(This is more of a general purpose post than one that’s specifically applicable to First Second. Because we’ve only got two people on staff who edit books, there’s not as much of a hierarchy here than there is at a lot of other publishers.)
When you’re submitting a project to a publisher, it’s hard to resist going straight to the top — looking at the publisher staff masthead and going, ‘this person in slot #1 is the person to send the manuscript to because they are the coolest and most important!’
But: it’s not always the best to send your manuscript directly to the publisher (or the editorial director) of a company.
Publishers are busy! As well as reading new manuscripts, publishers can typically be found (not in priority order):
Figuring out the budget for the next calendar year
Making sure that the company budget is on track month-to-month
Keeping up with industry developments to make sure their company is on the forefront of any digital or intellectual revolution
Liasing with all the departments in their company to make sure all the books they’re publishing are being edited, designed, produced, marketed, and sold in the best possible way
Making sure that the company is operating in a green-friendly way
Making sure that all the staff at the company are happy with their jobs
Keeping in touch with the thousands of authors they’ve worked with for the past 20 years and making sure that they’re getting new proposals from them all
Editing the books they’re working on with the thousands of authors they’ve worked with for the past 20 years
Keeping up friendly relations with other people throughout the book industry they’ve worked with for the past 20 years — teachers, librarians, agents, etc.
Solving all the problems that everyone else at the company has and needs another opinion on
When a publisher is occupied with all of that — and more — it can be difficult for a new author (especially one who doesn’t have an agent) to get her attention, no matter how enticing the book project!
Checking a publisher masthead for Associate Editors and Editors may be a better bet as far as finding someone whose #1 priority is finding new authors and acquiring new books (okay, maybe it’s #2 or #3, because they still have to edit their already-acquired books and keep in touch with authors they know to make sure they’re getting new proposals from them).