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.
AC Gaughen is the author of SCARLET, a young adult retelling of the Robin Hood legend out February 2012 from Bloomsbury/Walker. She's a big fan of diet coke, traveling, and her two goldendoodles who like to fight like polar bears. She is represented by Minju Chang of Bookstop Literary.
How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
To be honest, I learned as I went along. I think I made the same mistake lots of people do and sent my first manuscript out on a wing and a prayer before it--or I--was really ready. I certainly didn’t know enough then. I also started getting very actively involved with NE SCBWI and online communities, and your rookie errors become pretty glaring very fast. It’s a hands-on activity!
Did anything about the process surprise you?
So much! Just the dumb luck of it all--people will give you feedback that is the perfect opposite of feedback you’ve already received (I had back to back query reviews for the same query that identified the exact same thing--and one said she liked it and the other said never to make that mistake again) and I do believe there’s a level of talent involved in making it through to the other side, but I also believe there’s a silly amount of dumb luck involved.
Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
A little. My agent handled creating the list, and I asked her for the names of who she sent it to. I checked around a bit, but I think the less you know the better; I certainly don’t begrudge anyone who didn’t want to buy my book, but I’ve heard of authors who take it very personally and I think one of the reasons to have an agent is to keep that layer of separation. It’s business!
What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
Bad news is always fast, let’s put it that way. My agent and I submitted the package late spring, so I think the anticipation of summer meant it got pushed back a little on the to do list. It took a solid two month for responses to come in.
What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
Forget about the submissions and keep writing. Looking forward, feeling like you have something new to offer if this doesn’t work out, keeps you floating.
If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
UGH! It was so much unexpectedly worse than agent rejections. I thought I had such a thick skin, but I think once you get your YES from an agent, you’re all, “They like me! They really like me!” and the next wave of rejections at higher stakes is a little brutal. But as long as you squeak through with that one, all important yes, it’s fine. It’s like speed dating; you don’t care if you get rejected in the minute and a half, but if the guy takes you out and he’s like, “Actually, I would NOT like to see the rest of your manuscript” it’s a bit of a bummer.
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 waited for my agent to tell me what feedback to listen to (ha!) and just cringed.
When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
I sort of knew it was coming. For a few days we had been inching closer--one company offered a deal with some revisions and a little less money, and then my agent contacted some of the other interested publishers, and then my agent sent me an email saying she had “good news”--I had to wait to call her until after a staff meeting that afternoon, but she said what I hoped she would say--Bloomsbury/Walker had offered a better deal and they didn’t want me to do any major revisions. The first company didn’t counter, so we went with Bloomsbury/Walker and she told me all this as I’m cruising down the highway. I cried my whole way home--and listened to “The Fire” by the Roots and “So Much Better” from Legally Blonde, The Musical--and went and found my mom. I promised that she’d be the first one I told good news to.
Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
Just because I was crazy superstitious, I didn’t tell anyone that there were bites of interest or anything until the official offer came through. Then I told everyone I could by word of mouth, but I didn’t put anything on the internet until SIX MONTHS LATER, when the contract was finalized. It was KILLING ME!! But it gave me some time to process. Who am I kidding, who wants time to process??!