Debut Author Anna Banks on the Submission Process

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 SHIT guest is Anna Banks, whose debut novel THE GIFT OF POSEIDON is coming from Fiewel & Friends, Spring 2012. Anna is represented by Lucy Carson of the Friedrich Agency.

Anna grew up in a Florida town called Niceville (Seriously. Google it.). The youngest of 7 children, you can believe she was spoiled rottener-than-most. She now lives with her husband and nine year old daughter in the Florida Panhandle, not far from where she was spoiled. In her spare time Anna likes to write, eat Reese cups, or both. She would rather give birth to a stingray than exercise, and if you put chocolate in front of her then you must not have wanted it in the first place.

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

Honestly, not much. Lucy (my 007 agent) and I had a phone conversation in which she tried, bless her wittle heart, to prep me for what was to come. She asked me if I was familiar with the Big Six, and I was, but I said, “Uh, no,” because what if the Big Six had changed since last time I checked, right? That would make me look pretty stinking stupid to my shiny new agent. 

Then she said things like “first round” and “second round” and it started to occur to me that even though I have an agent, she might not be able to sell the book (but uh, I’ll have to see that to believe it). Sure, we all KNOW this in the back of our minds, but we don’t really believe it until our agent says, “Now, if no one from our first round picks it up, these are the second round choices I have in mind. But don’t worry, I’m very confident we won’t make it to round two.” 

This gives you a taste of reality, because up until this point, you’re still completely stoked that you got an offer of rep, and because of said offer of rep, you kinda sorta think you’ve already made it. You haven’t. There is more agony waiting for you.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

Yes. The bigger houses have smaller imprints which specialize in certain genres like sci-fi, YA, mystery, etc. (I already knew this part, thankyouverymuch) BUT they are not necessarily all on the same team. I mean, they are in the end, but some houses allow an agent to submit to all their imprints, and if they all want it, they allow their imprints to fight over your manuscript! Some houses don’t allow it, but some do! It’s like allowing a food fight at the dinner table, for crying out loud. Not that it wouldn’t be fun… 

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

No, I didn’t research any of them. Okay, yes I did. We’re all in the habit of researching agents to put on our submission wish-list, right? It seemed natural to research editors too. 

I’m not sure I’d recommend it though, because it doesn’t help a cotton-picking thing—and it makes you more anxious, as if that were possible. Your agent knows who would be right for your book, and it’s your agent’s job to talk it up and sell it. Your agent knows this business better than any Google session, so trust her to do her job. In the meantime, do YOUR job—which is write!  

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

I don’t know, and I think it’s partly because if the MS was rejected, Lucy didn’t tell me. It seems counter-intuitive to not want to know every little detail about what’s going on in NYC, but I think this is a good strategy on her part. I remember how I felt with each rejection on just my query letter. Rejection would have eaten me alive at that point in the game and I think if there were rejections, Lucy must have kept them to herself. I know that if there were too many, or if the rejections came back with the same reasons for passing, she would have wanted to have a pow wow about it to re-group and possibly suggest some revisions. 

That said, and please do not throw tomatoes at me, we received an offer within two weeks of being on submission. The editor wanted to preempt it, which means that she wanted to know what it would take to get the MS off the table at other houses, without having to go to auction.  

Yes, I realize how crazy that is. I still say, “Did that really just happen?” quite often.

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

Write, of course! And eat fried things. Lots of them, so you’re so grossly sick that you don’t think about being on submission, or you succumb to scrumptious sleep.

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

I was at work when Lucy emailed me the offer (my email goes straight to my cell phone). I sat there with my mouth hanging open until my boss became aware of an eerie, non-productive silence coming from the vicinity of my desk. Then I told her “Ohmygod!” I must have also told her about the offer, but I don’t remember any coherent sentences in there anywhere... 

Then Lucy was suddenly calling my cell. She was all like, “Did you get my email?” I say, “Uh huh.” She laughs, which was generous of her, because I really should have called her right away.  Then she delves right into explaining all the neat things I need to know in order to make an informed decision. (Which, with Jean Feiwel being the offering editor, was a no brainer, people. Ever heard of The Babysitter’s Club series? Yup, that was her. Jean Feiwel practically raised me, no wonder she loved my writing!). 

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

I only had to wait a day until I was absolutely sure Lucy had notified Feiwel and Friends of our acceptance. Lucy had already ironed out the details prior to emailing me with the offer. (You see how she operates? Nothing…nothing…nothing…BAM! Fully negotiated offer.) Then you couldn’t shut me up. Still can’t, actually…