Debut Author Anne Brown's Submission Journey

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 is Anne Brown who is represented by Jacqueline Flynn of Joëlle Delbourgo Associates, Inc. Her debut YA novel focuses on Calder White, the only brother in a dysfunctional family of murderous mermaids beneath the waters of Lake Superior. The sisters are obsessed with killing Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother's death. To lure Hancock onto the lake, the mermaids charge Calder with the task of seducing the man's daughter, seventeen-year-old Lily. LIES BENEATH will be published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, in June 2012.

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

Very little. I had been all consumed with the process of getting an agent and never allowed myself to think too far ahead. Getting an agent took me a couple years to accomplish. Part of my problem was that I have a MG/YA voice, and I was trying to write adult, literary fiction. Once I figured out what I was best at, it didn’t take too much longer to find an agent who liked a MG manuscript I wrote (my third novel). I felt like “Mission Accomplished!” Once an agent liked me, getting a publishing house to buy the book had to be a piece of cake, right? Not so much.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I was pretty surprised by how slow the publishing process works in general. Actually, I’m still surprised by it. I’m a “get it done yesterday” kind of person. So it was hard for me to get used to the weeks (if not months) that would go by between submission and response.

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

I had no idea who had my manuscript. I suppose I could have asked my agent, but honestly it never occurred to me. Even if I knew who they were, and researched them, I’m not sure what I would have done with that information. It probably would have turned me into a cyber stalker--checking their tweets to see if they mentioned any good manuscripts they were reading... Seriously, I’m neurotic enough. It’s a good thing I stayed in the dark.

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

We started submitting my MG manuscript in September or October 2010 to maybe 15 different editors. Everyone weighed in by January 2011. Of course, a whole bunch of holidays fell during that time period, so it might not have taken so long if, say, I’d been submitting in the spring.

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

Write something new! (More on that below!)

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

I absolutely had rejections. I was not prepared for that. I was not prepared for every single editor to reject my MG manuscript! Without exception, the response was “I love this, but...” But it’s too character driven for the audience; But it’s too “quiet;” But the economy. My agent said, “I disagree with them, but that and a dollar won’t get you a cup of coffee.”

I think rejections of your manuscript are (emotionally) way worse than rejections of your query. With a query you can always say, “So I’m terrible at writing queries. If they only took the time to read my story, they’d know what they were missing.” But when they read your novel and still say no...ouch. You’ve pretty much run out of excuses. It’s like being a proud new parent and someone telling you your baby’s ugly.

If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?

I didn’t get a lot of detailed feedback (other than that mentioned above), but whatever it is, you have to take an editor’s feedback seriously. Beta readers will react the way a reader will, but editors understand the market. At the end of the day, you’re selling a product and the only thing that matters is whether the market will support it. Writing is an art when you’re at your keyboard. It’s a business once the manuscript leaves your hands.
By the time I’d received the last feedback (and rejection) on my MG manuscript (January 25, 2011), I was ready to submit my fourth novel--this time a YA novel about a dysfunctional family of murderous mermaids in Lake Superior. That novel, LIES BENEATH, sold on February 1, 2011 (just six days later), to Random House (Delacorte Press) in a two book deal--interestingly, to an editor who had rejected my previous MG manuscript. So you see, you just have to keep pushing forward regardless of what happens.

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

My agent, Jacquie Flynn of Joelle Delbourgo, called me. I was at work and trying not to freak out on the phone. I felt like I was under water, trying to take notes on something I could barely hear. Because Delacorte acted so quickly, Jacquie and I talked a few times over the course of the day about the other editors who were rushing to read it and see if they could bid in. There was more talk with Delacorte, too, about the advance. All in all, my memory of that day is kind of blurry.

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

No. Jacquie told me I could announce it that same day. I called my critique partner first. Then my husband and my parents. Then I announced it on Twitter and Facebook. That night I took the family out for dinner and proceeded to call everyone I’d ever met in my entire life. Now, seven months later, I still feel a little giddy--like I’m riding through my day in a soap bubble, hoping it doesn’t pop. Oh...and working on something new. Always working on something new!