Onward, still, you must go. Continue to write. Work on a new book. Get distracted by your next adventure. And please for the love of all that is Holy do not send an e-mail that begins with "so I've been thinking of more places to submit ... "
For one thing, the submission list is your agents job. If you don't have faith in it, if you truly believe your agent is not submitting the book properly, take a moment to re-evaluate your professional relationship. And as you reevaluate, consider that submitting to enough houses isn't nearly as important as submitting a book to the right houses.
There is a system that goes into a submission list. A fine cocktail of gut, research, relationships and knowledge of the market, genres, people and publishing house structures. The system, at least my own, is not "send to every publishing house that exists and hope someone wants this."
Why not? Like, if you're trying to sell a book why not send to every possible house?
Well, not every house is a good house. Some of have miserable contracts. Miserable people. They want all your rights. They don't have a distributor. They don't negotiate. They won't pay you anything. Let us not work for free, folks. It is better to go unpublished than to be published badly. I promise.
Second, not every house might be right for your particular book, and trying to force a fit I know won't work would make me look like I don't know what I'm doing. For example, at least once a week I get a query from someone who wants me to sell their picture book despite a very public "no picture book" policy. I think to myself this guy really doesn't get it, huh? Trying to send a genre sci-fi novel to an imprint that chiefly publishes literary fiction means that an editor reads my pitch and thinks this girl really doesn't get it. THIS IS BAD. And it doesn't get you any closer to a sale.
so you just submit to, like, five people and that's it?
well, if your book was only ever going to work for those five people, maybe. But it's not a fixed game with a set expiration, it's more about diminishing returns and using your time and energy wisely.
When I'm getting "no's" from the 30th and 40th houses, I say your time is better spent on a new project than on researching more places to send this book. If you're e-mailing at midnight, my hope is that you've been inspired, not that you've been stalking publishers marketplace and you're like "we could totally send this to Orbit because this person bought this one book in 2009!"
so I'm not allowed to have an opinion on my own list? Or ask questions? or make suggestions about it?
You totally totally are! Opinions, questions, and suggestions are all fine, particularly in the beginning. Commands are not. A list of opinions, suggestions, and questions I've received from people that have totally not miffed me:
"You know which editor I have always admired and like? That Kate at [insert house]."
"Do you think Jen would be good? She bought these two other books and I feel like mine is kind of similar?"
"I read this article about this really cool indie house called two-dollar radio. Do you know them? Are they legit? Would they work?"
and "So, I know it's already out withI've been thinking. How about you go to: W, X, Y, and Z" That is something that I'd totally consider. I wouldn't be miffed at all by that. I couldn't guarantee it would happen (Kate might have moved or she's not looking for boy books or she just bought something really similar), but I'd investigate.
I am all about moving forward. Dory, from Finding Nemo is a philosophical hero of mine. "Just Keep Swimming. Just keep swimming." Seriously. Do. Keep moving forward. Don't just tread water.
Caveat: If you read a cool article about a little publishing house like two-dollar radio that seems indie and smart or you picked up an interesting graphic novel from a Canadian publishing house called Drawn & Quarterly and you're like "Hey, Victoria, just curious if you've heard of two-dollar radio or Drawn & Quarterly. What do you think? Would they like my book?" I'm alright with that. But please don't send your agent an actual submission list.