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The Submission Experience Part Two: Second Reads

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

Hello wonderful readers! Thank you all for your kind words about my new #SubmissionStats series! I hope that this entire series is helpful and informative to people on sub, about to go on sub, or looking forward to a day you will be on sub. The whole process is really confusing, and not at all transparent, so I'm hopeful that these will help shine a little light on the submission experience.


If you missed Part One: Going on Sub, you can read that HERE.


Today, I will be jumping into Part Two: Second Reads. This part is less complicated, so this will be a shorter post than last week, but this is probably the part that I knew the least about before going on sub myself. I had never even heard of second reads before an editor suddenly responded that they were taking a book to their team and my fantastic agent explained all about second reads (sometimes called "going to board") to me.



So you've gone out on sub. You've maybe received a few passes, maybe complete silence, maybe confirmations of receipt... it's all a mixed bag, really. But THEN, let's say that an editor you (read: your agent) subbed to falls in love with a project! HOORAY! That means it's practically sold, right??


Sadly, no. There are SO many more hoops to jump through. The most immediate of which is called "second reads" or "going to board." I had no idea, but even if an editor falls head over heels in love with a submission, they can't just take it to acquisitions. (Except for... sometimes, they can. This is true for some small publishers. But big publishers, most mid-sized publishers, and even some small publishers will have to go to second reads/boards first. We're talking about the vast majority here when we discuss second reads).


So before an editor can take your book to acquisitions (major details on this will come in part four of this series, but for now, the quick run-down of acquisitions is that it's the meeting where they decide for sure if they will or won't buy your book), they have to get their editorial team on board. Who this team is varies from publisher to publisher and imprint to imprint. But your editor will have a "team" who has to get on board with the project and fall just as in love with it as the editor did.


So they share the manuscript with their team. Sometimes, you will know if an editor is taking a book to second reads. And sometimes, you don't find out until after the fact. Let's take a look at some of the editor responses that landed in my agent's inbox and that she forwarded to me:


"I inhaled this one! Can I have two weeks to see if my team agrees?????"


On this one, we knew that the editor was moving the MS on to second reads. (Side note: "2 weeks" in publishing can mean 2 weeks or it might mean "an indefinite amount of time, so please be patient." ;) Remember, editors are people too, life happens, and they can't always get back when they think they will. And I promise, that is okay!)


Knowing that the editor is taking your book to second reads is SO exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. You just pray/hope/manifest/whatever-you-put into-the-universe that they will all love the book and head to the next hurdle.


But sometimes, you don't know that an editor took a book to second reads until you find out in a rejection or a notification that you're headed to acquisitions. Again, let's take a little peek into my inbox:


"The writing here is lovely, and I definitely hugely appreciate the message of this project, enough that I did take it to my team to discuss this past week, but we’ve decided to pass..."


"Alas, I'm going to have to pass on this one. I sent it around for second reads and unfortunately, didn't get enough enthusiasm from my team to feel confident going forward with the support I'd need. I'm sorry for the disappointing news."


These are hard emails to get. Because you know an editor loved the project, but couldn't get the same enthusiasm from the team. Really, really, really hard. But, onward! If one editor liked it, someone else surely will too, right?? RIGHT?? Well, that's the hope. But let's be real. This is publishing, so who knows what is going on in those circles. But this seems like a good time for me to remind everyone of my biggest take away from this industry... I FULLY believe that there is room for all of us in this field and the world needs YOUR books. No one else can write the words that you can in the way that you can. That's what's so amazing about this line of work. Literally, there is no one else who can do it like you can. So don't give up. Because you will find that yes!


Okay... once again, I digress. You will learn quickly if you follow my blog that I get off topic quickly and start talking about all the things, and then suddenly remember that I haven't answered the question... Yep.


SO... now let's take a look at the stats on this question from my #SubmissionStats. If you're new around here, you might not know that I surveyed 102 authors who have been on submission asking about their submission experience. Here is the response from my question about Second Reads:

"Have you ever had a book make it to second reads but not to acquisitions with that publisher?"


Only 56 of my survey takers responded to this question, but remember... you don't always know when you go to second reads, so keep that in mind. Of those, about 64% made it through second reads an on to acquisitions. About 36% had a pass after second reads. I've personally been in both groups. While I've made it through second reads a few times, I've also had a number of rejections in that step. So tough!


Let's take a look at some comments from those who responded to the submission stats survey:


"An editor can love your book and it still might not end up in a sale because the money people don’t think it’s easily marketable."


"It feels like chance plays almost as large a role as literary merit."


So friends, there you have it... quite frankly, it does feel like there's a lot of chance that goes into it. Will you find the right editor at the right time before they acquire a book in the same vein as yours??? So... do what you can do. Write a lot. A whole, whole lot. Revise and edit. Make the very best books you can. Find an agent who really knows their stuff and is sending to the right editors. And then cross all your fingers and hope that luck lines up with your hard, hard work.


Have you been to second reads? I'd love to hear more about your experience in the comments below!


I hope this all was clear. After second reads, one of three things will happen:


  1. The team also loved your book (hooray!) and you're off to acquisitions.

  2. The team did not get on board, and you get a rejection. (so hard!)

  3. The team liked it, but they want some substantial changes before they are willing to consider acquisitions.

That third option is what I will be covering next week: The Revise and Resubmit (R&R). It's going to be a doozy! Make sure that you are subscribed to my blog and follow me on Twitter so that you don't miss out on the next parts of this series.


And... before I let you go, have you heard about the new Kids' Choice KidLit Writing Contest? It's going to be epic!!



About Kailei Pew


Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and children's book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. Kailei's debut Middle Grade Book, KID MADE will be coming to you from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan Summer 2023





13 comments

13 Comments


Mary Beth Rice
Mary Beth Rice
Feb 06, 2023

Slowly digesting this series as an unpublished author. I appreciate the direct and practical information AND the encouragement through all of the information too. Thank you!

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Thanks for sharing, I had definitely not heard those terms before! If they said "the team", I would have assumed it was someone from marketing/etc. that had vetoed the project. I didn't realize they had a smaller team.

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Thank you all for sharing your great experiences!

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Love this series! Thanks for doing the legwork to demystify the process!!

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Replying to

Thanks so much for reading, Hollie!!

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Kaitlyn Sanchez
Kaitlyn Sanchez
Dec 08, 2021

Another great post! Congrats again on your wonderful success!

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Replying to

Thank you so much, my friend! And huge congrats to you and #TeamSanchez as well!!

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