One of the things I enjoyed best about the Highlights Foundation workshop was that the focus was on creating, taught by creators.  Sometimes focusing too much on submissions and publication can get in the way of allowing creativity to flow.

However, on the evening of our last dinner, Boyds Mills Press Executive Editor Liz Van Doren talked with us informally about the submission process.

She likened receiving a submission as an invitation to go on a date.  Nobody goes on a first date hoping they’ll never want to see the person again.  There’s always the hope that the first date will be enjoyable enough to go on a second date.  In other words, she doesn’t look at submissions with a goal of rejection, but always with a hope of a spark – one that might lead to a match.

She’s looking for an answer to the question, “Do I want to take this manuscript out on a second date?”  If so, she would then contact the author and they would begin a discussion.

Liz said she then has to decide if she loves that manuscript enough to marry it, because that is akin to the kind of commitment she needs to make to bring that book into the world. From seeing the manuscript for the first time to the book hitting the shelves, publishing a book takes three to five years.  In that span of time, an editor will probably read the manuscript more than 100 times.  S/he will defend that manuscript in editorial and sales meetings, and do everything in his/her power to ensure it is successful.  If the love isn’t there, the book will suffer.

We as writers need to remember that just as two perfectly great people might meet and not end up marrying, so too can great manuscripts get rejected by an agent or editor who just doesn’t have “that lovin’ feeling.”

Here’s an even more important question to ask.  Do YOU want to marry your manuscript?  If not, it’s probably best to just “be friends” with it and move on to a manuscript that is marriage material.  Because as much as an editor ultimately has to love it, the writer has to love it even more.  The writer has to be so smitten and determined that s/he will go to the ends of the earth (and then some) to find that manuscript’s soul mate.

The writer’s relationship to the manuscript begins with the first draft.  Add to that the number of years it takes to find its home, THEN add the 3-5 years to publication, and THEN add at least a couple of years of marketing and promotion, countless numbers of readings in various venues and the fact that you will forever be connected to that book.

So, are you ready to say, “I DO?”

Categories: Books, Children's Books, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, Queries, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



  1. YES! A thousand times yes! 🙂

  2. I’m glad I can change a manuscript to make it marriage-material (although when you put it that way, no, I’m not ready to marry it yet–drat!). Don’t really have that option with a potential spouse. 😉

  3. You had me at Highlights! lol Great post

  4. Yup, I wanna marry mine… but of course I’m nervous that no one else will feel the same way!

  5. That is a great question. I’m ready to marry my novel and couple of picture books, but the rest not so much.

  6. Thanks for sharing the knowledge you gained from the retreat. Love the “Dating/Marriage” concept. Right now, me and my manuscript are in the early stages of dating…when everything is fine and dandy. But that’s blind love. I think I’ll need my “space” for a while and see if it’s still meant to be.

  7. Elizabeth Stevens Omlor

    Love this post! 🙂

  8. Well, this brings a whole new perspective to our work, doesn’t it? I guess I never looked at it that way but it sure makes sense. Great post! 🙂

  9. I love thinking about one’s story as a relationship. When I read this earlier, I was struggling with my birthday entry for Susanna. I’m thinking I don’t want to marry this drafty, draft. We’ll just be friends for now.

  10. Love the way to described the publishing process Julie. It makes so much sense. And that is why I do not wish to traditionally publish. The process frustrates me. Too bureaucratic for me. Shoot me now, but I think I’ll be heading for Indy publishing. LOL! 🙂

  11. Great analogy, Julie! Aren’t the people at Highlight’s and Boyds Mills wonderful!

  12. I love the analogy. I have more than one manuscript that I would like to marry! But, then I have some that I should probably quit dating! Thanks for this new perspective!

  13. I love this post! It’s so true. I always kind of suspected, knew about, and understood the secret love affair necessary between a ms and an editor or agent. But I hadn’t thought about it from the writer’s perspective. Hmmm… Something to really think about while deciding on which idea to turn into the next ms. Thanks!

  14. Thanks for sharing. A lot to think about. Yes I want the relationship. We certainly have to improve our craft if we have hopes of making it to the alter.

  15. Great analogy! Thanks for sharing, Julie! I hope my manuscripts meet that special someone!!

  16. Wonderful analogy, Julie. It’s a great point that editors and agents are looking for a connection, not a rejection.

  17. Cute analogy – although I’m now wondering how many of us are polygamists? 🙂

    Where it doesn’t quite work for me is that there’s not an agent or editor for every ms, sadly. But I do believe there’s someone for everyone (every ms) in indie-land. 😀

  18. Rather shyly I will say, I love some of my stories. Love them enough to move them away from the nay sayers. Revisit them, when I have my doubts. They tell me “Yes” they are good stories. They are fun stories. They are – “I’ll always treasure you”stories.

  19. I loved this post almost as much as I love my manuscript 🙂 And I do want to marry my manuscript.

  20. What a wonderful post! I’ve always wanted to go to one of the Highlights workshops. Sounds like it was great!


  21. Great post, Julie. Very good way to look at this situation. Thanks!

  22. Hey Julie—Glad you enjoyed the HF workshop so much. Thanks for sharing this. I think it’s an apt metaphor. Not only does it help us understand better the whole process of finding the right fit—-it also helps to think about how much we want to invest in our current projects. Especially if you have a lot of them! Currently I’m in love with one project and on the fence about the other. I’m trying to get off the fence, though, and back into a place where I feel I can commit to it. But there are always ups and downs in any “manuscript relationship.” 🙂

  23. Great analogy, but a little terrifying! My struggle with commitment shines not only in my dating life, but in the heaps of first drafts I have that didn’t make a second date. Fortunately I’ve still got a pretty strong crush on a few of them 🙂
    Happy belated birthday!

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