Kate Hart On Processing Criticism

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 Kate Hart, author of AFTER THE FALL, releasing January 24th from FSG. She also contributes to YA Highway, and hosts the Badass Ladies You Should Know series. Kate is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, and owns a treehouse-building business in northwest Arkansas, where she resides with her family.

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

The first time I went on sub in 2010, with the original version of After the Fall, I didn’t know much. But another book went out unsuccessfully in 2013, so by the time a rewritten After The Fall sold in 2014, I’d not only lived it twice and watched many friends go through the process, I’d also been rounding up publishing industry information for YA Highway for almost five years. By that time there were few surprises.

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

I research everything. On my first two sub rounds, I looked up editors and even put them on secret Twitter lists so I could torture myself daily. It was comforting to know more about them, and it made me feel more prepared in the event of multiple offers. But by the third round of submissions I’d realized it was causing me more stress than it was worth.

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

Some got back to us within a week. Technically I’m still on sub to a few others…

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

Do something else. Most people recommend writing your next book, but I’ve never been able to focus that well, so I usually turn to some other kind of project. For example, I made a “query quilt” when I was looking for an agent, and last sub round I redesigned a website.

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

I don’t have a problem taking criticism writing-wise, but ATF is informed by my own experiences as an assault victim, so when editors called the main character’s actions “unbelievable” or “melodramatic,” it was really hard not to take that as direct criticism of my teenage self. By comparison, query rejections tended to focus more on whether or not the manuscript was salable or to the agent’s personal tastes, which felt far less personal.

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’ve had several “revise and resubmits,” and I’d say the biggest difference is that with beta readers, it’s easy to disregard criticism that doesn’t resonate. With editorial feedback, the desire to get my bills paid muddies those waters. After the Fall eventually sold on a four-year-old R&R, but only because I waited until I could address the feedback in a way that felt organic. A different book ultimately suffered because I tried to combine two different R&Rs into one revision and ended up just making a mess.

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

My agent had set a deadline for responses, so when it reached 5:00 New York time and I hadn’t heard anything, I assumed it was game over. I was accepting that it was time to move on when the phone rang an hour later, and when she told me FSG had offered, I think my very eloquent response was, “REALLY?” I don’t remember much else about the conversation – mostly just hanging up and yelling across the house to my husband because I was so relieved to finally have a real career.

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 week or two, which was fine, considering I have friends who’ve had to wait over a year. It took about six months to get my actual contract and first advance payment, though.