I pitched a property of mine to a publishing house the other day. There were three acquisitions editors working there--it's a small house. The first editor never responded. The second responded, saying she wasn't interested. My proposal wasn't something that the publisher believed it could successfully market. The third editor loved it, wanted more information pronto, and was determined to pitch it at her editorial board meeting the following morning.
Needless to say, I was ecstatic.
Not needless to say, the wind from my sails evaporated when the third editor wrote me to say that she understood I had sent my pitch to another editor at that house, and that I shouldn't have done that. By querying two (or, had she known, three) editors there, I had merely wasted the time of one of the editors. In the future, would I kindly query one of their editors only?
She went on to say that, if I didn't know which of the editors to query, I should query one of them to find out who might be an appropriate editor to target.
All of this makes perfect sense, if you're living in an alternative universe. I mean, had I queried only Editor ONE, I wouldn't have heard back at all. Had I queried (by some throw of the darts, I guess) only Editor TWO, I would have gotten turned down for querying a property that the publisher wasn't interested in.
As it turns out, I queried three editors, one of whom actually wanted to pitch the property to her board and make an offer on it. That's something I almost certainly would have missed out on had I not queried all three editors working there.
My reason for bringing all of this up is two-fold. One, editors are not always on top of things. They don't always have the "best" or "sharpest" perspective on what's going on in publishing. Two, some editors really don't care about the property, about getting a quality author published, or about bringing a quality work to the public's attention. What Editor THREE was telling me, in effect, was to throw the dart and take my chances. If I had picked Editor THREE for my "one-and-only" targeted query, I would have hit the bullseye. If I had picked either of the other two, I would have missed by a mile…and my book quite possible might never have seen the light of day.
The moral of this story? Do what's right for you. Don't be obnoxious (sadly, far too many writers are). Don't ignore editorial requirements. Don't do things contrary to industry norms.
But when you find an editor making editorial demands that are contradictory to industry norms--in this case, querying only one editor at a house--do what your heart and your head dictate.
Might you tick off an editor who told you only a few months ago not to submit queries to multiple editors at that house? Absolutely.
Is it worth the risk of doing so?
You tell me.
In the meantime...
Smoke if you got 'em.
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