Kaitlyn Sage Patterson On Dealing With Submission Anxiety

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 Kaitlyn Sage Patterson who grew up outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After completing her M.F.A., she moved to South Korea, where she taught English and started writing her debut novel. THE DIMINISHED will be published by HarlequinTEEN on April 10, 2018, followed by its sequel in 2019.

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

I am, in the deepest part of my soul, a researcher. Before I went on submission for THE DIMINISHED, I tried to learn as much as I could about the process, but honestly, aside from your blog, there’s not much out there! I’m actually on submission again, and it is just as harrowing as the first time!

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I was surprised the first time with how contradictory the feedback was! One editor would love the voice, but find the pacing too slow. Another editor would love the pacing, but not get into the voice. It felt like taste tug of war! This time has been super interesting in that the rejections are universally very complimentary, far more so than with my debut, but no bites yet! *fingers crossed*

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

I did and I don’t! Like I said before, I am fueled by research. I dove DEEP when I was on sub with my debut. I’m talking reading ancient interviews that I pulled from the depths of the internet. I read every applicable entry in Publisher’s Marketplace. I read into every tweet.

And honestly, in all of that research, the only thing I really learned was that I can’t see the future. So as I go through this round of submission I have done some minimal research, but the only thing I’m really looking at is the other books that the editors have acquired to get an idea of their tastes.

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

In both cases we’ve gotten responses anywhere from a couple of days to several months! The one thing I hold close is that no response means just that… no response. I know that editors are really good about getting back to agents as soon as they read and make a decision.

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

Ugh. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them! I tend to do a lot of reading, both beta reading and catching up on my TBR. I know people say that you should write, but I find it difficult to really get words down when I’m so focused on something else. It is, however, a good time to do that kind of staring at the wall, thinking really hard work of figuring out a story that’s been brewing for a while.

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

Here’s the thing for me with submission rejections. I don’t want to work with someone who isn’t DEEPLY, MADLY in love with the books that I write. So the passes, for me, just feel like stepping stones to the person who will say yes.

It’s different, too, from query rejections, because I already have someone on my side who believes in the book. That’s really huge for me. I know that even if the book isn’t right for *that* editor, it doesn’t suck, you know?

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?

Like I said, with THE DIMINISHED, the feedback was ALL OVER THE PLACE. As each pass came in, I assessed how I felt about it. Was there a kernel of truth? Something I could work on?

Truth be told, the way I process feedback doesn’t changed based on who is giving the feedback. I trust my beta readers, I trust that editors have good taste, and I know that every book is not right for every person. So I try to think about how or if each piece of feedback would change or shape the vision I have for my book for the better.

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

Oh goodness, I was totally over the moon. I work in fundraising for non-profits in my day job, and I was in a meeting with the chair of my board of directors, my boss, and my boss’s boss the day I got the call. I knew I’d gone to acquisitions, so I had my phone with me, which I normally wouldn’t do, and, because of the combination of nerves and trying to get ready for this big meeting, I’d forgotten to turn my ringer off. So as I was presenting our Year to Date Budget, my phone started blaring “Formation” by Beyoncé. It was really hard to say, “I’m so sorry. I need to take this,” with a straight face, but I grabbed my phone and ran out of the room before anyone could say anything.

When I eventually finished giddily screaming with my agent on the phone, I went back to the meeting and after about 30 seconds of congratulations, I resumed my presentation. #reallife

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

I did, but thankfully not for long! It was SUCH a whirlwind time for me. My boyfriend and I bought a house in October, I signed with my agent in November, my boyfriend and I got engaged in late November, I went on submission in February, got the news about the sale in early April, and signed the contract the day before my wedding at the end of April. So at my wedding, when people were asking me about my book, all I could do was smile! It was intense!! I was so relieved to finally be able to tell people when we made the announcement in May.