Heather Smith Meloche 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 volunteer for putting up with my SHIT is Healther Meloche, who graduated from Michigan State University (MSU) with a degree in English and Telecommunication. At MSU, she wrote and copy edited for newspaper and television, and also mentored with poet Diane Wakoski. After college, she pursued a Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language through Bowling Green State University (BGSU), and eventually took classes through The Institute of Children’s Literature. Her debut, RIPPLE,  released from Penguin Putnam last week!

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

I knew pretty much zilch. I really trusted my very seasoned agent, Heather Schroder, to know how to go about getting the book out there effectively. 

Did anything about the process surprise you?

My agent sent the book out in rounds. She chose about a half dozen editors she thought would be a good fit for the first round. When none accepted, she regrouped and did it again with a second group. 

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

Heather gave me a brief, verbal list of the houses she was submitting to, but not specific editors. So there wasn’t a chance to research. I’m really glad about that because I’m sure I would have obsessively looked them up online, social media stalked them, Googled them a thousand times. It would have been maddening. And pointless. An editor was either going to accept or not. My Googling them ad nauseam wasn’t going to change that. 

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

The first round took three to four weeks to complete. When that was done, the second round was faster since there were a couple editors interested. They got back within a couple weeks.

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

Trust the book, the time and effort you put into it to give it legs of its own, and your agent. And frankly, move on. Keep writing something else. It will distract you and keep you focused on the idea that, if the novel on sub can’t get sold, you’ve got something else prepping in the queue.

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

When Heather came to me with the news that the first round was not successful, I was frustrated. But my agent is awesome and always positive. She immediately told me she was getting her next set of big guns out and getting ready to fire that second round. Because I knew she was out fighting for me and she was already a fan and an advocate, those sub rejections were a lot easier to deal with than any query rejections. With her by my side, I knew I already had someone in the publishing business who believed in me and my work. 

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?

The feedback I got from editors was much vaguer than a beta reader’s and primarily dealt with them not quite grasping the issue I was writing about. One of RIPPLE’s main themes focuses on an issue that people tend to either click with or not. I actually drafted an author letter with my personal story connected to the issue and sent it to my agent as added fuel for selling if she chose to use it. As far as I know, she never did since the second round ended successfully. But I’ve used that letter now as the basis for other promotional author letters to media outlets who receive my book, so I’m really glad I wrote it!

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

Heather called super excited to tell me a great house and a fantastic editor had chosen RIPPLE. It was a simultaneous, long-distance happy dancing session, for sure!

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

I told my immediate family and closest friends right away, since they’d been on this publishing journey – with all its ups and downs – with me. “See! All Mommy’s moodiness was worth it!” I didn’t share the news with most people until I signed the contract. I know that in this business, until things are written down, filed, on the shelves, they can fall through. So I waited to shout it from the rooftops until all the legalities were in order. Then I shouted like a crazy woman.