thinks the ms is worth a hill 'o' beans (fox, recoking, meander-thal warble duck).
If the ms is thoroughly bad—or more likely, simply unsuitable for our publishing house, INTERN will say as much on a wee post-it note and stick it to the ms. The Editorial Assistant or Editor obviously have the final word on all declines, but in general it doesn't take a genius to see that Aunt Greta's Road Safety Tips doesn't belong in, hypothetically, a publisher specializing in cookbooks.
Step 4 a) Perhaps your book is declined.
If we decline to take on your book, THE INTERN will personally sign a letter to you saying as much. Sometimes THE INTERN sneaks in a little comment, but sometimes all you get is that pseudonymous autograph, and a little sprinkling of INTERN germs to boot.
Step 4 b) Perhaps your book goes on to an editorial meeting.
An Editorial Meeting is a pow-wow where everyone sits around a big table and talks about their current or pending projects. Editorial Meetings are the high point in THE INTERN's life, because her rabbits ears/meaty-information radar are fully perked and there is so much juicy stuff to absorb it would cause this blog to self-destruct if she ever leaked the extent of it. THE INTERN gets excited for Editorial Meetings days in advance, and has trouble sleeping the night before one.
Everyone else thinks Editorial Meetings are a pain in the ass.
INTERN will tell more about what goes on in Editorial Meetings in a future post. For now she must run over to the kitchenette and make some of that nice green tea.