Alexandra Ott On Continuing to Write While On Submission

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different. I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.


Today's guest for the SHIT is Alexandra Ott, author of RULES FOR THIEVES, from Aladdin (Simon and Schuster). She graduated from the University of Tulsa with a BA in English and is currently an editorial intern at Entangled Publishing.  In her spare time, she plays the flute, eats a lot of chocolate, and reads just about everything. She lives in Oklahoma with her tiny canine overlord.

How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

I had a basic understanding of the process; at the time, I’d been interning at a publishing company for about 6 months, so I knew a little about what acquisition is like on the editor’s side of things. But it was a completely different experience to actually go on sub myself!

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I was actually surprised by how quickly the process went! I knew that it could take a year or more, so I tried to prepare myself for a long wait. I didn’t even consider the possibility that we might get an offer after only a few months, but we did!

Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

I did look up a few of the editors at first, but I stopped pretty quickly. Imagining those editors reading my manuscript made me too nervous. Personally, I found it less nerve-wracking to try and focus on other things.

What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

It really varied, but I think the majority of the responses came in around the two month mark. Since we received an offer relatively quickly, my agent had to nudge quite a few of the editors we hadn’t heard from yet; I don’t know how long it would have taken otherwise.

What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

Work on the next project, if you can. I ended up finishing a draft of a novel that’s very different from the one on sub, which helped me to focus on something else. I also highly recommend leaning on your critique partners for support!

If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?

For the most part, I found it much easier than querying. I asked my agent not to share the actual rejection emails with me, which helped a lot. There was one rejection in particular that was very disappointing, but I didn’t have much time to get too discouraged, because we received an offer soon afterward. :)

When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?

It was so surreal. My agent emailed the offer to me right away. I wasn’t expecting an offer to pop up in my inbox, but it was a great surprise! At first I didn’t believe it was real.

Did you haveI to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?

Yes, I had to wait several months while the contract was negotiated before the deal was announced. At the time it felt agonizing, because I didn’t know how long the wait was going to be and I was so excited to share the news! But in hindsight, it could have been a much, much longer wait; I was incredibly lucky to have both the submission process and the contract negotiation go quickly. :)